'He never gave up' on S'pore football
He loved his football, especially when it came to his "home team", the Lions.
Not only would former president S R Nathan turn up for finals, but he also made it a point to encourage teams and players through tough times.
Yesterday, Singapore's football fraternity - comprising players, coaches and managers from the national football team and S.League - turned up in full force at Parliament House to pay its last respects to one of local football's biggest supporters.
"It was emotional. He was a true supporter of not just football but sports in general," said national team and Warriors Football Club defender Madhu Mohana, 25.
"The nation has lost a true gem."
Madhu was among the many players from various S.League clubs who turned up at City Hall at 10.30am before the Singapore football contingent joined the queue at the Padang to bid Mr Nathan farewell at Parliament House.
Former international Lim Tong Hai told reporters that Mr Nathan was always supportive and had a warm personality.
"When he turned up for matches (as part of the S R Nathan Challenge Trophy), he was always encouraging," he said.
"He would even go to the losing team and tell them: 'What matters most is that you've put in your best and you can try again next time'."
Managers and back-room staff were equally sad.
Former national team manager Eugene Loo, 43, said he was left with a heavy heart after he heard the news of Mr Nathan's death on Monday night.
Loo, who was the Lions team manager from 2004 to early 2013, recalled a celebration he and the team had with Mr Nathan after they lifted the trophy for the 2004 AFF Championship, then known as Tiger Cup.
"We were invited to the Istana for a reception," he said.
"I remember Mr Nathan reminding the team that they had to support one another through thick and thin, no matter how bad it got."
But it was not all rainbows and butterflies before that.
Mr Nathan's encouragement came after the team was at the centre of criticism when it was ignominiously defeated by Malaysia in the 2002 Tiger Cup, losing 0-4.
"Fans were upset and some were even angry after that match," said Loo.
Even though the national squad went through a revamp before Singapore went into the same tournament in 2004, fans still had doubts because of the team's inept performance previously.
Morale was low, Loo explained, but the players continued to persevere - especially after seeing Mr Nathan's continuous faith in them.
"He never gave up on us," he said.
"Even though we had quite a young team then, if the President didn't give up on us, who were we to give up on ourselves?
"I think that propelled the team to continue to press on."
The team beat Indonesia 5-2 on aggregate in the final that took place in early January 2005.
Former national team goalkeeper Lionel Lewis, who was the most valuable player for that tournament, could not agree more.
"Mr Nathan definitely was a big source of motivation," he said.
"To see him go all the way to the National Stadium was endearing.
"He didn't just come to watch the finals, he also came to a semi-final match and that, I remember, was pure encouragement.
"It showed the belief he had in the team and for us players, that kind of support makes a huge difference.
"And he certainly made that difference."