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SEA Games 2023: Late mums always in these Singapore athletes’ hearts

Singapore footballer Izzati Rosni (centre) posing with her father Rosni Hashim and her mother Nor Aishah in 2019. PHOTO: IZZATI ROSNI

PHNOM PENH – On Sunday, many athletes competing at the SEA Games will be calling home or texting their mums, while for others like footballer Nur Izzati Rosni and wushu exponent Vera Tan, it will be a day of remembrance instead.

When Izzati scored the winner off the bar against Laos in May 2022 to help the national women’s football team claim their first win at the SEA Games in 37 years, she formed an A with her hands before being mobbed by her teammates.

While the stunning strike deserved an A grade, it was actually a tribute to Nor Aishah, her mother who died at 53 after a two-year battle with cancer in 2021.

The 24-year-old said: “She is always in my heart and in my prayers. Before every match, I will never fail to communicate with her through my prayers.

“All the goals that I score I dedicate to her and I wish she is around to witness them.”

The Lion City Sailors forward has had plenty of opportunities to do so.

In 2022, she was the Women’s Premier League top scorer with 10 goals as her club romped to the title unbeaten, winning 10 games and drawing two.

While Singapore did not qualify for the semi-finals at these Games, she took her tally to 30 caps and five goals after scoring the winner against Laos again as the Lionesses finished third in their group.

Crediting her mother for being her tower of strength and her biggest fan, Izzati, who is the fourth of five siblings, said: “She means everything to me, and I miss having her around.

“She has been a constant source of comfort, love and support when life gets too tough to push through.

“She has always been supportive of my ambitions to play professional football even though it is not considered very ladylike. She never missed any of my school, club or national team games, and she would scream and cheer me on from the stands.

“Although she wasn’t happy that I tore my anterior cruciate ligament when I was 16 and couldn’t stop nagging at me, she still looked after me and constantly reminded me to take my medicine.”

Similarly, wushu pugilist Tan often reminisces about having her mother Renee Lim’s support during her overseas competitions.

And just two weeks before Lim died at 60 from cancer in 2018, she flew to Jakarta to watch Tan finish fifth out of 16 athletes in the Asian Games women’s taijiquan and taijijian.

The 25-year-old, who has two SEA Games golds in women’s barehand duilian (2013) and compulsory taijiquan (2015), said: “I would always be very nervous and stressed out especially when she came to watch. Now that she has passed on, I miss her presence, but I know she will still be watching me from above.”

Tan shared that as a child, she would pester her mum to let her try piano, violin, ballet, modern dance and art classes, but never lasted long in any of those activities.

She added: “Growing up, my mum was my main pillar of support, my confidante and my friend. She was always around when I needed her.

“When I told her I wanted to try out wushu, she still supported me even though it meant more time and money had to be invested. If she didn’t let me learn wushu, I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now,” she said.

Tan, who finished fourth in the women’s taijiquan and taijijian in Cambodia, also has a unique item to remember her mother by.

With a laugh, she said: “She used to hand-sew the sequins on my wushu costumes, and there’s one that I have been using for my competitions since 2018. It’s my favourite costume, although I stopped wearing it after the SEA Games in 2022 as it’s very worn out.

“But I still keep it as it symbolises her love for me.”