Our dad, the family man

Our dad, the family man

None of Quah Kim Swee's three children got the opportunity to watch dad play football waltz on a field when the star striker shone so bright from the 1950s through to the early '70s.

All they knew about their father's football prowess were through stories, told to them by family and friends of the family.

But, speak to any of the three and words like "warrior", "inspiration", and "gentleman" crop up intermittently when they describe the former Singapore star striker, who died on Saturday, aged 76.

Swee, as he was affectionately known, succumbed to liver failure after a long battle with illness.

Eldest son, Soon Hong, 49, was an infant when dad thrilled crowds at the old National Stadium during the late stage of his career.

As he grew older, he discovered from his elders how his father, a natural right footer, would practise so diligently and make his left leg more powerful than the right.

"The one consistent thing from all the stories was that he was a very good player," Soon Hong told The New Paper, at the wake at St Joseph's church yesterday.

"For him, football was out of passion more than anything else. (But) he never pressured us to play the game.

"Truth be told, we were all pretty good at sports in school. He simply encouraged us, whatever sport it was."


Soon Hong was close to dad and knew him to be an avid reader, who would go cover to cover on anything he could get his hands on - whether fiction, non-fiction or football magazines like British magazine Shoot.

He knew him to have a predilection for western films and the music of local band, The Thunderbirds, during the '70s and '80s at the Carriage Bar at York Hotel.

"I enjoyed my boyhood because dad would always get the family involved in almost any activity," Soon Hong said.

"He even brought us to the pub at the York Hotel. It was his favourite place. He was an open-minded man, but everything was balanced.

"Respect was very important, but he also wanted us to experience life."

While he spent much of his time destroying opposing defences in his football heyday - the Asian All-Star led Singapore to fourth place at the 1966 Asian Games - family was the biggest priority for Swee, who also leaves behind two granddaughters - ages three and two.

The fourth child of 11 siblings - six of whom played football for Singapore - he stayed close to his brothers and sisters and looked forward to Sunday gatherings and the occasional birthday parties.

All surviving family members were present at the wake yesterday, including Kim Song, along with close friends and teammates like R Suria Murthi.

"He was a real family man and we were all close to him. He was old school in that sense," said his 44-year-old daughter, Bee Jin.

"We always had very good long talks, about many things, but politics mostly.

"I spent a lot of time travelling with him as well. We went to the World Cups in Japan (2002) and Germany (2006) and the European Championship in Portugal (2004)."

Swee's last family trip was to Bali in December 2012, just before he became ill.


He battled colon cancer in the 1990s and went into remission 17 years ago.

He spent the past month in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital receiving family and relatives.

It was enough time for him to attain closure and say his goodbyes to everyone, said youngest son, Soon Aun, 40.

"We were all prepared for what was to come. And the last few weeks, he knew too," Soon Aun said.

"On Saturday, he hugged all of us, and then he seemed at peace after that. My dad, as he always was, took his time."

Said Bee Jin: "He went out like a warrior. He made sure all was okay first."



This article was first published on July 20, 2015.
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