I remember... Singapore winning the Malaya Cup in 1965

Singapore's 'best team to date'

Former sports reporter Joe Dorai (above) says Singapore was way ahead of the other state teams when its team won the Malaya Cup in 1965.
Former sports reporter Joe Dorai (above) says Singapore was way ahead of the other state teams when its team won the Malaya Cup in 1965 PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES, ST FILE
Former sports reporter Joe Dorai says Singapore was way ahead of the other state teams when its team won the Malaya Cup in 1965 (above).
Former sports reporter Joe Dorai says Singapore was way ahead of the other state teams when its team won the Malaya Cup in 1965 (above).PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES, ST FILE

Nine days before Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965, its football team successfully defended its crown in the Malaya Cup, precursor of the Malaysia Cup tournament.

Singapore came back from being 0-1 down to beat archrival Selangor 3-1 at the Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

Midfield maestro Majid Ariff dribbled past Selangor defenders to angle in a shot in the 73rd minute.

It sparked a Singapore comeback with two goals by Quah Kim Swee, who died last week at the age of 76.

Singapore was way ahead of the other state teams in those days, recalled Mr Joe Dorai, 76, former Straits Times sports journalist.

He joined the paper in 1958 as a production worker and later contributed football reports.

In 1968, he became a full-fledged sports reporter, earning $260 a month, including a transport allowance, and got to cover the highs and lows of Singapore football until he retired in 1998.

He told The Sunday Times: "We were quite impressive at Jalan Besar Stadium.

"Every Malaysian state team that came to Jalan Besar was beaten because we had such good players: goalkeeper Wilfred Skinner, full-back Lee Wah Chin, midfielder Majid Ariff. In attack, we had Rahim Omar, Quah Kim Swee.

"Singapore was very strong at that time. Malaysians were just getting into the football scene in 1965. They were mainly state teams like Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca.

"It was like primary school versus secondary school."

The only team that came close to matching Singapore was Selangor, which also had talented players, he noted. "It was touch and go, but the Merdeka Stadium always gave them an advantage. But in 1964 and 1965, we won both Cup finals."

Singapore had beaten Perak 3-2 to win the cup in 1964.

It took 12 years after the 1965 victory before Singapore won again. Its 1977 winning team starred another of the Quah siblings, striker Quah Kim Song, as well as "Gelek King" Dollah Kassim.

Mr Dorai, who retired in April this year as deputy manager of sports betting at Singapore Pools, said he was happy to have been able to pursue his lifelong passion for the beautiful game.

His love for football started when he was a boy and he was a striker for St Joseph's Institution. He later ran the Farrer Park United football club.

He thinks that the 1965 team was stronger than the 1977 team and the 1994 team, which won the Double - the league and the cup.

"Although they say the 1994 team was the 'Dream Team', if you compare player for player, without the expats in 1994, the 1965 team was much better in terms of individual skills, tactics and teamwork."

Ho Ai Li

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2015, with the headline 'S'pore's 'best team to date''. Print Edition | Subscribe