Joseph Dorai (1939-2017)

Obituary: Joe Dorai - A tireless reporter with huge passion

From top: Joe Dorai's wife, Mary, at his wake being held at the Church of St Theresa. Former Singapore national footballers, including Malek Awab, shaking hands with Dorai at the launch of the book, 50 Greatest Moments in Singapore Football. A 1974 p
Joe Dorai's wife, Mary, at his wake being held at the Church of St Theresa. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
From top: Joe Dorai's wife, Mary, at his wake being held at the Church of St Theresa. Former Singapore national footballers, including Malek Awab, shaking hands with Dorai at the launch of the book, 50 Greatest Moments in Singapore Football. A 1974 p
Former Singapore national footballers, including Malek Awab, shaking hands with Dorai at the launch of the book, 50 Greatest Moments in Singapore Football. TNP FILE PHOTOS
From top: Joe Dorai's wife, Mary, at his wake being held at the Church of St Theresa. Former Singapore national footballers, including Malek Awab, shaking hands with Dorai at the launch of the book, 50 Greatest Moments in Singapore Football. A 1974 p
A 1974 photograph with Brazilian football legend Pele's autograph in black. Dorai (right), then a ST reporter, managed to get him to sign on it again (in blue) on March 3, 2011.TNP FILE PHOTOS

Trailblazing ex-sports journalist was known for his scoops on local football in the 70s-80s

He is widely-regarded as the journalist who delivered news of the Singapore national football team's exploits in the Malaysia Cup on both sides of the Causeway during the 1970s and the 1980s.

The golden age of Singapore football, the birth of the "Kallang Roar", the intense rivalry with Selangor, and the unforgettable Malaysia Cup triumphs of 1977 and 1980 - Joe Dorai has covered them all.

The former Straits Times sports journalist died yesterday morning of pneumonia. He had suffered a heart attack in March, and subsequently battled a series of respiratory problems.

He was 77, and leaves behind wife Mary, three children, a godson and a granddaughter.

Dorai joined The Straits Times in 1958 as a production worker and later contributed football reports.

In 1968, he became a full-fledged sports reporter, earning just $260 a month, and covered Singapore football's peaks and troughs until he left Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) in 1998.

Wearing a rolled-up long-sleeved shirt, a Parker pen in his shirt pocket, and pieces of paper sticking out from the back pocket of his trousers, he was remembered fondly as a passionate football journalist, who would work seven days a week just to chase down a scoop.

One of his daughters Angelene, 39, told The Sunday Times at his wake at the Church of St Theresa: "He was really dedicated to his work. My dad would pick us up after school and we would wait in his car till late at night, as he finished his story in the old Times House."

LIVING HIS PASSION

He was willing to work and went the extra mile. He lived, he breathed sports and the good thing was that he wrote sports.

GODFREY ROBERT, ex-ST sports editor, was effusive in his praise for Dorai, who had sports running through his veins..

Former ST sports editor Godfrey Robert said: "I still remember once I sent him for a cricket match. Even though he knew nothing about cricket, he still delivered.

"He was willing to work and went the extra mile. He works seven days a week and doesn't take off days.

"He enjoyed sports. He lived, he breathed sports, and the good thing was that he wrote sports."

Dorai's dedication in reporting local football news was so well known that the late Football Association of Singapore chairman N. Ganesan gave him an endearing nickname - "Cockroach" - for his ability to crawl out from nowhere and produce a story.

STAND-UP GUY

We had a very good working relationship as a player and journalist. He is an icon. If you talk about a sports journalist, everyone in Singapore will know Joe.

V. SUNDRAM MOORTHY, national football coach, felt that Dorai's gregarious nature won him the respect of his peers.

He was generally well-liked among national footballers, many of whom were household names which he covered extensively.

Said national football team coach V. Sundram Moorthy: "We had a very good working relationship as a player and journalist. What I really remember about him is his personality. He is very jovial and gets along with everyone easily. Because of his personality, it was easy for him to get the top stories.

"He is an icon. If you talk about a sports journalist, everyone in Singapore will know Joe."

Yet, there were also less savoury moments, as Dorai occasionally rubbed people the wrong way with his no-nonsense reporting. His son Andrew, 47, recalled: "One day, when we walked out of the old Jalan Besar Stadium, his silver Subaru car was stripped off its paint because acid was splashed all over it.

"It showed that he would tell it as it is, without being unfair."

After leaving SPH, Dorai worked at Singapore Pools as deputy manager of sports betting until his retirement in 2015.

His funeral Mass will be held on Wednesday 2.30pm at the Church of St Theresa, and thereafter to Mandai Crematorium Hall 2 at 4.30pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'A tireless reporter with huge passion'. Print Edition | Subscribe