By REDintern Tang Rei-En
Singapore Basketball Centre, Sunday, July 15, 2012 — “I’ve always enjoyed basketball,” said Yam Ah Mee, 55.
You may know Yam Ah Mee as the man who delivered the results of the 2011 Singapore General Elections, but for the Community Games 3-on-3 basketball tournament, he took to the court as a member of the Cheng San-Seletar CSC basketball team, wearing jersey number #1.
Ever friendly, Mr Yam was cheerfully greeting players from other CSCs and getting to know them in between games.
“After the morning session of primary school, and after I finished my homework, I would go down to Jalan Tenteram Community Centre, which was near my house. I would read the papers there first, then around 3pm, I would start to play basketball at the courts there. I spent about 2 to 3 hours playing basketball, almost every day,” recalled Mr Yam.
Because he played so often, Ah Mee was soon representing his primary school, May North Primary, in inter-school games.
“I joined the school team in Primary 3,” he recalled, with a smile. “I played from Primary 3 to Primary 6, for a period of four years.”
“In Secondary school (Upper Serangoon Technical Secondary school), I mostly played class games. I was in the school team only in Secondary 1. In Hwa Chong [Junior College], I also just played inter-class games.”
His balling days carried on into university as well.
“I was in the military faculty of the University of New South Wales, which was based in Canberra. For my university, I played in the A-Grade basketball team,” said Ah Mee.
“Amongst the other players there, I was the shortest. They were all taller than me. So I decided to go for speed, and this helped me partner very well with the taller players.”
For the four years he was in university, he played basketball for his university in the summer, then switched to football in the winter.
“Through playing basketball, I’ve met a lot of new friends, and these friendships last for a long time,” said Ah Mee, when asked what he enjoyed most about basketball.
“For example, after we graduated, we had a meet-up in 1980. The graduating year had 101 students. And 25 years later during our gathering, 98 came back. We came from all over the globe — America, Japan, Singapore, and met in Australia. Some brought their families, their wives and children.”
“Basketball is a good game. It helps to keep up your fitness, build up your strength and make new friends. When you play games, you always need to help each other. Teamwork is important,” said Ah Mee.
“There was once my friend injured his knee and had to go for operation. He was a teammate and a number of friends in the team supported him through this time. We took down notes and shared notes to help him through this period,” recalled Ah Mee.
“It really is a good game that helps to build up friendships in the process.”
The power of basketball was demonstrated to him at a young age.
“When I was in Secondary school, I used to play at Jalan Tenteram CC too with a few of my friends. There used to be this other team that would join us sometimes. The oldest player there was 70. It was quite clear to me that this man was quite rich. He would come to the CC in a big car, and his chauffeur would drive him around.”
“Him and a group of others, I think his office staff, would come and play with us. His staff was about 50 years old, and we were just teenagers at that time. But they would still play basketball with us,” said Ah Mee in wonder.
“At that time, what struck me was that basketball could help bridge different age groups. We were able to play together easily, even with our age differences.”
“Basketball also didn’t care about money. The rich played with the not-so-rich. I wasn’t from a very wealthy family, but this old man, would still just come and play basketball with us.”
“This old man was also a very caring person. After games, sometimes he would get us drinks. Once, he even sponsored us for a competition. He helped to pay for our games and for our shirts,” recalled Mr Yam vividly. “We didn’t know him very well but he was still willing to sponsor us and help us pay for different things.”
“I can’t really remember his name,” admitted Ah Mee. “But he was a very refined gentleman. He played very well.”
When asked when was the last time he played basketball, Mr Yam replied with a self-deprecating chuckle: “A few months ago. I’m very rusty now.”
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