S.League surprise: Teo steps down as Tampines chairman
Teo Hock Seng steps down as Tampines Rovers chairman, Balestier boss Thavaneson may follow suit
At the club, he is known only as "boss" but, more than just exercising authority at the workplace, Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng commands respect, breathing life into the "gotong royong" spirit that is synonymous with the S.League giants.
It is never going to be the same, though, after Teo called time on his chairmanship of the club he has helmed since 1999.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Teo, 69, said: "I'm getting older, I'm not well health-wise and I tire easily.
"I've come in and tried to do things with an open heart, but there's a limit to it and I've got to look after myself.
"I've tried my best, I play to win and got the best fulfilment when the team do well.
"In these 16 years, the football fraternity has been good to me and I think I've earned respect."
Teo revealed he had informed all relevant parties of his decision to step down a month ago. Club vice-chairman Murali Krishna Ramachandran will take over as chairman.
Tampines won the league title five times during his term, including a three-year reign at the top from 2011 to 2013.
The Stags also won the Singapore Cup three times, and remain the only team to have won the now-defunct Asean Club Championship in 2005.
"I must thank (Tampines adviser) Yatiman Yusof, who gave me a lot of support through the years," said Teo, who has promised similar support for his successor.
"Krishna is dedicated, astute and he's got the energy for it. I think I picked the right person. He will put together a team to take over and continue our work.
"They will have to draw up their business plan depending on how they want to move forward. I will continue to do what I can to help."
Teo was asked to be the chairman of the Singapore team in the Asean Super League (ASL), which is set to kick off in 2017, but he has turned down the request for the same reasons he is stepping out of the S.League.
"We talked about (the ASL team), and I already said no earlier. If I did, I'd want to win it, do things properly, and the stress levels are very high," he said.
"One thing I won't miss is the exhausting element of the work."
Balestier Khalsa chairman S Thavaneson says Teo will be a hard act to follow.
"He's given more to football than can be expected. More than just a colourful character, he's supported the sport with his passion, finances and has even taken local players who've had experienced difficult times under his wing," said Thavaneson.
"Singapore football will miss him."
Along with the now-retired Geylang International chairman Patrick Ang and Gombak United chief John Yap, Thavaneson and Teo were the most outspoken of S.League chairmen.
And Thavaneson will soon follow Teo out of the league.
"We've given a fair share of our lives to football and we'll have to see how things pan out, but it will probably be in the next 12 months," said Thavaneson.
"There is too much uncertainty that makes things very difficult," he added, referring to supposed changes to the form and structure of the S.League.
"We must find good people to come forward to take over leadership. I'm a few months younger than Hock Seng and we're well into senior citizenship!
"We'd like to enjoy football without the stress."
Ang, who left Geylang in 2012, agreed.
"Hock Seng's departure is a sad occasion for Singapore football. If people like him and Thavaneson leave, there's little chance for the league," said Ang, who hopes the Football Association of Singapore will pay more attention to the S.League.
Teo, who received a 10-match touchline ban in 2009 for approaching a match official in what was perceived as an aggressive manner, does not see his passion for football fizzling out.
"I'm probably the only chairman who got sent off like that, and that shows how much emotion I put into it," he said.
"And I will still enjoy watching, I won't mind paying $5 to come and watch a game."
Everything has got to do with handling people. If you respect your players and your staff, they will do the same and, on the pitch, they will play for you. Winning the players’ hearts is very important.
— Teo Hock Seng
People know him as the “boss” but he is more than that — a great man with a great heart. His door is always open to you, whatever you need, not just in football. I want to say ‘thank you’ to him and I’m sad that he’s leaving.
— Tampines Rovers captain Mustafic Fahrudin