Profile n°8 : Zainudin Nordin, former Member of Parliament and President of the Football Association of Singapore
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In order to celebrate the launch of the France Alumni in Singapore platform on 14 January, the Embassy of France invites you to discover each week the profile of a Singaporean student, who has studied in France, regarding his/her journey. This week, we meet Zainudin Nordin, former Member of Parliament and President of the Football Association of Singapore.
Can you introduce yourself ?
My name is Zainudin Nordin. I am 52 years old this year. I was member of the Singapore Parliament (MP) from 2001 until the last election and I am the President of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS). I was also Head of the Alumni Promotion Department at Nanyang Polytechnic. I am married and have three daughters. I love music, and France, which is my second country.
Can you tell us how your story with France started ?
After my high school degree, I had the opportunity to study at the Franco-Singaporean Institute, which was created by the French and Singaporean governments. At the time, Singapore was not so developed and through this institute, France offered us a technological assistance. I was in the first class in the early 80s. In 2 years, senior technicians were trained to French techniques. We also learned the language so our profiles would interest French companies. I wanted to join IFS because I wanted to do something different. I wanted to open myself to the Francophone world, discover new things. My parents let me choose, they trusted me.
At the end of these two years, I worked one year in the school laboratory and then I was selected to continue my studies in Paris. It was difficult, the level was high but I managed to integrate ESIEE. At the beginning, for maths and physical classes, I had a books in both French and English to be sure to understand everything. I worked really hard. I learned perseverance. I come from a very modest family. Studying abroad was a dream, it really changed my life. I met many friends, I still return every year.
The French government scholarship was for me a great opportunity to go abroad.
Thanks to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, our "lost" years (studies in France are longer) were offset in years of professional experience.
Can you tell us about your professional career ?
When I came back home, I had a job in the IFS. I worked as a teacher for 3 years and then I was sent by the school in the industry, where I became manager.
Besides that, I commited myself for the community. I love working with people. In 2001, I was invited to a lunch where I was offered to do politics. My daughter was very young, but I thought about it and in 2001 I ran and was elected MP in the RCMP Bishan - Toa Payoh. In 2006, I ran a second time. PM Lee me appointed me Mayor of Central Singapore Disctrict, so I stopped working at school because I could not keep two jobs at once. It’s really rewarding to help people, to look for strategies. We do not always find solutions but we try. Singapore is a young country, we can experiment, learn from others.
What was your daily routine as a Member of Parliament and Mayor ?
The work is multifaceted. In Parliament, I was part of several committees attached to ministries and whose purpose is to advise ministers, criticize measures etc. Regularly, we meet with the ASEAN Parliamentarians. I chaired the French Friendship Group and Europe Friendship Group.
Within the Constituency, I do some consulting work for grassroots organisms, which are organizations that organize activities, trace the demands of the population etc. There are many ways to meet people. Every week there is for example the "meet the people session". 40 to 60 people come to see me every Tuesday. I also select a different block every week and will visit them directly home. At Bishan North, I had about 120 HDB blocks, around 25 000 people. And as I said earlier, many activities are organized : Chinese New Year, Deeapavali Festival, Line dancing etc. Then I discuss with my team the requests of people and I have the opportunity to ask questions during the sessions of Parliament. In case of a draft law I can make a speech, or bring a subject to the agenda and talk for half an hour.
Finally, I also have the responsibility of the Town council : the management of the daily life of the municipality : safety, health, schools, aid etc. I also serve on many committees in the community : for example the Malay community, the football community etc.
I became this way President of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS). Football is very popular in Singapore, there are about 500,000 players. Even if its only sport, it is very important. It is the only sports association in which the President is appointed by the Minister. Football is for me a great way to engage young people.
Singapore is divided into 5 districts. I was Mayor of the Central Singapore District from 2006 to 2011, representing 1 million people. The Mayor’s mission is more related to social welfare, education, employment assistance, racial harmony. The management of the municipality is left to the town council.
As you can see, this makes me wearing many hats and take part in many meetings ! That’s why I decided not to run for the 2015 elections in order to spend more time with my family.
Can you tell us about the origin of your political commitment ?
Originally, I committed through grassroots organisms, which are independent of political parties. I created an IT class in my neighborhood. It has grown and I was asked to take more responsibility. I joined the PAP later. To me it does not change much, my job was the same.
Today, it’s been 7 years since I am President of the Football Association of Singapore. This is not a job, I’m a volunteer. I chair the Board and take responsibility for the major strategies. It is a pleasure because I am passionate about football. I started at the age of 5 and have not stopped since. I played for the ESIEE in France. Upon returning to Singapore, I was part of the French Alliance team in the Cosmopolitan League. I even became the manager of the team, and later the League organizer.
Can you tell us about your commitment to the French Alumni ?
In 1990, when back from France, I joined the French Alumni Association. I was part of President Eric Teo committee in the 2000s. We organized numerous activities, created a website to bring more dynamism to the association. Since 2013, I became the President of the Association. It is very important for me. This community has a lot of potential and moreover it is a very good opportunity to practice my French ! I wanted to pass this passion to my daughters. They all learn French. Last year and I sent one to a six-week internship in France.
You received a medal by the French State...
I received this year the Knight Medal of the National Order of Merit. It’s an honor, but all I did, it was really a passion.
France and Singapore have had diplomatic relations since the establishment of our country. It is not by chance. So in all my functions, I tried to maintain and develop this relationship.
I organized exchanges between ESIEE and Singapore. It’s very important for me because once the French-Singapore Institute closed, I was afraid that we would loose the link. On the football side, I learned a lot from the FFF, the French Football Federation. Michel Platini is a friend. We have an agreement for technical assistance, youth training, coaches friendlies. As Deputy, I have organized official visits.