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He's the man who made Kallang roar

Nadesan Ganesan celebrated his 80th birthday almost two months ago at the Singapore Cricket Club. -TNP
Godfrey Robert

Fri, Dec 28, 2012
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - He brought about the famous Kallang Roar.

The roar that "detonated" the National Stadium and frightened many opposing teams into submission.

But today, he lives in silence.

Alone in bed in the confines of a room, labelled "Peace" on the second floor of a nursing home off Bukit Timah - his abode since September last year.

Nadesan Ganesan, the former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) chairman (1974 to 1981) who was concurrently the team manager of the Malaysia Cup team, is mainly confined to bed and has a speech impediment.

But talk football, and his eyes light up and he murmurs names and events that have been chronicled in Singapore's footballing history.

"Gani", as he is popularly called, celebrated his 80th birthday almost two months ago at the Singapore Cricket Club, his famous stress-relieving haunt from the '60s to the '90s.

His buddies felt that it was apt that he celebrated his birthday there, once his second home.

The same buddies - lawyers, friends, relatives and football fans - occasionally drop in at the home to cheer Gani up, since he suffered from a stroke in March last year.

But it seems like it was only yesterday that he was a permanent fixture at the National Stadium, screaming his guts out or hailing his Malaysia Cup heroes.

His figure in an all-white attire is etched in the memories of players and fans for he was as imposing as the historic stadium.

Deep passion

He was a successful criminal lawyer until his deep passion for sport, and mainly football, took him away from his Central Building office at Havelock Road so very often that his law practice suffered.

A former club footballer and a good table tennis player, Gani enjoyed sport and he used to be regularly seen even at Inter-Constituency Games in the early '70s.

When he became involved in national football, he focused all his energy to the sport and elevated its status to an unprecedented high level.

He led from the front and took Malaysia Cup football to its heights, ensuring that the National Stadium was at its 55,000 capacity for most matches during his FAS tenure.

That gave birth to the Kallang Roar, an apt term given to the noise levels from the stands that hit a deafening decibel-measure, the echoes of which was heard from Kallang to Katong.

As FAS chairman, he formulated a major breakthrough in the National Football League, revamping it from 118 clubs to a strong 30, and launched the Lion City Cup, a tournament for budding talent.

No doubt, during Gani's tenure, he had a talented bunch of footballers with iconic names like Samad Alapitchay, Quah Kim Song, Dollah Kassim, Mohamed Noh, Edmund Wee and S Rajagopal.

But it was his ability to turn ordinary footballers into stars that saw these icons surrounded by a group of players who gelled easily and made the Lions a formidable and exciting outfit.

A special quality in Gani was his natural instinct to blend with his players but, at the same time, keeping his distance and commanding their respect.

This he did with discipline enforcement and his firm commitment and dedication to the game.

He was usually first at morning training, being there at 6.30am (half an hour before training) to attend to the nitty-gritty of football preparation.

He also enjoyed a close association with the coaches, be it Choo Seng Quee (who brought Malaysia Cup victory in 1977) or Jita Singh (who was mainly responsible for the 1980 triumph).

His deep involvement in football in Singapore and the region saw him take up the vice-president's post in the Asian Football Confederation and as a judge in the International Court of Arbitration for sports from 2000 to 2004.

In a recent interview with Tabla!, he was quoted as saying: "I believe we bonded Singapore through football and the 'Kallang Roar' was an unprecedented mantra to rally the Singaporeans.

"It was worth it, believe me, it was very satisfying for me.

"I have no regrets because I did my best as FAS chairman and made football the No. 1 sport."

For that alone, Singapore owes him a deep gratitude.

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