The memory of Cikgu Rahim often resurfaces. He was my soccer teacher-in-charge and assistant coach when I was in Ang Mo Kio Secondary School. My father, Loo Geok Kee, had volunteered to be the coach and got along very well with Cikgu Rahim. Our C division team became quite formidable that year (1985) emerging North Zone champions. Our unbeaten run continued all the way to the national finals where we lost out to SJI by 2 goals to 1. But that was quite a feat for AMKSS, my alma mater, as we came from nowhere to push our way past many traditional soccer-stronghold schools.
Cikgu Rahim was a highly passionate person - whenever we were down by a goal* or if the run of play was against us, he would be kneeling by the soccer pitch praying fervently, audible to anyone in a 50 metre radius. To him, each game was everything. How not to play our best when the game meant everything to him, each time? My father was just as bad, shouting himself hoarse at us. The world, for that hour and a half, was as large as the football pitch.
*(which was a rare thing since in the 15 games played, the most we let in for each game was one goal till the finals, that is!)
During recess when we had a pre-game briefing, the team would meet in his art-room and for 20 mins he would give a pep talk and game plan; many chalks would have been broken by then, as each gameplay ended in the goal, on the chalk board. And he would raise his voice against the end-of-recess bell and we would do a team cheer. By that time, the entire school, assembled after recess would hear his booming voice from the art room. And we would hurriedly run back to our class psyched up for the game.
I remember soccer more than my academics, unfortunately or not. But Cikgu Rahim was someone who gave his all and that commanded our attention, then and till now. He made an indelible mark just through his passion for the school team. Despite him raising his voice all the time, he was no tyrant but a very warm and encouraging teacher. He happened to also be my class Art teacher and I often did well for Art! But not as well as Ivan Chew who was my secondary school classmate in Sec 1B/E. Ivan Chew's art piece would be held up and Cikgu Rahim would unreservedly boom out how beautiful his art was.
I think the team wouldn't have been so formidable if not for Cikgu Rahim letting my father coach the team without any egos coming in the way. There were other soccer teachers who vied for recognition when my father coached other teams but Cikgu Rahim gave my father the space and the team a complementary support. At times I wonder what that was, that complementary support. I think it was a whole-hearted support to sec 1 and 2 kids, revving us on, putting everything at stake. I believed he cried when we lost the finals. Egos were out and Cikgu Rahim and my father put the team first before themselves. He was there every training, rain or shine. Even with my father coaching, Cikgu Rahim filled the shoes of an assistant coach. I think our team never really thought about winning the North Zone or national one for that matter, but because Cikgu Rahim and my father gave everything each time we played and staked their hearts out every minute of each game, we just arrived there with each win. Each game was the game we needed to give everything to. How not to, my father shouting to the team throughout the game and Cikgu Rahim invoking the heavens by the sidelines for a secondary school soccer match. Each time I think about soccer in my youth, Cikgu Rahim and my father will come into mind - its a heady mix of booming voices, smell of grass and earth, strained faces of Cikgu Rahim and my father with eyes almost bursting, fists in the air, shouts of support, celebration after the goals, Cikgu Rahim kneeling by the sidelines and the team pep talks in the art room.
I wish I had shown more gratitude to Cikgu Rahim. RIP Cikgu, Kita caya lu!