Footballers reunite

Footballers (from left) Lim Tong Hai, Lee Man Hon and Fandi Ahmad are in a documentary reuniting individuals who played important roles in Singapore’s recent history.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

After their sensational Malaysia Cup triumph in 1994, the footballers of that Singapore dream team seldom kept in touch with one another for about two decades.

Recently, they started meeting again regularly after getting together for a TV documentary series with the premise of reuniting individuals who played important roles in formative moments of Singapore's recent history, but subsequently lost contact with one another.

Ex-midfielder Lee Man Hon, now 41 and the owner of a clothing shop that sells mostly sports apparel, "was thrilled to do this episode".

"With our busy schedules, it is indeed difficult to stay connected with the whole team; I particularly miss seeing the officials and coaches," he says.

Ex-defender Lim Tong Hai, now a senior lecturer in physical education at the Institute of Technical Education, says: "Frankly, we were caught by surprise when we were first informed about this reunion show."

Their reunion kicks off the five-part series called Reunions on Channel NewsAsia tonight.

Although the majority of the team had met only intermittently since 1994 - such as for a charity match in 2009 - the players agreed that the spirit of brotherly jokiness had remained strong after all these years.

At a recent press event to launch the show, Lim, 46, says: "The team camaraderie is something that will stay with me for a long time. It was not always as rosy as it seemed to be. We had our ups and downs. But what made us stay united as a team and persevere was our team spirit and we were always looking out for one another, on and off the field."

In an e-mail interview, one of the team's star players, Australian Abbas Saad, concurs, saying: "It was a special reunion with a special group of guys. This team shares a special bond and friendship along with plenty of respect and love." The 47-year-old is currently the chief pundit at Astro SuperSport, a Malaysian TV network.

Ex-captain Fandi Ahmad, now the 53-year-old head coach of LionsXII and assistant coach of the national team, says that the team has been meeting regularly since it was reunited.

"It is not difficult to stay connected at all. We meet up almost every week for a friendly game and catch up before or after the game at coffee shops."

Lim adds: "Except for Jang Jung and Abbas Saad, who do not live in Singapore, the rest of us are constantly in touch. We communicate via a WhatsApp group."

The series is produced by the channel to commemorate Singapore's Golden Jubilee.

Executive producer Sharon Hun, 38, says: "We wanted to take Singaporeans on a trip down memory lane, but also to do it differently.

"Rather than just telling viewers, 'These were the events that shaped our history', we thought it would be better to bring together the people who made these events happen."

She adds that open calls to the public on TV and social media were necessary to locate some of the individuals featured.

Other episodes in the series include SQ Girls, featuring some of the stewardesses from Singapore Airlines' earliest commercials, and The Awakening, which reunites cast members from Singapore's first long-running drama serial.

sarang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Aug 03, 2015.
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