SINGAPORE - Former national footballer Mohamed Noh Hussein died on Monday (Sept 20) morning.
The 67-year-old former winger, who was a household name to many Singaporeans in the 1970s, had suffered a heart attack on Sunday morning. It is understood that he was in a critical condition at Sengkang General Hospital.
A member of Singapore's famed 1977 Malaysia Cup-winning side, "Mat Noh" became a reluctant poster boy for the team because of his good looks as well as his dribbling ability and skill.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) paid tribute to Mat Noh in a Facebook post, recalling how he "also famously scored the winning goal in the first round of World Cup qualifiers on 6 March 1977, firing home a penalty in a 1-0 win at Kallang Stadium against a strong Malaysian side regarded as one of Asia's best at the time".
It added: "Our sincerest thoughts and deepest condolences go out to his family and loved ones during this difficult time."
Calling Mat Noh "one of our finest legends", FAS president Lim Kia Tong said that he will "always be remembered for being an exemplary footballer who brought joy to Singaporeans every time he played"
He added: "Like a true professional and role model, Mat Noh shied away from publicity and chose to let his talking be done on the pitch. Even when it was time to hang up his boots, he did it without much fanfare and fuss.
"Yet the impact that he left upon the generation of Singapore football fans was a lasting one, given the sheer number of messages that I received from numerous members of the football fraternity as well as the fans once they heard the unfortunate news about him yesterday."
Mat Noh married local singer Rahimah Rahim but the pair divorced in 1988 after 11 years.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Rahimah wrote that her former husband has returned to God. "May he be placed among the righteous," she added.
After Singapore were thrashed 4-0 by Selangor in the Malaysia Cup final in 1981, the quiet star walked away from football.
From various media reports, it is understood he became a deeply religious man after his retirement.
Former Lions striker Ho Kwang Hock, 66, knew Noh since their youth football days and described the latter as a quiet, disciplined star who stayed away from the limelight and was a favourite of the late legendary head coach Choo Seng Quee.
Choo died in 1983.
The 66-year-old said: “He was a gentleman who worked very hard in training – he just wanted to get his job done and that’s why he was Uncle’s (Choo Seng Quee) blue-eyed boy.
“He never argued with anyone, worked hard and that’s how he became a notable footballer.
“He is one guy who didn’t want any publicity. He just knew deep down inside he had done his job and did it well, that’s it.”
Ho, who was also Mat Noh's colleague in The Straits Times Press' advertising department from 1978 to 1981, said that they had also been planning to have a meal with a few other teammates like Quah Kim Song this year.
He said: “It’s a pity that I couldn’t have a chance to have dinner with him. He was a good friend.”
Despite his reserved nature, many also remember Mat Noh as someone who was generous with his advice.
Ex-national goalkeeper Yakob Hashim, who was just a teenager when he joined the national team in 1979, recalled how Mat Noh’s advice about the importance of planning for life after football has stuck with him over the years.
Yakob, who joined the police force after retiring from football, said: “He said that fame is just short (term) glory, you must always prepare yourself after that.
“I took his advice to prepare after my playing career and it’s helped me through my life, to be a better family man and to take care of my family well. I’m very grateful to God that I got to know him.”