Victory is sweet, but defeat need not be bitter.
In fact, sport - football particularly - is fun and games for Halimi Ahssan.
Mixed with that, for the Jurong Primary School teacher-coach, is the element of children doing their best.
His junior boys team cried when they failed to qualify for the West Zone semi-finals, but their tears soon disappeared.
And there was still cause for celebration, as it was the first time the school's football team had made it to the zonal top eight.
"I always tell them win or lose, go out with a smile.
"They are still young, this is still an experience for them," said Halimi, who is also a Primary 3 English and Mathematics teacher in the school.
Halimi also had reason to be proud: his pupils showed true sportsmanship.
"After every match, they would bow and thank the parents (at the spectators' stand)."
The 33-year-old (above) has been nominated for The New Paper's S Soocelaraj Award, which honours the top teacher-coaches in Singapore.
To him, football is not just a sport but also a chance to teach good values; even off the field.
Post-training reflection sessions are a must, where pupils recap the skills they have learnt.
Halimi and three other teachers also motivate students with videos of Young Lions footballer Adam Swandi.
Recently, the juniors had been tasked with creating a team logo - something the teachers hope to print on sports shorts for the team, to give them a sense of unity.
"At first we thought they would prefer to be on the field, but once they started choosing their colours (for the logo), they showed their creativity and had fun too," said Halimi.
Speaking of unconventional, Halimi himself made a mid-career switch from being a private sector multi-media designer.
During his time in IT, Halimi held multi-media training sessions at many schools and even once at a prison school.
He became curious about teaching and was eventually encouraged by other teachers to make the switch.
"I found it satisfying to teach children because I was imparting some skills to them," he said.
Halimi then took up football coaching for the first time when he joined Jurong Primary School in 2012.
It was no mean feat as the school does not have a licensed football coach; Halimi did extensive research on drills and practices that he could adapt for his students.
And the children have grown close to Halimi, said the school's vice-principal Koh See Choon, 48.
"They'll catch him along the corridor to talk to him," said Koh.
"It's because he takes time to interact and speak to the children.
"It's not just for his form class, although he has more than 100 pupils in football and he knows most of them very well."
Halimi's ex-students still visit him on Teachers' Day, even after graduating three years ago.
"It's so nice to see they still remember what they learnt in primary school," said Halimi.
"They say, 'we remember this, he scored this goal.' Things they remember, sometimes I myself forget.
"But when they relive that moment, I believe it's worth all the time."
This article was first published on Oct 9, 2015.
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