SINGAPORE - When the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup kicks off for its 12th edition in November, a man key to the birth of the biennial regional football tournament will sadly not be around to witness the action.
Peter Velappan, the former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary from 1978 to 2007, died on Saturday morning (Oct 20). He was 83. He leaves behind wife Pauline and two daughters.
The well-loved Malaysian is warmly remembered for his passion in developing the sport across Asia.
AFC president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa said that "Peter served Asian football with passion and professionalism".
"On behalf of the entire Asian football family, I send my condolences and heartfelt sympathy to the family of one of the most important architects of growing the game in Asia," said Sheikh Salman.
"Peter served Asian football with passion and professionalism... He deserves immense credit for everything that he achieved with the AFC and beyond."
AFC general secretary Windsor John added: "Dato' Peter set the standards to which everyone in Asian football aspires. He was dedicated to grassroots football and the development of the game in Asia. It has been an honour to follow in his footsteps."
Velappan was so supportive of growing the game that he would help competitions not hatched by the AFC, as long as it would popularise football.
Veteran public relations practitioner Rose Tan, whose client was Tiger Beer back in 1996, recalled: "Tiger Beer wanted to get involved in football and Peter was one of the key persons who helped create the Tiger Cup (now known as the AFF Suzuki Cup).
"I called Peter on a Tuesday and, by Friday, he had sent marketing specialists to meet me and we worked on a proposal over the weekend. That was accepted by Tiger Beer and the tournament was born.
"Peter was always supportive of any football activity that can engage the public. He was a very humble man despite his high position. He was a very good family man, an excellent football administrator and a man of integrity."
Velappan is the AFC's longest-serving general secretary with 29 years in office.
Born in Negeri Sembilan, he became an English and Literature teacher in Seremban before joining the AFC in 1954. He was also the team manager of the Malaysian national side that played in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Under his watch, Velappan also oversaw the entry of many new member associations into the AFC fold and he was coordination director of the organising committee of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong said: "Dato' Peter was a charismatic leader with an air of efficiency and a knowledgeable football administrator who brought Asian football into the international spotlight. His dedication to the sport is an inspiration, and it is an honour to have met with and learn from him."
Former FAS general secretary John Koh added: "Peter had done a great deal to promote football on the continent, he certainly put Asian football on the world map.
"When I was the FAS general secretary, we tapped on his knowledge and I consulted him a lot.
"With his help, the FAS secured funding from the Fifa Goal Project (the world governing body's development fund based on the needs of the national associations) that laid the artificial pitch at Jalan Besar Stadium."