Photo credit: DUNCAN ELIAS

Ex-professional footballer turned sport presenter Duncan Elias bids farewell to Singapore

The popular face among the local football scene looks back fondly at his career as he prepares to migrate to Canada next month with his family of three.

Phoon Jia Hui

Jack of all trades, master of drinking boba milk tea.

Published: 3 November 2020, 4:05 PM

From being in the thick of action on the lush green football pitch to becoming the voice behind it, it is safe to say that Duncan Elias has made a name for himself in the local football scene. 

A former footballer with Hougang United and Geylang International, Duncan has been a presenter on local sports for the past four years. He is currently head of content and senior presenter at local start-up 1 Play Sports, and regularly commentates on Singapore Premier League (SPL) games. 

Come December however, the 35-year-old will make a bold move in his life. He is migrating to Vancouver with his wife Natasha, a Canadian native, and their seven-month-old son, Caden. 

“To put it simply, I’m looking for something different,” said Duncan. 

“I’ve done many things here and I just want to expand my horizons, hence the decision to move. I want to get out of my comfort zone and not have any regrets stepping out of it when I had the opportunity.” 

Duncan believes there will be no issues settling in with the support of his in-laws who are based there, but expressed slight concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In terms of travelling during the pandemic, I’m not so worried for Singapore has done better than any other countries in the world,” he added. “We will of course exercise social responsibility in Canada and wear a mask whenever we are out because there is no guarantee the disease is going to go away just like that.”


Duncan and his family of three will be migrating to Canada next month PHOTO CREDIT: DUNCAN ELIAS

The start of his footballing career

A Tampines Rovers boy through and through, Duncan rose through the ranks from the club’s Under-12 side to the Prime League team but contemplated quitting the game together then after a spate of injuries at 21. 

“In 2006, I suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear while playing for SAFSA during my days in National Service,” he recalled.

“After going through rehabilitation, my first training session back was alright until I got a challenge in the hip towards the end and felt a sharp pain. I initially thought it was a dead leg and brushed it off. Even the doctor didn’t know what the problem was, except that it was a little crack which wasn’t possible to operate on. 

“I was in a really bad shape. Even when then-Tampines head coach Steven Tan suggested I trained with them so that I would be ready for action as soon as I was done with my NS commitments, I failed the mandatory Beep test.”  


Duncan (bottom row, first from left) played for Tampines Rovers when he was younger PHOTO CREDIT: CHENG TIM NEE


For a year and a half, Duncan returned to school and put a halt to his professional football dreams, but decided to have a last crack at it after he was done with his studies. 

With little expectations, Duncan, then 23, went for trials with the Sengkang Punggol (now known as Hougang United) Prime League team in 2008.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘Can I come back (to football) or not?’. I just wanted to see if I could still cut it at this level and I went for a club with realistic opportunities which happened to be Sengkang at that time,” he said. 

“I impressed [the coaches] and eventually made it to the Prime League team. I even got my first-team debut against Balestier Khalsa, before making a few more appearances that same season.”

Duncan eventually lasted four years as a professional footballer where he amassed about 90 appearances in total. One of the prominent moments of his career include being made vice-captain of Woodlands Wellington in 2012.

But the fairytale adventure eventually came to an end in 2013, after a stop-start season with Geylang saw him released from the club with no offers from others forthcoming. 

His playing career ended, but little did he know then that his career off the pitch would bring him more success.


Duncan represented SPL side Geylang in 2013 before hanging up his boots. PHOTO CREDIT: GEYLANG INTERNATIONAL


Off-pitch transition

Duncan initially worked as an assistant radio producer at Red Card Global, owned by former international R Sasikumar, for a year. 

“He told me that football is a short career and since I have a sporting background, maybe you can work here at my studio and learn new things while looking for a club,” Duncan shared. 

“I took a chance and the rest was history.” 


Duncan was a reporter at Eleven Sports for close to three years. PHOTO CREDIT: DUNCAN ELIAS


The affable Duncan then had stints with broadcasters Fox Sports and Eleven Sports, where he was named as one of the nominees for sports journalist of the year in the 2018 Singapore Sports Awards. 

He joined 1 Play Sports in December 2018, starting as a broadcast journalist before eventually becoming a presenter. 

Through the years, one event stood out for Duncan: Covering the 2019 SEA Games in Philippines. 

 “Those two weeks were tiring but satisfying,” he admitted. 

 “I did a road trip where I drove for five hours from Manila to the city of Subic where I covered some sport events before moving on to Clark. Those were eventful 10 to 11 days but something I can’t believe I was involved in! 

“Covering our local athletes is something I really enjoy doing. From football to other sports like table tennis, badminton and swimming, I can feel that they trust me and from there, relationships were built. At the end of the day, I want them to feel like rock stars. 

“Even if sports is not getting enough attention, there’s always a small group championing them. I will be part of that group even when I’m in Canada and I hope they do Singapore proud,” he proudly declared. 


Duncan covering the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines PHOTO CREDIT: DUNCAN ELIAS


So what’s next for Duncan? While he has nothing concrete lined up as yet, Duncan hopes to be able to be able to produce content similar to what he’s done in Singapore when he eventually moves to Canada. 

“The sporting scene there is much bigger than it is in Singapore, but I still want to be involved in content production for sports which are not really covered such as community sports or sports which are lesser-known in Canada,” he said. 

“As a football fan, I also hope to be somehow involved in the World Cup 2026 when it’s co-hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States too. That would be something off my bucket list.”

Reflecting on his time in Singapore, Duncan said that he was truly grateful to everyone who has made a difference in his life. 

“So many people have influenced my life and career, and I would be doing no justice if I only mentioned a few,” he concluded. 

“There are others who have played a role, be it through a piece of advice or a gesture. If they think they have played a role, please take the credit and I’m just blessed to have met so many people along the way.

“I will still come back for holidays in future and when I do, it’s my home but not exactly my home anymore. That said, I will still keep my Singapore passport and Singapore close at heart.” 


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