National Footballer Brendan Gan On Being A New Dad
“Nothing truly prepares you for the responsibility of raising a child,” says FA Selangor midfielder Brendan Gan, who's well-acquainted with the intense pressure and resilience that comes with the sport.
In November 2019, the 32-year-old welcomed the birth of his son, Koa Brooklyn Gan. Just two days after his birth in Sydney, Australia, Gan flew back to Malaysia to train for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Following Malaysia’s 2-1 win against Thailand a week after his return, fans across the nation shared the footballer’s joy as he captioned the night’s victory in a post on Instagram, affectionately signing off with the words: “Everything for you, my lil’ Koa.”
As Gan gears up for another round of training, he shares what fatherhood means to him and why he’s determined to cherish every moment of it.
You've been able to catch up on much-needed family time these last few months. What has that been like for you?
Despite everything going on in the world right now, the MCO really gave us an opportunity to spend that quality time that we all yearn for with our families. It was special for me and my wife Elyse to spend this time with Koa. As babies, they grow and learn so quickly, and I realised I could have possibly missed a lot. I was able to see how much of a livewire and a strong character he is growing up to be.
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Any moments in particular stood out for you during this time?
I guess the most heart-warming moments were when Koa really started to recognise me and smile every time we played silly games with him. Also, watching him learn to crawl and stand has been amazing.
Any lessons from your parents that have helped in your own parenting journey?
Both of our parents have raised us with some amazing values, which helped shape us to be the parents we aspire to be. A main part of that is showing as much love as we can to our son and making sure he understands that he is safe when he is with us. Parenting is such an individual part of life, and no kid is the same. As long as they are happy, safe and healthy, what more can you ask for?
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How did you and Elyse prepare for your first child?
Of course, we read many books, attended prenatal classes and asked other parents.
But nothing truly prepares you for the responsibility of raising a child. I believe we learn the most through experience. I think there is no right or wrong way to raise your child; it has to feel right to you and that's what matters most.
What is it like juggling fatherhood and football?
When my wife first gave birth, I was only able to spend the first two days with Koa, as I had to fly back to Malaysia to play a national team game. This was the first time I had to play a game since he arrived. I believe it took my game to another level because now I have a mini-me and I have to be a good role model for him.
What has being a father taught you so far?
It's taught me a lot, mostly how amazing my wife is and what she has been through in birth and now with all that she does for Koa and me. She probably thinks she has two kids—me and Koa! I think I've learnt that being a parent isn’t easy, there are extremely hard days with not much sleep. But with all the hard work, the rewards are just unfathomable. It's the best feeling in the world to have a child.
What gets you through the tougher days?
There have been some extremely tough days throughout my career, and I've been lucky enough to have an amazing family around me, plus great friends to keep my head up. Of course, my wife has been my rock throughout and I would not be who I am today without her. Now she's given me the best gift, and that's Koa. There will always be strength inside of me when I have my little family with me.
What's your greatest wish for Koa when he grows up?
I want him to find his true character. Of course, there are many values that I want to instil in Koa—the obvious ones being diligence, determination, dedication, kindness, confidence and honesty. Ultimately, I'd love to nurture his growth and let him find his own path.
Years from now, if Koa were reading this, what would you want to say to him?
That I love him to the moon and back, no matter what happens in this crazy thing called life. That his mum and I will always be here for him through the ups and downs, supporting him through anything. That I hope he grows up with all the values I've mentioned and that he learns to always give even when nothing is given to him. That he will always be my favourite lil' Koala. I hope he finds his true value in this world and, one day, a partner who is as amazing as the one I have found.
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