For the month of September, we remember the teachers who left indelible impressions on us. Adrian Loo revisits memories of his secondary school teacher Cikgu Rahim from the 1980s. Whether in the limelight or on the sidelines, Cikgu Rahim was energetic, passionate and very supportive of his students.
The memory of Cikgu Rahim (Teacher Rahim) often resurfaces. He was my soccer teacher-in-charge and assistant coach when I was in Ang Mo Kio Secondary School (AMKSS). My father, Loo Geok Kee, had volunteered to be the coach and got along very well with Cikgu Rahim. Our ‘C’ division team became quite formidable in 1985, emerging North Zone champions. Our unbeaten run continued all the way to the national finals where we lost to Saint Joseph’s Institution (SJI) by two goals to one. But that was quite a feat for my alma mater AMKSS, as we came from nowhere to push our way past many schools where soccer was traditionally a stronghold.
Cikgu Rahim was a highly passionate person — whenever we were down by a goal (which was a rare thing since in the 15 games played, the most we would let in for each game was one goal till the finals, that is!) or if the run of play was against us, he would be kneeling by the soccer pitch praying fervently, audible to anyone in a 50 metre radius. To him, each game was everything. How not to play our best when the game meant everything to him, each time? My father was just as bad, shouting himself hoarse at us. The world, for that hour and a half, was as large as the football pitch.
During recess when we had a pre-game briefing, the team would meet in his art room and for 20 mins, he would give a pep talk and game plan. Many chalks would have been broken by then, as each game play ended in the goal, on the chalk board. He would raise his voice against the end-of-recess bell and we would do a team cheer. By that time, the entire school, assembled after recess would hear his booming voice from the art room. And we would hurriedly run back to our class psyched up for the game.
I remember soccer more than my academics, unfortunately or not. But Cikgu Rahim was someone who gave his all and that commanded our attention, then and till now. He made an indelible mark just through his passion for the school team. Despite him raising his voice all the time, he was no tyrant but a very warm and encouraging teacher. He happened to also be my class’ art teacher and I often did well for art! Perhaps, not as well as Ivan Chew who was my secondary school classmate in Sec 1B/E. Ivan Chew’s art piece would be held up and Cikgu Rahim would unreservedly ‘boom out’ how beautiful his art was.
I think the team would not have been so formidable if not for Cikgu Rahim, who let my father coach the team without any egos getting in the way. There were other soccer teachers who vied for recognition when my father coached other teams but Cikgu Rahim gave my father the space and the team support. I think it was his wholehearted support to Secondary 1 and 2 kids, revving us on, putting everything at stake.
I believed he cried when we lost the finals. Egos out there, but Cikgu Rahim and my father put the team first before themselves. He was there for every training, rain or shine. Even with my father’s coaching, Cikgu Rahim filled the shoes of an assistant coach. I think our team never really thought about winning the North Zone or national one for that matter, but because Cikgu Rahim and my father gave everything each time we played and staked their hearts out every minute of each game, we just arrived there with each win.
Each game was the game we needed to give everything to. How not to? My father shouted at the team throughout the game and Cikgu Rahim invoked the heavens by the sidelines, all for a secondary school soccer match. Each time I think about soccer in my youth, Cikgu Rahim and my father will come into mind — a heady mix of booming voices, smell of grass and earth, strained faces of Cikgu Rahim, and my father with eyes almost bursting, fists in the air, shouts of support, celebration after the goals, Cikgu Rahim kneeling by the sidelines and the team pep talks in the art room.
I wish I had shown more gratitude to Cikgu Rahim. RIP Cikgu, Kita caya lu (Teacher, we believe in you)!
Adrian Loo Hock Beng’s story first appeared here on the Singapore Memory Project portal. Read more memories of Cikgu Rahim as an art teacher from Ivan Chew’s memories here and here. Do you have an unforgettable memory from your school days like Adrian and Ivan? Share them with us.