Football: Godfather of Singapore football Teo Hock Seng to run in upcoming FAS elections

FAS interim council president Lim Kia Tong and Komoco Motors group MD Teo Hock Seng announcing Hyundai as S-League's new co-title sponsor.
Ex-Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng has always been an ardent supporter of the S-League and Hyundai’s co-title sponsorship attests to his commitment. TNP FILE PHOTO
Ex-Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng has always been an ardent supporter of the S-League and Hyundai's co-title sponsorship attests to his commitment.
FAS interim council president Lim Kia Tong and Komoco Motors group MD Teo Hock Seng announcing Hyundai as S-League’s new co-title sponsor. PHOTO: FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

Former Tampines Rovers chairman said to be contesting upcoming FAS polls

He has been called a number of names over the years, from the reverential "godfather" to the sobriquet "Teo Hock Sack". Known for his forthright views and a man who takes decisive action, Teo Hock Seng will return to Singapore football by running in the upcoming Football Association of Singapore (FAS) elections.

The Straits Times understands that the 70-year-old will be part of interim council president Lim Kia Tong's team heading to the polls. The rest of the lawyer's slate is yet to be announced.

Lim declined comment. Similarly, Teo declined to confirm his involvement in the elections. On Feb 3, the FAS sent out its electoral code to its 46 affiliates and elections could be held next month.

But what is for certain is Teo's commitment to the S-League when the Komoco Motors group managing director, who distributes Hyundai cars, convinced Hyundai to pump in a seven-figure sum to become the S-League's new co-title sponsor alongside Great Eastern Life.

The deal was announced yesterday morning at Komoco's premises at Alexandra Road.

And it is Teo's swift response that left FAS officials thankful and hopeful of better times ahead.

UNIFORMITY ACROSS THE BOARD

We need to standardise areas that are prone to weakness. For example, the foreign players. What sort of foreign players are we really getting? Are they recycled? Or are they injured? More rigid consideration needs to be given when it comes to (hiring) foreign players.

TEO HOCK SENG, Komoco Motors group managing director, on fixing the woes that plague the S-League.

A STEP BACKWARDS

To me, there is no such thing as semi-pro. After you had watched colour TV, you will not want to go back to black and white.

TEO, on going back to semi-professional football.

He was approached by FAS officials on Tuesday afternoon, after drinks manufacturer Yeo's had decided not to renew its sponsorship, and he agreed "within two minutes" to step up to the plate. Confirmation of the deal came in a day after he had telephoned Hyundai's regional office for approval.

From 2000 to 2015, Teo helmed S-League club Tampines Rovers, leading the Stags to five S-League titles, three Singapore Cups and an Asean Club Championship trophy.

Over the years, many players had come forward to express their gratitude to the man they call the "godfather" for his help off the pitch.

Even FAS provisional chief Lim acknowledged the businessman's stature in local football, calling Teo "the godfather of Singapore football" yesterday.

Lim said: "He not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk."

While Teo is coy on the elections, he is clear on how he wants the S-League to remain relevant in a time of declining interest.

He said: "We are Singaporeans, we want to see what our league is about. I'm sorry to say, a lot of leagues started with a lot of fireworks and failed. India is one example, it has quietened down after three years."

And he hopes that after years of tinkering, the competition will have a settled format and rules.

He suggested: "We need to standardise areas that are prone to weakness. For example, the foreign players. What sort of foreign players are we really getting? Are they recycled? Or are they injured?

"More rigid consideration needs to be given when it comes to (hiring) foreign players.

"I've always been keen to bring young foreign players. But the league has got to make it quite clear where we (the league) wants to go.

"I took (Mustafic) Fahrudin (in 2002). But they changed (the policy of reducing the foreign player quota from six to four in 2003), I had to loan him to Hougang (United). We should get policies quite clear."

Amid a period of uncertainty in local football, there are suggestions that the S-League could turn semi-pro to arrest its slide.

But for Teo, the only way to go is to remain professional. He stressed: "To me, there is no such thing as semi-pro. After you had watched colour TV, you will not want to go back to black and white.

"I would like to see 11 teams (up from the current nine). I hear from the outside, one or two sides are doing pretty well.

"They have the management capability and (show) the responsibility to the players. I think there's hope."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017, with the headline 'Teo gears up for return'. Print Edition | Subscribe