Fitting farewell: Football icon Gani was a man of stature

Fitting farewell: Football icon Gani was a man of stature
Family and relatives paying their last respects during the funeral service for former Football Association of Singapore chairman N. Ganesan, at the Mandai Crematorium.
PHOTO: ST

Sombre was the mood only when it came to the last funeral rites.

But generally, the atmosphere for the final farewell of Nadesan Ganesan, 82, who died on Wednesday, was one which he probably had wished for.

Because the lawyer and top football administrator was an outgoing extrovert who enjoyed the company of family and friends, amid laughter and fun.

A crowd of almost 200 people turned up at Mandai Crematorium yesterday evening to pay their final respects to a football icon of Singapore.

Among them were former longtime Asian Football Confederation secretary-general Peter Velappan, who flew in from Kuala Lumpur; former Singapore football captain Seak Poh Leong; the long-time secretary who served under Ganesan's seven-year tenure as Football Association of Singapore (FAS) chairman, Steven Tan; and members of the MGR golf group who use the sport as a vehicle to raise funds for charity.

There was no crying and wailing, but the crowd relished talking about a man of stature who upheld the virtues of education, discipline, graciousness, magnanimity and kindness.

And the turnout was attentive and enthralled as Ganesan's nephew Dharmendra Nair, a lawyer who settled down in London, gave a 45-minute eulogy that brought out the true personality of an affable man who served Singapore on many fronts.

HERITAGE

However, Ganesan, the former police inspector-turned-lawyer (who was a coroner, deputy public prosecutor, magistrate and district judge), was best known for taking Singapore football to Malaysia Cup heights (victories in 1977 and 1980) and ensuring that the former National Stadium was not a white elephant.

He was responsible for the consistent 50,000 attendance at the stadium which gave rise to the Kallang Roar, a phenomenon that captured the hearts and minds of many football fans, even housewives.

For that, a tribute by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, was read out by Dharmendra.

Dharmendra added: "Uncle Gani was born at Tank Road on Oct 31, 1932, the youngest of five children.

"He had a modest upbringing and the family (20 nephews and nieces included) mattered much to him.

"I grew up with my uncle since the age of seven and I lived with him.

"He enrolled in Telok Kurau School in 1939, then went to Pearl's Hill School. During the Japanese occupation, he went to a Japanese school and picked up a smattering of the language.

"Later he went to Victoria School, then joined Anglo-Chinese School."

He added: "Uncle Gani obtained a Grade One in Senior Cambridge, but failed one subject."

"Scripture," he boomed, and the crowd laughed. Dharmendra continued: "He read and spoke English, Malay, Tamil and French."

"Also vulgarity," he added, to further laughter.

It was also said that he read voraciously, listened to the BBC every morning at 5am (even if he had a late night out), listened to Bach, Brahms, Wagner, Strauss and Beethoven.

And that he loved exercise (having been a table tennis and hockey player, track athlete and footballer) and enjoyed cooking curry.

Of course, having studied law in England and been a wide traveller, he loved fine-dining, dressing up and having wine with friends and contacts.

But, said Dharmendra, his last four years, since he suffered a stroke, have been debilitating, eventually confined to a wheelchair and suffering speech impediment.

"That is hard to take for a bubbly man like Gani," said his long-time friend Arul Chandran.

"Now he is at peace," the lawyer added.

godfrey@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 05, 2015.
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