YEARS after he was sacked for underperforming after being injured in an S-League football match, he became a teacher.
While his sacking was a moment of misfortune for Jeykanth Jeyapal, it turned out to be a stroke of good luck - for his current students at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). For he is now an award-winning lecturer and friend to them.
The 38-year-old former midfielder used to play for S-League clubs Woodlands Wellington, Singapore Armed Forces Football Club and Geylang United Football Club.
But his career was often blighted by his knee injuries.
In 1999, he was the first local football scholar to study in the United States and attended Oklahoma City University, but had to drop out because of a knee injury.
In 2005, after he suffered a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury, Geylang United sacked Mr Jeykanth for poor performance.
After retiring from playing professionally, Mr Jeykanth became a coach for youth and S-League players.
He was also the club manager of Woodlands Wellington.
More than three years ago, the business graduate from the Singapore Institute of Management remembered his teaching dream and applied for a position at the ITE.
He is now the section head of fitness training under the community recreation and services department in the School of Business and Services at ITE College Central.
On Nov 14, Mr Jeykanth was one of 17 recipients of the ITE Teacher Award for Student Care and Development.
The award recognises outstanding lecturers who have displayed commitment and dedication in enriching their students' lives.
In the nomination, one of his former students, Caleb Pek, wrote: "When I broke down and cried uncontrollably during an exam due to the loss of my grandmother, Mr Jeykanth felt for me and was also affected."
Mr Pek, who graduated with a Higher Nitec qualification from the Community Sport and Recreation Management Course last year, added: "He spent hours counselling me."
Mr Jeykanth had dreams of becoming a teacher when he was younger, but he put them on hold for football, which he had been playing since he was eight.
He said: "I always saw football as a sabbatical and I was lucky to have the opportunity to play professionally during the prime of my life.
"But I never took it as something that I could do for my whole life."
His background as a former footballer often serves as an ice-breaker with his students.
He said: "The students are always curious to know about what happened in the locker rooms, about other soccer celebrities."
His seemingly strict demeanour helps too, he joked, although he also thinks the modern teacher should be a friend.
Mr Jeykanth said: "I always believe that if you treat students with the right respect, tolerance and patience, they will respect you accordingly."
One of his most memorable teaching moments involved using a star sticker.
He would often paste these stickers on his students' assignments, to reward them for doing well.
"I didn't think much about it until a student asked me why he didn't get a star, unlike his classmates, and (said he) was willing to work hard to earn one," he said.
"It woke me up. Some of these students have not tasted achievement before and this encouragement meant a lot to them."
THE NEW PAPER
This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.