Football: Rest in peace, Joe Dorai

A. Thiyaga Raju presenting Joe Dorai with a special appreciation plaque for his contributions to Singapore football for over four decades in the ST sports pages at Ceylon Sports Club on Jan 1, 2017.
A. Thiyaga Raju presenting Joe Dorai with a special appreciation plaque for his contributions to Singapore football for over four decades in the ST sports pages at Ceylon Sports Club on Jan 1, 2017.PHOTO: COURTESY OF A. THIYAGA RAJU
Joe Dorai's widow Mary and his family at the wake at Church of St Theresa on June 17, 2017.
Joe Dorai's widow Mary and his family at the wake at Church of St Theresa on June 17, 2017.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

A passionate football fan pens a tribute to his favourite sports writer

Singapore's veteran football writer Joe Dorai died on Saturday morning (June 17). He was 77.

But his name will always be synonymous with Singapore football.

I grew up idolising him since 1974 for his football articles and never missed a single column of his in The Straits Times sports pages.

He had a unique style of writing.

During the Malaysia Cup heyday of the 70s, he produced story after story - always knowing what was going on at the heart of football because he had such great contacts.

The people that he covered in ST held him in similarly high regard.

Nicknamed Kallang's famous Cockroach, it was always a delight to have Joe around with his trademark notebook and pieces of scrap paper in the back pocket of his trousers.

With Joe around, you were always comfortable.

Friends, footballers, officials, fans, enjoyed his company. That is why he had so many of them.

Joe knew football and football people inside-out. That's the reason why he was able to get scoops so easily with his wide contacts.

During my short stint as an office assistant with The Straits Times' editorial department in 1979, I found Joe to be simple, honest and always down-to-earth.

He was a great colleague.

I remember running errands for him on many occasions, such as buying him his favourite Lucky Strike cigarettes and black coffee.

He would in return give me complimentary tickets for the Malaysia Cup matches at the National Stadium.

I still keep a lot of his newspaper clippings and profiles he wrote on our local football stars such as Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundram Moorthy.

Joe Dorai had the distinct honour of being the first reporter to interview Fandi Ahmad when he was a rookie national player in 1979.

The well-written article published by ST was titled "Discipline - Fandi's second name".

Fandi was then a $240-a-month store-helper at Guthrie in Bukit Timah Road.

Another masterpiece he wrote was on Sundram titled "Sundram, a chip off the old block" for The Sunday Times in 1986.

I last met Joe at an appreciation dinner I organised and hosted for our former national footballers and veteran sports journalists at the Ceylon Sports Club on Jan 1, 2017.

Tears welled in Joe's eyes when I presented him with a special appreciation plaque for his contributions to Singapore football for over four decades in the sports pages of our national daily. He was so touched and became emotional.

My thoughts are with his family at this very sad time. He was a very well-respected sports journalist and a real character around the football media circuit here and across the Causeway.

But his greatest accolades may have been the lasting memories he created for legions of readers and his peers.

Joe Dorai was greatly loved and greatly admired in the local football fraternity and will be sorely missed.

He will always be remembered fondly by Singapore football fans.

Thank you, Joe.

Rest in peace, my dear friend.

A. Thiyaga Raju has been a die-hard fan of Singapore football since 1974. The 55-year-old works as a fraud control analyst with Standard Chartered Bank.