Football: FAS election candidate Sebastian Tan wants his little voice to be heard

Sebastian Tan Gee How with his seven-year-old daughter. He is one of four independent candidates for the April 29 FAS election and says he wants to highlight areas of the game that do not get enough exposure, like primary school football.
Sebastian Tan Gee How with his seven-year-old daughter. He is one of four independent candidates for the April 29 FAS election and says he wants to highlight areas of the game that do not get enough exposure, like primary school football.PHOTO: SEBASTIAN TAN

He does not have a glittering CV in football or any other sport.

But to Sebastian Tan Gee How, that is not a hindrance at the upcoming Football Association of Singapore (FAS) election. Instead, he believes that the fact that he comes with no baggage will help him.

Tan, 43, a deputy director with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), is one of four independent candidates for the April 29 polls.

Besides the four independents, there will also be two teams contesting the 15 seats. One is headed by FAS provisional council president Lim Kia Tong and the other by Hougang United chairman Bill Ng. Both teams (who each have nine slate members as well as six contestants for the individual seats) are filled with candidates from different echelons of the game as well as different segments of the sports fraternity.

Tan, who is one of the 16 candidates vying for one of the six individual slots in the council, wants to be a voice for the grassroots.

The 43-year-old, who spent 15 years as an officer in the police force, told The Straits Times: "The state of Singapore football is less than ideal.

"Previously, there was no chance for an outsider to be involved.

"I am very much under the radar but I come with no baggage with the established (S-League and NFL) clubs.

"If every one in the council is cut from the same cloth, it probably won't be a successful council.

"I can be an alternative voice."

A qualified Class 3 referee, he no longer officiates matches but continues to take the FAS' annual fitness tests in order to re-validate his badge.

The father of a seven-year-old daughter is an avid weekend warrior, playing for a social team called the Apex Rangers. He has also been the football convenor at his various places of employment as well as captaining the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (clan association) team.

"I may not be high-profile but I do know a fair bit about football," he said.

And if he gets elected, he wants to help shine a light on the areas of football that seldom receive exposure.

He explained: "I hope to bring more attention to a level that is even lower than the National Football League (NFL).

"At social matches, there are so many talented players, even for women players. Why is the FAS not harnessing them?

"With proper structures, we can tap into a much larger pool of talent.

"During primary school matches, I have seen coaches wanting to win at all costs. There is no emphasis on passing, technique, team work. It is just pumping long balls to the tallest striker. It doesn't build character.

"I hope to see a change in that, make primary school football enjoyable and more importantly, (ensure that) players are taught respect and proper values."

Tan recognises that as an unheralded and independent candidate, he faces long odds to get into the Jalan Besar boardroom.

Still, he remains undeterred because he wants to be a champion for the grassroots.

"Even if I don't get elected, that's fine. I can always try four years down the road," he said.

"In the past, the FAS council members were appointed and the average person could not do anything about it. But now, there are chances for us to speak up and be heard."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2017, with the headline 'The little voice that wants to be heard'. Print Edition | Subscribe