Dad dies. Nambiar family brings paralysed mum for Spurs thriller

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TWO sell-out crowds at Singapore’s SportsHub over the weekend when Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur came to town and the BBC commentator pointed out that he had never seen “family-styled football crowds, from kids, teenagers to senior citizens anywhere in the world”  treating themselves to the beautiful game of football.

Manchester United played Inter-Milan on Saturday and Tottenham took on Juventus the following day in the International Champions Cup (ICC) with capacity 60,000 crowds on both days, despite the respective matches shown “live” over television.

This is probably unprecedented in Singapore football history and it simply smacks of the extraordinary fever, if not flavour, of the fanatical English Premier League (EPL) which mesmerises millions of fans the world over, despite ticket prices going from S$75 (gallery) to S$250 (grandstand).

I write here to pay special tribute to the exemplary Nambiar family of Woodlands Street 41 who swears by the SAS-styled motto of Tottenham Hotspur: Audere Est Facere (To Dare Is To Do).

To the average person who doesn’t speak Latin, these words mean nothing. But to a Tottenham fan they represent the philosophy embedded in the foundation and history of their globally-famous London-based club, based on SAS (Special Air Service, the elite special commandos of British Army).

FOOTBALL FANATIC NAMBIARS

Daringly, I say, this is a rare true-life Singapore tale that must be put in print and recounted umpteen times in memory of the patriarch of the family, the late Balachandran Nambiar, who died just over a year ago, a prolonged cancer victim, and his wife, (my eldest sister) Balamani, who’s now wheelchair-bound after a serious hit-and-run accident, four years ago.

The Nambiar brothers, Navin and Nitin, paid the ultimate salute to their paralysed mum by bringing the family, including three-year-old Arhaan and one-year-old Zaara, for Sunday’s match, knowing very well that their late dad may well be smiling from above and cheering them on in an awesomely beautiful family jaunt to their beloved EPL club.

Holding back his tears, Navin said: “Considering Spurs last came here 24 years ago, this is Amma’s (mum) last chance to catch them ‘live’ in person. It’s like a dream-come-true expedition to the SportsHub. The ticket prizes were really crazy, in the S$200 region, but it was worth every dollar to relish this close-to-perfect family football gathering.”

Massive nostalgic credits and memories to the late Balachandran. The 69-year-old, almost religiously, if not fanatically, united his family of wife, Balamani, and sons, Navin and Nitin, even brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, right down to the adorable little grandchildren, too, to the love for football and, in particular, the fanaticism towards Spurs (the abbreviation for Tottenham Hotspur).

FLASHBACK 2010

Flashback poignantly to nine years: The sporting highpoint of the Spurs-adoring Nambiar family was the Christmas holidays in 2010 when the foursome visited White Hart Lane (the London home ground of Spurs) after Nitin won an all-expenses-paid family holiday in a national quiz competition by Singtel MioSports.

That week-long London trip personified their ultimate dream as the Nambiars were treated to extraordinary VIP privileges, including an iconic pre-match guard-of-honour line-up of millionaire first-team players like Gareth Bale, Luca Modric, Robbie Keane and Aaron Lennon.

I must put on record that the late Balachandran’s fanaticsm for Spurs started in the 1960s in cranky and crazy ways when the London-based club was among the English football kingpins, the legendary glory days, when it was a time of “firsts” for Spurs and for England.

In 1961, Tottenham became the first English team to win the League and Cup “double”. Just two years later in 1963, Spurs became the first English team to win a European trophy by beating Atletico Madrid in the Cup Winners’ Cup Final.

I remember that he idolised Jimmy Greaves, Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay, and Cliff Jones, all footballing legends who perfectly fit the philosophy of play at Tottenham. “Daring To Do” is simply all about playing attacking and entertaining football, and with players like Greaves, Glenn Hoddle, Osvaldo Ardiles, Ricardo Villa and Paul Gascoigne, playing at White Hart Lane throughout the years, it has not just been a motto but a reality.

Looking back, when Balachandran married (my eldest sister) schoolteacher Balamani, she, too, got passionately hooked to the Spurs-fever, which further filtered down to the two children. Navin, the eldest, even ventured into semi-professional football in 1999, with Jurong Football Club, under famous coach V. Sundramoorthy.

“The Nambiar family’s singular loyalty to Spurs is world-class and sometimes beyond belief. My (late) father encouraged us to use sports, especially football, as a vehicle for personal and professional improvement. It motivated us tremendously as the passionate-way we supported Spurs, week in and week out, drew the family closer,” says Navin, 38, who now runs X-League (one of Singapore’s leading social football leagues) and also lectures at the Nanyang Polytechnic.

If I’ve to be strip accurate, let me note that football mania is patriotically pinned on Navin’s back, too, with the etched bold words, Audere Est Facere (To Dare Is To Do). And it even went down right to his lovable heart, too, as he married Ellya Abdullah, the only daughter of legendary Malaysia Cup footballer of ‘Kallang Roar’ fame, (the late) Dollah Kassim. The couple has two football-fanatic Spurs-supporting babes, Arhaan and Zaara.

Nitin, who’s described as a “walking football encyclopedia” after he won the nationally-televised SingTel MioSports quiz, nine years ago, is hooked the football-way, too, and works as a broadcast media sports producer.

 

PRINCIPLES OF FOOTBALL

Balamani, 67, who is wheelchair-bound after a tragic road accident four years ago, singled out how her late husband used the powerful principles of football to unite the family. She adds: “The family bonding through the fanatical support of Spurs gave a tremendous boost and belief as Navin and Nitin grew up. Football was truly in our family-blood, apart from the love for movies.”

The family’s five-room Woodlands Street 41 apartment is also nicely decorated in white-blue colours of Spurs, with autographed jerseys, pennants, mini-flags, scarves, bed-spreads, pillow-cases and priceless photos with Spurs legends Ledley King, Oswaldo Ardiles, Ledley King and Harry Kane.

It simply symbolised the Nambiars’ belief in their iconic club and how their divine-like love for football continues to remain like a icon family institution.

A tear-jerking Navin says: “I’m very grateful and feel blessed that my father lived a fulfilling football life. The 2010 trip to White Hart Lane was the ultimate dream-come-true vacation for the family. He also witnessed my wedding to Ellya and he got to play with his two grandchildren, who now appreciate Spurs-styled football.”

Personally, I remember last year when Balachandran died and the final revered salutes came from the white-Spurs-coloured coffin, where he laid peacefully, wearing the white-blue Spurs jersey, which was the impeccable tribute for a gentleman, who preached the best values of football.

DARINGLY-FAITHFUL SPURS

In my opinion, the footballing Gods have been kind to Balachandran and his passionate family-ideology may well be a perfect script for a Singapore-styled football movie, going on the lines of the motto of Tottenham Hotspur: Audere Est Facere (To Dare Is To Do).

Emotive nonsense, you may say? Definitely not to the daringly-faithful Balachandran, who has supported the club for over 50 years, and his fanatical sporting influence has radiated right down to the adoring grandchildren, with everyone decked in their white-and-blue Spurs sorties over the weekend.

As the weekend’s BBC commentator pointed out that he has never seen “family-styled football crowds, from kids, teenagers to senior citizens anywhere in the world” treating themselves to what the legendary Brazilian Pele hails ‘Jogo Bonito’ (The Beautiful Game, in Portuguese).

The final word? The Nambiar family, like over 60,000 fanatical fans, had the ultimate thriller when England striker-skipper Harry Kane produced a breath-taking moment of magic, scoring from the halfway line in injury time as Spurs beat Juventus 3-2 in a dream-come-true performance in Singapore after a 24-year wait.

Simply put, words can’t describe the rare family euphoria. This is Nambiar-priceless!  – SURESH NAIR

  • Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who has known the Nambiar family for over half-century. His elder sister, Balamani, married the late Balachandran. And yes, he, too, fanatically supports Tottenham Hotspur, who finished as Champions League runner-up last season.
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