Netting mum's cheers

Netting mum's cheers

If she had heeded her mother's appeals to be more feminine, netball star Charmaine Soh, 24, might have given up her sport.

"Mum used to discourage me from playing netball. She wanted me to concentrate on my studies, go to church and play music. She wanted me to be a feminine girl," says Ms Soh, who learnt music when she was young and still plays the piano and "a little bit of guitar" once in a while.

Her father, 54-year-old Soh Char Les, a businessman in the steel industry, "was the opposite". "He wanted me to do sports because he is very sporty," she says.

Ms Soh, a 1.77m-tall goal shooter, scored 42 points en route to helping Singapore beat Sri Lanka 59-41 in the final at the Mission Foods Asian Netball Championships last month.

The second of three children, she says her "conservative and traditional" mother, billing officer Josephine Tay, taught her to cook and sew as a child. In Secondary 1, she took netball as a co-curricular activity at St Hilda's Secondary School.

Ms Tay, 53, says: "I preferred that she studied more. I was worried that she would get injured while playing sports."

Ms Soh fractured her wrist during her first netball training session. During the one month it took for her to recover from the injury, her mother asked her to join the Girls' Brigade instead, which she had done in St Hilda's Primary School.

But she did not, persisting with the sport.

Ms Tay, who left the talking mostly to her husband and daughter during the interview, says she eventually changed her mind when she saw the rest of her family going to netball matches to support Ms Soh.

She says: "Now I give Charmaine a morale boost by attending matches. When the ball goes into the net, it's very exciting, the joy is there. I feel proud of her."

Ms Soh graduated with a business degree from the Singapore Institute of Management in May and joined professional services firm Deloitte last month as a regulatory and compliance adviser.

Her elder brother, 28, is now a property consultant and her younger sister, 20, is a nurse. The family home is a condominium in Loyang.

Have you always been sporty?

Ms Soh: No. I used to wonder why my father played football every Sunday. In secondary school, I explored different kinds of sports. I used to rush out of school, skip lunch and play basketball, then go for netball training. Later, I'd play badminton with my friends. I also liked volleyball. I love the sun and team sports.

What were you like as a child?

Mr Soh: She was quiet and independent.

Ms Soh: My report cards used to say that I should open up more to my friends, but when I went to secondary school, I became very noisy.

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