Generations of Local Football Heroes

Football has always been the number one favourite sport in Singapore.

The oldest football association in Asia, Singapore Amateur Football Association was founded in 1892 and was the previous body of the current Football Association of Singapore (FAS), which was formed in 1952.

It was mainly made up of Europeans as the team first participated in the Malaya Cup (name changed to Malaysia Cup in 1967). Established since 1921, it is Asia’s longest-running tournament. Singapore and Selangor were the dominant forces in the tournament, sharing a total of 56 titles among them.

In those early days, two spectacular local Chinese footballers caught the eye of the public. “Pop” Lim Yong Liang was the first star striker who played for Singapore in the twenties. John Chia Keng Hock (1913 – 1993), nicknamed “Cannonball Chia”, was an exceptional goalpoacher who found the net regularly from the mid-thirties till WWII.

The Lions of the sixties and seventies truly represented the Singaporeans as it was made up of ethnic Malays, Chinese, Indians and a couple of Eurasians. The famous Quah family produced four national players in Kim Song, Kim Siak, Kim Swee and Kim Lye.

During those days, it was common to see diehard local football fans travel to Malaysia and the Jalan Besar Stadium (and later the Kallang Stadium) regularly, cheering for the Lions with the Kallang Roars or making the Kallang Waves.

Singapore’s own legendary coach Choo Seng Quee, nicknamed Uncle Choo, engineered the Lions to Malaysia Cup triumphs in 1964 and 1977. Arguably the greatest post-war coach in Singapore football history, Uncle Choo passed away in 1983.

Marched into late seventies, Singapore witnessed its first modern day superstar Fandi Ahmad making his first appearance for Singapore at only 16, a national record held until 2007.
In the Malaysia Cup final in 1980, a fearless 18-year-old Fandi scored the winner to help Singapore beat Selangor 2-1 and lift the cup for the 23rd time.

After ventures in Indonesia, Holland and Malaysia, it was not until 14 years later in 1994 before Fandi would lead the Singapore team to another Malaysia Cup triumph, the last ever Malaysia Cup victory for the Lions as Singapore withdrew from the tournament for good.

The Malaysia Cup fever reached its peak in the early ninties, where the likes of David Lee (goalkeeper), Terry Patmanathan (sweeper), Borhan Abu Samah (left back), Malek Awab (right back/winger), Lim Tong Hai (center back), V. Selvaraj (midfielder), Fandi Ahmad (striker), Sundramoorthy (right winger), Lee Man Hon (left winger), “Supersub” Steven Tan (right winger), Nazri Nasir (midfielder), together with the foreign imports in Abbas Saad (striker), Alistair Edwards (striker) and Jang Jung (sweeper), became household names all over Singapore.

FAS launched the S-League in 1996 and saw emerging talents such as Indra Sahdan, Ahmad Latiff and Noh Alam Shah. However, viewership declined over the years because the league attracted lesser passionate fans as compared to the Malaysia Cup days, where rivalries were much more intense with tens of thousands of spectators packed into stadiums.

Under the Foreign Talent Scheme, FAS tried to recruit skillful footballers from countries such as Serbia, Nigeria, Brazil and China to join Singapore in order to participate in regional and global competitions, but the results are not encouraging so far. The national team is also slowly losing its identity with the fans.

I say, let’s bring the Malaysia Cup back!

Published: 14 June 2011

A month after the publication of this article, my wish has miraculously come true when the FAS announces that a team of national players mainly under 23-year-old will compete in the Malaysia Cup in 2012.

Updated: 12 July 2011

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19 Responses to Generations of Local Football Heroes

  1. Hi Can I reproduce this article in full on The Online Citizen. And I also ask permission to edit the last line to read as “It’s about time that Singapore’s back in the Malaysia Cup!”. Thanks.

  2. leonkei says:

    Hi new comer…..
    Just want to say
    Welcome back neighbour to our
    Malaysia Cup.

  3. BEVINN says:

    We go back to MC but after that sooner or later FAM will ask FAS to leave Malaysia Cup if win too many titles

  4. A rare poster of our Singapore national squad in 1977

    (Photo Credit:

  5. Eat and remember Uncle Choo
    The Straits Times
    Sunday, Sep 08, 2013

    Farrer Park was known as the cradle of Singapore football, the nurturing ground that produced national footballers and Malaysia Cup-winning teams until the 1980s.

    And the person widely revered as the father figure of Singapore football, Choo Seng Quee, lived nearby in Owen Road.

    The national coach, who groomed stars like Dollah Kassim, Quah Kim Song and R. Suriamurthi, died in 1983 but one of his players, Syed Mutalib, intends to honour his mentor in his restaurant, The House Of Briyani.

    It is near the home of the man he still fondly remembers as Uncle Choo.

    The 58-year-old told The Straits Times: “Uncle Choo is the best coach I ever had. There is nobody else like him.

    “When the opportunity came to take over the shop, I didn’t waste time. I hope to do him proud by having my restaurant in Owen Road, which is such a special place to all those who remember the story of the 1977 Malaysia Cup.”

    The 150-seater restaurant, which opened on Saturday, is at 96 Owen Road, a stone’s throw away from Choo’s former residence at 87A. It is a joint venture by Mutalib – who used to run an eatery in North Bridge Road – and his business partners Yunus Mohammad and Tony Ng.

    The decor will reflect on Singapore football’s halcyon days in the 1970s, the period of flared trousers and disco dancing.

    Taking pride of place on the wall will be a photo of the 1977 Malaysia Cup-winning team that featured household names like Mat Noh, Samad Allapitchay and the late Dollah.

    Another black-and-white photo to be put on the wall was taken in Mutalib’s last game for the Lions, the 1981 Malaysia Cup final which saw Singapore losing 0-4 to Selangor. Seated alongside him was Fandi Ahmad, just 19 then.

    Down the road at No.60 was the former Majujaya Sports Shop owned by Choo, who was famous for his tough training, discipline and fierce patriotism.

    Ex-Lions striker Ho Kwang Hock recalled: “If we couldn’t afford new boots or sportswear, he would say, ‘Go and take from my shop, say Uncle sent you.’

    “We were not paid much but we did it all for the love of Singapore and football.”

    Each player was given a training allowance of $120 a week then. During matches, there was a $10 bonus given to each player for a goal scored, $30 for two goals and $70 for three goals.

    “That was why we were so motivated to thrash teams by 6-0, 7-0 scorelines,” Mutalib, who was nicknamed “The Gangster” for his hard tackles, said.

    But the players also responded to Choo’s personal touch as well.

    Said Mutalib, who has five children and seven grandchildren: “He cared for us individually. He would give the needy boys bus fares. Suria was skinny. So, he was given cod liver oil.”

    Small wonder that, despite Choo’s death 30 years ago, his protege would still want to preserve memories of him in a restaurant near the coach’s home.

  6. Salam says:

    Is Hishamuddin Shariff abrilliant playmaker during 80’s? I heard they call him the Platini of singapore?

  7. Lim Tong Hai faces up to darkest moment

    Former Lions defender still endures cruel jibes after own goals in 1993

    01 June 2015

    It has been 22 years, but the events of that June night still keep replaying in his head. Not because Lim Tong Hai wants to.

    In fact, if he could, the former national defender would leave that memory deep in the back of his mind. But that has been almost impossible.

    “Even after all this time, people still bring it up. I get people whispering behind my back, saying, ‘That’s the fella who kelong (threw) the 1993 SEA Games semi-final’,” said Lim, 46.

    He made SEA Games and Singapore football history when he scored two own goals in that 1993 semi-final against Myanmar. What was even more painful was that the goals came after Singapore had raced to a 2-0 lead after just 23 minutes in front of a partisan home crowd at the National Stadium.

    The match went into extra-time and although Steven Tan equalised to make it 3-3 after Myanmar striker Win Aung had given the visitors the lead, the Lions eventually lost 4-5 in the ensuing penalty shoot-out.

    The loss was especially hard for fans to accept, as the 1993 team were arguably the best Singapore had assembled in a while and the public were hopeful of the Lions winning what is still an elusive SEA Games football gold.

    With the Games back in Singapore for the first time since 1993, Lim said he felt it was time to break his two-decade long silence on the incident.

    “Sooner or later, it would come out again, especially with the SEA Games back in town,” said Lim, a sports and wellness senior lecturer with the Institute of Technical Education College East.

    “I felt it’s time I came out to talk about this.”

    The former centre-back said his conscience remains clear as he looked back on the two ill-timed swipes on his right boot.

    Both times, he executed the kicks with the intent to clear the ball, but both times he succeeded only in putting the ball in the back of the Singapore net.

    “The ball came into a potentially dangerous area,” said Lim, who is also a physical education and sports science consultant at the National Institute of Education.

    “With hindsight, of course I could have reacted differently. But in a match, my only instinct was to clear the danger.”

    He said the incident opened his eyes to how cruel the game can be, and also made him realise who his true friends were. Some even told his then-girlfriend, whom he would later marry, that Lim should just quit football for his own good.

    “The worst was someone commenting that if (Andres) Escobar was shot six times, I should be shot 12 times, because I scored two own goals,” said Lim, referring to the Colombian defender who scored an own goal in the 1994 World Cup match against the United States.

    The US won the match 2-1 and Colombia were subsequently eliminated in the group stage. Shortly after the exit, Escobar was shot six times in Colombia. The murder was widely believed to be punishment for the own goal.

    Lim said his team-mates, his family and his girlfriend helped his through those tough days. He also took solace from the words of then Defence Minister and president of the Singapore National Olympic Council, Yeo Ning Hong.

    Back then, Dr Yeo told the Lions: “I want to tell all of you, and also all Singaporeans, that in life, mistakes are inevitable.

    “I told Tong Hai he doesn’t have to bear the burden of his mistakes.”

    Dr Yeo also used a Chinese saying: “No do, no wrong. Little do, little wrong. More do, more wrong.”

    Added Lim, now a father of two: “My back was against the wall. I could either fade away or come out fighting if I wanted to make football my career.

    “I chose to come out fighting.”

    The following year, Lim went on to win the Malaysia League and Cup Double with the Lions. He played with the national team until 1999, and even went on to captain the Lions.

    Lim, who had also coached at S-League club Geylang United and was their general manager, still contributes to the national game as chairman of the Football Association of Singapore’s Referees’ Committee.

    With Singapore’s SEA Games football campaign set to begin today, Lim, like many fans, will be rooting for the Young Lions.

    And ahead of the opener against the Philippines, he had this piece of advice for the team: “Just forget about the pressure and go out, play your best and enjoy the game.

    “The fans will be behind you.”

  8. Football icon N. Ganesan, creator of ‘Kallang Roar’, dies aged 82

    01 July 2015

    SINGAPORE – N. Ganesan, the Singapore football icon who was instrumental in creating the famous “Kallang Roar” in the late ’70s and ’80s, died on Wednesday morning. He was 82.

    The former Football Association of Singapore chairman and lawyer had been recuperating at a nursing home off Bukit Timah Road after suffering from a stroke in 2011.

    Ganesan helmed the FAS from 1974 to 1981, a period that saw Singapore win two Malaysia Cups (1977 and 1980). The Kallang Roar was born after he decided in 1974 to switch Malaysia Cup home games from the 6,000-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium to the National Stadium – creating a 60,000-strong cauldron of noise.

    Former Lions star Quah Kim Song said: “People were skeptical over whether the stadium could be filled but Ganesan took the plunge. We are forever indebted to him for kickstarting a golden period of Singapore football.

    “Passionate, gutsy and knowledgable football men like him are hard to come by these days.”

    Ganesan, who was divorced twice with no children, had also formulated a major breakthrough in the National Football League, revamping it from 118 clubs to a strong 30, and launched the Lion City Cup, an Under-16 tournament that unearthed budding talents like Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundramoorthy.

    Ex-national striker Fandi said: “He looked after me personally and always believed in my ability. I will never forget how he kept reminding me to learn from the senior players and not take anything for granted.”

    After his stroke, Gani – as he was affectionately known – became wheelchair-bound and was mainly confined to bed with a speech impediment. He prefered privacy in his condition although close friends like former Asian football supremo Peter Velappan visited him to chat about football.

    Velappan said: “We became close friends when he served as a legal advisor at the Asian Football Confederation.

    “He represented transparency, integrity and total dedication. I cherish the pleasure of seeing him even after he was disabled by a stroke.”

    A minute’s silence will be observed before kick-off in all League Cup matches this week. An FAS spokesman described Ganesan as “a larger-than-life character who left a deep mark on Singapore football”.

    His body is resting at Singapore Casket. The funeral service will be held at around 5pm on Saturday at Mandai Crematorium.

  9. Alistair Murphy says:

    I am very keen to know what happened to my former team mates. I played for Jurong Town as a striker in 1977. Chuck Engmann was the coach. I didn’t have a particularly successful season, but I made some wonderful SIngaporean friends, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. I wonder what happened to all of the great guys I met? My name is Alistair Murphy and I did get a few mentions in the New Nation and the Straits Times in 1977.

  10. Fandi Ahmad among Asia’s best players in Dutch league

    The Newpaper
    09 June 2020

    A week after celebrating his 58th birthday on May 29, Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad received a belated gift when he found out from his elder sister via text that he was named one of the Asian Football Confederation’s Greatest Eredivisie Players in an online poll.

    On June 5, the AFC listed the Singaporean as one of nine top players from the confederation to have graced the top-tier Dutch football league, alongside luminaries such as South Korea’s Park Ji Sung, Lee Young Pyo and Huh Jung Moo (all PSV Eindhoven) and Japan’s Shinji Ono (Feyenoord).

    The other nominees are Iranian forwards Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Nijmegen and Alkmaar) and Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen and Zwolle).

    Australians Jason Culina (Ajax Amsterdam, De Graafschap, Twente and PSV) and Brett Holman (Excelsior, Nijmegen and Alkmaar) are also on the list.

    The AFC wrote: “Fandi Ahmad’s career in Dutch football (from 1983-1985) wasn’t as long as the other players in our list, but his achievements as the first Singaporean player in a major European league are remembered to this day.

    “Despite the unprecedented nature of his time for FC Groningen, Fandi thrived. As a 21-year-old, he scored twice on his league debut, then found the net against Inter Milan in a Uefa Cup match three days later.

    “A total of 36 games, 11 goals and two years later, the forward returned to play out an excellent career in South-east Asia, finishing with 55 goals for the Singaporean national team and icon status in his country.”

    Fandi told The Straits Times he was surprised by the nomination and that, while he had not realised he was one of the Asian pioneers in the Eredivisie in the 1980s, he is grateful his exploits are remembered.

    In 1982, he was a scrawny but talented 20-year-old when he went for a trial with Ajax. He turned down a three-year contract with the Dutch giants, but Groningen offered a two-year deal in 1983.

    After leaving Groningen for Kuala Lumpur in 1985, the Dutch club came back for Fandi in 1987 with a three-year contract which was ultimately scuppered by work-permit issues.

    He reminisced: “Those were the days when very few Asians, or indeed Asean players, were in Europe, and some people even thought that Singapore was in South America.

    “I was fortunate and blessed to be able to get the opportunity to play and do well in the Eredivisie and Europe against quality opponents, but I also worked very hard.

    “The result of the poll is not important, but it is good to put Singapore on the world football map and have achievements recorded.

    “I hope more Singaporeans can play in Europe in the future, because that can only be good for their own development, the national team and Singapore football in general.”

    Over 17,000 votes for the fans’ favourite player have been cast at press time, with Fandi currently third behind the Iranians. The poll runs until 4pm, Thursday.

  11. Former Singapore international footballer Salim Moin dies aged 59

    7 November 2020
    Channel NewsAsia

    Former Singapore international footballer Salim Moin has died at the age of 59, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said on Saturday (Nov 7).

    In a Facebook post, FAS said it was “shocked and saddened” to learn about the death of Mr Salim, a striker who was also adept in midfield, and who had represented the Lions in the 1980s and 1990s in the Malaysia Cup, the World Cup qualifiers, as well as other competitions.

    A “highly regarded figure in Singapore football”, Mr Salim moved into coaching after retiring, spending a short time at the former National Football Academy, said FAS.

    “At club level, Salim is known for his coaching spells at Gombak United, Balestier Khalsa, Tampines Rovers and perhaps most memorably at Woodlands Wellington, which he led to a fifth-place finish in 2013,” said the association.

    Mr Salim returned to Hougang United, where he was head coach in 2015, in December 2018 as assistant to current head coach Clement Teo.

    Hougang United also expressed the club’s condolences on Facebook early Saturday morning, saying it was “extremely saddened” by Mr Salim’s death.

    The club said Mr Salim had been “an integral part of our 2019 side that propelled the club to its best finish last season, cherished for his heart and personality on and off the pitch”.

    “He will be sorely missed by us all,” it added. “Our thoughts and condolences go out to Salim’s family and loved ones during this difficult time,” said FAS.

  12. When Fandi Ahmad scored against Diego Maradona’s Boca Juniors in 1982

    27 November 2020
    The New Paper

    As the football world mourns the passing of an all-time great in Diego Maradona, local legend Fandi Ahmad reminisced about the time he scored against the Argentinian hero’s Boca Juniors team as a teenager.

    The 1986 World Cup-winning captain died after a heart attack in his Buenos Aires home on Wednesday. He was 60.

    Fandi, 58, said Maradona was an inspiration to his generation, calling him one of the two greatest players of all time – alongside Pele.

    Fandi, who is widely considered Singapore’s greatest player, shared a pitch with the football icon in 1982, when he scored with a header for a Selangor Selection side in a 2-1 defeat by Boca in Kuala Lumpur.

    He was just 19 and serving national service at the time and, after the match, Boca’s chief coach Vladislao Cap said he was keen on signing the Singaporean, whom he described as “a superb striker who can fit into any team”.

    But there was no outshining Maradona that day, or most days, for that matter.

    Just months before his then-world record transfer to Barcelona, he set up Boca’s opener before scoring the winner on 59 minutes.

    Fandi told The New Paper: “I will always remember the goal I scored against Boca Juniors because I was young… and playing against the best player on earth at the time, after Pele. It’s a great honour for me.”

    He recalled Maradona’s mesmeric dribbling, adding that the Argentinian executed a “rabona” during the match.

    Said Fandi: “When he’s on the ball and on the run, it’s very hard. It took two or three players to tackle him because he had a low centre of gravity, a broad body, big, strong thigh muscles and he was very fast… He was very skilful and smart.”

    Fandi also witnessed the pinnacle of Maradona’s career at the 1986 World Cup live in Mexico, adding: “What an amazing World Cup he had, fantastic. I watched most of Argentina’s matches, he was phenomenal.”

    Singaporean football fans may also have Maradona to partially thank for helping to influence one of the nation’s most exciting talents, V. Sundram Moorthy.

    Nicknamed “the Dazzler” for his flair and dribbling skills, Sundram is arguably the closest we have come to producing a player in the mould of the Argentinian.

    The 55-year-old, who called Maradona his footballing idol and the greatest player of all time, said his playing style was influenced by trying to copy the ex-Napoli star.

    Said Sundram: “We used to watch him and try to practise some of his skills… his dribbling skills and the way he goes past defenders so easily.”

    Dribbling might be Maradona’s calling card, but it is his “Hand of God” goal against England at the 1986 World Cup that remains most ingrained in Sundram’s mind.

    He explained: “He’s scored many great goals by dribbling, the one against England also, but the one that always stays on my mind… is the Hand of God.

    “Because it’s quick thinking and he puts his hand near his head where the referee can’t spot it,” Sundram added, chuckling.

  13. Football: I just get on with life, says ex-Lion Abbas Saad, as he recounts the ups and downs

    15 May 2021
    The Straits Times

    To many Singaporeans, Abbas Saad will always be their suave Malaysia Cup hero, a stylish striker who scored a hat-trick in the 1994 final to beat Pahang 4-0 and help the Lions break a 13-year drought.

    To others, he is a convicted match-fixer who was fined $50,000 by the Singapore courts in 1995 and received a global football ban, including a lifetime suspension from football-related activities in the Republic, until it was overturned later.

    But the 53-year-old, who has always maintained his innocence, is at peace and unfazed.

    The Australian is in town to take the Asian Football Confederation Pro Licence course, and The Straits Times caught up with him over lunch on Friday (May 14), the second day of Hari Raya.

    Incidentally, it was the Ramadan period exactly 26 years ago when he was hauled up for a 48-hour interrogation, and he said: “Of course, I was angry and shocked. I didn’t know what hit me. The authorities were doing their duty but I didn’t do anything wrong.

    “I was 27 and in my prime, and lost a couple of crucial playing years and opportunities in Europe and the (Australian) national team before the global ban was overturned, but I pulled through because of my faith. I forgive, but I don’t forget and I just get on with my life.”

    To appreciate his mental toughness and outlook, one has to understand he was just eight when he lost his eldest brother Hussein, then 17, to an explosion when civil war broke out in Lebanon.

    Abbas, the fourth of seven siblings, and his family barely had time to mourn when they had to take a boat to Cyprus en route to relocating to Sydney, where his eldest sister Namat had married and settled down.

    “It was really tough,” said Abbas. “Many of my friends and relatives who stayed behind died.

    “It also made me stronger, it made me bulletproof for the challenges ahead. How can anything else that would happen later on compare to bullets flying over our heads? It made me appreciate life, family and friends, and I try to be nice and humble.”

    In Lebanon, he used to speak only Arabic and French, and had to learn English when he arrived in Australia. But he let his football do the talking and his talent led to him being picked up by the Sydney City and Sydney Olympic clubs in the 1980s.

    He subsequently signed for the Lions in 1990.

    Known as a deadly attacker who worked hard for the team, Abbas also played for Johor in 1991, when he won the M-League and Malaysia Cup double. This was sandwiched by the 1990 and 1993 Malaysia Cup final defeats by Kedah in Singapore colours, before the memorable 1994 triumph was followed by the shocking arrest.

    At the height of his popularity here in the early 1990s, more then 50,000 thronged the National Stadium to watch him star for the Dream Team. There were platoons of fans waiting at training sessions to shower him with hugs, kisses, flowers, cards, chocolates and scrapbooks of his photos.

    After his global ban ended in 1996, Abbas returned to Australia to play for the likes of Sydney Olympic and Sydney United and even earned his fourth and final cap for the Socceroos against South Korea under Terry Venables in 1998.

    Savouring his spinach omelette, he said: “I won team and personal accolades – I won the league with every team I played and was top scorer everywhere I went. Okay, maybe I should have played more for Australia, but apart from that, God gave me many opportunities.”

    As with most clinical targetmen, he was “kicked from pillar to post”, and while he still looks fit – he does not drink or smoke, and he stopped clubbing after marrying Rania in 2000, which leaves a sweet tooth as his only weakness – Abbas finally retired from playing in 2003 after six operations on his right knee.

    In between, the father of two sons and one daughter ventured into business, and even set up a night club and restaurant in Singapore, although he has since sold both his shares.

    But his first love remains football and in 2007, Abbas made his first venture into senior coaching when he took over New South Wales Premier League side Penrith Nepean United. The following year, he became the Deaf Football Australia’s national coach before being appointed technical youth director at Sydney Olympic, where he is a Hall-of-Famer, in 2009.

    That year was also poignant as his Singapore ban was finally rescinded in March, and two months later, he was back in the Republic to take his AFC A licence course.

    A smiling Abbas said: “My mother’s name is Fandie and I named my second son Malek after my good friend (former Singapore international) Malek Awab. Maybe Singapore and I are destined for each other.

    “I can’t blame the country or people for what happened. I enjoyed my football here, I have many friends here, and Singaporeans have treated me like one of their own. Singapore will always be special to me and that feeling won’t change whether the ban was lifted or not.”

    From 2010 to 2017, he had stints in Singapore and Malaysia as a football pundit, but 2011 stood out because it was when he finally met fugitive and former Lions team-mate Michal Vana, who fled the Republic in 1994 as he was facing charges for his part in the same match-fixing case.

    Again, there was no resentment when the duo met in the Czech Republic for a documentary.

  14. What happened to the Malaysia Cup winners of 1977?

    19 June 2022
    The Straits Times

    The 1977 Malaysia Cup final took place 45 years ago on May 28, and saw Singapore lift the trophy after a 3-2 win in extra time over Penang.

    Here, The Straits Times turns the spotlight back onto the players involved in that game – as well as the key figures on the touchline – who delivered the Republic’s first success in the competition since independence.

    Edmund Wee, 63

    The youngest member of the starting XI, “Wonder Wee” was only 19 when he dislodged Eric Paine midway through the Malaysia Cup campaign. Played full-time in Hong Kong from 1981- 1989.

    He worked as a sales executive and then later drove a taxi.

    Hasli Ibrahim, 72

    Fortified the right side of f the Singapore backline with steady and reliable performances. Former teammates say he is suffering from ill health.

    Syed Mutalib, 67

    A no-nonsense defender known for his ferocious, tough-tackling style. After a car crash in 1983 curtailed his playing career, he opened a nasi briyani restaurant, but has since retired.

    Samad Allapitchay, 72

    Captain of the Singapore teams that made seven Malaysia Cup finals from 1975 to 1981, he became an icon for his leadership and unshakable performances at the heart of defence, which earned him the nickname “Rock of Gibraltar”. One of only 12 players to earn 100 or more caps for the Republic.

    Robert Sim, 69

    Known for his fitness, Sim was an uncompromising fullback whose nickname was “The Char Kway Teow Man” because he often sent opponents flying the same way a hawker would fry up the local noodle dish.

    V. Khanisen, 66

    One half of a formidable central midfield pair, Khanisen retired from football in 1984 and earned pilot’s license a year later, before becoming a pilot with Singapore Airlines. He has since retired.

    Zainal Abidin, 68

    The other half of Singapore’s midfield engine played for Terengganu, and continued to reside in Malaysia. Is said to be living in Malacca now.

    Mohamed Noh

    A reserved character who was thrust into the spotlight because of his skill as well as his good looks, “Mat Noh” walked away from football in 1981 at the age of just 26. He became a deeply religious man until his passing at the age of 67 in September 2021.

    Quah Kim Song, 70

    Scored a brace in the 1977 final. The youngest of the legendary Quah footballing brothers, he was known for his skill and speed, which earned him the nickname “Quicksilver Quah”. He later moved into football administration until 2010. He is since retired and spends his days with his five grandchildren.

    Dollah Kassim,

    The late Dollah earned the nickname “Gelek King” for his superlative dribbling skills. Moved into coaching briefly before working as an analyst with Singapore Pools. Died in 2010 aged 61, after suffering a heart attack a year prior during an exhibition game, which left him in a coma.

    S. Rajagopal, 72

    Famously known as “The Camel” for his stamina and galloping runs down the flanks, he is best remembered for his “banana kicks” from corners and set-pieces, which flummoxed many a defender.

    One of the most colourful personalities in the team, he was the director of a logistics firm before retiring. Recently relocated to the Philippines.

    Nasir Jalil

    Nicknamed “Crazy Horse” for his boundless energy, he went on to play for Terengganu from 1981 until his retirement in 1988, when he decided to stay there and become a religious teacher. He also became a Malaysian citizen. Died in 2011 aged 55, after a seven-year battle with a brain tumour.

    Lim Teng Sai, 69

    Famously came off the bench in the final against Penang to replace captain Samad at half-time and kept Penang’s dangerous attack at bay.

    Choo Seng Quee (head coach)

    A charismatic, verbose, deeply religious, superstitious man and a scholar of the game, whose methods were said to be ahead of their time.

    Groomed most of the players in the 1977 team since they were teens, and for the achievement was named Singapore sports’ Coach of the Year in 1978.

    Accidentally cut his foot with a razor in early 1977 but ignored the wound while it turned septic, preferring to focus on coaching, and eventually needed an amputation. Died in 1983 after kidney problems.

    N. Ganesan (FAS Chairman)

    Helmed the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) from 1974-1981, and widely credited as the driving force behind Singapore football’s rise in the 70s.

    Wooed Choo, who had been coaching in Malaysia and then only at club level in Singapore for a decade, back to coach Singapore despite objections from some in the local scene and was ultimately vindicated.

    Died in 2015 at the age of 82, after suffering a stroke four years’ prior.

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