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Aileen Tan plays pregnant mum in new film, almost 10 years after abortion

10 years ago, Long Long Time Ago star Aileen Tan had abortion 
because of ectopic pregnancy

PROSTHETIC: (Above) Actress Aileen Tan plays a pregnant woman in new film.
PROSTHETIC: (Above) Tan with husband, Hong Kong-born director Gerald Lee.

In the new movie Long Long Time Ago, local actress Aileen Tan plays protagonist Zhao Di, a mum of three going through a fourth pregnancy.

While the 49-year-old TV veteran is in director Jack Neo's nostalgic paean to the kampung days of 1960s Singapore sporting a prosthetic tummy, the role did not remind her of her own brief period of maternity.

In 2006, Tan had to abort her baby a week after finding out she was pregnant. She was in her first trimester.

Doctors told Tan, whose husband is Hong Kong-born director Gerald Lee, that she had an ectopic pregnancy, in which the foetus grows in the fallopian tube instead of in the womb.

Ectopic pregnancies can be fatal for the mother if the fallopian tubes burst from the growth of the foetus, resulting in heavy internal bleeding.

"I have no more memories of that (episode), as it happened 10 years ago," she told The New Paper over the phone matter-of-factly.

"To play Zhao Di, I simply focused on doing every scene well. It helped that the child actors playing my kids were very professional.

"We had so many overnight shoots and despite being sleepy and cranky, they performed well."

Long Long Time Ago is showing here now. 

Tan admitted her abortion was a big blow to her back then, but she "managed to get over the loss and sadness very fast, by faith and God".

She and Lee, 54, have been married for 15 years.Lee has a 30-year-old son from a previous marriage.

Back in 2006, she was traumatised after receiving news of her ectopic pregnancy.

"I kept looking at myself in the mirror and asking why it must happen to me. It's a 3 per cent chance of getting an ectopic pregnancy. Why me? Why was I so suay (unlucky in Hokkien)?" she told TNP then.

"I was crying almost every night at that time, and every time I thought of my baby, I would burst into tears."

But today, she is able to recall the fateful week before her abortion operation in a calm manner.

"I remember it was my stepson's 21st birthday and the three of us had already planned a backpacking trip to Hokkaido," said Tan.

"In the end, due to my condition, I couldn't do the Hokkaido leg. I stayed in Tokyo and visited Tokyo Disneyland.

PHOTO

"At Disneyland, I only took one picture of myself, posing with a mermaid. It is the only picture of me in my briefly pregnant state."

Tan added: "If I didn't have an ectopic pregnancy, my baby would be 10 years old this year.

"Who knows? In (that parallel universe), I might not be working as an actress any more."

Describing herself as "happy-go-lucky", the devout Christian said it is her belief that "kids are a godsend".

The couple have never considered in vitro fertilisation or adoption. They "do not actively plan for kids", and if they ever have a baby, she wants it to be conceived naturally.

"Let nature take its course. If I have kids, I have kids. If I don't, I don't. It's okay," said Tan.

"When I look at my friends who are mothers, I feel that motherhood is mighty. The hardest part isn't the baby stage, but later, when mothers have to raise their kids for life."

She added: "Our relatives do not badger us any more with such questions during Chinese New Year.

"If they really do ask, I say, 'I have a son mah!'

"I definitely treat my stepson as my own. I've known him since he was 10 years old and we are very close."

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S.LEAGUE

S.League club merger between Woodlands and Hougang falls through

Merger between Woodlands and Hougang 'not feasible'

JOY: Woodlands Wellington players (above) celebrate a goal during their last season in the S.League in 2014.
"If they (FAS) do want to go ahead with it (the merger), we will accept it, but they must do it according to the constitution." - Woodlands fan James Lim (above)

It was a merger mooted by the S.League, then set in motion and announced by its administrators at the end of the 2014 season. 

But last month, more than a year later, it came to light that the marriage between Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United did not actually take place - it could not, because, according to a group of Woodlands fans fighting to keep the club alive, the league's administrators failed to abide by the constitution that governs S.League clubs. 

"We started asking questions based on a story written in your paper in November 2014, (and since then) we've had four meetings with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and two meetings with Sport Singapore (SportSG)," said James Lim, a Woodlands fan and a former deputy director at the People's Association.   

"We said that they can't just go ahead with their plans without, as per the constitution, getting votes from 80 per cent of the voting members in the club to pass the resolution." 

Clause 35 (a) of Woodlands' constitution states that the "club shall not be dissolved, except with the consent of not less than 80 per cent of the voting members of the club". 

According to Woodlands' 2014 annual returns statement, the club has around 14,000 members. 

Woodlands, one of the pioneers of the S.League - Singapore's professional football competition which kicked off in 1996 - finished 11th of 12 teams in 2014.

MERGER

At the end of the season, the club had accumulated debts of around $400,000, which prompted the idea of a merger.

After the announcement of the merger, the Rams did not participate in the 10-team S.League last year.

Said Lim: "We're fans, they (the FAS and S.League) are the administrators of football here, so maybe they have a bigger picture view of the whole thing. 

"If they do want to go ahead with it (the merger), we will accept it, but they must do it according to the constitution." 

The S.League did not answer queries from The New Paper pertaining to constitutional matters, but in a statement, a spokesman said: "The merger idea, which was to enable clubs to be financially stronger through combined resources and funds, was, unfortunately, not feasible for implementation at this juncture.

"Woodlands Wellington will continue as a football club under the purview of the S.League, engage in community football activities and pay off its debts, similar to all other clubs sitting out." 

However, in response to TNP queries in last April, an FAS spokesman said that it had obtained "in principal approval from the relevant authorities on the merger", and that all matters concerning Woodlands' clubhouse were done with "strict corporate governance." 

Shasi Kumar, a former coach at Woodlands, called for more transparency from the FAS and the S.League. 

"The merger should not have taken place if it was not carried out in the proper manner. It just should not have happened," he told TNP.  

The S.League has witnessed a merger in the past, in 2002, between Balestier Central and Clementi Khalsa.

Both clubs were dissolved with a new entity, Balestier Khalsa, formed. 

"Now they (the authorities) will need to come out and explain how and why it happened, and do the right thing by bringing in people who have the interests of the club at heart," added Shasi. 

YOUTH TEAMS

Lim and his group are currently trying to get into the Woodlands executive committee, and if successful, they aim to form youth teams this year, before trying to return to the S.League next year. 

"We're now preparing a business plan for the club and trying to get into the Woodlands executive committee so we can play a part in bringing the club back in the right way," he said. 

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Four ex-Tampines footballers have 'boss' to thank for their current jobs

HAPPY FAMILY: Former Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng (middle) with former players (left to right) Satria Mad, Noh Alam Shah, Sharifuddin Mahmood and Yunos Samad, who are now all full-time staff at Komoco Motors.

Pop quiz: Do you know what current Komoco staff Yunos Samad, Sharifuddin Mahmood and Satria Mad have in common?

They were all professional footballers who played in the 2002 RHB Singapore Cup final for Tampines Rovers.

That day, Tampines beat Jurong FC 1-0 before 15,000 fans at the National Stadium to hand Teo Hock Seng his first piece of silverware after taking over as club chairman two years earlier.

Well-known as someone who is big on loyalty, Teo made sure he had the backs of the men who were in the team after they hung up their boots.

Teo, who has been Komoco Motors' managing director since 1986, hired Yunos, Sharifuddin and Satria to work for the company.

The three are now with Komoco's car rental division.

Former Tampines and Singapore striker Noh Alam Shah, who called time on his football career at the end of last season, joined them in December.

Yunos, who has been at Komoco for 11 years, is the longest-serving of the four former S.League players.

The 37-year-old is the manager of Komoco's rental division and speaking to The New Paper recently, the former right wingback said: "The way the boss (Teo) looks after us, during playing days and now, is the same.

"He always emphasises hard work, dedication, discipline. He also wants you to be fully committed and take pride in what you are doing."

Yunos had his reservations when he met the man known as "Teo Hock Sack", because of his impatience with underperforming coaches or foreign imports.

Recalling his first meeting with Teo in 2002 - at Komoco's Alexandra Road office where he works now - the former youth international said: "At the time, he was famous for sacking people.

"So I mustered up courage and asked him: 'Boss, let's say in training or a match, I break my leg. Will you sack me?'

"He suddenly told me to stand up. I got scared. Then he said: 'You see this showroom? If anything happens to you, I will look after you and offer you a job here'."

FAIRY GODFATHER

Yunos left Tampines at the end of 2003 and retired a year later.

He received a call from out of the blue, with the caller telling him "Boss" was looking for him.

"I thought he (Teo) wanted me to sign for Tampines again," recalled Yunos.

"But he offered me a job in Komoco. I haven't looked back since.

"He looks after the welfare of the staff here, even when the economy is bad, this is something not a lot of bosses would do."

Sharifuddin, a left-sided defender back in the day, joined Komoco about six years ago after some help from Yunos.

He retired from the game in 2004 and was working at the Sentosa Skyline Luge as a training coordinator.

"Of course, all of us are thankful because he gave us a chance to work here, even when the outside market is not that good," said the 40-year-old.

"You have to realise it's a totally new industry and we really had to be wiling to learn and absorb everything."

Teo insists he is not a "Fairy Godfather".

While he has offered part-time opportunities to a number of footballers over the years, including Rafi Ali, Nazri Nasir, Firdaus Idros, and current Stags Ismadi Mukhtar, Fabian Kwok and Joey Sim, only a handful have been employed as full-time staff.

Apart from the four in Komoco's car rental division, the only other former footballers working in the company are Shahri Rahim and Lim Chew Peng, former national goalkeepers in the 1980s and 1970s, respectively.

Teo, 69, explained: "In football, as in life, you come in with nothing, you leave with nothing.

"If I can help someone along the way, why not?

"Of course, I have to be prudent and make sure I know the background of the player before offering him a job.

"But I've always held the thought that sportsmen have high values. They know the meaning of hard work."

Teo proudly shares how Komoco's rental department is "one of our highest revenue generators".

Yunos says part of his job satisfaction is seeing Teo beaming with pride.

"When you are here long enough, you realise the only way to repay his kindness is to show dedication to your work," he said.

"Hard work is all we have to show him. Our department has shown great improvement and we have grown together.

"And my hope is we can keep doing so, to show boss he made the right decision in giving us a chance."

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