24 March 17 The Straits Times by WANG MENG MENG
He had been one of the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) most vocal critics, slamming the state of the local game on social media.
But former national goalkeeper Yakob Hashim has made a surprising U-turn by joining FAS provisional council president Lim Kia Tong's team to contest the April 29 election.
This, after his voice, which champions a better-managed grassroots scene, was sought.
The Straits Times has learnt that Lim, who had been an FAS vice-president since 2007, is likely to enter a diverse team of 15 candidates, with nine contesting as a slate and six running as individuals, before nominations close tomorrow at 6pm.
The 64-year-old lawyer will contest the presidential race.
The rest of his slate will comprise Bernard Tan (chief marketing officer at ST Engineering), Teo Hock Seng (Komoco Motors' group managing director), Edwin Tong (lawyer and an MP for for Marine Parade GRC), S. Thavaneson (Balestier Khalsa chairman), Razali Saad (former national captain), Dinesh Nair (FAS medical committee chairman), Forrest Li (founder of online gaming portal Garena) and Darwin Jalil (team manager of National Football League Division 1 club Eunos Crescent).
LIM KIA TONG'S ELECTORAL TEAM
1. LIM KIA TONG (lawyer, FAS provisional council president and Fifa disciplinary committee deputy chairman)
2. BERNARD TAN (chief marketing officer at ST Engineering)
3. TEO HOCK SENG (Komoco Motors' group managing director)
4. EDWIN TONG (lawyer and MP)
5. S. THAVANESON (Balestier Khalsa chairman)
6. RAZALI SAAD (former national captain)
7. DINESH NAIR (FAS medical committee chairman)
8. FORREST LI (founder of online gaming portal Garena and 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year)
9. DARWIN JALIL (team manager of National Football League Division 1 club Eunos Crescent)
1. LIM TONG HAI (Former Lions skipper)
2. SHARDA PARVIN (Tanjong Pagar United women's player)
3. MICHAEL FOO (People's Association director)
4. RIZAL RASUDIN (chairman of NFL Division 2 club Admiralty CSC)
5. KELVIN TEO (CEO of Sembcorp Development)
6. YAKOB HASHIM (coach of NFL Division 1 club Yishun Sentek Mariners)
Sources say Lim Tong Hai (former Lions skipper), Sharda Parvin (Tanjong Pagar United women's player), Michael Foo (People's Association director), Rizal Rasudin (chairman of NFL Division 2 club Admiralty CSC), Kelvin Teo (chief executive officer of Sembcorp Development) and Yakob (coach of NFL Division 1 club Yishun Sentek Mariners) will be the individual candidates.
"I was one of the most critical persons who kept condemning the FAS," Yakob told The Straits Times last night. "But Kia Tong's team reached out to me, they wanted to hear my views. It was a great gesture."
Lim appears to be seeking more than just one voice. The composition of his 15-strong team runs the gamut of top professionals, former national players, an active female footballer, business leaders and the grassroots.
Former Woodlands Wellington general manager R. Vengadasalam, who is helping Lim's electoral team, said: "The team shows diversity; everyone has a say. (Having an entire slate of) big names doesn't work. This is a good sign that Kia Tong wants to listen to everybody."
With the troubled association getting brickbats for neglecting grassroots football and making strategic mistakes in youth development, Yakob, who rose through the ranks from the now-defunct NFL Division 3, playing for Police, to the national team in 1979, hopes to see the amateur scene rejuvenated.
"There must be mass participation," the 57-year-old retired police staff sergeant, who is also a coach at a non-profit youth academy called Anza Soccer, said.
"I hope to see the return of three NFL divisions, plus an Islandwide League. I remember back in the 1970s, an amateur team have to play in qualifiers just to get promoted to Division 3.
"We are serious about improving Singapore football. There will be changes if we get elected and we will not be sitting in the office to enjoy the air-con."