Football: Hussein, a father figure to the Lions

Former national coach Hussein Aljunied, 73, died yesterday after succumbing to pneumonia and heart failure.
Former national coach Hussein Aljunied, 73, died yesterday after succumbing to pneumonia and heart failure.

He led the Lions to glory when they won the Malaysian League in 1985, but former national footballers who were under his tutelage remember Hussein Aljunied first and foremost as a father figure and a role model.

Hussein died yesterday, succumbing to pneumonia and heart failure. He was 73.

Captain of Singapore in 1971, he went on to be national coach twice, from 1973 to 1976 and 1984 to 1986.

Former Singapore star V. Sundramoorthy said: "During that era, he was the best coach. He was a relaxed, fatherly coach. He never scolded me yet somehow he managed to bring out the best in his players.

"His relationship with us players was really close, which is what coaches today must have."

Former Lion Malek Awab added: "He's one of the best coaches. Corner kicks and free kicks were his specialty during training. He's got a unique way of doing a hand signal while others would train by holding flags."

Hussein also led the Lions to the SEA Games final in 1985, but they lost 0-2 to hosts Thailand.

Said local football legend Fandi Ahmad: "It's great to have played under coach Hussein. He gave me many tips playing up front, and he was a very fun and jovial coach, always trying to inspire and motivate us."

Hussein's likeable personality also won him friends beyond football. Veteran track coach Loh Chan Pew, Singapore Athletic Association vice-president (competitions organising), said: "We were very close. Even though I was in track and he was a footballer, we trained together and became close friends.

"He was open-minded and mixed around with all races. We were like family. Every year at Hari Raya, he'd invite me to his house. And Chinese New Year, he would ask his granddaughter to bring cake to my house.

"He was a wonderful parent and grandparent, teaching the right values to the younger generation.

"He was one of the pioneer coaches who did that - develop those values in the young and you can see that in his granddaughter (Amirah Aljunied), an athlete whom I train."

The Football Association of Singapore, which announced Hussein's passing on its website, said a minute of silence will be observed at all S-League matches next week.

Hussein is survived by his wife, Zahrah Sulaiman, a son, three daughters and 10 grandchildren.

The cortege will leave his home at Blk 131, Tampines Street 11 at 10am today, which will be followed by prayers at the Sultan Mosque before burial at Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 06, 2016, with the headline 'Hussein, a father figure to the Lions'. Print Edition | Subscribe