Steven Tan's Apple iPhone 5s

Steven Tan's Apple iPhone 5s
Steven Tan, 44, won the M-League and the Malaysia Cup with the Singapore team in 1994.

Steven Tan looks just like I remembered. His face is a bit rounder and the waist appears thicker, but he still sports the same crewcut and toothy grin.

"Everything is the same, just that now I am slower, cannot run too fast," he quipped.

He was part of the legendary Singapore side that clinched both the M-League and the Malaysia Cup in 1994.

Nowadays, the 44-year-old is a full-time coach at the F-17 football academy, preparing youth players for competitions such as the Gothia Cup in Sweden.

"It is like a mini World Cup. You have 120 to 150 teams for each age group, like the Under 11, the Under 12. The opening ceremony is like the SEA Games, with fireworks and ex-players like Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) to open the ceremony," he said.

The F-17 academy sent a team to the Gothia Cup for the first time last year. "We didn't know what to expect but I think the boys enjoyed themselves," he said.

With his son, Marc, 13, and Ilhan Fandi, son of LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad, in the line-up, Singapore finished third out of 130 teams. Steven observed: "Marc can play any position except goalie. He is still young, he must try every position. If you stay in one position, you become stereotyped."

Tan is more than familiar with stereotypes. He was nicknamed "supersub" for his knack of scoring late goals as a substitute.

One such memorable goal was a last-minute equaliser against Myanmar in the semi-finals of the 1993 SEA Games that Singapore hosted. Singapore lost in the resulting penalty shootout, but he scored five goals and won a bronze medal. It was his SEA Games debut.

It was in the 1970s that he got his first taste of the Kallang Roar, when his parents took him to the National Stadium for Malaysia Cup matches. At 13, he was a ballboy in the same stadium. He took in the electrifying atmosphere there and told himself he would like to play there one day.

"Ten years later, I played in my first SEA Games, and the next year, we won the Malaysia Cup. Dreams do come true," he said.

He remains humble about his achievements on the field, and attributes his success to being part of a good team: "Most of the concentration will be on Abbas and Fandi. The opponents will not focus on young players like me."

Fandi is the best local player he has played with, he said, while Abbas was the best foreign import. "He had everything - speed and finishing. And he loved the crowd; the bigger the crowd, the better he played," he said.

Tan has played for a variety of S-League clubs - Tiong Bahru, Marine Castle and Tampines Rovers - and even coached Tampines to an S-League title in 2011.

Like many football fans here, he was sad when Singapore pulled out of the Malaysia Cup after the 1994 win, but believes it was the wrong decision to join the Malaysian Super League in 2012, despite the nostalgia factor.

"We have the S-League, we should nurture it," he said. "There are 60 players in the LionsXII and Courts Young Lions squads. These players are not given to the S-League clubs, so where are they going to find good players? That's why you see (Alexander) Duric still playing last year at 44," he added.

This Friday, he will don his jersey for charity as part of the 24Sevens football festival, a seven-a-side tournament for amateur footballers.

As part of the festival, Tan, together with Lim Tong Hai, Malek Awab, Nazri Nasir and Rafi Ali, will be involved in a player auction. The money goes to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

The team with the highest bid will win his services. Everyone is up for auction, Steven said, adding: "They can either coach or play. It will be interesting playing against our old team mates."

His smartphone

I usually just take what my kids don't want. This iPhone 5s is a hand-me-down from my wife. She's using the iPhone 6 now. I don't like to play games on the phone. It's just for calls and WhatsApp.

Nike+ Running

This is the first app Nike came up with. It works with the Nike shoe. I usually run at East Coast Park and sometimes at MacRitchie Reservoir.

LiveScore

I use this app to check football scores. It shows all the results of all the football leagues around the world.

Goal.com

This is like Soccernet (a football website) but they have a Singapore version with news about the S-League. I use it to follow the local football scene.

Footylight

I use it to catch highlights of football matches immediately after the games.


This article was first published on May 13, 2015.
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