Singapore water polo gets funding boost from its famous Tan family

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·3-min read
(From left) Men's national water polo team captain Lee Kai Yang, Tan Eng Liang, Edwin Tong, Ng Ser Miang and women's national team captain Koh Ting Ting at the launch of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Tan Family Water Polo Fund. (PHOTO: Singapore National Olympic Council)
(From left) Men's national water polo team captain Lee Kai Yang, Tan Eng Liang, Edwin Tong, Ng Ser Miang and women's national team captain Koh Ting Ting at the launch of the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Tan Family Water Polo Fund. (PHOTO: Singapore National Olympic Council)

SINGAPORE — They were brothers who helped to put Singapore as the top Southeast Asia water polo nation in the 1950s and 1960s. 

On Sunday (21 March), Olympian Tan Eng Liang represented his family in kickstarting the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Tan Family Water Polo Fund, with a $500,000 donation to develop young athletes and groom elite players for the sport.

It comes as a timely boost for Singapore water polo, with the men's national team gearing up to regain the SEA Games gold medal they lost for the first time in 54 years at the 2019 edition.

For 83-year-old Tan - who represented Singapore in the sport at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics - the fund was prompted by the deaths of his brothers Eng Bock and Eng Chai last year, as well as the passing of his uncle Tan Hwee Hock in January. 

Like Tan, all three were also national water polo players who had represented Singapore at major events such as the South-east Asian Peninsular Games and Asian Games.

With members of the water polo fraternity mooting the idea of starting an initiative for the sport after Eng Bock's death in November, Tan decided to start the fund to build on his family's legacy.

"In order to recognise the work done by the pioneer group of water polo players and swimmers, I felt that the timing was right not just for that, but to try and make a small contribution to the progress of water polo," he said.

"If we can do something to grow and inspire young athletes to take up water polo so that they can continue to fly the flag of Singapore, that would be good for water polo."

The water polo fund - which was launched at the ongoing Singapore National Water Polo League at Our Tampines Hub, with Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong as the guest-of-honour - will be administered by the Singapore Olympic Foundation through bursaries, scholarships and various programmes. 

Tan's donation will put a total of $1 million into the fund's coffers, as the Tan family's $500,000 donation is eligible for the one-for-one matching grant by the Singapore government under the One Team Singapore Fund.

National water polo players welcomed the setting up of the fund. Men's national team captain Lee Kai Yang said, "We need to do good by the donation that the Tan family has so graciously given and make sure there is a long sustaining impact on the water polo community. 

"What I would like to see is simply having more people enjoy the sport, be it in the form of participation or spectatorship."

Women's national team captain Koh Ting Ting believes the fund will help in funding overseas competitions to help raise the level of the budding women's team. 

"In order to bring the whole team to another level, we have to really get exposed to the different styles of play. It will be a good opportunity for our players to test themselves overseas."

Interested donors can donate to the fund via the Singapore Olympic Foundation. All cash donations are entitled to tax deduction 2.5 times the amount of the donation.

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