Football: How legends like the Camel, Char Kway Teow Man, Quicksilver Quah blazed a trail for Lions

(Clockwise from top left) Quah Kim Song, V. Khanisen,  Samad Allapitchay and Syed Mutalib.
(Clockwise from top left) Quah Kim Song, V. Khanisen, Samad Allapitchay and Syed Mutalib.PHOTOS: ST FILE, BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - Former national winger Mohamed Noh Hussein, who died on Monday (Sept 20), was part of Singapore football's golden generation in the 1970s, with rousing wins in the Malaysia Cup in 1977 and 1980 the highlights.

Players like Noh, Quah Kim Song and the late Dollah Kassim became household names to many Singaporeans of the era, who still fondly remember their glory days competing against teams from across the Causeway.

The Straits Times looks at some of these football legends who blazed the trail for local football.

Quah Kim Song, 69

Position: Striker


In this photo from 1976, Quah Kim Song (left) takes a heavy knock as he and goalkeeper tussle for the ball at the National Stadium. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Quah famously scored the winning goal in the 1977 Malaysia Cup final against Penang - with a trademark diving header - which saw Singapore lift the trophy for the first time in 12 years.

The youngest of the legendary Quah footballing brothers, he was known for his skill and speed, which earned him the nickname "Quicksilver Quah".

After calling time on his football career in the early 1980s, Quah held several corporate jobs and continued to be involved in football - he served as chairman for his former club Tampines Rovers from 1996 to 2000, and then became the director of competitions at the Football Association of Singapore, before he resigned in 2010.


Dollah Kassim

Position: Forward


Dollah Kassim died in 2010 aged 61. PHOTOS: ST FILE

The late Dollah earned the nickname "Gelek King" for his superior ball control and dribbling skills which made him look as if he was dancing past opposing defenders.

Arguably his most famous goal came in a 2-0 Malaysia Cup win over Pahang in 1975. After picking the ball up in midfield, he jinked past four players before sending the goalkeeper the wrong way with a feint of his body, before tapping into an empty net.

In 1980, Dollah coached Geylang International in the National Football League while working with Singapore Pools, before moving on to coach Singapore's youth teams in the Lion City Cup (in 1981 and 1982), as well as school and company teams.

He died in 2010 aged 61, a year after collapsing during half-time in a Sultan of Selangor's Cup game, in which he played for the Singapore veterans, at the Jalan Besar Stadium.


V. Khanisen, 65

Position: Centre midfield


V. Khanisen played a key role for the Lions as they reached the 1976 and 1977 Malaysia Cup finals. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Singapore's midfield maestro in the 1970s, Khanisen played a key role for the Lions as they reached the 1976 and 1977 Malaysia Cup finals.

Following his retirement from football in 1984, Khanisen's career soared - literally. He earned a pilot's license in 1985 and became a pilot with Singapore Airlines, having served as a flight engineer previously.


Nasir Jalil

Position: Striker


Nasir Jalil was nicknamed "Crazy Horse" for his boundless energy. PHOTOS: ST FILE

The late Nasir played a key role in the 1977 Malaysia Cup triumph, scoring the equaliser to make the score 2-2 after entering as a substitute for S. Rajagopal.

Nicknamed "Crazy Horse" for his boundless energy, he went on to play for Terengganu from 1981 until his retirement in 1988, when he decided to stay there and become a religious teacher. He also became a Malaysian citizen.

He died aged 55 on June 8, 2011 in Terengganu after a seven-year battle with a brain tumour.

One of his six children, daughter Siti Rahimah, is a four-time pencak silat world champion, and also won the gold medal the last time the SEA Games was held in Singapore in 2015.


Samad Allapitchay, 71

Position: Centre-back


Samad Allapitchay became an icon for his leadership and tough-tackling displays. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Captain of the Singapore teams that made seven Malaysia Cup finals from 1975 to 1981 - including triumphs in 1977 and 1980 - Samad became an icon for his leadership and tough-tackling displays, which prompted former national coach Mike Walker to dub him "Rock of Gibraltar".

Recognised by the FAS as one of only 12 players to earn 100 or more caps - he has 105 - one of Samad's sons, Shariff, also represented the national team, earning a solitary cap in 2013.


Syed Mutalib, 67

Position: Centre-back


Syed Mutalib was a tough-tackling, no-nonsense defender. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Forming a formidable partnership with Samad in defence was Mutalib, who was a tough-tackling, no-nonsense defender whose job, as prescribed by the late Singapore coach "Uncle" Choo Seng Quee, was simple - destroy the opponents.

After a car crash in 1983 curtailed his playing career, Mutalib decided to invest time and effort into his second love - nasi briyani. He was owner and chef at the House of Briyani, which had branches along North Bridge Road, Changi Road and Owen Road, but has since retired.


S Rajagopal, 72

Position: Left-back or left midfield


S Rajagopal is best remembered for his banana kicks from corners and set-pieces. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Famously known as "The Camel" for his stamina and galloping runs down the flanks, Rajagopal was a virtuoso with the ball.

He is best remembered for his banana kicks from corners and set-pieces, which flummoxed many a defender.

Off the pitch, Rajagopal was also one of the most colourful players in the team, and was often seen wearing a trademark cowboy hat.

He suffered a heart attack during a reunion football match in 2006 but recovered and worked as the director of a marine and logistics firm before retiring.


Arshad Khamis

Position: Striker


After retiring from football, Arshad Khamis emigrated to Canada in 1992. PHOTOS: ST FILE

The late Arshad was a member of both Malaysia Cup-winning teams in 1977 and 1980, and was best known as the man to score the first-ever goal at the old National Stadium.

He wrote his name into the record books when he scored the opening goal for Singapore Malays in their 4-1 win over the Kelantan Malays in June 1973 in what was the first football match ever to be played at the National Stadium, which was opened officially only a month later.

He also famously scored in a friendly the Lions played against a Franz Beckenbauer-led New York Cosmos side in October 1979, although the American side won 4-1.

After retiring from football, he emigrated to Canada in 1992, where he worked as a technician. He died in 2018 at the age of 68.


Lim Teng Sai, 68

Position: Defender


Lim Teng Sai was a dependable substitute when he was needed. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Although he was not Uncle Choo's first choice in defence, Lim was a dependable substitute when he was needed.

Solid both in the tackle and in the air, he famously came off the bench in the final against Penang to replace captain Allapitchay at half-time.

With the Lions trailing 1-2 in the second half, Lim held off Penang's star striker Isa Bakar as Singapore sealed a comeback win with goals from Nasir Jalil and Quah Kim Song.


Robert Sim, 69

Position: Left-back


Robert Sim was an uncompromising fullback whose nickname was "The Char Kway Teow Man". PHOTOS: ST FILE

One of the fittest players at the time, Sim was an uncompromising fullback whose nickname was "The Char Kway Teow Man" because the way he would send opponents flying was the same way a hawker would fry up the local noodle dish.


Edmund Wee, 63

Position: Goalkeeper


Edmund Wee was nicknamed "Wonder Wee" for his bravery and agility between the sticks. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Singapore's first professional footballer wore the No. 1 jersey for five years, before moving to Hong Kong in 1981 to play full-time.

He was nicknamed "Wonder Wee" for his bravery and agility between the sticks, and turned in several heroic performances during the 1977 campaign.

On returning to Singapore from Hong Kong in 1989, Wee worked as a sales executive.

He played for the the Singapore veterans in a 2007 farewell match for the National Stadium against their Malaysian counterparts.