‘Twinkletoes’ Chia Boon Leong, the one Singaporean footballer to play in Olympics passes away at 97

SINGAPORE — He was simply three years wanting his century birthday, however “Twinkletoes” Chia Boon Leong died on Tuesday.

To be nicknamed “Twinkletoes” was a rarest footballing tribute as he had exemplary footwork and ball management, glowing on the sphere within the Forties and Fifties, that he caught the attention of China, and at 23 years, he even performed on the 1948 London Video games.

For the document, two different Singaporeans – defender Chua Boon Lay in Berlin 1936 and goalkeeper Chu Chee Seng in London 1948 – had been a part of the China group on the Olympics, however they by no means performed.

Quah Kim Track, the Malaysia Cup hero-striker of the Nineteen Seventies, describes Boon Leong as a “Lionel Messi… he lived an excellent and full life and what I admired about him was his humility within the face of world fame, he jogs my memory of the Argentinian World Cup striker, brief however extraordinarily good with the ball”.


Boon Leong’s son Quickly Joo wrote on Fb: “Regardless of his failing well being, [dad] was very involved for my mum telling her he was unhappy to be leaving her. We’ll miss him dearly, particularly at household gatherings. I’ll haven’t any skilled to observe soccer video games with anymore. Sunday’s World Cup remaining was the primary we missed since 1974.”

Certainly, the final word for any sportsman is to play on the Olympic Video games and soccer’s “Twinkletoes” did simply that, mockingly, for China 74 years in the past.

His “Twinkletoes” monicker got here from Gothenburg coach John Mahon in 1951 when the Swedish group got here to play pleasant matches in Singapore.

He had informed his group to “watch that little 26-year-old fellow with the twinkling toes, he works onerous, dribbles onerous, and is excellent each in assault and defence”.

Boon Leong wore Singapore colors with distinction, too, and received a hat-trick in Malaysia Cup finals from 1950 to 1952 (even earlier than I used to be born in 1954!), scoring within the 2-0 victory over Penang, earlier than being a part of the Lions’ 6-0 thumping of Perak and 3-2 win over Penang once more.

Photograph: Chia Boon Leong – Taken from FB/ Tan Chuan-Jin


If there’s a humble lesson for the youthful era, Boon Leong’s bonus for the primary of their treble was “$10 and a celebratory dinner again in Singapore”.

I keep in mind the umpteen chats I had with him, and even not too long ago, he apologised for the private interviews as a result of “my listening to is failing badly, and I’ve to repeatedly relaxation”.

Boon Leong was ultra-popular, similar to Messi, wherever he performed. His soccer charms earned him the accolade of Malaya’s hottest footballer in a contest organised by drinks firm Fraser and Neave, clinching over 1.3 million votes.

He was later despatched for a two-month stint in England, the place they attended a four-week teaching course with the England Soccer Affiliation, educated at Arsenal and performed friendlies with beginner sides.


He hung up his boots at 30 years and labored as a senior monetary govt with the radio service firm Rediffusion. Three years later, he turned a council member of the Soccer Affiliation of Singapore (FAS) and was additionally group supervisor of its nationwide group on a part-time foundation between 1977 and 1980.

I’ll actually miss “Twinkletoes”.

In my books, his dying can be an incredible loss for sports activities. He epitomised the perfect of Made-in-Singapore sportsmanship, he was pleasant, likeable and useful – all the time out there and keen to lend a serving to hand to Singapore sports activities.

Relaxation in Peace, Boon Leong.

You’re merely one-of-a-kind, and we are going to eternally be indebted to you for being a rare “Twinkletoes”.

Suresh Nair is an award-winning sports activities journalist who can also be a professional worldwide coach and worldwide referee teacher


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