SINGAPORE - As a volunteer for a mentorship programme last month to counsel at-risk and underprivileged youths, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) general secretary Yazeen Buhari encountered many students with financial difficulties, unable to afford IT equipment needed for their assignments, or even school uniforms.
Moved to help, he decided to donate his annual bonus toward the charity, and in a show of generosity, eight of his colleagues in senior management roles at the FAS have followed suit.
National coach Tatsuma Yoshida also pledged a significant portion of his monthly salary for the same cause.
In total, the 10 individuals - who also include national team manager Eric Ong and head of coach education Zainudeen Hassan - will contribute about $25,000 to establish the OneStrong fund.
It will be administered as part of the Circuit Breaker School Buddies (CBSB) project, which is a joint initiative by New Life Stories, a non-profit organisation that supports children of incarcerated mothers, and Beautiful People, a volunteer movement that facilitates mentoring relationships for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The money from the FAS staff is eligible for the additional government support of a bicentennial dollar-for-dollar offer, meaning close to $50,000 will be raised.
"During difficult times like these, it is more important to help out the ones who require assistance," said Yazeen, 42. "The value of football goes beyond the field. It is about how we step up and support our community.
"This is a personal gesture of solidarity amongst the senior management staff of FAS that embodies the power of sport and the love for our community."
Japanese coach Yoshida, who was appointed Lions coach last May, added: "I have personally seen how different communities, especially the essential workers and all of those who are working on the frontlines, have come together to help those in need since this pandemic started.
"It inspired me to play my part and show my appreciation since I am part of the community as well."
Phyllis Ng, director of Beautiful People, welcomed the collaboration: "We are pleased to be a part of the OneStrong fund and the CBSB Project and hope more organisations can join us in this work of empowering youths and families through mentoring."
The CBSB aims to support less privileged children and their families amidst the Covid-19 situation and provide youths with mentors.
Some 24 current and former Team Singapore athletes, including pencak silat world champion Nurul Suhaila and SEA Games gold-medal winning swimmer Nur Marina Chan, and other members of the sports fraternity, have begun mentoring 31 children over a 10-week period.
Yazeen, meanwhile, has also been busy reassuring his 60-member staff that their jobs and salaries are safe.
After the circuit breaker measures introduced were extended until June 1, he wrote to his team to confirm that they would still receive their annual bonuses, expected to be disbursed in late May.
The association has also set up an internal Covid-19 support group for those within the FAS' 60-strong set-up who require assistance, such as special work considerations or dispensation, and emotional or psychological support.
"These commitments were made known to all staff in early April so as to provide a sense of security and stability during this tumultuous period," said Yazeen.
FAS staff donating to the OneStrong fund:
Eric Ong, Nazeer Hussain, Fabian Chew, Gerard Christopher, Jonathan Wong, Haiyum Jaafar, Zainudeen Hassan, Aloysius Emmanuel Vetha, Yazeen Buhari, Tatsuma Yoshida.