ST-Komoco Motors Euro 2016 contest: Euro '84 sparked family bonding

Tang Wanbao, the winner of the top prize of The Straits Times-Komoco Motors Euro 2016 contest, with his father and son.
Tang Wanbao, the winner of the top prize of The Straits Times-Komoco Motors Euro 2016 contest, with his father and son. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Late-night sessions watching event with cabby father gave Tangs moments to cherish

Tang Wanbao knew neither his father Wenyong's likes nor dislikes for most of his childhood - until the European Championship in 1984.

That year, for the first time, the senior Tang revealed his football-loving self to his three children, aged 13 (Wanbao), 11 and seven. His fourth child was born a year later.

Together with them, the cabby and sole breadwinner of the Tang household would watch the tournament on TV every night until 2am, after he returned to their three-room Jalan Besar flat at 10pm.

"We didn't exactly know what he liked or disliked because we didn't have much interaction with him then," recalled Wanbao, now 45 and a manager at a pharmaceutical firm. "So we were surprised. We were like, 'Wow, he knows football!'

"It was quite awkward, though, because we would usually not see him."


Tang Wanbao with his father and younger brother Henry in the 1980s. PHOTO COURTESY OF TANG WANBAO

Their father worked every day of the year, except the first day of the Chinese New Year, in order to earn a monthly upkeep of $800.

Despite his fatigue after spending 16 hours on the road driving his Yellow Top taxi and having to get up at 5am, he would stay up to watch the quadrennial football competition while eating Hokkien mee and KFC, which he would buy as supper for himself and the kids.

"He usually had no time for TV at all," said Wanbao. "I don't know how he could stay awake at the end of such a long and tiring day and still watch football."

The two weeks were unforgettable for Wanbao, however, not just because he discovered his father's love of the game, but because it kindled his own interest too.

He now shares the same passion and supports English giants Liverpool with his son Jaden, a Primary 5 pupil who is the captain of Hong Wen School's football team.

LATE-NIGHT MATCHES A REVELATION

Suddenly, our impression of (our father) changed. There was a new topic to talk about in the car besides him asking us about our homework.

TANG WANBAO, about his dad's avid interest in the Euro 1984 tournament.

"My father would explain to us all the rules of the game while watching and who were the players. Suddenly, our impression of him changed. There was a new topic to talk about in the car besides him asking us about our homework," said Wanbao.

"Previously, I didn't have any interest in football and didn't know anything about it. But after that, my brother and I began kicking a ball around and I also read the newspapers to find out more about the countries and their players.

"Through those two weeks, my dad introduced us to football."

After following Euro 1984, the Tangs also watched World Cups and the subsequent editions of the European Championship together.

  • ST-Komoco Motors Euro 2016 contest winners

  • Winner Prize: Trip to watch three Euro 2016 matches

    •Tang Wanbao

    Runners-up (2) Prize: Special edition Hyundai Euro 2016 match football

    •Mohamed Abdullah

    •Vincent Hong

    Consolation (10) Prize: Hyundai Euro 2016 coffee mug

    •Oon Wee Han

    •Wong Chek Poh

    •Jerry Ling

    •Ng Sheng

    •Teo Teck Chye

    •Farhan Osman

    •Charles Cheng

    •Bernard Yeo

    •Norman Jalal

    •Terence de Silva

    The Straits Times will contact all the winners to collect the prizes.

But sadly, the senior Tang's happy memories started fading about nine years ago, following his retirement from his job of 36 years.

While he has recovered from prostate cancer, which was diagnosed that same year, dementia has wiped out most of the 77-year-old's memories, such that he cannot even remember the days when he used to cheer for Germany.

Today, he cannot recognise Wanbao when the family meet every weekend, including their reunion dinner last night at the same Rowell Road flat which he shares with his 70-year-old wife.

But Wanbao hopes that by bringing back a Germany football jersey from the Euro 2016 tournament and showing his father an old photo, it will help to rekindle some old memories for him.

"Hopefully it can trigger something in his memory about football."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tang will be rooting for the same team that lifted the trophy in 1984 - France.

He will be in Paris and Marseille in June as the winner of the top prize of The Straits Times-Komoco Motors Euro 2016 contest, which ran from Dec 15 to Jan 15 and drew 180 entries.

In France, he will watch one round-of-16 match (Game 43) and two quarter-final games (45 and 48). But in order for him to see Les Bleus and his favourite player - Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba in action - France need to top Group A.

But even if he does not, Tang is over the moon. "Whether or not I get to see France play, it'll be a great experience just to be there watching a live game," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2016, with the headline 'Euro '84 sparked family bonding'. Print Edition | Subscribe