IT WAS a story that earned two awards on the night the S-League gathered to honour Singapore football's finest.
In 1986, Mr Lambri Moondari first reported for work as the Hougang Stadium's groundsman. The 62-year-old has been faithfully manicuring the turf ever since, turning it into what is widely regarded as the best playing surface in the league.
Straits Times journalist Fabius Chen noticed Mr Lambri's dedication and featured him in a Sunday Times story published on April 28. That won Mr Chen the RHB Story of the Year award last night at the league's annual awards ceremony at ITE College East. It also earned the groundsman a Special Award from the S-League - the first time a groundsman has been honoured with such an accolade by the S-League.
The ceremony, attended by some 450 people including many fans decked out in their respective club colours, saw Home United's Lee Kwan Woo crowned the Yeo's Player of the Year.
His boss, fellow South Korean Lee Lim Saeng, was named the Mikasa Coach of the Year.
Mr Chen said: "Mr Lambri's work over the past 20-odd years is just one example of what is being done behind the scenes of the S-League. He may not be cheered by the fans but it is because he does his job that their heroes are able to do theirs. I would like to thank Mr Lambri for sharing his story with me - from talking in the stands under the afternoon sun, to explaining the nature of his work as we walked the pitch together at 7am."
ST sports editor Marc Lim said: "In sport, it is almost always the star athletes, and the coaches who take centre stage. But those behind the scenes also deserve recognition and Mr Lambri is a fine example of someone who takes great pride in a job many take for granted.
"I am also heartened to know that the Football Association of Singapore is honouring him with an award.
"It was hoped that the article would raise more awareness about the sometimes thankless job that groundsmen do. I am glad that dedicated men like Mr Lambri are getting their due credit."