updated 20 Jan 2014, 20:49
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Tue, Jan 07, 2014
The Sunday Times
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Solid goal
by Eve Yap

Relatively Speaking

SINGAPORE - The woman national footballer Gabriel Quak Jun Yi wants to marry in a few years sounds like a real keeper.

Ms Melissa Teo, 25, has been by his side in tough times such as when he was banned from playing for a spell after being in a mass brawl during an S-League game in 2010 between his Young Lions team and Beijing Guoan.

"She was there for me. She knows she's the one," says Quak, 23.

In fact, he reveals: "She's closer to my parents than I am."

His father, Mr Alan Quak, 56, a senior technical associate at a building consultancy, says: "She's thoughtful and considerate and we've accepted her as part of our family."

Ms Teo, who agreed to a telephone interview but declined to be photographed, says: "His parents are easy-going and it isn't difficult for me to get along with them."

Gabriel, a winger with the LionsXII squad, met Ms Teo, a marketing executive, when they were studying at Republic Polytechnic.

His mum, freelance English-language phonics teacher Juet May, 52, felt he was "mature enough" to start dating seriously even then, since their family had always talked "openly" about relationships and sex.

She adds: "I told him that if he's not ready for commitment, then he's not ready for dating."

The Quaks, who include Gabriel's younger sister Gu Ting, 17, live in a five-room Housing Board flat in Bishan.

What was Gabriel like as a boy?

Mr Quak: My parents, who live with my younger brother in their Bishan flat, looked after him in the day. They looked after him from birth till he was about six because my wife and I were working.

Mrs Quak: He ran a lot and fell a lot. My in-laws thought he had weak legs.

Mr Quak: My mother bought frogs' legs and cooked them in porridge for him. The belief was that it would strengthen his legs.

Gabriel: Maybe grandma bought the good frogs that are now helping me to run.

What was your relationship with Gabriel like when he was young?

Mr Quak: We had dinner at my parents' place before fetching him home.

Mrs Quak: I read and played with him. On weekends, we took him out with friends whose kids were of his age.

Gabriel started playing football seriously while studying at Guangyang Secondary School. When did he start to show his athletic inclination?

Mr Quak: When he was about nine or 10, we always had a ball with us when we went to Bishan Park on weekends to cycle. When he was in Primary 6 in Catholic High Primary, one of his schoolmates approached my wife to let him join the school team. That was when his flair showed.

What was the naughtiest thing he did growing up?

Mr Quak: He was around four or five years old when he climbed up a sofa by the living-room window in my brother's home and hid behind the curtains.

When my mum and dad couldn't find him, they panicked, fearing the worst.

Gabriel: I heard them calling for me but didn't answer. I liked hearing them speak in Hokkien.

Mr Quak: My father was reprimanded by my mother for not looking after him properly. In the end, they found him hanging onto the grilles behind the curtain.

Gabriel: I enjoyed the drama.

Did you fear Gabriel's grandparents would spoil him?

Mr Quak: No, not at all. Grandparents will dote on their grandchildren.

Mrs Quak: Apart from running around, he wasn't naughty.

Who is the disciplinarian?

Mr Quak: I would try to sit him down to explain when my wife and I were back home. But he ran around the dining table. I didn't discipline my daughter.

Mrs Quak: He left that to me as she's a girl. I talked to her.

Gabriel: They were both strict - my dad was openly so. Mum used the soft approach until it didn't work, then she erupted like a volcano.

Gu Ting: If mum screamed at us, it meant we had it coming. But she's a very nice mum, because she apologises.

Did you cane your children?

Gabriel: I have been caned only once or twice in my life.

Mr Quak: Once when Jun Yi was about 11 and Ting five, they were kicking a ball at home, and broke my favourite table lamp. I wanted to give them five strokes each. But Jun Yi was a gentleman.

Gabriel: I told him, "Cane me, don't cane mei-mei (Mandarin for younger sister)" because she's a girl. As the older one, I felt I should protect her.

Mr Quak: I took him to the room so my wife wouldn't see us because she is soft-hearted and gave him five strokes on each hand.

Gu Ting: So sweet of him. He was like a hero to me - he took double the punishment.

Mr Quak: But we didn't cane them often. The more you cane, the worse the child behaves.

Mrs Quak: Children may become more distant, and rather than talk to their parents about things, they may lie instead.

How did you make sure your children grow up close to you and to each other?

Mr Quak: When Ting was about five and Jun Yi 11, I made them use tweezers to pluck out the stubble on my chin. I promised them 10 cents each time. Sometimes they missed and pinched my skin. Or we had wrestling matches on my bed.

Gu Ting: My brother and I still have pillow fights.

Mr Quak: But I expect them to be polite to their elders and attend their grandparents' birthday dinners. For Gabriel, he has to call his grandmother at the airport before he flies off and when he comes home.

Gabriel: I don't visit her as often as I used to. So I should at least make her feel happy hearing my voice.

Do you have any regrets about Gabriel being a full-time footballer?

Mr Quak: I would have loved to see him in an officer's uniform, carrying a sword. But I told him, "I will always support you. You are wearing the national jersey. Do your best."

Gabriel: He never said, "Why are you not staying in OCS?" If he had said it, I would have felt worse. It was a small gesture but for me, it meant a lot. I was drafted into the Officer Cadet School (OCS) in January 2011. I gave that up to train for the SEA Games that year.

Mr Quak: After his footballing days, I want him to be a successful entrepreneur.

Mrs Quak: It's not just about earning money. Success to me is about him spending time with his wife and children, and taking them for family holidays.

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

Gabriel: I would like to be just like my father because he's doing his role very well. It's not easy being a father, so I appreciate what he's done. I wouldn't be any different from mum because I like the way she holds the family together.

Mr Quak: If I were Jun Yi, I would sign on as an army officer and have a stable career.

Mrs Quak: If I were Jun Yi, I would be in an individual sport such as swimming, tennis or bowling. I am very frightened whenever I watch him play - even now. I pray for his safety practically the whole time that he's on the field.

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