SINGAPORE - N. Ganesan, the Singapore football icon who was instrumental in creating the famous "Kallang Roar" in the late '70s and '80s, died on Wednesday morning. He was 82.
The former Football Association of Singapore chairman and lawyer had been recuperating at a nursing home off Bukit Timah Road after suffering from a stroke in 2011.
Ganesan helmed the FAS from 1974 to 1981, a period that saw Singapore win two Malaysia Cups (1977 and 1980). The Kallang Roar was born after he decided in 1974 to switch Malaysia Cup home games from the 6,000-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium to the National Stadium - creating a 60,000-strong cauldron of noise.
Former Lions star Quah Kim Song said: "People were sceptical over whether the stadium could be filled but Ganesan took the plunge. We are forever indebted to him for kickstarting a golden period of Singapore football.
"Passionate, gutsy and knowledgable football men like him are hard to come by these days."
Ganesan, who was divorced twice with no children, had also formulated a major breakthrough in the National Football League, revamping it from 118 clubs to a strong 30, and launched the Lion City Cup, an Under-16 tournament that unearthed budding talents like Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundramoorthy.
Ex-national striker Fandi said: "He looked after me personally and always believed in my ability. I will never forget how he kept reminding me to learn from the senior players and not take anything for granted."
After his stroke, Gani - as he was affectionately known - became wheelchair-bound and was mainly confined to bed with a speech impediment. He prefered privacy in his condition although close friends like former Asian football supremo Peter Velappan visited him to chat about football.
Velappan said: "We became close friends when he served as a legal advisor at the Asian Football Confederation.
"He represented transparency, integrity and total dedication. I cherish the pleasure of seeing him even after he was disabled by a stroke."
A minute's silence will be observed before kick-off in all League Cup matches this week. An FAS spokesman described Ganesan as "a larger-than-life character who left a deep mark on Singapore football".
His body is resting at Singapore Casket. The funeral service will be held at around 5pm on Saturday at Mandai Crematorium.