Rahim Gul (1951-2017)

Squash: Tributes flow for Singapore's squash mentor Rahim Gul

Rahim Gul (right) playing in an exhibition match against fellow Pakistani Umar Hayat in the 1980s. Rahim was regarded as one of the best in the business during Singapore squash's heyday, when the Republic was among the top nations in the world.
Rahim Gul (right) playing in an exhibition match against fellow Pakistani Umar Hayat in the 1980s. Rahim was regarded as one of the best in the business during Singapore squash's heyday, when the Republic was among the top nations in the world.ST FILE PHOTO

The late Rahim Gul groomed the likes of Zainal Abidin and Peter Hill into champions

Former national squash coach Rahim Gul, who died late Friday night, will be remembered as the man who played a critical role in lifting Singapore's international standing in the sport and developing some of the country's best players.

The Pakistani died in Rawalpindi in the Pakistan province of Punjab, after a battle with diabetes that led to liver complications. He was 66.

As a player, Rahim was ranked among the top 20 in the world, a feat considering that he played with just one eye, a handicap few noticed. He had lost his right eye while playing outside as a child and grew up with a glass eye.

As a coach, Rahim spent more than 15 years in the Republic, helming the national team in the late 1970s into the 1980s and also coached privately at the Tanglin Club. He moved to Malaysia towards the late 1980s, where he was also appointed national coach there.

While in Singapore, he had a hand in grooming the likes of Zainal Abidin and Peter Hill - both of whom were on the men's team that finished sixth at the World Team Championships in Cairo in 1985.

National champions like 1985 Sportswoman of the Year Lim Seok Hui and Tracey Woon were also among those under his tutelage.

Rahim was regarded as one of the best in the business during Singapore squash's heyday, when the Republic was among the top squash nations in the world and regularly had the edge over Causeway rivals Malaysia in the annual Singapore-Malaysia Dunlop Challenge series.

FOND MEMORIES

He knew how to use the correct words at the correct time and he did that very well.
All the players that were trained by him still remember him for what he's done. He played quite a big role for me.

 ZAINAL ABIDIN, former national squash champion, who trained under Rahim Gul.

Recalled Woon, 61: "He certainly was a big factor in our prime and definitely contributed to Singapore being on the map in those days.

"He was by far the best coach or player in Singapore. He was a very caring person and I don't think he held back in trying to teach us."

Zainal, who trained under Rahim and also competed against him as a player, said he stood out during a time where there were no additional aids such as sports psychologists.

The 59-year-old said: "He knew how to use the correct words at the correct time and he did that very well. All the players that were trained by him still remember him for what he's done. He played quite a big role for me."

Former vice-president of the Singapore Squash Rackets Association Munir Shah, who had known Rahim for more than 40 years, said he will remember the thunderous sounds his shots produced against the walls.

He said: "There was never an issue with Rahim in terms of his competence. He could give any of the players a run for their money and the players had a lot of respect for him.

"We were so close he would drop his son Ibrahim, who was then still a toddler, at my mother's place to be looked after. He always had time for people, was very friendly and extremely giving."

Rahim had four children, including a son who was with him when he died. His other three children - two sons and a daughter - are based here and left Singapore yesterday to return to Pakistan for the funeral, slated to take place last night in Rawalpindi.

Said Ibrahim, 35, himself a former Singapore national coach: "He was a very fun and down-to-earth guy. I have tons of memories with him."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 15, 2017, with the headline 'Tributes flow for sporting mentor'. Print Edition | Subscribe