For two hours every Sunday morning, up to 100 kids aged five to 12 gather at the field in Woodlands Ring Primary School. Decked out in full football kit with a pair of boots, the kids are there for training, overseen by 15 coaches.
Just beside the field, about 40 adults lay food, snacks and drinks on a table. When the training comes to an end, the kids immediately rush towards the table, and the place turns into a carnival.
Before the kids can lay their hands on the food, they are given towels by the adults to wipe off their sweat. It’s a sweet moment – especially when you realise that the adults are the parents of the kids.
This is all part of the People’s Association Children’s Football (PACF) initiative by volunteers of Admiralty Community Sports Club (CSC). A video about the initiative is the winning entry in Singapore Kindness Movement’s Feels Like Kampung Spirit contest.
The entry was submitted by 20-year-old Eric Teo, who recently graduated with a Diploma in Mass Communication from Republic Polytechnic. He had help from four other friends – Cheryl Chua, Basil Kwok, Ruth Elango and Sean Lee, in the production of the video.
Teo told The Pride that he was inspired to make a short film about the PACF because “it is no longer a common sight to see people from all walks of life coming together for an initiative that benefits and involves the whole community”.
“During our time there, we were fully embraced into their families and felt this unique inclusive spirit ourselves. This spurred us on to do a video that would intrigue fellow Singaporeans, and hopefully convince them of the importance of bringing back this communal spirit that used to thrive in our heartlands,” Teo said.
An avid football fan himself, Teo found out about the PACF initiative by chance, when he happened to speak to Hussain Razak, its lead volunteer and coach, for a school assignment. Teo first got to know Hussain eight years ago from a local football fan group called Lions All The Way.
When Hussain spoke of the initiative, Teo had felt that the community’s kampung spirit “sounded too good to be true”.
“I knew I had to see it for myself,” he said.
And when he did, Teo was brought back to his childhood days. “A sense of nostalgia struck me during the sessions when I was there filming. I played football with my neighbours as a kid, and we all had a great time, but this was on a much bigger scale as compared to the small gatherings we had.
“This is not just kids playing football on a Sunday morning, but also a platform for anyone in the community to give back in their own unique way… nobody is deprived of having the chance to play or even volunteer!”
Teo added that it doesn’t matter who you are, as you are immediately welcomed into the group, which has become a self-sustaining network.
He believes that the community is also proof that while kampungs have become a thing of the past, the kampung spirit is still “alive and kicking”.
“It gives me great hope that if more passionate individuals like Uncle Hussain step up for the community, our iconic kampung spirit will not be merely folklore, but a reality, still.”
According to Hussain, a 53-year-old bus captain, PACF provides an avenue for the children to learn and play football. But more than that, it helps foster community spirit among the children, including those who have special needs.
About 80 per cent of the children under PACF are from the Admiralty or Sembawang area, while the rest come from areas such as Jurong, Sengkang and Tampines.
“They have heard of our kampung spirit football and are willing to travel here. Likewise, we have foreigners residing in Singapore who bring their children to socialise with the locals as well,” explained Hussain.
He also gave special mention to the “supermums” who take the time and effort to prepare the food just so the children wouldn’t go hungry after training. And on special occasions, such as birthdays, they will also plan a celebration.
“Most of these supermums are very dedicated and that helps build the super bonding in the community among the different races and families,” said Hussain. “The success of the kampung spirit really comes from everyone – the parent coaches, supermums, parent volunteers, families and friends.”
Through filming them, Teo said that he learnt not just about the kampung spirit, but also to embrace everyone despite their differences.
“Here at Admiralty CSC, they have found a way to make things work by getting everyone involved, even kids with special needs, no matter your gender or family background,” said Teo.