He is a lawyer with more than 36 years of practice and heads the criminal department at Hin Tat Augustine and Partners.
In world football, Lim Kia Tong is 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.
In both capacities in the world and Asian football governing bodies, he may have to travel to the respective headquarters every month to handle an average of 30 to 60 cases.
On top of that, he is also part of the disciplinary panel at some Fifa tournaments.
It is why he catches just four hours of sleep each day. But sleep is set to become even more of a luxury for Lim.
Last Saturday, the 64-year-old was voted in as president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), after his team beat Team Game Changers 30-13 in the sport’s first election here.
“I do it (took part in the election) because this is a real call of duty to the nation,” said Lim in an exclusive interview with The New Paper at his office at The Riverwalk yesterday.
“If I were selfish, I would not have gone for the FAS presidency, because this may affect my position at Fifa level.”
Growing up in the late 60s and early 70s, Lim’s passion for football was naturally inspired by the magic of Dollah Kassim, Quah Kim Song, Mohammad Noh and S Rajagopal.
He himself was a right-sided player, taking part in inter-formation games while serving in the guards unit, and represented the University of Singapore (subsequently National University of Singapore) in varsity games, alongside current FAS DC chairman K Bala Chandran and former FAS president Ho Peng Kee.
His other sporting interests include tennis, squash, badminton, cross country and track events.
Off the football pitch, he discovered another passion – reading and practising law.
As early as 1990, Lim joined the Volunteer Special Constabulary (VSC), which is part of the Singapore Police Force.
He then rose to the rank of deputy assistant commissioner (V) and also became the VSC’s deputy commander.
His rise in football would begin 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 – he was part of the DC that dished out a four-month ban and a fine of 100,000 Swiss francs (S$139,782) to Uruguay striker Luis Suarez for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in that tournament.
But now, as the face of Singapore football, the scrutiny will be more intense than ever.
Lim is relishing the challenge.
“Just the other day, my friend pointed out my paunch from a photograph in the newspapers,” he quipped with a chuckle.
“I may be the face of Singapore football like you say, but the face must be someone who can put good policies into action; that would be a better face than my physical face.
“It really helps that I have a small but very supportive family.
“My wife is fully supportive. My 26-year-old daughter is a practising lawyer, and she was so excited about the election and concerned about the outcome, while my 25-year-old son is also reading law at the Exeter University in England.
“When I do work for football, I sacrifice a lot of time that could be spent with them instead.
“But they recognise what I’m doing is good for the country. In that sense, they have also made a sacrifice to see less of me, so I would like to thank each and every member of my family.”
“Therefore, I have no regrets. Once I’m in the game, I have to play the full 90 minutes.”
As FAS president, Lim is expected to lead his team and lift Singapore football out of the doldrums.
Among the objectives include reviving a flagging football culture, recharging the youth football scene, resuscitating a struggling S.League and restoring the national team’s glory days.
He knows the tasks are manifold. But he is even clearer of what would be the best indication that his team’s four-year term is a success.
He said: “We want to bring the Kallang Roar back.”
This article was first published on May 2, 2017.
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