Game Changers: Kick together, stick together for Wong family

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THIS is a rousing Sunday article of a football father and his family you’d love to read and share to show everyone close to you about what the world’s No 1sport means as a lifestyle, not a sport.

Christopher Wong believes in the famous liner: Give a man a football, he plays for a moment. Teach a man to play football, he plays for a life time.

 The Wong family’s passion is rather extraordinary by Singapore standards as they show the beauty of football. The patriarch of the family believes his kids have learned a lot from playing soccer and he is not just talking about kicking a ball around.

“It has taught them discipline, and it has taught them how to work as a team, as opposed to a lot of individual sports,” he says. “I see a big benefit for them being able to work with others. They get along with everyone. It drives them to be their best because they don’t want to let anyone down. This has motivated them most of their lives.”

This 53-year-old retired senior Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF officer), now commercial pilot with SilkAir, has enough football credentials and sporting acumen to put anyone in the pocket. And his football passion has rubbed on to his wife, Jane, and two sons, Gerald and Gabriel, who follow the No 1 sport with an extraordinary passion.

His adoring love for Singapore football is so great that he even had his formal wedding photos taken at the National Stadium in 1999, simply because “Jane and I went for dates watching Malaysia Cup matches at Kallang”.

FOOTBALL CRAZE

So impassioned is his football craze that in 2007, he brought his mother, his wife and sons to Kallang before the “Grand ‘Ole Lady” was pulled down to make way for the SportsHub.

“It’s just for old time’s sake, for good ‘ole memories as my family and I grew up with the ‘Kallang Roar’ of the 1970s and 80s when football fever was close to maniac levels and we had 50,000 to 60,000 fans coming to support the Lions,” he recalls.

This time around, Christopher wants to bring his love for football to the highest level – by serving the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) as a Council Member.

He instantly raised his hand to join Bill Ng’s “Game Changers” because the family-and-fan significance ranks high in going down to the grassroots to revive the flagging interest in football.

“I joined Team Game Changers as I’m confident I can play a team-role to serve the fraternity,” he says. “It is time for a change for the better in the Singapore football landscape. We have stood still in the last 10 years.”

Christopher also stands out as the only election candidate with the bold bald look, holds his head high and stands tall with his personal and professional qualifications.

Some say balding men of the famed “Kojak” look are not considered as physically attractive as the other men. But just look at Hollywood celebrities Bruce Willis, Patrick Stewart, Samuel Jackson or Michael Jordan, or even famous football referee Pierluggi Collina, you realise that they’re more intelligent, influential, knowledgeable, well-educated, high social status, honest and helpful – traits collectively known as social maturity, and even more prominent as a football personality.

Seriously, the hairs don’t matter to Christopher, who’s just a simple humble military-trained gentleman, who fanatically loves his football.

30 YEARS IN FOOTBALL

He says having been involved in Singapore football for over 30 years and growing up watching the National Football League (NFL) in the 70s and 80s and then S-League games from the mid-90s and almost every match played at the National Stadium in the mid-70s till today, “I want our fans of today to experience what I experienced back in the heydays of the 70s”.

He says: “I feel that our children must be given every opportunity to learn and enjoy playing this game. That their parents and guardians be assured that their children will have a viable playing and post-playing career. That our fans must be assured of a Professional League and National Team we can be proud of.”

Wong served 27 years with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and even commanded the RSAF’s AH64D Apache Longbow Squadron in Arizona, USA.

With the disciplined military passion in his head and heart, he always asks this question: “How serious are we about our football?

“This often leaves those whom I ask stumped because it is a broad question,” he says. “Serious in wanting to promote football to the masses, so that it can be enjoyed by all? Or serious because we want to climb the echelons, and be a force to be reckoned with?

“In my view, both can be achieved. But let’s not kid ourselves. It’ll take another generation before we get there and that is provided all the stakeholders – MCCY, MOE, Mindef, Ministry of Home Affairs, SportsSG, SSI, People’s Association, FAS can all sing the same tune and answer the above question I posed with conviction and believe and then work as one to realise the one common goal. Until then, we will still be where we are today.”

GRASSROOTS DEVELOPMENT

Ultra-passionate about family-fan involvement, he believes in putting the spades immediately to grassroots development. He says: “Let’s work on catering to the masses first. Engage kids, parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents. Make it fun to play football.

“Make it fun to watch Singapore football. Make it fun to support and be involved in Singapore football. Make it worthwhile that there is a future in pursuing football as a career. Get families involved so that Singaporeans can play football from six to sixty.”

Christopher is currently the Vice-Chairman of five-times S-League champions Tampines Rovers and also helps out behind-the-scenes with the Singapore Ex-Internationals Legends.

For 15 years, he also served in the management committee of SAFFC and Warriors FC; SAFSA (2002 to 2003); FAS Local Organising Committee (1992 to 2003) and the Singapore Soccer Coaches Association (1990 to 1998).

In Christopher’s longer-term vision, he dreams of the “ultimate Singapore fan who can bring help to bring back the famed ‘Kallang Roar’ era of the legendary 1970s”.

TRUE FOOTBALL FANS

He says with genuine passion: “To be a ‘true’ fan requires the ‘living’ experience of football. It is not about being a mere spectator, it is about being a participant. Match attendance is a given, of course, but there is also a duty to engage emotionally in the life of the team in order to impact positively on a team’s performance. “

He says attending away games, like the good ‘ole Malaysia Cup era of the 1980s and 90s, is an important ritual for fans involving a number of psychological and logistical challenges,” he adds. “We should never be ‘fair-weather supporters’ – those who only attend matches occasionally or when their team is doing well.

“Such fans lack dedication and resilience and the detailed knowledge of team statistics, standings, players and history that is characteristic of ‘true’ fans. I believe football fandom is seen as a rite of passage involving a process akin to apprenticeship.

“It involves years of instruction, of ‘practice’, of dedication and of demonstrating your own knowledge in the presence of others before being accepted by ‘real’ fans.”

Yes, follow the Made-in-Singapore role-model example of Christopher, who inspiringly leads the Wong family with a passion that is rather extraordinary by Singapore standards.

They show Singaporeans  the real beauty of football, something the “Game Changers” want to do in the coming months, first by elected into the FAS Council, and to bring back the family-passion, starting with the grassroots.

 ‘Game Changers’ is led by dynamic businessman Bill Ng and the refreshing alternative team of 15 football-hearted personalities who will be contesting the FAS elections on April 29 at the SportsHub.