Parents get active on the sidelines too

From left: Football dads Irwan Isnin, Newton Zheng and Peter Mathe having a kickabout.
From left: Football dads Irwan Isnin, Newton Zheng and Peter Mathe having a kickabout.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Far from being an exclusive academy for Singaporean youngsters, the ActiveSG football academy has evolved into a melting pot of cultures as well as being an outlet for parents to keep fit.

Of the academy's 716 pupils, 61 are foreigners, and they happily mix and play with the locals during the weekly training sessions.

Newton Zheng, a 42-year-old Australian, and his wife Doris, enrolled their three sons - Kai (11), Koen (eight) and Kody (six) at the Jurong East academy.

Newton was figuring out an outdoor activity for his children to try out when he chanced upon an ActiveSG advertisement on Facebook.

He said: "We joined last June as my wife and I wanted the boys to be active and physically fit.

"They developed a lot of football skills since then but what came as a surprise was how the boys developed on a personal level. They learnt to work together and share with others. Back home, the discipline they picked up made them more focused on school work."

Parents at the training sessions also need not watch quietly from the sidelines.

The ActiveSG football academy fosters a community spirit where all are encouraged to take up a healthy lifestyle.

"It's not just our kids who are making new friends," said Irwan Isnin, 39, whose three children also train at Jurong East.

"The parents got to know one another, and rather than doing nothing on the side, we decided to have our own kickabouts. We even meet up with parents from other ActiveSG centres for friendly matches."

And "soccer moms" have now gotten in the act as well.

At yesterday morning's session at Jurong East, a trainer was on hand to coach the mothers a la "boot camp" style, as they hauled rubber tyres and did various fitness exercises.

Wang Meng Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Parents get active on the sidelines too'. Print Edition | Subscribe