(THE NEW PAPER) - To many, it is an unusual relationship, astonishing even.
He is a former footballer, and she, an opposition politician.
He prefers privacy and she cannot avoid public scrutiny.
Quah Kim Song, a widower, is a grandfather. Sylvia Lim has never been married.
He is 63 and she, 50.
Both are celebrities in their own right.
His is a household name, famous for being fleet-footed and light on his feet.
She draws thousands as a speaker at Workers’ Party (WP) election rallies. Her speeches draw roars of approval from supporters and ridicule from detractors.
Defending her Aljunied GRC seat against the People’s Action Party (PAP), she is in the driver’s seat of her party’s political ambitions.
And he is her personal chauffeur.
Who would have expected them to be an item?
He was a bright student at Naval Base Secondary School and Raffles Institution, but he devoted his energy to football after his A levels.
The Manchester City fan held several corporate jobs before retiring early.
Ms Lim — politician, lawyer and academic — had her early education at CHIJ Our Lady of Good Counsel, CHIJ St Joseph’s Convent and National Junior College.
She graduated with a law degree and was called to the Bar in Singapore in 1991. She is a senior associate with Peter Low LLC.
Ms Lim was not a sportswoman, but she enjoys watching sport.
And Quah, from a famous footballing family, was once one of Singapore’s biggest stars.
It has been more than two years since they met and, as Quah says: “We are very happy just going with the flow without any preconceptions about what the future might bring.”
Ms Lim, the WP chairman since 2003, adds: “As both of us are not spring chickens, we accept each other totally and do not change the other.”
Quah, who had to be persuaded to grant this interview, was put in the spotlight when Ms Lim, who has been extremely busy with the hustings, revealed at a rally that Quah “will act as her driver, ferrying her to rally sites and other places”.
Quah says he enjoys doing that, adding: “When people see us, they do come up to say ‘hello’ or take pictures with us.
“I must say that the police at the rallies have been quite nice to me.”
Quah’s chauffeuring job is a way for them to see each other during the election campaign period, when Ms Lim is swamped with party matters.
The affable Quah loves watching the rallies, but prefers to be low-profile, usually standing behind the stage but inside the barricades.
The talk about town is that Quah encouraged Ms Lim to raise the issue of the Football Association of Singapore being run by PAP Members of Parliament, a move she said had stifled Singapore football.
To that, Ms Lim replies: “No, he did not alert me. I have raised the issue of Singapore soccer slipping down the Fifa rankings in Parliament before I met Kim Song.
“In the Workers’ Party manifesto in 2011 and earlier, we had already proposed that sports associations be led by persons from the fraternity (rather) than by politicians.”
So what is it that attracts the star footballer, who speaks with a measured, soft tone, to the steely politician who is often known for making fiery speeches?
The answer: Common interests in music and football.
It was in January 2013 at a WP variety concert that love between the two blossomed.
Mutual friends had coaxed Quah to sing and his rendition of Keith Locke & The Quests’ Don’t Play That Song impressed Miss Lim.
Later, they danced on stage. A new romance was born.
Quah, who loves the oldies and lists American icon James Taylor as his favourite singer, says: “I practise the guitar every day to familiarise myself with the chords to widen my repertoire.
“I also have a guitar at Sylvia’s family home. We enjoy listening to live music and occasionally sing at home over some drinks.”
These sessions help Ms Lim relax from the stress that comes with politics.
She, too, enjoys the oldies and is a big fan of US singer-songwriter Carole King.
As for their other passion, football, Ms Lim would make it a point to attend social matches when Quah is playing. He remains a drawcard among fanatical fans.
Recently, at a social match at the Marina Floating Platform, Ms Lim made her presence felt by cheering for Quah’s team.
Hers is not a new craze. She watched Quah during his heyday at the National Stadium, accompanying her brother Arthur to Malaysia Cup matches.
So what is life like away from the heat of the hustings?
“I am a retiree, so I have more freedom with my time. Sylvia is a busy person, so we occupy different time slots,” adds the grandfather of twins Renee and Ryan, three, from his daughter Leonora, 31.
Quah, who was married to Madam Shirley Wang, a bank manager with OCBC, also has a son, Leon, 35, who is married but has no children. Madam Wang died of cancer in 2007.
Quah adds that Ms Lim has a special relationship with his children and siblings and “she joins social gatherings involving my children, and my brothers and sisters”.
When he was once asked how he feels about dating one of Singapore’s most prominent women politicians, Quah replied: “I know her as Sylvia Lim, and not Sylvia Lim, chairman of Workers’ Party.”
For him, more importantly: “We are enjoying our time together and hope to be together for a long time.”
But no, while they are a “couple”, marriage is far from their minds.
In a newspaper interview recently, Ms Lim said: “People do ask us when we’re getting married. But we have discussed this and he’s already a grandfather.
“We’re enjoying our relationship as it is now, so we have no plans to get married at this point.”