Make time for grandest stories ever told

Make time for grandest stories ever told

Last month, I went to watch Singapore play against Thailand in the opening round of this year's ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup.

The Lions lost, but that did not spoil the night for me.

I went because I wanted to see the new National Stadium with the two people who took me to watch my first live football match back when I was a little girl - my parents .

They initiated me into the mysteries of the Kallang Roar and the offside rule, although I must admit that what I remember most vividly from that night so long ago was not the cheering in the stands or the action on the field but what happened after the match - the feeling of being swept up in a strange, noisy human tide that flowed across streets in the inky darkness and paid no heed to traffic lights or road crossings.

In those days, there weren't many parking spaces near the old National Stadium so most people left their cars some distance away in Geylang and walked back there after the match.

Fans also showed up at the stadium hours before the match started to "chope" or reserve seats since there was no assigned seating.

In fact there weren't any seats, just cement slabs we sat on. There was no roof either - except over the VIP stand - to keep the rain off, and certainly no green-tech cooling system like the one we have now.

Football-watching was a noisier, messier and sweatier affair than it is today, and my parents' memories and stories about those times are part of what make the game beautiful to me.

Whether they are football tales or war stories, a conversation between generations is precious for the perspective it provides.

It fleshes out Singapore's history - not in the propagandistic way that textbooks or official speeches tend to do but through what our own family members have seen, heard, smelt, felt, tasted.

I have also heard uncensored accounts of the years my parents spent working in Woodbridge Hospital, now renamed Institute of Mental Health. That was where they met as they were among the first psychiatric-trained nurses here.

I heard stories of abuse, of hospital staff who took advantage of their positions to bully and silence patients. But I also heard stories of courage, including one of a female matron who stared down the male nurses who threatened her for disciplining them.

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