Chua Boon Lay



Chua Boon Lay (b. 23 October 1902,Singapore1– d. 4 October 1976, Singapore2) was a footballer who represented Singapore in the Malaya Cup between 1926 and 1937. He is regarded as one of the first two athletes from Singapore to take part in the Olympic Games when he represented China in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.3

Early life
Chua was born to parents who hailed from the Jinmen district in Fujian, China.4 He ran a business selling chickens at the former Telok Ayer Market, which led to him being nicknamed “Towkay Ayam” (towkay is Hokkien for “businessman” and ayam is Malay for “chicken”) by his friends and acquaintances.5

Sporting career

Standing at around 1.82 m, Chua cut an impressive figure among his contemporaries.6 He starting out playing the midfield position before converting to defence, and first played for the Singapore Chinese Football Association (SCFA) in 1922. After spending two years in SCFA’s second team, Chua was promoted to the first team and toured with them in Medan, Indonesia, that year.7

In the Singapore league, Chua played for SCFA against teams like Harlequins, Malays, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and Singapore Cricket Club.8 He also participated in friendly matches against visiting teams such as HMS Magnolia, and tours of Malaya and Indonesia.9 Chua went on to play for Bendemeer Athletic Club and Siong Boo Athletic Association, clubs affiliated to the SCFA.10

Proving to be an outstanding player in the Singapore League, Chua was selected to represent Singapore in the Malaya Cup, the precursor to the present Malaysia Cup, and later captained the team. His first Malaya Cup appearance was in 1926, when Singapore lost 1–0 to Perak,11 while his first taste of success came in 1930 with Singapore’s 3–0 victory over Selangor in the Cup final. Chua played in the Malaya Cup until 1937, with Singapore reaching the final in all those years and winning the Cup five times.12

On 28 July 1928, Chua was part of a team comprising players from the SCFA and Malay Football Association that defeated the visiting Australian team to cheers from a crowd of 7,000 spectators at Anson Road Stadium. The Chinese-Malay team was the underdog going into the game but won 4–2.13

Besides excelling in football, Chua was also a fine track athlete. In 1931, he participated in the first All-Malaya Chinese games, emerging first in the 100-metre, 400-metre and 800-metre races, and second in the 200-metre event. Anecdotes at the time mentioned that Chua trained by running in the streets around Telok Ayer Market.14

On the Olympic trail

In September 1935, Chua captained the Malayan Chinese football team at the Sixth All-China Games in Shanghai.15 Malaya finished second to Hong Kong after losing 3–2 in the final.16 Chua’s performance impressed Malaya coach Lim Yong Liang and caught the eye of China’s selectors.17

In February 1936, Chua was included in a shortlist of players drawn up by the China Amateur Athletics and Sports Federation. Along with fellow players from Singapore, Chia Keng Hock, Lim Chwee Chua and Choy Khun Onn, Chua was considered a contender for the football team that China would send to the Berlin Olympics later that year.18 This sparked a debate in the press over whether British subjects such as Chua should represent another country, but the sporting authorities eventually gave their blessing to Chua.19

Chua decided to join the China team on their tour of Java, Sumatra, the Philippines, Indochina, Siam, Malaya, Burma and India.20 China did not lose a single game on that Asian tour and Chua’s performance earned him a place on the Olympic team heading to Berlin.21 However, China only played one game in Berlin as the tournament was organised on a knockout basis. Chua did not play in the 2–0 loss to Britain,22 but later joined the Chinese team as they toured Europe, playing 10 friendly matches.23

The exposure to European football and the opportunity to watch English teams Arsenal and Everton in action made a deep impression on Chua. He realised that, when compared with European teams, his team demonstrated comparable teamwork but lacked stamina.24

Chua is regarded as one of the first two athletes from Singapore to take part in the Olympic Games when he represented China in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the other being Wong Seah Kee, who competed in the weightlifting featherweight category that same year.25

Retirement and later involvement in football
Soon after his return from Berlin, Chua retired from competitive football.26 During the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), he mentored and trained young players, including Chia Boon Leong, who became a prominent footballer.27 Chua also led a Syonan-to team of local players on a goodwill tour of Malaya organised by Japanese official Mamoru Shinozaki.28

After the end of the Occupation and when league football resumed in Singapore, Chua made occasional appearances on the field. In 1946, he played for Siong Boo Athletic Association in a well-received match against Amicable Athletic Association.29

Chua continued to play for the SCFA veterans team,30 and also served on the SCFA council.31 In addition, he took on various roles such as adviser to the Lien Hwa (Malayan Chinese) team that toured Asia in 1947,32 and coached the Singapore Rovers in the Singapore League.33

Death

Chua passed away on 4 October 1976, following which well-known members of the Singapore football community paid tribute to him. Lim Yong Liang praised Chua as “one of the best defenders in Asia” and that his defence was “as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar”. Singapore football coach Choo Seng Quee said of Chua: “He was a great sportsman, on and off the field. I have never known Boon Lay to lose his temper. He was a model player.”34

Family
Chua left behind a wife, two sons (the elder named Berlin in memory of Chua’s Olympic experience), a daughter and six grandchildren.35



Author

Alvin Chua



References
1. Aplin, N., Waters, D., & Leong, M. L. (2005). Singapore Olympians: The complete who’s who, 1936–2004. Singapore: SNP Reference. p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL); 许振义 (编) [Xu, Z. Y. (Ed.)]. 金门先贤录. 新加坡篇 = Kinmen eminent persons in history. 新加坡: 金门会馆, p. 161. (Call no.: Chinese R CO 305.895105957 KIN)
2. Soccer ‘great’ dies. (1976, October 5). New Nation, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Malayan Chinese at the Olympic Games in Berlin. (1936, August 2). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Memorial meetings to be held for Mr. Hu Han Min. (1936. May 15). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Farewell to a legend. (1976, October 6). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Farewell to a legend. (1976, October 6). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. A visit to Highbury recalled. (1947, July 6), The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Football. (1924, March 26), The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Football. (1924, September 13). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Siong Boo A.S. (1934, June 25). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 15; Soccer. (1925, April 9). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Malaya Cup final. (1926, September 13). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (18841942), p. 16; A visit to Highbury recalled. (1947, July 6). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. The rock... (1975, October 10). New Nation, pp. 10–11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Australian footballers. (1928, July 30). The Straits Times, p. 10; Football tourists arrive. (1928, July 25). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Aplin, N., Waters, D., & Leong, M. L. (2005). Singapore Olympians: The complete who’s who, 1936–2004. Singapore: SNP Reference, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL)
15. Aplin, N., Waters, D., & Leong, M. L. (2005). Singapore Olympians: The complete who’s who, 1936–2004. Singapore: SNP Reference, p. 31. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL)
16. Malayan soccer team back from Shanghai.(1935, November 2). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Goalkeeping won China soccer title for Hong Kong. (1935, November 1). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Local footballers to represent China at Olympic Games. (1936, February 14). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Complicated problem of China’s soccer XI for Berlin. (1936, February 15). The Straits Times, p. 14; Chinese prospects for soccer season. (1936, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Two men to go to Hong Kong. (1936, March 26). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Kim Seng and Boon Lay back from Olympics. (1936, October 4). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Boon Lay thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Europe. (1936, September 8). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Local footballers to represent China at Olympic Games.(1936, February 14). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7; Kim Seng and Boon Lay back from Olympics. (1936, October 4). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Kim Seng and Boon Lay back from Olympics. (1936, October 4). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
25. Malayan Chinese at the Olympic Games in Berlin. (1936, August 2). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. A visit to Highbury recalled. (1947, July 6). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Aplin, N., Waters, D., & Leong, M. L. (2005). Singapore Olympians: The complete who’s who, 1936–2004. Singapore: SNP Reference, p. 33. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL); Perseverance brought reward. (1948, April 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Aplin, N., Waters, D., & Leong, M. L. (2005). Singapore Olympians: The complete who’s who, 1936–2004. Singapore: SNP Reference, p. 33. (Call no.: RSING 796.09225957 APL)
29. Siong Boo win 6-1. (1946, October 14). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Cup veterans to meet next month. (1948, November 12). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. SAFA gate grants termed inadequate. (1947, September 28). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Malayan soccer tourists. (1947, October 7). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Sports ‘rather like old times’ during Easter. (1946, April 14). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Farewell to a legend. (1976, October 6). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Farewell to a legend. (1976, October 6). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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.

 

Subject
Sports, recreation and travel>>Ball games>>Football
Football players--Singapore--Biography
Personalities
Chua, Boon Lay, 1904-1976
Personalities>>Biographies