Local football legend Lim Tong Hai was sharing how football could help kids to learn the importance of playing together and forging new friendships at the Switzerland-Singapore Football Festival on Saturday when, as if right on cue, a young player engaged in an intense match fell to the ground. Halting the game, his teammates and opponents all paused to help him up.
Lim Tong Hai. Photo: Sport Singapore
Lim, who is covering for Aleksandar Duric as principal of the ActiveSG Football Academy while the latter does a temporary stint overseas, pointed at the situation and remarked: “There’s an element of care for everybody there. This event is about getting the community to come together and appreciate the value of sport.”
Organised by the Embassy of Switzerland and Sport Singapore, the tournament saw over 240 players from 13 local schools, international schools, and football academies (including the ActiveSG Football Academy) playing for the under-12 boys and under-12 girls titles.
Ambassador of Switzerland, Thomas Kupfer, as well as Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Sim Ann, graced the event as guests of honour. Sport Singapore CEO Lim Teck Yin and Duric, who had flown back specially for the tournament, also partook in the football festivities at Kallang Field.
Ambassador of Switzerland, Thomas Kupfer (centre), as well as Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Sim Ann (first from left), graced the event as guests of honour. Photo: Sport Singapore
What made the event even more special was the fact that it marked the Ambassador’s last after 35 years of diplomatic service. A football fan himself, Kupfer focused on fostering cultural exchange among youths, engaging them through sport.
Indeed, that was what the Switzerland-Singapore Football Festival did, celebrating football as a unifying force, allowing youths of different nationalities to have fun together and learn from each other in a symbol of the lasting positive relations between the two nations.
“[This annual tournament allows] international kids and Singapore schools to play football together and to exchange [experiences]. It’s important that we meet each other and have a good time,” Kupfer remarked.
Lim concurred: “Getting kids engaged in sports involves getting them out of the comfort of their homes, and to interact with different teams, different nationalities. Sport actually brings everyone together, and football here is a universal language.”
The parents present were certainly pleased with the lessons and sporting values that their children had garnered from the event. Beyond honing their sporting skills, these parents highlighted the importance of sport as a learning tool in life.
Siva Veera and his son Shivaarnan. Photo: Sport Singapore
Siva Veera, dad of 10-year-old Shivaarnan, said: “Sport is important because it instils discipline, it gives them a spirit of teamwork, [and] it gives them an idea on how team building works. We care for each other, and that’s the beauty of sport. They lose together, they win together, they learn to console each other, and cheer together.”
“It’s not about the winning. It’s about the friendships that are cultivated when you’re playing here, the interaction, the winning and losing as a team, [and] the camaraderie,” Lim said, adding that these were the very values that the ActiveSG Football Academy stood for.
Learning from each other, be it from their rivals or teammates, was paramount to the players as well. All budding football stars, they were eager for the opportunity to play against other teams.
As Swiss Primary School student Frederic Gerber, shared: “It’s important that you learn to play against good teams. You sometimes lose and know that next time, you have to play better. You learn from your opponents.”
Jadon Quah from the ActiveSG Football Academy, agreed: “It was great that we got to see how different teams play as it helps to prepare us to play with other people overseas. We can work as a team and we can make friends, playing together and learning more about each other!”