Obituary: Former national football coach Yap Boon Chuan remembered as no-nonsense fatherly figure

Former national football coach Yap Boon Chuan was best known for leading Singapore to fourth place at the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - In his roles as a lecturer, coach and administrator, former national football coach Yap Boon Chuan always came across as a no-nonsense figure, but who was also fatherly and kind.

And it is these characteristics that his many students and colleagues remember him by.

Yap, believed to be in his early 90s, died on Sunday (Feb 13) night. The Straits Times understands he had not been well for some time.

In the football scene, he is best known for leading Singapore to fourth place at the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok. It remains the Republic's best Asiad finish.

Striker Andy Yeo, who was part of the team, recalled Yap was a strict coach who implemented a rigorous fitness regimen when he took charge just three months before the Games.

Yeo, 75, said: "He wanted perfection and he wanted results. We did a lot of weights training and a lot of running but at the end of the day, we were super fit.

"That helped us a lot at the Asian Games because the teams like Thailand, (South) Vietnam and Japan were very strong. It taught us to be disciplined and he would also participate in training with us."

The fitness training paid off as the team had to play four games in four days, when they beat the likes of South Vietnam and Thailand to reach the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual champions Burma. The Republic then lost 2-0 to Japan in the bronze-medal match.

After stepping down as national coach in 1971, Yap remained in the football scene, serving in roles within the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) such as chairman of the referees committee and technical committee.

Although he held high-ranking positions, Yap did not impose his ideas on others, said former national coach Jita Singh, who led Singapore to Malaysia Cup glory in 1980.

Describing Yap as a forthcoming and astute person, he said: "Sometimes, you need to discuss something with someone but at the end of the day, it's your decision. He reinforced my belief in this.

"We used to discuss the team and if I had any problems with the boys, I would consult him. He may suggest something but it was up to me.

"He was someone who supported what I believed in and that gave me more confidence that what I was doing was right."

Outside football, Yap was an educator whose roles included physical education lecturer at the Teachers' Training College (TTC).

Former national sprinter C. Kunalan had a brief encounter in the early 1960s when he was training to be a teacher and joined the TTC football team, which was coached by Yap.

He said: "Sometimes, I would be the only one there for training but he would be there too making me do things like dribble the ball down the wing and cross it. I learnt dedication from that and that's the way a teacher has to be."

One of his students, Robert Tan, said Yap's nickname was "Papa Yap" because he was a fatherly figure who was caring and kind to his students.

He also worked with Yap during his time as the director of sports excellence at the Singapore Sports Council (now Sport Singapore) when Yap conducted coaching courses for aspiring sports coaches.

Tan, 81, said: "We are very close but the last couple of years, we weren't able to meet because of Covid-19. I haven't seen him in more than two years and that's very unfortunate.

"Everyone respects him for his caring nature and he's well-loved by all his students and people who know him. Mr Yap is a very high-spirited person who would make jokes and pass witty remarks. He looked after himself very well and looked good even in old age."

Illustrating this point, Tan said that whenever someone tells Yap he looks good, he would reply "charming on the outside, but alarming on the inside".

Tan added that he was inspired by Yap to be a gentleman and sportsman for life, which is why he continues exercising regularly till this day.

Another of Yap's TTC students, Rodney Tan, regarded him so highly that he even named his second son after Yap.

Tan, 77 said: "He always had a good sense of principle and he never said anything degrading of any individual. He helped us learn the right values. He was a gentleman and he wasn't vulgar at all. (Naming my son after him) is the minimum honour I can give him having learnt so much from him."

In a Facebook post, the FAS said it was saddened to hear the news and added: "Our sincerest thoughts and deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones during this difficult time."

The details of Yap's wake have been kept private.

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