From shy kid to chatty footballer
PAssion Children's Football programme helps two boys build their confidence
For these two children, football is more than a weekly leisure activity.
It was what brought the two boys - one with autism and the other with a speech impediment - out of their sheltered worlds.
Aaron Oh's interest in the sport began after he watched a football match on TV two years ago.
But the Primary 2 Pathlight School pupil was diagnosed with severe autism in 2012 and mild autism in 2014. His parents were worried he wouldn't be able to cope playing the game.
Then a year ago, Mr Mohamed Hussain Razzak, 53, a bus driver, told Aaron and his mother, Ms Christina Lee, 36, about the PAssion Children's Football (PACF) programme.
TEAMWORK: Aaron Oh (facing camera in centre) at a training session. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTINA LEE
Organised by the People's Association and Community Sports Clubs (CSC), the programme promotes family and community bonding through weekly football training for children aged five to 12.
Mr Hussain, who has been volunteering as a PACF coach since 2006, told them that any child is welcome to join the team, including Aaron.
So in March 2015, Aaron signed up for the programme with Admiralty CSC - a decision that became a turning point.
TEAMWORK: Volunteer coach Mohamed Hussain Razzak playing in a test match at the National Stadium yesterday. TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG
Ms Lee, a housewife told The New Paper: "He was initially afraid his teammates would look down on him for his condition, but with the coaches' guidance, he has lots of friends now.
"Ever since he channelled his energy into football, his ability to concentrate and express himself has improved a lot. It's definitely a miracle for us."
Thanks to Mr Hussain too, who has his own technique when coaching.
He said: "When you are with kids, you've got to be like them. You have to (give them) fist bumps and high fives, and get excited. That's when they will treat you and trust you as their own."
Football also made a confident boy out of Anaqi Harith Kasim, 9, who has a speech impediment.
Although he still pauses between words, one thing has changed dramatically for the Woodgrove Primary School pupil ever since he joined the PACF programme in 2015: He now speaks confidently despite his condition.
His mother, Ms Rozyta Mohamed Talib, 43, a housewife, said: "Before PACF, he used to be very reserved, and would ask me to speak on his behalf when he encountered people.
"But now he's so chatty, I sometimes have to tell him to stop when he blabbers on and on to strangers."
Ms Rozyta attributed this change to his coach, Mr Hussain, and his teammates. She wishes she had enrolled him earlier.
Beyond promoting community bonding, playing football under PACF has also given Mr Kamal Affendey, a business development manager for South-east Asia at an IT company, some precious family time.
The father of five, who is also the convenor for Marsiling CSC, said: "On Sundays, we did not have any planned family activity. But now, we have football as a bonding activity... We play every Sunday from 3pm to 7pm."
Tomorrow is PAssion Children's Football Play Day 2016, which is held in conjunction with the Singapore Sports Hub Community Play Day 2016.
The annual event will see about 150 teams, comprising 1,500 children aged five to 12, playing in friendly matches.
At this event, non-PACF members can register on the spot at the National Stadium tomorrow, between 9am and 5pm.
About PAssion Children's Football
The PAssion Children's Football (PACF) programme provides a platform for parents and children aged five to 12 to spend quality family time and bond with the community through football.
Initiated by the People's Association and Community Sports Clubs (CSC) in 2004, PACF also aims to promote an active lifestyle.
About 2,000 children and 500 parent volunteers are part of this programme.
Aside from exam and fasting periods, trainings are held weekly at 50 different CSCs island-wide.
Annual fees for children start from $45. This includes insurance coverage, a training T-shirt and a football.
Interested participants can register at any of the 50 community clubs listed at www.pa.gov.sg/Our_Programmes/Community_Sports, or call 6340-5299.