Siao Mates Oct 29

Soh Rui Yong: I should have been like Mo Salah and not listened to mom


Editor’s note: No, this isn’t a football story. But national marathon runner Soh Rui Yong is a die hard Football Siao fan and given how he has been in the limelight recently, for both the right and wrong reasons, we decided it’s time we at FBS spoke to him to ask him if he’s really siao or not.


He should've laughed off his mother's comments the way Mo Salah did. That would've saved Soh Rui Yong a whole heap of trouble, and maybe a $180,000 lawsuit.


Well, it could’ve. Maybe.


“I told mom recently: By the way, all of this is somewhat your fault – I really should’ve spoken up in 2015, when the story first came out,” said the long-time Liverpool fan, chuckling at the recollection of the conversation. “She said: Aiyah, I just wanted you to forget about it.” 


Mo Salah received a bit of a telling off from his mother a couple of years ago, after a photo of him embracing a female fan went public. 


WATCH: Virgil Van Dijk believes Salah one of the favourites for Ballon d'Or


The Liverpool forward – who is married, and known to be religious – laughed it off, and even put up an Instagram story post of his Whatsapp conversation with mom, superimposed with laughing-with-tears emojis, no less. 


Rui Yong insists he should’ve done exactly what Salah did – laughed off mom’s comments. 


In case you’ve been under a rock these last few years – being at home during the Circuit Breaker doesn’t count, we were all under the rock then – Rui Yong was ordered by the District Court to pay former teammate Ashley Liew $180,000 for defamation, following a long-running legal dispute that began in June 2019, when Ashley filed proceedings against Rui Yong over five statements that were made disputing an act of sportsmanship by Ashley.


In effect, Rui Yong was trying to pull a VAR. And like all things VAR, it was similarly mired in controversy. 


The statements appeared in the form of two blog posts, two Facebook posts, and one Facebook comment, in which Rui Yong disputed Liew's account of the latter's act of sportsmanship during the 2015 SEA Games marathon in Singapore.


Ashley said that after the pack of runners had missed a U-turn and took the wrong route, he had slowed down to allow the others to catch up. He went on to finish eighth, while Rui Yong won his first SEA Games gold medal.


Ashley later received two awards for his act of sportsmanship from the Singapore National Olympic Council and the International Fair Play Committee - which awarded him the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy - as well as praise from Singapore Cabinet ministers.


“I remember speaking with my family (in 2015 soon after the Southeast Asia Games marathon) saying: from what I witnessed, this never happened, I don’t know why they keep talking about it on TV,” Rui Yong told Football Siao. “My mom said: never mind lah, don’t say anything, you’re a sports scholar, don’t go and talk, this will create negative news for sports.” 


"But my dad agreed with me. Mom said whether you spoke up now or then no difference, but Dad said no, speak up at that time got difference – back then it wasn’t such a big story to contend with. establishment figures (Cabinet ministers) wouldn’t have got involved."


In 2015 Rui Yong was a Sports Singapore (SportSG) scholar, and by his own admission, a “little naïve, and too trusting” then. “Between 2015 and now, I’ve seen various figures come and go in sport, and some of them have taught me to have a mind of my own, not just trust whatever’s happening,” he said. 


“I love mom, but honestly I shouldn’t have listened to her. I really should’ve spoken up about it in 2015, not wait three years before I eventually did in 2018. I mean, we expected it to blow over two weeks after the SEA Games, maybe, but it was brought up time and time again,” added Rui Yong.


“I’ve had the blessing of a family that has always been close and supportive – and I wouldn’t trade this for anything else – but yeah, this situation has maybe brought us closer together,” he said, after – again – chuckling over his 2015 conversation with mom. 


There are a couple of things Rui Yong would’ve done differently. But no, he isn’t envisioning knee-high tackles that Liverpool hardmen Graeme Souness or Steve McMahon were famed for – neither on his mom, nor Ashley.


“Honestly, there’s no spat between Ashley and I … but I guess it comes down to a matter of values and principles – that’s the simplest way to put it – I see something not being done the right way, and I go out there and call it out. It’s more instinct than anything else,” said Rui Yong. 


“I’d like to have spoken up earlier, in 2015, and nip things in the bud before establishment figures started to pick up on the story … but I feel that even if I go back to October 2018 and say what I needed to say, I could’ve had the same impact and got the same message across, if phrased my words in a way that wouldn’t have given the opportunity for a defamation suit. 


“Certain nuances can have a big difference (in legal terms), but obviously I didn’t know that then,” he mulled. 


But the $180,000 cloud has come with a second, and perhaps even brighter, silver lining. People from Rui Yong’s past have come forward to throw their weight – and their wallets – behind the holder of multiple national athletics records. 


There have been naysayers on his social media platforms, but also messages of support and heartwarming conversations, including one with his class monitor from junior college. 


“It’s really cool, and showed me that a lot of people are not just commenting on social media, but are really there when I need help – it’s really galvanizing, and I’m really thankful for their support,” said Rui Yong who has raised over $70,000 just over a week after he launched his crowdfunding campaign. 


“There’s still some way to go, but it’s clear that people believe in the principles and values I stand for.” 


Indeed, Rui Yong has continued to receive support for his athletic pursuits. Takagi Ramen announced on 23 OCtober that they have thrown $20,000 behind Rui Yong’s effort to become the first Singaporean to qualify for the Asian Games Marathon in 2022.


If there’s anyone in Singapore who knows how to go the distance, it is Rui Yong (he did wait 18 years to witness Liverpool crowned as English Premier League champions). And while he’s taken lessons from the entire episode on board, Rui Yong is going to go about it the only way he knows how.


WATCH: Klopp reflects on lifting EPL trophy with Liverpool


“There was never a point where I felt like giving up. It’s such a cliché, but it’s just like a marathon: you go through periods of time when you’re hurting, you go through periods of time where you’re tired, but you never ever stop driving for that finish line,” he said. 


“At the end of the day, it’s what I stand for, it’s the kind of person I am. It’s a short life, don’t be anyone apart from yourself.


“You can’t put a price on standing for your principles, right?”  


Even if the price is telling mom “who’s obviously stressed about the whole thing”, that all of this is actually her fault. But perhaps throwing in a few laughing-with-tears emojis wouldn’t hurt. 




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