King cabbie of kelong

The taxi driver had no idea what was going on as we crawled towards a bustling Jalan Besar Stadium.

"Eh, got football match is it?" he enquired, narrowly avoiding taking out a couple of kids in red shirts with his wing mirrors.

"Yeah, it's a big game tonight," I answered. "Singapore Lions taking on China."

The taxi driver nodded knowingly and turned towards the main gallery entrance. "Oh, yah, I see in the papers. SEA Games, is it?"

"No, the SEA Games are in Indonesia. This is a World Cup qualifier," I said. "How can China be in the SEA Games?"

"Oh, yah...wah lao, idiot."

The criticism was not directed at himself, but towards some supporters, all dressed in red and heading in for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier.

Loyal Singapore fans were still dashing towards Jalan Besar, eager to counterbalance the Mainland Chinese majority inside the stadium.

Such a vibrant, unexpected display of patriotism clearly moved the taxi driver.

"Not bad, eh," he said. "You think I should take China?"

"How do you know China's going to win?" I asked incredulously. "You didn't know they were playing until just now."

He stared at me through his rear-view mirror, just to confirm he was dealing with a moron.

"Don't you know football, ah?" He asked rhetorically. "Everybody knows that China is kelong. You know kelong? I know kelong."

Five minutes earlier, he thought that Singapore was hosting the SEA Games and China was in South-east Asia.

But now he had an intricate understanding of football corruption to rival Fifa.

Coincidentally (although my taxi driver would probably disagree), Fifa head of security Chris Eaton told The New Paper the following day that Singaporean match fixers had infiltrated more countries and that international football corruption was more widespread.

"Yeah, I think I'll play China," the taxi driver said as I handed over the fare.

"You should support your own country," I insisted, banging a lone drum for Singapore.

"Why not bet on China to win the SEA Games instead."


This article was first published in The New Paper.