OPINION | FAS president has fatal heart attack – TBEN Singapore News


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SINGAPORETop international football official Lim Kia Tong passed away on Wednesday from a sudden heart attack. He was 69.

Ranked Vice Chairman of FIFA Disciplinary Committee, FAS Presidents death came completely untimely, just two weeks before the FAS (Football Association of Singapore) Congress at Raffles Country Club.

The newly elected FAS council

Kia Tong, with more than four decades of legal practice and head of the criminal division at Hin Tat Augustine and Partners, became the first elected FAS president when his team defeated LKT Bill Ngs Team Changers (I was part of this team) in 2017. Four years later, he was re-elected unopposed and according to football circles, he was expected to continue in charge.

Unlike his predecessors, such as the late famous lawyer Nadesan Ganesan, to whom the Kallang Roarin the 1980s, or footballing ex-MP Zainudin Nordin, Kia Tong came out of a non-football position as a member of the FAS council in 1999 and rose to the rank of vice president of the FAS eight years later.

But what surprised the fraternity was the way he died in his office, totally unexpected and extremely rare for a lawyer who rarely missed a court hearing. I was told that when the magistrate found him missing in court, alarm bells started ringing, and later they found him slumped at his office table.

He never showed physical setbacks and even when he did he kept it very calm,said former international defender Razali Saad, a vice president of FAS. He was truly a team player and worked behind the scenes to improve football in Singapore, especially at the grassroots level.

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Bill Ng (red shirt) who led the ‘Game Changers’ in the FAS elections


lI knew Kia Tong closely, although we were on different teams during the FAS elections about six years ago. But the rivalry between the partisans never affected our friendship, as he lived up to his rousing reputation as a true gentleman. The bond grew even closer when he came into close contact with my only son, Sanjay, and then a journalist at The Straits Times.

I remember Kia Tong telling me that when he first met Sanjay, he was impressed by his astute yet humble demeanor. Later he reminded him that if he could come half way to his father…s journalistic reputation, hed make a rip-roaring writer. (I must confess that I was really flattered by the editorial comparison).

Personally, I admired Kia Tong’s absolutely unobtrusive moves, as he wanted to take football from the lowest to the international level – which was not a head-turner with neighboring ASEAN nations scrambling to overtake Asian giants like South America. Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Former Asian Football Federation (AFC) general secretary Alex Soosay describes him as a workaholic and devoted his time immensely to football. He added: He will be remembered in the AFC as a disciplinary and a very strict disciple of the rules of football, you can never compromise with him.

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Former SNOC Coach of the Year Jita Singh praised Kia Tong for his numerous behind-the-scenes actions to help players and officials. He added: He had no sporty hangovers and he always looked to the positive to improve the game, from the bottom up. He knew he was facing a very tough challenge, but he never moaned and groaned, but worked diligently toward a long-term goal.

In my opinion, Kia Tong boldly left his mark on the pitch when he lifted the life ban of ex-FIFA referee Thiru Rajamanickam, who was written out from the FAS refereeslist in 1994, on the allegation of match fixing, and national striker Kannan Kunjuraman. Rarely to give them another chance and return to football, which I know them foram very grateful.

Lim Kia Tong with Minister Edwin Tong


Another credit to his cap was his close relationship with the S-League and NFL (National Football League) clubs as he tried to gain ground support, which seemed to be lacking in recent years. But the real strategy for lifting demoralizing norms at the grassroots still remains a mystery.

I would view Kia Tong as someone who dared to be different and was always willing to try radical approaches to take the sport off the ground, as he felt, without fear or favor, the basic foundations needed to be strengthened, especially at the age group level. This may seem like a chore, although FAS Secretary General Yazeen Buhari, a former FIFA referee, is deeply involved in the major work in primary and secondary schools and junior colleges.

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Kia Tongs body is located in the Singapore Funeral Parlor, Level 5A, Tulip Hall, 91 Tampines Link, Singapore 528746. The FAS has also arranged a tribute space in the FAS lobby of Jalan Besar Stadium for those whod want to pay their respects.

He may have helped launch the book ROARrecently. But Kia Tong knows that his downfall may not be the great football howl. But he will be revered as the true gentleman, who selflessly worked behind the scenes to improve the sport, once unmatched in the 70s and 80s with the legendary Kallang Roarin tow.

Rest in peace, Kia Tong. Keep your head up. You did your best.

Biggest regards must go to you for the discreet manner in which you have steered the football ship in the right direction for the past ten years, and by holding Singapores flag at the global level at AFC and FIFA.

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