Obituary

Remembering Singapore's Quah Kim Swee, an Asian all-star

Former Singapore star Quah Kim Swee and daughter Bee Jin at the Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2006 quarter-final in Berlin.
Former Singapore star Quah Kim Swee and daughter Bee Jin at the Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2006 quarter-final in Berlin. PHOTO: TRACY TEO
Quah Kim Swee (above), who scored against Pahang in a 1963 match in this photo, was known for his bravery in attempting headers.
Quah Kim Swee (above), who scored against Pahang in a 1963 match in this photo, was known for his bravery in attempting headers.PHOTO: ST FILE
Quah Kim Swee
Quah Kim SweePHOTO: ST FILE

Quah Kim Swee helped Singapore to achieve a fourth-place finish in 1966 Asian Games

Growing up in the 1950s, future Singapore international defender Lim Teng Sai would frequent the old Jalan Besar Stadium to watch his footballing idol in action.

Slim, athletic and moustachioed, Quah Kim Swee was Singapore's star striker then, gracefully gliding all over the pitch with his socks rolled down, scoring goals through his elegant skills on the ground and strength in the air.

On Saturday, the fourth of the famous Quah family of sporting siblings died at the age of 76 after a long illness. He is survived by his wife and three children.

According to younger brother Kim Song, the elder Quah successfully battled colon cancer, which was in remission for 15 years, before problems in his liver flared up.

"I stood behind the goal to watch him play," Lim, 62, a member of Singapore's 1977 Malaysia Cup-winning team, recalled.

 

A HEAD ABOVE OTHERS

"He was so elusive in his movement... But it was his heading that was the most impressive."

LIM TENG SAI, former Singapore international defender, on Quah Kim Swee's strengths

"He was so elusive in his movement, such a good dribbler.

"But it was his heading that was the most impressive.

"Kim Swee later coached the Singapore Chinese team. He was very quiet and soft-spoken but the players respected him totally because of his no-nonsense approach."

Kim Swee was part of the famous Quah family from the Sembawang naval base, with 10 out of the 11 siblings going on to represent Singapore in sports.

For four decades, there was at least one of the Quah brothers in the national team, from second brother Kim Beng in 1954 to Kim Song, who played for the country from 1968 to 1983.

Sisters Theresa, Doreen and Rosa also played for the national women's team in the 1960s.

Youngest brother Kim Tiong did not play football but he was a 400m runner who won a relay gold medal in the 1975 Seap Games (now known as the SEA Games).

Playing alongside top local names such as Rahim Omar and Majid Ariff, Kim Swee was part of the Singapore team who enjoyed their best-ever Asian finish, a fourth place at the 1966 Bangkok Asian Games after losing the bronze-medal match to Japan.

Alongside fellow forward Majid, Kim Swee was selected to be part of the Asian All-Stars team who would play European sides touring the continent during the 1960s.

Kim Song told The Straits Times that his brother was noted for his fearless diving headers, even plunging himself towards raised boots.

Once, Kim Swee suffered a gash after he rammed his head against the goal post.

But to the 63-year-old, what made his older brother special was his temperament.

He said: "Typically, footballers like to argue on the field but Swee was one cool guy. I remember vividly what a gentleman he was and how he never loses his temper.

"As an elder brother, he took care of me on the pitch, as I was the youngest. He could see that I was scared of getting scolded by the older ones and, back then, the rules were more lax. Referees would allow really rough tackles. So Swee would advise me to release the ball quickly to avoid getting hurt.

"Swee really was a gentleman through and through."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'Striker an Asian all-star'. Print Edition | Subscribe