Getting to know: The Chairman
By Eagles Admin on 22 October 2013
The date was June 28th, 1980. The Singapore team under the helm of Jita Singh, sought to repeat the feat Uncle Choo had managed to accomplish just three years prior. Selangor, led by the likes of the legendary Mokhtar Dahari, was all that stood between Singapore and the Malaysia Cup.
All it took was 7 minutes and Leong Kok Fann had perhaps the finest moment in his career. A gifted 18-year old youngster by the name of Fandi Ahmad had managed to evade his defenders down the right flank and swung a tantalising cross in.
Kok Fann, not the biggest midfielder on the pitch, snuck in between famed defenders Soh Chin Aun and Santokh Singh, leapt with all his might and met the ball with his head. Selangor’s goalie, Ong Yu Tiang, stretched to keep the ball out but he could grasp only air.
Leong Kok Fann, now buried under the bodies of his ecstatic teammates, had scored Singapore’s opening goal and silenced the partisan 45,000 Merdeka Stadium crowd. Singapore eventually won the encounter 2-1 to bring the Malaysia Cup home for the second-last time and Kok Fann’s name was ingrained into the hearts and memories of football fans.
The diminutive and powerful midfielder started playing football at the age of 6, in the humble neighbourhood of Winstedt Drive and eventually played at the school level. He was part of the St. Joseph’s Institution ‘C’ Division team that won the National title in 1972.
He caught the eyes of national selectors and represented the Singapore Combined Schools team the year after up till 1976. From there on, Kok Fann never looked back and he made the Singapore Youth Team in 1977 and subsequently the Singapore Intermediate Team in 1978 and 1979.
It was in 1979 when Kok Fann reached the zenith of every aspiring Singaporean footballer when he made his debut for the National Team at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
As a national player, Leong Kok Fann had the privilege of playing with the luminaries of Singapore football, players like the late Dollah Kassim, Samad Alapitchay, S Rajagopal, Mohd Noh, Quah Kim Song, Fandi Ahmad, R. Suriamurthi, Terry Pathmanathan and V. Sundramoorthy.
Now retired from playing, Kok Fann still strives to play regularly, albeit at a much slower pace, citing that “football is still very much an integral part of my life” and spends most of his Sundays at the St. Michael’s Soccer Academy to impart his wealth of skills and experience to the aspiring younger ones.
He also regularly plays with his ex-internationals teammates and have turned up regularly at the annual Sultan of Selangor Cup where he is always happy to meet up with former opponents who have now become friends.
Always one to give his time to the community, Leong Kok Fann view charitable events as an opportunity to contribute to the less unfortunate.
When first appointed as Chairman of Geylang International Football Club, Kok Fann initially felt daunted at the prospect of taking over such an illustrious club but has now resolved to drawing strength from the club’s fine tradition and aims to bring the club back to its former glory.
Kok Fann’s beliefs and values are very much shaped by his career as a footballer. He said, “ How I am as a person can also be contributed to the rigours of centralised training, sacrifices made in preparation for major competitions and the discipline to persevere despite tough circumstances.”
Apart from excelling as a footballer, Leong Kok Fann graduated from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada with a Double Honours in Computer Science in 1983, an enterprise he embarked on right after winning the Malaysia Cup!
Recently, Kok Fann added another major appointment to his dossier when he was made a Council Member of the FAS, apart from also being the co-founder of the Legion of Lions which is a voluntary group dedicated to the promotion of football.
As such, Geylang International Football Club remains in good hands and it will be hard to think of anyone better to replace the beloved former Chairman, Mr Patrick Ang.
Leong Kok Fann is a firm philanthropist, a sound thinker and above all, a dedicated son of Singapore football.