The man who made Kallang Roar dies

Former Football Association of Singapore chairman N. Ganesan said the Kallang Roar helped bond Singaporeans. He had opted to switch the Malaysia Cup home games from the Jalan Besar Stadium to the National Stadium.
Former Football Association of Singapore chairman N. Ganesan said the Kallang Roar helped bond Singaporeans. He had opted to switch the Malaysia Cup home games from the Jalan Besar Stadium to the National Stadium.ST FILE PHOTO

THE father of the Kallang Roar, a brother to Singapore footballers of yesteryear and a true-blue son of the Beautiful Game.

The local fraternity were effusive in their tribute to former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) chairman N. Ganesan, who died yesterday at 82.

An FAS spokesman said he was "a larger-than-life character who left a deep mark on Singapore football". A minute's silence will be observed before kick-off in all League Cup matches this week.

Gani, as he was affectionately known, had been recuperating in a nursing home off Bukit Timah Road after a stroke in 2011.

He helmed FAS from 1974 to 1981, a period that saw Singapore win two Malaysia Cups (1977 and 1980).

The Kallang Roar was born after he switched Malaysia Cup home games from the 6,000-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium to the National Stadium in 1974 - 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 kick-starting a golden period of Singapore football."

Off the field, he was a respected criminal lawyer but seldom missed watching the Lions' early morning training sessions at Jalan Besar.

Besides rousing the Roar, Ganesan also revamped the National Football League from 118 clubs to a 30-strong league, and launched the Lion City Cup, an Under-16 tournament that unearthed future greats Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundramoorthy.

Said Fandi: "I wouldn't have had the opportunities I had if not for Gani's foresight to have a youth tournament like the Lion City Cup.

"He also kept reminding me to learn from the senior players and not take anything for granted."

To this day, stories abound of Ganesan's generosity. Upon learning that former national winger R. Suriamurthi had never visited India, he offered to cover all the expenses for his trip.

"I politely declined but that showed what a man he was," said Suriamurthi. "He would do anything for the players."

Lim Teng Sai, a defender in the 1977 Malaysia Cup-winning team, added: "From hotel to food, he provided for us - out of his own pocket at times. Even if we lost, he would give us incentives and that gave us motivation to play at our best."

After his stroke, Ganesan became mainly confined to bed with a speech impediment. Yet, when close friends like Peter Velappan visited him to chat about football, his eyes would light up.

"He had a fantastic memory when his mind was tickled and I can feel the fire in the belly in the short chats with him," said Velappan, the former Asian Football Confederation general secretary.

Perhaps Ganesan - who was divorced twice with no children - best summed up his contributions in a 2013 interview: "I believe we bonded Singapore through football and the Kallang Roar was an unprecedented mantra to rally the Singaporeans. "

His body is resting at Singapore Casket. The funeral service will be held at around 5pm on Saturday at Mandai Crematorium.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2015, with the headline 'The man who made Kallang Roar dies'. Print Edition | Subscribe