updated 6 Jul 2013, 19:13
Login password
Tue, Jul 02, 2013
The Straits Times
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
Family’s No. 1 goal
by Eve Yap

Madam Rafeah Awang and her husband, Mr Suzliman Husin, love football so much, they started an informal club in 2006 to train scores of boys aged from eight to 17.

As they did not charge fees, the couple spent "thousands of dollars" from their own pocket on expenses such as tournament fees before friends and supporters "pitched in", says Mr Suzliman, a logistics coordinator.

There was a social mission: The couple wanted their sons to play with other boys who liked football "as a way to prevent them from going astray".

Their weekend training sessions - under the instructions of Mr Suzliman, a certified Football Association of Singapore coach - have achieved more than that: Four of their five sons got into national youth teams past and present.

The youngest, Muhd Zulqarnaen, 15, played in this year's Canon Lion City Cup earlier this month.

Muhd Zulfadhmi, 17, who has been in the national team since 13, took part in the National Football Academy's under-18 training tour in France earlier this month.

Twins Muhd Zulkifli and Muhd Zulfadhli, both 23 and in national service, are in Home United's Prime League team.

About 300 trophies are kept in two cupboards in the living room of their fiveroom HDB flat in Choa Chu Kang, which is also home to the family of 12, including two daughters aged 24 and 21, the elder of whom is married with two daughters.

Madam Rafeah, 41, a team administrator in a ship management firm, and Mr Suzliman, 45, started Boyan Murni Soccerites with about 30 boys. The name is a play on their favourite German football club, Bayern Munich, says Mr Suzliman.

Says Madam Rafeah: "The name was his idea. Boyan because my mother is Boyanese and 'murni' means peace in Malay."

They were able to send two teams each for different age groups for "any local tournament", recalls Madam Rafeah, and the club also competed in tournaments in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 and 2011.

It is on hiatus as most members have been fielded out to formal clubs, including 17-year-old Kenneth Lee, now in Warriors FC, and Muhd Asshukrie Wahid, now with Home United Under-16.

Zulqarnaen, what do you recall of Boyan Murni Soccerites?

Zulqarnaen: I remember playing from around eight years old, kicking ball with my brothers.

Mr Suzliman: He used to get bullied all the time by his brothers. He probably got to control the ball once out of 10 times.

The rest of the time, he was chasing it.

Actually, his brothers and friends were doing the job for him. His job, as the striker, was just to kick the ball into the goal.

Zulqarnaen: I gained confidence as I learnt to pass the ball. When I played my first match in Primary 3 in Kranji Primary School during a school tournament, I was playing against people two years older and I scored two goals.

What are your sons' relationships with one another like on and off the field?

Mr Suzliman: They never quarrelled on the pitch as they were always united playing against the opposing side.

Madam Rafeah: When they are home, they talk about football. Outside, they text one another about match scores.

Do your daughters feel left out because they don't play the game?

Mr Suzliman: On family picnics, my daughters play football, too, but for fun.

Madam Rafeah: They are more into hockey. I don't think they feel left out - they support each other at their hockey matches when they play in schools or clubs. But we go as a family to support the boys at their semi-final or final matches.

Do you think your parents cramp your style?

Zulqarnaen: From Primary 1 to about Secondary 1, it was school, then training, then home.

Madam Rafeah: Yes, either my husband or I would drive him home from training at Innova Junior College at Woodlands.

Zulqarnaen: I was happy for them to take me home because I was tired but sometimes I felt trapped. I couldn't go out with my friends.

Who is stricter, mum or dad?

Madam Rafeah: Mum. I control our kids' expenses and freedom. Dad just smiles.

Zulqarnaen: I must be home no later than half an hour than I promised. If not, she'll keep calling me on my mobile phone.

Madam Rafeah: But now that they are grown up, I am more flexible. I give more room to negotiate because at this age, they need freedom with friends.

Zulqarnaen: I must ask for permission if I want to stay out later with friends. As long as I WhatsApp her, she trusts me.

Did you cane them?

Mr Suzliman: Our fathers caned us before and we know what that was like.

Madam Rafeah: Children don't learn from being caned.

Mr Suzliman: These days, you have to treat your kids like friends.

Zulqarnaen: There was once, though, when I was about eight, mum slapped me for fighting with one of my brothers.

Mr Suzliman: They would fight over two game consoles and Zulqarnaen would become angry when he lost and got teased.

Madam Rafeah: Really? I can't recall. It was a "love touch".

If the parent-child roles were reversed, what would you do differently?

Mr Suzliman: I would be more adventurous - climb mountains, go trekking or catch spiders.

Madam Rafeah: I would be grateful for my parents' help in getting me as one of 20 or 30 boys into the National Football Academy while so many others are waiting for a chance.

Zulqarnaen: I would not do anything differently - I appreciate their sacrifices for me. Except that as mum, I would nag less.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

readers' comments

Copyright © 2013 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.