Meet 'Roy-san': The flying Singapore winger turned beloved Albirex kit man
It is nine in the morning and defending S.League champions Albirex Niigata are being put through their paces at Jurong East Stadium by head coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga as part of their pre-season preparations.
While the weary expressions are familar, most of the faces are different, with the exception of Yoshinaga, 20-year-old forward Hiroyoshi Kamata and 38-year-old goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa.
Most of the faces are different, with the exception of Yoshinaga, 20-year-old forward Hiroyoshi Kamata and 38-year-old goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa
For every season since they joined the league in 2004, Albirex start afresh, with the majority of the White Swans' playing squad constituting new players.
But for the past 14 years, there has remained one constant, the club’s ever-present kit man Roy Krishnan.
On the surface, the roles and responsibilities of a kit man are practical, but speak to former footballers and one will understand that a kit man’s purpose is more fraternal than it is functional.
In former Manchester United captain Roy Keane’s autobiography 'The Second Half', he wrote of Irish kit man Dick Redmond: "The kit man is vital.
"He's almost the hub of everything, a link to everybody. He has to be good-humoured and upbeat. You have to be glad to see the kit man in the morning."
Krishnan is that and much more.
Krishnan or “Roy-san” as he is addressed by the Albirex players, is a figure well-loved by players and coaches past and present
Krishnan, or 'Roy-san' as he is affectionally called by the Albirex players, is a figure well-loved by players and coaches past and present.
But he is no mere kit-man, for Krishnan was once one of the most exciting players to don the Singapore jersey.
“I was bloody fast,” the 66-year-old tells FourFourTwo. “Defenders hated to defend against me because I was just too fast.”
Confidence as a player was never an issue for Krishnan, who played as a winger for Singapore from 1971 to 1977. He had this self-belief drilled into him by the late Choo Seng Quee.
“When I was a national player for the first time under him, he told me during centralised training at Dover Road that I had to sleep with the ball when I went to bed,” recalls Krishnan.
“He told me to hold the ball and sleep and tell the ball in my sleep where I wanted it to go. I would only dream of football and in my dreams. I would be beating players easily.
“When I woke up, I went out to the pitch for the match and just did what I saw in my dream. I was a very confident player because of Uncle Choo.”