Local footballers offer last respects to S R Nathan
He loved his football - especially when it came to his home 'club', the Lions national team.
Not only would former president S R Nathan turn up to watch finals of competitions they were in, he also made it a point to see the team through the qualifying stages as well.
On Thursday (Aug 25), Singapore's football fraternity - comprising players, coaches and managers from National Team and the S.League - turned up in full force at Parliament House to pay their last respects to one of local football's biggest supporters.
"It was emotional," said national team and Warriors Football Club defender, Madhu Mohana, 25.
"It was clear the mood was sombre. Everyone just went quiet even before we walked through the entrance of Parliament House," he added.
Madhu was among the many players from various S. League squads who turned up in City Hall at 10.30am. The Singapore footballing troupe stood in the queue at the Padang for their turn to bid Mr Nathan farewell.
"He was a true supporter of not just Football but sports in general," said Madhu. "The nation has lost a true gem."
Warriors FC staff and players paying their last respects to former president S R Nathan at Parliament House. PHOTO: ST
Former national centre-back, Lim Tong Hai (below), who also paid his last respects to the former president during yesterday's lying in state, told reporters he remembers Mr Nathan having a "warm personality".
"He has always been supportive of the soccer scene.
"When he turns up for matches (as part of the SR Nathan Challenge Trophy), he was always encouraging (the students).
"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'."
And the loss of a great man goes beyond the men on the pitch. Even the scene's managers and back-room staff are deeply saddened.
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.
"He was a prominent figure who never failed to encourage the team," he said.
Loo, who was the Lions team manager from 2004 until early 2013, recalled a celebration he and the team had with Mr Nathan after they lifted the 2004 AFF Championship, officially known then as the 2004 Tiger Cup, trophy.
"We were invited to the Istana for a reception.
"During the reception, I remember Mr Nathan reminding the team that they had to support one another through thick and thin, no matter how bad it got."
Singapore's national footballers were no strangers to the Istana during Mr Nathan's time in office. PHOTO: EUGENE LOO
But it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies before that.
Mr Nathan's encouragement came after the local team were caught at the centre of criticism when they were ignominiously defeated by Malaysia in the 2002 Tiger Cup, losing 0-4.
"Fans were upset and some even angry (after that match)," he said.
Even though the national team went through a revamp before Singapore went into same league in 2004, fans still held a grudge after the team's previous inept performance.
Morale was low after that match, Loo explained, but the players continued to persevere - especially after seeing Mr Nathan's continuous faith in them.
"He never gave up on us.
"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."
Former national team goalkeeper, Lionel Lewis, who was part of that 2004 squad, couldn't agree more.
"He definitely was a big source of motivation.
"To see him come all the way down 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."
Mr Nathan celebrates Singapore's 2004 Tiger Cup victory with the players. PHOTO: LIONEL LEWIS