He couldn’t understand why I didn’t pick the likes of Fandi Ahmad or V Sundramoorthy.
The truth was I didn’t have a favourite player. As a 10-year-old who barely knew anything about the sport except that I had to get the ball past the person who was standing between two concrete pillars in the void deck, my choice was solely dependent on the fact that he wore my favourite number.
Before long, I was hooked on the sport, and playing it with my peers wasn’t enough to satiate my obsession. I would also catch matches on the tele, beg my parents to buy me Panini football stickers, and even play Subbuteo. When I got my hands on a PlayStation during my teenage years, the first game I got was Winning Eleven.
I wasn’t the only person who loved the sport. For many kids in my neighbourhood, football was a daily affair. Sometimes, when there were too many players, or if the adults complained about us being a public nuisance, we’d head over to the nearby field to play.
Personal belongings like water bottles or house keys became makeshift goalposts. It didn’t matter that we weren’t wearing the proper footwear either.
Sometimes we’d play on the basketball court, too. It wasn’t difficult chasing the basketball players away – they were always outnumbered.
When the friend who owned the leather football wasn’t free, we’d resort to playing with those 20-cent plastic balls that every “mama shop” seemed to sell.