They spend thousands for their kids to learn football

FIRED UP: Ms Carol Tan is behind the Elias Park Football Club.

SINGAPORE - Call them super football mums and dads.

Mr Ronald Pang heads a team of 11 mums and dads who would probably win awards for being the most committed to The Beautiful Game.

They shell out between $1,000 and $2,000 a month to rent fields for a group of 95 kids called the West Coast Boyz.

They spend another $1,200 a month for coaches so that the kids get to improve at each two-hour session on Saturdays.

Mr Pang, who has a company that deals in hearing aids, says: "Football is a great form of exercise. It also builds confidence and team spirit.

"I'm happy to pay for these boys because I know it will improve their lives and make them happy.

"I'm passionate about football. Everybody should get a chance to play football regardless of family background."

It all started in 2005, when Mr Lim Wee Kok, 45, a sales manager, took his two sons and church friends to play football at West Coast Park.

Over time, other boys joined their weekly sessions.

Among them was Mr Pang, who joined the group in 2008 with his boys, who were in Primary 1 and Primary 5 then.

Mr Pang, who lives in Toh Tuck, says: "I was strolling in the park with my kids and saw the group playing.

"I recognised Wee Kok, because we were friends in secondary school. He asked if my kids and I could join them and that's how we got involved."

Since then, Mr Pang has been organising the games for the group, which has grown since.

They also hire coaches, to the tune of another $1,200 a month.

While the players can opt to contribute $10 a session, they don't have to if money is tight.

Today they count about 95 boys and girls in their informal group and this community is about making sure every kid grows up strong.

The group has helped boys like 12-year-old Aidil Isa, who has been attending training sessions for the last two years.

The Primary 6 pupil has been selected for the National Football Academy, which grooms young players for the Prime League and S-League.

His mother, Madam Fatimah Yusoff, 45, says she is delighted at the offer, and attributes it to the coaching he receives through the West Coast Boyz.

The housewife shares a five-room flat in Sembawang with her production supervisor husband and their three children.

Their household income is about $2,000 a month.

She says: "My family can't afford to send Aidil for football coaching. Thankfully, the group has allowed him to train for free. I'm glad he is with the group - at least I know he's mixing with good company."

On top of the football coaching, the group has been giving free tuition to some kids, including Aidil, since May.

Mr Pang says: "We noticed some children missing football training because their parents wanted them to focus on their studies."

In a bid to work around it, four mothers offered to provide free one-on-one home tuition to Primary 6 pupils before each training session.

The free tuition is only for those who are not doing well in school and whose parents cannot afford to hire tutors. how long, what suvjects? do they spend more on tuition books? they meet somewhere? benson: queries answered above)

Madam Teo Ai Peng, a housewife in her 40s, says: "Not everyone can afford tuition. But some kids are eager to learn and just need to be given a chance.

"For me, taking out a few hours to tutor them is a small sacrifice."

Madam Fatimah says: "Aidil used to fail his Maths and Science tests. But since getting the free tuition, his grades have improved."

Nonetheless, it is costly to rent the fields every week, says Mr Pang.

"We have to ballot for them weekly. We also have logistics issues as the training ground keeps changing.

"Ideally, we hope to get a permanent arrangement for the boys, one that we can afford.

"But it's all worth it to see the boys happy and healthy."

His boys still play with the group.

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