The Roar of the CP Lions

TSL speaks to Mohamed Zainudeen, the Coach of the Cerebral Palsy Football Team who achieved Bronze at the 8th ASEAN Para Games. He talks about his background, what inspired him to coach, the learning journey for himself and the team and the next steps.

TSL: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background

I am married with two children and from an early age, have always loved football. Due to a road traffic accident in 1989, I sustained a back injury, so I have my limitations but from time to time I still kick the ball around. As a 17 year old boy, I was not inspired by famous footballers, as much as I was by my school coach Sies Senan and the way that he introduced character development as a part of playing the game. Unbeknownst to him, I went to attend a  1 week coaching course by FAS – and surprised him with my certificate. There was no looking back after that.

My first coaching role was at Jin Tai secondary school, I have also had roles at Hwa Chong and Siglap. I am thankful that people trusted me and gave me a team to coach. At the Balestier Central Football Club I was Head of Youth Development from 2000-2009. For new knowledge, I attended a disability football coaching course conducted by the Asian Football Confederation in 2010 and thereafter I worked with the Singapore Disability Sports Council in a Football “learn to play scheme” for people with disabilities and here I am with the CP Football Team. For a full time job, I am thankful to be coaching Hong Kah Secondary school – they have been the B&C division champions for the last 3 years.

Coach Zai at work

TSL: Describe the power of Sports and Football to shape people

Sports brings people together, to help overcome challenges to unite and play as a team. For me, Football teaches the values of character development, sacrifice, punctuality, being disciplined, helping each other. Everyone needs these values. Technical skills are important, but character development makes the person and helps people face the world.

Football teams and players must have attitude and behaviour – must show interest in the game. It’s not just about learning the technique, it is the underlying persistence and hardwork that allows someone to master the game. A great player must have character and talent to be able to master technique. For example, my strongest memories are not the long distance goals that Khairul, the CP Football Captain kicked during the APG rather the kicking of the ball 101 times during training and the tireless work before the games.

Coach Zai at the APG 2015

TSL: What advice do you have for Coaches who are unfamiliar with disability sports?

 Coaches of able bodied athletes often ask themselves how to make a weaker player stronger. But when I explain to them the complexities of coaching players who find the simplest of actions difficult it changes the appreciation of a situation immensely. Essentially the job of any coach is to know the level of their players and just simply help them improve. A good coach understands there is no ready-made player, and they must always work continually, hand in hand with their player.

TSL: How did you prepare yourself and the team for the ASEAN Para Games.

As I coach, I am a firm believer of visualisation and I needed to be ready for the event before the players. It was helpful for SportSG help myself and the team familiarise ourselves with the National Stadium before the APG – to walk around the Stadium, see the changing rooms and walk the ground they are playing at especially a place like the National Stadium. In addition to helping the team visualise, I am thankful for the team behind the team, my Assistant Coaches, Leo and Jasper and the Team from the Singapore Sports Institute from the departments of Strength and Conditioning, Sports Nutrition (and the two informative as well as team bonding workshops), Sports Psychology, and the Sports Scientists and the team from Sports Medicine and Athlete Services. Also, the instrumental efforts of the SDSC, and the APG Chef De Mission, Raja Singh.

The support and advice was crucial for us a team and everyone made us feel at home. It was instrumental to us. The concern and the help.  Also great thanks from Darren from Dreamatron and   Fawzi, our sports trainer.

When it came to the crucial stage, everyone pitched in and gave us the help we needed.

Halftime Talk with Sports Science Cooling Measures

TSL: How has the public reacted to the performance of the CP Football team? How has the team reacted to the support of the public?

 The Team are very appreciative of the support and love the public has given them – especially after the games. To me, it is inspirational that people are not talking about the Bronze medal that we won, but rather the way the boys played, the way they gave it all and worked as a team. We appreciated the efforts that some many people made to come and watch the games.

TSL: What next steps does Singapore need to take for Disability Sports?

 We can’t let the hard work and good will generated by the APG go to waste. We need to go out to wherever possible, including schools and community centres, to help people understand that if they have a disability, they can consider sports as an option.

TSL: What is next up for the Team?

We are currently taking a short break, as the team have sacrificed so much the last 2 years. They need to focus on their future, jobs, studies, even their social lives. A person needs to have a grounding to be able to go forward.

The team have been asking me when is the next training, so we are setting new targets and new expectations and looking forward to the next campaign! 

If you’d like to contribute, Coach Zainuddin can be contacted at:

Coach Zai Teaching


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