SINGAPORE – Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong died on Wednesday (Sept 14). He was 70.

Lim is believed to have suffered a heart attack. He was found collapsed in his office when he did not turn up for a hearing.

He is survived by his wife, and two children – a 31-year-old daughter and 30-year-old son – who read law like him.

Lim, a lawyer with more than 40 years of practice and who headed the criminal department at Hin Tat Augustine and Partners, became the FAS’ first elected president when his Team LKT beat Bill Ng’s Team Game Changers in 2017.

He was re-elected unopposed four years later.

In a Facebook post, the FAS described its late chief as “a dedicated servant of the sport he loved” and said it would set up a space in the lobby of its office at the Jalan Besar Stadium for those who would like to pay their respects from Thursday.

After Lim became FAS president, he took it upon himself to oversee the operations of the National Football League (now known as Singapore Football League), and helped bring on board a sponsor in Ajinomoto (S), organise insurance coverage, and improve scheduling and securing proper match venues for the amateur competition in 2017.

In world football, he was a highly respected figure for his role as deputy chairman of the Fifa disciplinary committee (DC), and as chairman of the Asian Football Confederation DC.

His rise in football began in 1999, when he was appointed an FAS council member and, by 2007, he was the vice-president of the FAS.

By his admission, Lim remained a relatively low-profile figure until the 2014 World Cup. Then he was part of the disciplinary committee that dished out a four-month ban and a fine of 100,000 Swiss francs (S$146,000) to Uruguay striker Luis Suarez for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during that tournament.

Former Fifa referee Thiru Rajamanickam was handed a lifetime ban from all football activities and was deregistered from the FAS referees’ list in 1994 after he was sentenced to eight months’ jail and fined $1,000 for accepting $1,000 as a bribe from a bookmaker.

The ban was lifted by the FAS under Lim in March. The 71-year-old said: “My family and I are thankful for his efforts to get my ban overturned after 28 years. It takes a man of courage to do that and I understand he also put in a lot of effort to research my case. I will continue to try to contribute to local football to repay what Kia Tong has done for me.”

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, who is in Indonesia for the G20 Culture Ministers meeting, was among those who expressed shock at the news. 

In a Facebook post, Mr Tong, who had been one of Lim’s vice-presidents at the FAS before stepping down in 2020, wrote: “The moment I landed in Jakarta from Yogyakarta, my phone was buzzing non stop with incoming messages.

“Several messages came in, informing me of Kia Tong’s sudden, untimely passing just moments prior. My heart sank, and, for a while, I could scarcely believe the messages I was seeing. I had just been in touch with him, over the weekend.”

Mr Tong, who was also a lawyer before being appointed a minister, hailed Lim’s contributions to the legal fraternity, calling him “a tenacious litigator” who “always fought his cases with an uncommon compassion and with a lot more heart than many would know”. He added: “He was dedicated to doing his best for his client, whatever the facts of the case and whatever the circumstances.”

He hailed Lim’s folksy approach to management, noting that his “amiable disposition” helped to “gradually healed divides and brought people together”.  

He added: “Kia Tong’s job in football was a difficult one, but he handled it with grace and poise. Beneath his casual, friendly demeanour was a steely dedication to football, battle-hardened through his years of experience.  

“The football fraternity as well as those at the Bar will miss him greatly.  I too will miss a friend and confidant dearly. My deepest condolences to Kia Tong’s family, and may he rest in peace.”

The Singapore Premier League (SPL) announced on Wednesday that the draw for the 2022 Singapore Cup – which was scheduled for 3pm on that day – would be postponed until further notice. 

In a Facebook post, league champions Lion City Sailors said they “are shocked and saddened” by Lim’s death, adding that “our deepest sympathy goes out to the family of the late Mr Lim”. 

Tampines Rovers added on social media: “We extend our sincere condolences to his family, and along with the Singapore footballing fraternity, thank him for his service to local football.”

Geylang International said that they “stand with the Football Association of Singapore and wider Singapore football family in mourning the loss of Mr Lim”. 

 

Last modified: September 14, 2022