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Remembering Singapore’s Famous Football Coach “Uncle” Choo Seng Quee

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Remembering Singapore's Famous Football Coach "Uncle" Choo Seng Quee
Singapore’s football has suffered in recent decades.
As the national team struggles to win tournaments and fares poorly against regional teams that it used to brush aside in the past, there has been a corresponding waning of interest in a team languishing at #158 on the FIFA world rankings.
There’s not much to cheer when it comes to football at the new Kallang Stadium.
Not surprising then that the silver generation will have to take the mental journey back to the 1970s, and in particular when Singapore won the Malaysia Cup.
While that team — a mixed bunch of characters — is often remembered fondly, the tough coach that dispensed love and discipline in equal measures is also a name still well regarded and reverently recalled.
Choo Seng Quee was devoted to strategizing and building football teams that could fight the battles at hand.
Under his guidance, names like Quah Kim Song, Dollah Kassim, Mohamed Noh and S. Rajagopal set the tone for a winning formula that beat Penang 3-2 in the memorable 1977 Malaysia Cup final.
Remembering Singapore's Famous Football Coach "Uncle" Choo Seng Quee - 1977 Malaysia Cup Final
Distant echoes as Singapore cheers the victors of the 1977 Malaysia Cup Final.
Those were times before the Internet, which meant Uncle Choo — as he was often referred to — would have had to have been resourceful in securing information and knowledge while navigating a bureaucracy that walked a line between politics, entertainment and public opinion.
He achieved much given what he had to work with, while the post-Internet era has little to show for all that they have access to with just a few keystrokes.
Before Uncle Choo’s name is lost in the march of time, a fan has stepped up to honour the man.

Reynold Godwin Pereira remembers watching the matches at the Jalan Besar Stadium and National Stadium with his father.

Remembering Singapore's Famous Football Coach "Uncle" Choo Seng Quee - Reynold Godwin Pereira
Reynold Godwin Pereira wants to revive Singapore football by recalling the successes of coach Choo Seng Quee.
He was intrigued by the training methods of coach Choo, which resulted in the writing of Uncle Choo.

A casual footballer and musician who works as a technical writer in a software company, Reynold first got to hear the name Choo Seng Quee in the mid-1970s.

"I was around 10 or 11 years old, and my cousin kept talking about this larger-than-life figure who, at that time, was training him and some other youngsters at the old Farrer Park pitches. I became quite curious as to who this person was. And after his accomplishments during the late ’70s everyone knew who he was."

But sadly, his name is now almost forgotten. I wanted to use this book to raise his name again and let Singaporeans know that we had heroes that we should be proud of.
I also wanted to use this book to show that given the right opportunities, we can produce local coaches who can be good enough to train our national team.

"Under Uncle Choo, the Singapore team played with a vigour not seen in the years prior to that. There was a determination to win and I feel that it could be due to the sense of pride that he instilled in his players; to be proud of wearing the Singapore jersey."

Remembering Singapore's Famous Football Coach "Uncle" Choo Seng Quee - Winning goal
Quah Kim Song heads in the winning goal against Penang during the 1977 Malaysia Cup final.
Kim Song, who headed in the match winner in the momentous 1977 Malaysia Cup final against Penang, helped the project along, sharing his own experiences under Uncle Choo’s guidance.
He recalls a particular training routine that helped the players build up their kicking strength.
But this built up strength which exploded into lethal shots with the actual ball within shooting range of the goal.
“We were firing rockets at goal,” he recalls.
Quah Kim Song
Quah Kim Song lauds Uncle Choo’s methods and considers him one of football’s finest tactical minds.

Reynold, who is based in Barcelona with his family, took six years to research and write the book, based on information in the public domain and from speaking to the players and those involved in the game.

He concludes from his research that Uncle Choo was a dedicated coach, always trying to enhance his knowledge about football tactics.

"He was from the 'old school' where he emphasised discipline and hard work. He was strict and known for using colourful language. But he usually got the results he was after."

“But his strong temperament did not bode well with the football administrators in Singapore and sadly, that limited his opportunities in Singapore. Who knows, if he had been given the same leeway as Sir Alex Ferguson in Manchester United, he may have achieved greater things with the Singapore national team…and Singapore football.”

Reynold hopes his book will inspire local coaches to aspire to greater heights.

"Also, for the country’s football administrators to tap the knowledge and experience of those who trained under Uncle Choo to hopefully improve the current standard of Singapore’s football."

Reynold is hopeful the glory days of football will return to Singapore. For now, even hope seems an ephemeral goal.

Uncle Choo is available at bookstores.

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The Editorial Consultant of SilverSteak has enjoyed a journey that has taken him from print to digital, and words to visuals. Every rock tells a story and under every rock is a deeper narrative.

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