FAS Election 2017

Football: Lim Kia Tong pledges to do it his way

Lim promises different approach despite tough fight but will treat S-League as priority

It was a press conference with a dual personality. One held in a shining white workshop for luxury Ferrari cars but those in attendance had come to talk about a blue-collar sport.

Fancy Evian water was served while a buffet of nasi briyani and tulang, or bone marrow, made it extremely Singaporean.

And as the hours counted down to midnight, it marked the transition of Lim Kia Tong from being the interim president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) provisional council to just another football fan, as the interim council's term expired.

But the lawyer, who will lead a slate of nine called Team LKT to contest in the April 29 election, is still peeved because regardless of what he and his team do, they have difficulty shrugging off a label which he feels is unfair.

The 65-year-old, who was an FAS vice-president from 2007 to 2016, said: "We have been labelled by the word 'incumbents' and it has been ringing without stop until it is an irritation to our ears.

"With all due respect, that is definitely not an accurate description. I had a specific role in that (previous) council and I did not have a lot of say in most of the decisions. The previous president (Zainudin Nordin) had his leadership style.

FAS presidential candidate Lim Kia Tong (third from right) trotting out most of his team for the first time, including (from left) S. Thavaneson, Teo Hock Seng, Bernard Tan, Lim Tong Hai and Darwin Jalil.
FAS presidential candidate Lim Kia Tong (third from right) trotting out most of his team for the first time, including (from left) S. Thavaneson, Teo Hock Seng, Bernard Tan, Lim Tong Hai and Darwin Jalil. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

"I am my own self and the way I will handle the FAS (if elected) will be very, very different. The team assembled here is my team, it is absolutely a new team and we will work in a consultative manner. Decisions will be made jointly but the buck stops with me."

And that set the tone of the press conference to introduce Team LKT's members and to explain its 20-page manifesto.

The Ferrari showroom was chosen as the Prancing Horse is one of the marques marketed by Komoco Motors, whose regional managing director Teo Hock Seng will stand alongside Lim as a vice-president on his nine-man slate. Six other candidates aligned with him will contest as individuals.

Far from fire and brimstone politics, name-calling and chest-thumping speeches, the tone taken by Team LKT was one of penitence, of reflection that Singapore had gone pear-shaped in recent years, and a resolve to get it back on its feet.

Lim said: "Because of certain policies of the last leadership (to focus on elite football), we paid less attention to our NFL (the amateur National Football League) friends.

"Football has to change for the better. My team is a good mixture of old and new that will forge ahead for the good of football."

But one thing that Lim and his team is unwilling to budge on is to downgrade the S-League into a semi-professional competition and perhaps, put all their eggs into the mooted Asean Super League basket. He said: "The S-League is of utmost importance. If there is any other league lurking out there that might affect the S-League, we will treat it with reservation.

"The strength of the S-League is the strength of the national team."

He faces Hougang United chairman Bill Ng's slate, called the Game Changers. Lim said: "We are not going to secure votes (by focusing more on the NFL). Even if we don't win, we would have started the process of taking good care of all our members."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2017, with the headline 'Kia Tong will do it his way'. Print Edition | Subscribe