Choo Seng Quee



Choo Seng Quee (b. 1 December 1914–d. 30 June 1983, Singapore) was a former coach of the national football teams of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.1 Popularly known as Uncle Choo, he greatly influenced the development of football in these countries from the late 1940s to the 1980s. Well-known as a disciplinarian and a father figure to many players, Choo introduced modern methods of training, tactics, nutrition and psychology into the post-war game in the region.2 

Education
Choo attended Raffles Institution and picked up football while studying for his Senior Cambridge examinations.3 While playing for his school team, Choo was mentored by Singapore’s Malaya Cup player, Lim Yong Liang.4


Playing career
In 1933, Choo joined the Singapore Chinese Football Association (SCFA) and progressed to its first team in 1935.5 In 1937, SCFA won the Singapore Amateur Football Association (SAFA) Senior League and the SAFA Cup.6


Having impressed while playing in the SAFA League, Choo was selected to represent Singapore in the Malaya Cup in 1936.7 He won the Malaya Cup in 1937, and played in the final in 1938 when Singapore were defeated by Selangor.8 In 1939 Choo left SCFA and co-founded the Chinese Athletic Association team (also known as Chung Wah).9 Chinese Athletic made its debut in the SAFA League in 1941 and Choo later became manager of the team.10

Choo also represented the Malayan Chinese team which toured Manila, Hong Kong and Macau in 1939, and impressed selectors from the China national team.11 He was named as a likely selection for the China team for the 1940 Olympic Games, but the Games were cancelled due to the looming of World War II. In 1941, he played for the Sing Tao club in Hong Kong.12 During World War II, Choo spent time in Macau and China, managed the Macau Tribune newspaper and wrote propaganda for the British.13

Early coaching career
Choo was a player-manager for Chinese Athletic until he retired as a player in 1949.14 That year, he coached SCFA as well as Singapore’s Malaya Cup team on an honorary basis.15 In late 1949, Choo self-funded a trip to Bombay, Saigon, Hong Kong and Manila to canvass support for a regional football tournament involving national teams.16

In 1950, Choo was appointed coach of the Indonesian national team, and led the team at the Asian Games in Delhi in 1951.17 He coached Indonesia until 1954, concurrently coaching Star Soccerites and a number of youth teams in Singapore from 1952.18 In 1954, Choo won the SAFA League title with Star Soccerites.19

Career in Malaya

Choo was appointed national coach of the newly independent Federation of Malaya in January 1958. He was given a monthly salary of $700. Choo’s brief was to run coaching clinics in every Malayan state, scout for talented players and coach the national team.20 

In Choo’s first match as national coach, Malaya defeated Singapore 5-2 in March 1958.21 Malaya went on to win the second Merdeka Tournament in 1958, and again in 1959, and were joint champions in 1960.22 Malaya also won a gold medal in the 1961 South East Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games and a bronze medal in the 1962 Asian Games.23 Besides coaching the national team, Choo also trained Malaya’s youth teams for international tournaments.24

When his contract with the Football Association of Malaya expired in March 1963, Choo was appointed Malaya’s national schools coach. In this position, created for him by Malaya’s Prime Minister Tengku Abdul Rahman, Choo was responsible for talent scouting and conducting coaching courses for schoolboys and teachers.25

Choo continued to coach Malaya’s youth teams and the national team for a number of tournaments, including the qualifiers for the Asian Cup and the Olympics in 1963, and the Merdeka Tournament in 1964.26 With the approval of the Tengku, Choo trained Singapore’s national team for two months from June 1964, resulting in Singapore winning the Malaya Cup and Aw Hoe Cup during that period.27

Return to Singapore

After the Merdeka Tournament in September 1964, Choo left his job and returned to Singapore.28 He applied for a coaching job with SAFA, and was appointed to train the national team together with incumbent coach Harith Omar from March 1965.29 That year, Singapore won the Malaya Cup and the Aw Hoe Cup once more.30 

Choo then coached Singapore’s football team for the SEAP Games in Kuala Lumpur in December 1965.31 After the tournament, team manager Tan Peng Ghee alleged that Choo and a number of national players showed “gross insubordination” during the Games. Choo and six national players were subsequently sacked by SAFA.32 Choo refuted the allegations and called for an independent inquiry but the Singapore Olympic and Sports Council decided not to intervene.33

In January 1967, Choo rejoined SAFA’s panel of coaches and began training the national reserve team.34 He was appointed national coach in August 1967 and trained Singapore for the Merdeka Tournament that year.35 Choo then left the SAFA setup and coached a number of local club teams, including Police and Burnley United.36

In July 1971, Choo was re-appointed to the national team’s coaching panel which included national coach Andrew Yap, Abbas Abu Amin and Sebastian Yap.37 He took charge of Singapore for the Merdeka Tournament that year and achieved a notable 1-0 win over Burma, which was considered one of Asia’s strongest teams at the time.38 Sebastian Yap took over when Choo left as national coach.39

In September 1976, the chairman of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS, the renamed SAFA), N. Ganesan, re-appointed Choo as national coach.40 A number of national players subsequently quit the team after disagreements with Choo, and Singapore suffered a run of poor results in friendly matches.41 In February 1977 however, Choo was credited with guiding Singapore to victories over Thailand and Malaysia in the World Cup qualifiers, losing out only to Hong Kong at the penultimate round.42

Choo then announced he would leave the national team because of age and business commitments, before returning to coach Singapore to reach the Malaysia Cup final in May 1977; Singapore defeated Penang 3-2.43 The Cup triumph was Singapore’s first in 12 years, and Choo was praised for a crucial substitution at half-time which had turned the game.44

Health problems

During the Malaysia Cup campaign, Choo suffered a fall at the Merdeka Stadium which resulted in an infection on his right leg.45 Caught up with the demands of coaching, he did not seek treatment for the wound which worsened and eventually turned gangrenous with complications from a diabetic condition. In September 1977, Choo was admitted to Outram General Hospital. After 10 days of treatment, doctors were forced to amputate his right leg at the knee to prevent the gangrene from spreading.46 Another amputation on the upper part of his leg followed, and he also suffered internal bleeding.47

During his recovery from the operations, Choo was visited by fans, players, officials and ministers including Minister for Law E. W. Barker, Minister of State for National Development Tan Eng Liang and Singapore’s ambassador to Indonesia Othman Wok. Fans and officials also donated blood for Choo.48 

While still in hospital, Choo told the press of his determination to return to coaching despite the loss of his right leg.49 However, the FAS subsequently appointed Hussein Aljunied as national coach.50 In April 1978, Choo was voted Coach of the Year at the Singapore Sports Awards, and later received the Pingat Bakti Masharakat (Public Service Medal).51

In 1980, Choo became coach of Johor for its Malaysia Cup campaign.52 He left the job in January 1981.53 He was also presented with a gold medal by the Indonesian Soccer Federation for his services to Indonesian football.54

Death

In June 1983, Choo was admitted to hospital with kidney problems. After two weeks in hospital, he passed away in his sleep at home on 30 June 1983. More than 1,500 people attended the wake at his Wolskel Road home, and around 500 mourners were present when he was buried at Choa Chu Kang Christian Cemetery.55 

Family
56

Wife: Boon Khin Siang.
Son: Robert Choo Boon Keng.
Daughters: Theresa Choo Geok Lan, Helen Choo Geok Kim.



Author

Alvin Chua



References
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2. Low, J. (1983, July 1). A beautiful dreamerThe Straits Times, p. 47; Lim, T. W. (1971, August 3). Soccer coaching is not all honey. New Nation, p. 17; Miller, B. (2007, June 30). That day in JuneThe New Paper, p. 64. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lim, T. W. (1971, August 3). Soccer coaching is not all honey. New Nation, p. 17; Missed place in Olympic XI. (1949, April 6). The Singapore Free Press, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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8. Late penalty goal wins Malaya Cup for Singapore. (1937, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 14; Selangor take Malaya Cup by only goal scored in final. (1938, August 8). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Soccer fan’s suggestion. (1939, August 4). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 15; C.A. to re-affiliate. (1948, May 5). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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11. Soccer team for Manila. (1939, March 14). The Straits Times, p. 12; Missed place in Olympic XI. (1949, April 6). The Singapore Free Press, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Missed place in Olympic XI. (1949, April 6). The Singapore Free Press, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Dorai, J. (1978, March 11). Ex-agent Seng Quee gets an offer. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Crusader. (1949, January 10). C.A. start training for League. The Singapore Free Press, p. 7; Crusader. (1949, January 15). Darul Bahar F.C. need $1,000. The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. S.A.F.A. coach has plan for victory. (1949, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. S.E. Asia soccer tourney planned. (1949, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Low, J. (1983, July 1). A beautiful dreamerThe Straits Times, p. 47; Schools’ soccer in full swing. (1951, February 20). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Siebel, N. (1957, July 25). The stars miss title, drop out of Cup. The Straits Times, p. 14; Soccerites may star in Jnr. Division. (1952, February 26). The Straits Times, p. 8; ‘Stars’ to coach boys’ club. (1952, March 17). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6; Coach’s victory plan worked. (1952, March 21). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Soccerites may be champions today. (1954, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 14; ARGOS. (1954, September 22). Cinderella team takes SAFA title. The Singapore Free Press, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Fernandez, K. (1958, January 31). First job will be to tour states. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Rahim scores 3 in Malaya’s 5-2 victory. (1958, March 2). The Straits Times, p. 19; Siebel, N. (1958, February 27). FAM choice ‘on trial’. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Siebel, N. (1958, September 5). Malaya are champs. The Straits Times, p. 16; Merdeka soccer feast shows a levelling of standards. (1959, September 13). The Straits Times, p. 20; Malaya draws with S. Korea. (1960, August 15). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Malaya beat Burma 2-0. (1961, December 17). The Straits Times, p. 16; Malayans bag 15 medals. (1962, September 5). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Fernandez, K. (1962, December 12). Youth make early start. The Straits Times, p. 22; Fernandez, K. (1961, April 6). Youth team has a mission. The Straits Times, p. 14; The long, hard road ahead – coach Choo. (1960, March 16). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Siebel, N. (1963, March 5). Govt servant Choo Seng Quee now schools coach. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Tengku to Choo: We need you. (1963, August 25). The Straits Times, p. 14; Boey, F. (1963, August 27). Malaysia team will be Under Choo’s wing from Sept. 10. The Straits Times, p. 20; Dorai, J. (1964, September 4). China manager’s tribute to young Malaysian team. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Dorai, J. (1964, June 9). Tengku gives SAFA ok on Choo. The Straits Times, p. 16; Pidgeon, B. (1964, August 9). 90-minute Malaya Cup thriller. The Straits Times, p. 14; Dorai, J. (1964, July 7). Referee explains decisions in penalty incidents. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Fernandez, K. (1965, January 30). Choo may lose coaching job. The Straits Times, p.23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Dorai, J. (1965, February 13). Choo gets an offerThe Straits Times, p. 19; Choo wants time to consider new offer. (1965, March 3). The Straits Times, p. 19; We’re not taking chances – Kamari. (1965, April 15). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Siebel, N. (1965, August 1). Singapore’s Cup again. (1965, August 1). The Straits Times, p. 20; Singapore keep Cup after extra time. (1965, December 9). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Dorai, J. (1965, September 1). Games a ‘must’ for Safa. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Dorai, J. (1965, December 28). Safa axe six national team men and coachThe Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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34. Choo is back on coaches panel. (1967, January 17). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Dorai, J. (1967, August 3). Othman’s bid to end dispute. The Straits Times, p. 20; Dorai, J. (1967, August 9). Youth stars in Spore team to KL. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Dorai, J. (1969, January 12). President’s Cup goes to Police. The Straits Times, p. 20; Yap, S. (1971, January 22). Burnley’s fate known soon. New Nation, p. 15; Title win ends Burnley’s officials row. (1971, February 1). The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Four get task to raise power team. (1971, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Low, J. (1971, August 4). Will Singapore be vague? New Nation, p. 14; Ng, C. (1971, August 8). Hurrah! It’s a great Spore win. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Low, J. (1972, March 29). Seng Quee speaks out.... New Nation, p. 27; National coaches through the years. (2000, May 4). The Straits Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Tan, P., & Ang, T. (1976, September 2). FAS takes back Seng Quee. New Nation, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Dorai, J. (1976, November 19). Kumar, Bee Seng ‘quit’ training. The Straits Times, p. 29; Results nothing to shout about. (1976, December 15). New Nation, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Hard luck Singapore. (1977, March 14). New Nation, pp. 10–11; Why Malaysia lost out. (1977, March 13). New Nation, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Dorai, J. (1977, March 5). Coach Seng Quee to quit after Mar. 12The Straits Times, p. 23; Seneviratne, P. (1977, May 29). A gamble for victory. The Straits Times, p. 1; Low, J. (1977, May 29). The young Lions bring it home. New Nation, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Seneviratne, P. (1977, May 29). A gamble for victory. The Straits Times, p. 1; Low, J. (1977, May 29). The young Lions bring it home. New Nation, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Singh, D., & Yeo, W. (1977, September 8). Seng Quee in high spirits. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. Singh, D. (1977, September 15). Seng Quee loses legThe Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. Singh, D. (1977, September 20). Seng Quee loses more of his leg. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
48. Dorai, J. (1977, October 29). Exclusive. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
49. Uncle: Why I am still alive. (1977, November 12). New Nation, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
50. FAS no to ‘Uncle’. (1977, December 14). New Nation, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
51. Tan, P., & Nair, S. (1978, March 1). The Big Three. New Nation, p. 18; Dorai, J. (1978, August 9). S’pore honours Ganesan, Choo. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
52. Seng Quee masih ingin menolong Singapura. (1980, January 24). Berita Harian, p. 7; Narir, S. (1980, April 8). Cup ‘fever’ is back. New Nation, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
53. Out. (1981, January 8). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
54. Nair, S. (1980, April 16). Gold medal for Seng Quee. New Nation, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
55. Last goodbye. (1983, July 3). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
56. Obituary. (1983, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resource
Cheng, D. A. (Director), & Tay, H. W. (Producer). (2008). Kallang roar: The movie [Motion picture]. Singapore: Merelion Pictures.

(Call no.: RSING 791.4372 KAL)



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.

 

Subject
Choo, Seng Quee, 1914–1983
Football players--Singapore--Biography
Sports, recreation and travel>>Ball games>>Football
Personalities
Football coaches--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies