Ex-Singapore captain Terry Pathmanathan pays tribute to ‘man of honour’ Ganesan
As he walked into the room at the wake of former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) chairman N Ganesan, old friends burst out as one shouting, "It's Ganesan's favourite!"
Terry Pathmanathan immediately broke into a smile. A few handshakes later, he walked slowly to the coffin where his former mentor, affectionately known as "Gani", was lying at rest.
Visibly shaken, Pathmanathan, the former captain of the national football team, spent a few moments looking at the man who, in his own words, helped kickstart his international football career.
"To a certain extent, I can say that I was one of those privileged ones whom Gani was particularly fond of," said Pathmanathan, 59, whom Singapore fans will always remember as Captain Marvel.
"The whole nickname (Ganesan's favourite) started all because my national team call-up came out of the blue, not only to everyone else, but also especially to me.
"When I joined the squad, I had merely trained with Uncle Choo (Seng Quee, the legendary 1977 Malaysia Cup-winning coach).
"Nobody knew who I was.
"But Gani did.
"So, in some ways, Gani played as big a part in my career development as Uncle Choo did, and I'm forever indebted to him."
Ganesan, who helmed the FAS from 1974 to 1981 is widely credited as being the driving force behind Singapore football's golden years of the 1970s, died at the Good Shepherd Loft nursing home on Wednesday morning at the age of 82.
While divorced and with no children of his own, he left behind plenty of adoring folk, be it family, those associated with local football or from his days as a lawyer.
FAS officials, along with other former players, are expected to pay their respects at the Singapore Casket today, before his cremation tomorrow.
A man known for his selflessness, his niece Dr Murali Ramasamy, who is in her late sixties, said: "He was such a lovable, caring, kind, generous and charming man.
"He did so much for everyone around him, and never asked for anything in return. And if you wanted something, he'd never say no.
"He put me through school, contributed to my expenses, and so much more.
"Looking at everyone who's turned up today and told me stories about him, it's simply heartwarming.
"I knew he did a lot of good when he was alive, but I didn't know he did this much."
Reflecting on his close personal relationship with Ganesan, Pathmanathan hinted that leaders like him are few and far between these days.
Holding back tears, he said: "It was always an honour to have Gani speak of you so highly.
"It's an otherworldly feeling to be given that sort of support, from a man like him.
"But he was so much more than that. I remember match days, home or away, where he'd travel with us on the team bus. That was Gani for you.
"Only footballers like myself, from that generation, know how special he was.
"His passing is tragic, but the day he left FAS more than 30 years ago was just as sad.
"It's never easy to find someone so dedicated and passionate, someone who dug up his time and money for the sake of the team and the sport.
"He's a man of honour, and he deserves all the respect and admiration in the world."