Lim Yong Liang
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Lim Yong Liang (b. 1 December 1900 – d. 29 October 1982, Singapore) is one of the most prominent names in Singapore football history, having made his mark as a player, coach and administrator. A seven-time winner of the Malaya Cup (three as a player, four as a coach), Lim also won the Java football championship while playing for Batavia in 1925. He later worked as a senior administrator at the Football Association of Singapore for more than 30 years, with his longevity in service earning him the nickname "Pop Lim".
Early football career
Lim was educated at St Joseph’s Institution, where he played for the school team. As a schoolboy in 1919, Lim joined the White Star football club. It was at White Star where Lim Kee Cheok, one of the founders of the Straits Chinese Football Association (SCFA), spotted his talents.
The young forward joined SCFA in 1920, becoming first a regular on the team playing in the first division of the Singapore League and later captain of the side. He also played for the Aston football club and the St Joseph’s Old Boys Association.
Malaya Cup and Batavia
In 1922, Lim’s exploits in the local league earned him a place in Singapore’s Malaya Cup team. He scored in his first match, a 3-1 win over Johor, and also in the final, in which Singapore were defeated 3-2 by Selangor. The following year, Lim picked up his first Malaya Cup winner’s medal when Singapore beat Penang 2-1.
Lim appeared in the Malaya Cup final six times, winning the competition thrice. He scored in his last Malaya Cup match, the 1928 final in which Singapore drew 2-2 with Selangor and shared the trophy. In 1934, he was recalled to the Singapore team and played in its Malaya Cup campaign, but did not feature in the final.
When the SCFA briefly withdrew from the Singapore League in 1924, Lim played for Batavia in the Java football championship. He excelled there, helping Batavia to the 1925 championship against teams that featured physically stronger European players. In his later days, Lim often spoke with pride of being an early standard-bearer for Asian players in the region. In 1928, Lim shone in a famous friendly match between Singapore and Australia at the Anson Road Stadium. Playing alongside his regular partners in Singapore’s forward line, Dolfatah and Mohammed Noor, Lim scored in Singapore’s 4-2 victory.
Lim was regarded as one of the foremost forwards in Malaya and Singapore in the 1920s, showing intelligence and skill both in scoring goals and creating opportunities for his team-mates. A 1928 newspaper report named him the “leader of the attack for both the SCFA and (Singapore)”. Lim's contemporary Theo Leijssus said: “He simply had the knack of knowing where, when and how to distribute the ball. He used his brains.”
Coach, manager and administrator
Upon his retirement from playing in 1934, Lim coached SCFA in the Singapore League. The following year, he was in charge of the Malayan Chinese team that finished second at the All-China Olympiad in Shanghai.
In 1936, Lim became coach of Singapore’s Malaya Cup team, leading the side until the outbreak of war in 1942. During this period, Singapore reached the final every year except 1942, when the competition was not held, and lifted the trophy four times. He was also coach and manager for two of Singapore’s tours to Saigon.
In the post-war period, competitive football in Singapore resumed and Lim was elected honorary secretary of the Singapore Amateur Football Association (SAFA) in 1945. On the field, he assisted Singapore coach R. B. I. Pates, taking charge of training sessions when Pates was unavailable.
Lim’s wide knowledge of the game and amiable approach served him well as honorary secretary of SAFA, and his popularity meant that he was reelected to the post annually over the next 20 years. During this time he tried to resign twice, only to be persuaded to stay by the SAFA council. Lim left the post of honorary secretary in 1965 and was elected a vice-president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS, the successor to SAFA). However, he returned as honorary secretary between 1968 and 1971, when the Singapore government took control of the FAS through the National Sports Promotion Board (NSPB). Interspersed with spells as team manager for various Singapore sides, Lim also served as an FAS adviser and council member until his death.
For his services to the sport, Lim was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1959 and awarded the Public Service Star in 1964.
Having been involved in football in virtually every capacity, Lim’s enthusiasm did not wane after his retirement from active administration. He continued to attend Singapore’s Malaysia Cup games, regularly making trips to away matches in a personal capacity. A frequent presence around the Singapore camp, Lim dispensed advice and encouragement to officials and players, especially his favourite of the 1970s, Mohammed Noh.
Lim passed away on 29 October 1982 and was buried at the Choa Chu Kang cemetery. He had been in poor health and had been warded at the Toa Payoh Hospital for more than a month prior to his death.
Lim left behind a son, John Lim Eng Chuan, and two daughters, Catherine Lim Kim Geck and Agnes Lim Kim Neo, as well as 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Award to ‘Pop’ Yong Liang hailed. (1959, June 13). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Dorai, J. (1965, December 30). ‘Pop’ resigns and will go to UK to fulfil an ambition. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Francis, P. (1980, December 1). ‘Pop’, 80, carries on love affair with soccer. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
In the sporting limelight. (1933, October 15). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Low, J. (1979, December 1). 79 and still going strong (Microfilm: NL10428). New Nation, p. 17.
Low, J. (1982, October 31). We’ll miss. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Selangor players. (1928, March 24). Malayan Saturday Post, p. 22. Retrieved June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Siow, P. (1982, October 30). ‘Pop’ Lim, a soccer institution. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
Soccer stalwarts of 2 decades. (1947, May 8). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved June 8, 2011 from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.