Lim Chiew Peng, the former national goalkeeper regarded as one of the Lions' safest pair of hands during Singapore football's heyday, died yesterday around noon after falling swiftly to cancer at age 65.
As the first choice for the No. 1 jersey through the 1970s, Lim was part of the team that helped Singapore return to Malaysia Cup glory in 1977.
His lifelong love affair with football continued even after hanging up his gloves as he moved on to help impart his skills and knowledge to young goalkeepers at S-League club Tampines Rovers - a role he retained even while he battled illness.
It is understood that Lim, who was a smoker, did not appear to have any serious health issues until very recently. He had even travelled with some of his old-time football "kakis" to Selangor in May.
He began to complain of a cough as well as a loss of appetite a few months ago. He was warded at Changi General Hospital last month for observation and tests, but his condition took a drastic turn for the worse shortly after he was diagnosed with advanced-stage lung cancer.
Lim's family, including his wife, children and siblings were at the Singapore General Hospital yesterday when he died.
Former midfielder V. Khanisen, who was a member of the victorious 1977 Malaysia Cup team, said he only heard a few days ago about the diagnosis and was planning to pay Lim a visit.
"He was a very easy-going person who was not easily agitated. He was very disciplined about training. He was a team player - someone you knew you could always rely on."
Former national team-mate S. Rajagopal, who grew up with Lim on the Farrer Park pitches, would know. Both he and Lim were also regulars in the army.
He said: "As a player, you were a lot more confident with Chiew Peng at the back. It wasn't easy for opponents to score against him.
"I could see that he'd lost a lot of weight when I went to visit him in the hospital. I told him to put on his shorts and we'd go play again on the field, to try to cheer him up."
Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra paid tribute to Lim as a mentor to aspiring players. He said: "He was a man with a big heart and has always been there for players. I brought young goalies for him to inspire and he always obliged."
The club plans to start a grassroots tournament in Lim's name, Krishna added.
"He was someone who had a lot of humility and was interested in helping others. We should honour people like him.
"Grassroots football was something that he was most fond of and we want people to recognise and remember him for his contribution."
The wake will be held until Wednesday at 507 Bedok North Avenue 3. The funeral is on Thursday.