Story by Iman Hashim, Ryan Lim and Edina Tan/Red Sports

Jonathan Chua (left) of Raffles Institution in action against Anglo-Chinese Junior College on April 22, 2016. (Photo © Chua Kai Yun/Red Sports)

Jonathan Chua (left) of Raffles Institution in action against Anglo-Chinese Junior College on April 22, 2016. (Photo © Chua Kai Yun/Red Sports)

Singapore, Friday, April 29, 2016 — On Sunday, April 24, Red Sports published a story about Jonathan Chua, the Raffles Institution (RI) A Division football striker, who had rejected a penalty after he was seemingly fouled in the penalty box.

The game was played on Friday, April 22. RI were trailing 1–2 against Anglo-Chinese Junior College and the penalty was given with 12 minutes to go in a National Schools A Division Football Championship Round 2 match. RI could have levelled the score at 2–2 through the penalty.

Instead, in a display of integrity, Jonathan successfully persuaded the referee to retract the penalty decision because he said the defender did not touch him. RI went on to lose the game 1–3.

The story went viral on the internet. A Facebook post by Red Sports editor Leslie Tan has attracted more than 1,200 likes and 396 shares, while an Instagram post on the @redsportssg handle has since garnered 1,787 likes.

Given the online interest, mainstream media picked up the story, with one article published on TODAY on Tuesday, April 26, and two commentaries on The Straits Times on Wednesday, April 27.

On Wednesday evening, April 27, Acting Minister for Education Ng Chee Meng also posted about the story on his Facebook page, with 351 likes and 21 shares and counting.

Why did the adult world react so strongly to an act of integrity?

According to Mr Melvin Tan, who is RI’s track and field head coach and who also coached football at Catholic Junior College and Victoria Junior College, it is no surprise that the story has struck a chord with many people.

He said: “In a world where winning is of utmost importance, many would resort to unscrupulous or dishonest ways to achieve their goal. So for someone to demonstrate honesty and integrity in a crucial game situation, it is really something out of the ordinary. And that is why so many people have highlighted this incident, with the hope that we can uphold such values in sports.”

“As an adult, I think we have become bitter and numb to what is good and what is not acceptable,” said Samy Rajoo, a follower of our Red Sports Instagram account. “There are no longer situations where there is black and white but carrying shades of grey.

“In the world that we live in, we are told to be pragmatic and do the necessary. Such outstanding acts of sportsmanship are so rare cos as adults we have become used to stars like Ronaldo play acting.”

A former Yishun Junior College football captain, who declined to be named, echoed similar sentiments. He said: “I guess in today’s sports scene, cheating, doping, or simulating have become so ordinary that we begin to accept it as a norm. And when something like that happens it will definitely cause a stir, as it’s something unexpected.

“Honestly I wouldn’t tell the referee he made a mistake, but I wouldn’t exaggerate the fall or call for a foul. If the referee gives it he gives it.”

A current A Division football player commented on the uncommon nature of such an act.

He said: “I feel that it’s a rarity to come across such a honourable act of honesty especially when so much is at stake. Sometimes I feel that we are too focused on ourselves so much so that we forget what’s going on around us.”

When told that some social media commenters had said that Jonathan’s act of honesty was for personal glorification, he responded: “They are probably jealous of him. Jonathan should be praised widely for such an honest act. We need more of these.”

Samy Rajoo also agreed. “Regardless of his motivation for doing what he did, those views reflect more about those who commented than anything about him and his motivations.”

However, when asked what he would have done if he was in Jonathan’s shoes, the aforementioned footballer admitted that he would have done the opposite. He said: “I would have taken it. In situations like these, refs are supposed to make critical calls. If the ref gets stick for it after the game then it’s something they have to deal with.

“Sometimes we just need a little of luck when we are down. Football is a team game, by doing what he did, it may reflect well on him but his teammates might be disappointed in him. But overall, he showed great character.”

From 50 people to a whole nation: a timeline
Match Day: Apr 22, 2016, 4:20pm

Jonathan Chua refuses penalty in RI’s 3-1 loss to ACJC.

Jonathan’s comments in our ACJC vs RI match report
Published on REDSPORTS.SG
Apr 24, 2016, 2:42pm

Jonathan: “It was clear that there was no touch. I just lost balance because he slid in and I was a bit put off. So it was an easy decision for me. I think we have been very blessed in the past round, there was probably some divine intervention which led us to scoring eight goals (in the final group game). So, I feel that it’s the least that I can do, to show my integrity. Whatever happens next Tuesday, we will leave it to God.”

Instagram post
@REDSPORTSSG, Apr 24, 2016
1787 likes, 38 comments

@bakchormeeboy: “Great stuff. We need more players like that setting a good example.”

@samyrajoo: “Thank you so much for sharing this and other stories that needed a voice.”

@justin_matthew_ng_2701: “never know it is to get attention”

@swstdrln: “@justin_matthew_ng_2701 If he didn’t admit, he’ll have a guilty conscience and will be disrespected. If he admitted it, people like you will be saying it’s to get attention. Damn, sportsmanship portrayal can be difficult these days…”

Facebook post by Leslie Tan, Founder of Red Sports
Apr 24, 2016, 1.31pm
1200 likes, 369 shares

Mark Lee (April 24, 1.44pm): “I was there! Hats off to the boy. The goals from ACJC were pretty awesome too. The final score won’t matter in 20 years time. This is going to be a great story these boys will be talking about over kopi again and again.”

Renyi Wang (April 24, 3.06pm): “A game between RI and ACJC, qualification on the cards, 78th minute and Jonathan steps up. Total respect for him, coaches, teachers of RI. This is education.”

Facebook post by Red Sports
April 24, 2016
22700 reach, 2454 clicks, 273 likes, 2 loves

Facebook post by SGAG
Apr 25, 2016, 6:00pm
1200 likes, 163 shares

SGAG: “Integrity – a most important value that we should all prize. Even if RI doesn’t end up winning the medal, this boy has definitely won our hearts and respect.”

Sieg Delacroix: “And forever in history RI will remember him as the guy who lost them the game.”

Ben Leondre Chua: “All the comments show how dishonest Singapore is. if you’re a businessman think elsewhere.”

Esther Yeo: “Lifetime values > winning anything any day. At least he can sleep with his conscience clear while you internet bullies salvage (sic) for approval to build your self esteem. Good job Jonathan!”

SGAG: “Wow these comments are savage af… #poordude #hewasbeingnice”

Facebook video and story by TODAY
The boy who didn’t cry foul
By Amanpreet Singh
April 26, 2016, 9:11pm
Facebook video: 70,000 views, 535 likes, 346 shares

Jeyaraj Indra Raj: “It is a reflection of good upbringing by his parents and the foundation he received in primary and secondary school.”

Billy Lui: “I’m not a soccer player or a coach, I’m a tennis coach. I salute this young man for showing the true spirit of sportsmanship, and being so honest. Yeah, his school, his team and his coach have to be proud of him too.”

Facebook post by Straits Times
School sports: RI’s Jonathan Chua praised for rejecting penalty with team trailing
By Yogaraj Panditurai
Apr 27, 2016, 5:00am
Video: 57,000 views, 300 likes, 41 shares

William Chin: “It is a very serious deal. Though he is honest but he had forgotten that he was not participated (sic) for himself, it was TEAM WORK. Players are always play (sic) by a Whistle & ref is considered as professional, u are directly disobey to the command & reject for (sic) the penalty given, how u face yr team mates, supporters & many many others. This is a very rare case in soccer history, he should think thrice before he make such decision. On the other hand, the ref as professional should stick to his final decision at that particular moment, it will a very serious issue for this ref to face the relevant authority with explanation (sic). Not that easy just want to be a HERO.”

Kok Chwee Sim: “Instead of taking advantage of an undeserved spot kick and achieving a drawn game, Jonathan Chia decided on the spot to be honest. What kind of parenting and education bring about such an honourable young man? Nothing but the best! May you achieve greatness in life!”

Ken Teo: “It is a big deal. I did something decades ago that got my school to lose. I was outcasted since then and ostracized. Integrity and loyalty are both intangible values. Dishonesty and betrayal bring about different consequences that’s all.”

Zhou Hongjie: “Virtue is irrespective of circumstance and anyone who accuses this boy of foolishness leaves much of his own integrity to be desired. Football may be a team game but if he was never knocked down by a rival player, why should he allow the referee to claim it is so?

“I would do the same if I were him. Utilitarian ethics to me is always suspect because a good end NEVER justifies an evil means.”

Facebook post by Straits Times
RI’s Jonthan Chua’s sporting act: No big deal? Such sporting deeds deserve retelling
By Rohit Brijnath
Apr 27, 2016 at 5:00am

Hajira Ira Ismail: “I asked someone who goes the school and he said that Jonathan is applauded for his action. He has the respect of Y1 to Y6 students.”

Steve Seow Wee Nyan: “Cristiano Ronaldo should read this!”

Yap Thian Beng: “Sports is more than just about winning or losing. It’s about transforming a person’s character. He got it spot on and he had won big time. It takes honesty and most of all, integrity, to do what he did.”

Facebook post by Minister of Education, Ng Chee Meng
April 27, 2016, 9:36pm

Minister Ng: “‘Giving up integrity isn’t worth a win.’ Raffles Institution student Jonathan Chua’s words and actions made me very proud.

“Jonathan exemplified good character in a National School Games football match where he told the referee not once, but twice, that there was no contact between him and the defender and that he had fallen on his own. He gave up an awarded penalty that could have levelled his team to 2-2 in the match.

“Values in action! The V in values is bigger than the V in victory. Well done Jonathan!”


Editor’s postscript

By Les Tan

The message came through on our Red Crew Telegram group chat. I couldn’t believe what my crewmate Ryan Lim wrote:

“This RI striker (Jonathan Chua) quite legendary. Told the referee to not award the penalty when his team is 2-1 down in the last few minutes.”

It was a Friday evening, April 22.

“Put it in the story. Describe the facts. We should honour fair play,” I wrote back. So Ryan did.

We published the story two days later and shared it. That was Sunday, April 24. It exploded on Facebook and Instagram over the next two days.

Today and Straits Times wrote three stories between them in that time.

Three days later, on a Wednesday evening, I got a call.

“No caller ID”, it flashed on my phone.

“Some scammer,” I thought.

It was MOE.

“Can the education minister have permission please to use the photo by Chua Kai Yun on his Facebook page?” asked the MOE spokesperson.

That Friday, 50 people at NYJC saw what Jonathan did in the game. By Wednesday, the whole nation was reading about it.