Nadasen Chandra

‘I am a Singaporean and will not accept bribery.’ This statement by FIFA Referee Nadesan Chandra was quoted in the Singapore Parliament by Ong Chik Soon, MP for Bukit Batok during parliament proceedings discussion on the issue of corruption in the year 1988.

It showed the pride of being a Singaporean, and the personal level of integrity of Mr Nadesan Chandra.

The 3rd child of 11 siblings, Mr Chandra grew up in humble surroundings in the Brickworks area in Singapore (present day Bukit Merah). Mr Chandra remembers that there was a strong kampong-spirit then, where people of different races, Chinese, Malay and Indian, lived in harmony with much social interaction, which Mr Chandra laments doesn’t seem to exist much in present, modern day Singapore.

Mr Chandra’s father worked as an engine driver earning low wages, but he still imbued in Chandra a strong value system and strength of character, which stood him in good stead in the most trying moments.


“I was the only person in the whole of Brickworks who went to Raffles Institution.”

In his youth, Mr Chandra was very active in various sports, but football was his first love. Many of his days were spent playing soccer with several teams in his favourite haunt at Farrer Park.

Quite by chance, when he attended a FAS meeting, he was nominated, and elected as a tournament secretary for football matches, which got him into the role of an official rather than just remaining as a football player.

This led Chandra to soon undertake a referee course in 1966, which he qualified in 13months although normally it takes 24 months for one to complete. He progressed steadily and within a dozen years, he had obtained the highest level of getting the FIFA badge as a referee.

“There was a time when people used to say - if anyone wants to see Chandra you can see him at Farrer Park.”

Being the man in the middle in any high-level football match is difficult enough a position, but officiating a football match between Middle East countries Kuwait and Iraq in 1987 has very unpleasant memories for Mr Chandra.

Even before he left Singapore, there were calls from strangers to his home, which were received by Mr Chandra’s wife. And there were attempts to give him extra monies for his trip expenses, which were not accepted by Mr Chandra, as he considered these as amounting to bribery.

The football match was played in tense conditions, and after the match, the losing Iraqi team players chased after Mr Chandra intending to hurt him! He had to run to escape from the angry Iraqi team, and was later escorted by police to another hotel to stay with guards. He left Kuwait the next day with unpleasant memories of the incident, which remains with him till today.

After having refereed almost 600 – 700 matches, this was the final straw for Mr Chandra. He quit international refereeing after that, and was thereafter involved in the Singapore football league as a match commissioner.


"I showed him my watch and suddenly he threw a punch at me. I ducked and started running.”

Besides holding a regular government service job at the Ministry of Social Affairs, and being involved as a referee, Mr Chandra was also the Chairman of the West Coast Community Centre.

When he accidentally dropped in on a show at the community center, he did not realise that the friends he met there would eventually vote him in as the chairman. But he took on the role seriously and went about making sure that the Indian community was well represented in the community centre and took advantage of the various schemes available for the benefit of the community. It was during his tenure as chairman that Tamil newspapers were also made available at all CC together with the other national language newspapers.

But sports were his inclination and he left the role at community center after 5 years. At his workplace even though he was in the welfare department, he chose to take on an administrative role even though his boss often felt he was capable enough to make the switch to being a welfare officer. However Mr Chandra feared a switch of roles may impact his ability to take time off for his refereeing duties and duly declined the offer.

But even in the ministry, he could not be pulled away from his passion – sports.


"Am I doing this for myself? I am doing these for the members!”

After retiring from the civil service in 2003, Mr Chandra continued working in welfare homes for the destitute. His role required him to take care of the residents in the destitute home – not only their medical needs but also their emotional and psychological needs as well. He is currently working towards the residents rehabilitation where they obtain jobs, get a flat for themselves and in the process reintegrate back into society.

Coincidentally, Mr Chandra celebrates 50 years of marriage in the year Singapore is also celebrating SG50! Earlier this year, he and his wife had their 50th marriage anniversary celebration attended by many family members, which Mr Chandra remembers fondly.

50Faces salutes Mr Chandra who had a part to play in this pioneering journey of Singapore – a man who will be always remembered as the Singaporean who could not be bribed.



A dedication to the pioneers in the Indian community.

50Faces brings your stories of ordinary Singaporeans who have contributed to our community and nation building.