February 8, 2018
By Haresh Deol
SINGAPORE had on Feb 4 mourned the death of Majid Ariff.
Little known to many, there were those across the causeway who also shed a tear after the 80-year-old former footballer died of pneumonia at his daughter’s house in Tampines.
While it was widely reported Majid made his debut for Singapore in 1958, the legend played for Perak and donned the colours of Malaya. He also coached Kelantan FA in 1989 – albeit for a short period.
“Technically, it should have also been a sad day for us in Malaysia,” said Majid’s former Malaya teammate Datuk N. Thanabalan.
The former international, who will turn 75 on April 29, played alongside Majid in Pesta Bola Merdeka in the early 60s.
“I remember we were playing against Vietnam and I scored a goal. Majid came running towards me and kissed my cheek. He was so happy.”
While the “kiss of happiness” is fresh in his mind, Thanabalan was unable to recall the year of the match. He is also saddened that there have been no attempts to document the exploits of those who played for the country in the past.
“Yes, we played in an era where we were only paid two dollars if the match was played in Malaya and five dollars if abroad. But we did it for the love of Malaya and for the love of football. We would die for the sport.”
Thanabalan’s dismay is legit. There is little written or spoken about our former sporting heroes. Fans will have to rely on the likes of those behind kelabjersikita.blogspot.my for information.
The Singaporean press reminded many of Majid’s flair as he is the only Singaporean to have played for the Asian All-Stars team, turning out in exhibition matches against Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday in 1966, and against Leicester City in 1967.
In 1998, Majid and Fandi Ahmad were the only Singaporeans among 116 top Asian players to be nominated for Asia’s Footballer of the Century award.
Eight days before Singapore’s independence in 1965, Majid, who was then playing for Singapore, helped ensure a 3-1 comeback win over Selangor in the Malaya Cup final.
In 1966, Majid helped Singapore finish fourth in the Bangkok Asian Games – the islanders’ best-ever showing in the regional event.
And Malaysian fans must be reminded that Majid played for Perak. In the 1961 Malaya Cup final against Selangor, Majid was in the team together with the likes of Yusoff Bakar, Yee Sin Choy, Ahmad Nazari, Kamaruddin Ahmad, Wong Kam Seng, Kabri Yusoff, Lim Ban Chiang, M. Abdul Rahman Daie, Mahat Ambu, Abu Hassan, Shamsuddin Ahmad, Yusof Mohamed Noor, Seet Pin Chong, Foo Fook Chuan, Jalil Che Din, R. Anthony and Ramadass Rao.
Selangor won the match 4-2.
With Malaya, Majid was teammates with among others Thanabalan, Datuk M. Kuppan, Ho Yuen Ming, Boey Cheong Liam, Edwin Dutton, Mahat, Abdullah Nordin and Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Minhat.
But how much do we know of these players who brought honour to the nation?
Kuppan, saddened over Majid’s passing, said Malaysia and Singapore have lost a gem.
“We were teammates and he was an excellent player and a real gentleman. His death comes as a shock to me. I wish we had kept in touch,” said Kuppan.
Zahasmi Ismail remembers Majid during the latter’s brief coaching stint with Kelantan.
Majid was hired to coach the east coast team for the 1989 season, replacing Mohamad Che Su who was then appointed director of coaching. It was the same year Kelantan FA signed up Singaporeans Ahmad Ibrahim Matsudi and Razali Rashid to beef up their strike force.
However, Majid’s Kota Bharu adventure only lasted for several months.
Zahasmi, better known as ‘tauke’ or ‘kereta kebal (tank) Kelantan’ now coaches Kelantan’s President’s Cup team.
“Majid didn’t stay for long due to internal issues but he was a really good coach,” recalled Zahasmi who played as a defender.
“He didn’t tolerate excuses, a real professional. And he was always generous in giving out advice. We could approach him anytime. It’s a sad moment for many of us who have been his students on the field,” he added.
Right after Majid’s death, former Singaporean international Ho Kwang Hock summed it up well:
“Majid was worth his weight in gold – as a footballer and also as a coach. We must honour him, and sportsmen like him from that era, who have done so much for the country.
“Many of these sporting greats are old and forgotten now. We must honour them and remember their contributions before it is too late.”
CAPTION: Majid (left) demonstrating a heading technique to a group of Jet Rangers players at the old Raffles Institution in Bras Basah Road in Singapore in 1974. – The National Archives of Singapore picture.
Haresh Deol is a multi-award winning journalist. He is active on Twitter (@HareshDeol) and can be reached at [email protected]