So dedicated was Edward Jacob to both his job and his sport that, during his time as President of the Singapore Squash Rackets Association (SSRA), many committee meetings were held at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
As the former Clinical Biochemistry Department of Pathology Head at SGH, Jacob, who passed away on 6 May, typically chaired SSRA meetings after work hours in a conference room close to his own office at the hospital, so that he could be on standby just in case anyone required his attention urgently.
Munir Shah, who was Vice President of the SSRA then, elaborated: “He always had to be ready to be consulted at short notice. In the midst of our meetings, he might be paged any time. But he would be back soon enough, up and running again.”
Jacob had served as SSRA President from 1978 to 1998, seeing to the development and success of local sporting legends such as Zainal Abidin, Peter Hill, Stewart Ballard, and Jeremy Yeo. He also saw the team through to Singapore’s best-ever world position – sixth place at the 1985 World Championships in Egypt.
The tireless individual went on to become President of the Asian Squash Federation (ASF) that same year, staying for three terms till 1997. Shah served on the board too, as Referees Director, before stepping into a Referees Consultant role last year.
However, Jacob was a person much more than his impressive work and contributions on paper. His life was one of commitment to his sport, even while he pursued a demanding career in pathology. Fuelled by passion and a strong sense of duty, he led the local community through what was arguably the nation's golden era of squash.
Indeed, in keeping up a good “work-squash balance”, as Shah termed it, Jacob exemplified not just talent, but sheer commitment.
Shah revealed: “He did a very good job keeping us core SSRA members very tightly knit. The commitment level was so strong, and whenever the teams had overseas competitions, most of us would travel with the players and family members. And all of us paid on our own!”
“When we played against rivals from other countries, they probably only had their own players and their managers. But our teams had full support there. I think that made a difference and really contributed to the success. That’s the kind of atmosphere that [Jacob] ensured,” he continued.
Jacob also valued commitment in his players, and got to know every single one of them personally, in order to provide them with relevant opportunities to take their sporting careers to greater heights, as Shah noted during his eulogy last week.
Abidin, who had been the squad’s number one player during the 1985 World Championships, shared how Jacob had backed him on his journey toward the professional circuit.
“He [Jacob] was the president, [and] I was the player. When I became a part of the national team, he gave me the encouragement and support that I needed. He was quite generous, especially when it came to overseas exposure. That was very important,” he said.
In fact, Jacob made sure that the players were equipped in every way possible to play their best, be it through experience or advice from the experienced. As Shah recalled, he regularly pushed for opportunities to send national players to compete at the World Championships, no matter the cost.
He would also involve the older members of the squash community in activities and events, allowing the younger ones to draw inspiration from them, as Shah explained: “Young players, seeing the old champions that they grew up watching, would be spurred on to play better and show them what they’re made of.”
“You need to engage with the old guard, officials and players alike, because you’ll never know what morsels of wisdom they might share with you. In the course of conversation, they might bring up pointers that are worth thinking about. We were like a family, and everyone had their inspiration,” Shah shared.
The squash family, as well as the extended sporting one, will definitely mourn the loss of Edward Jacobs and will look to uphold the legacy that he has left behind.