In the light of the FIFA World Cup 2018 that is happening this 14 June, we have compiled a list of Malaysian legends who once took our country to great heights with the sport.
1. Tan Sri’ Abdul Ghani Minhat a.k.a Raja Bola, Negeri Sembilan (1935 – 2012)
Without doubt, Ghani is considered one of Malaysia’s greatest football players. In the Selangor AF, he managed to score one goal to give Selangor its first HMS Malaya Cup for the first time in 6 years. Ghani was later called up by national coach Neoh Boon Hean to represent the Malaya national team. Since then, he went on training stints in English clubs such as West Ham and Arsenal in 1962. He was even offered a chance to go pro at Cardiff City but turned it down to go on a study tour of England and Europe. In 1969, FAM sent him to Japan to attend the first FIFA Coaching School for Asian Coaches, earning him his coaching license.
2. Ali Bakar, Penang (1947 – 2003)
Capped more than 80 times, Ali was a squad player for the Malaysia team in the 1972 Munich Olympics football competition and also given the honour of being the contingent’s flagbearer – the only footballer to enjoy the distinction. Two years later Ali’s winning goal against South Korea earned Malaysia a place in the semi-finals as Jalil Che Din’s men bagged the bronze in the Asian Games. In 1946, he also helped Penang side to win the international tournament, Aga Khan Gold Cup held in Dhaka.
3. Chow Chee Keong, Kuala Lumpur (1949 – 2018)
Representing Malaysia in the 1960s, Chee Keong was known as “Asian Stainless-Steel Gate” for his impenetrable defence. He reputation was further sealed when the Asian Football Confederation voted him as Asia’s best goalkeeper for five consecutive years from 1966 to 1970. Chee Keong made his national debut at just 15 years old, played professional football for about 10 years in Hong Kong in the 1970s. It was in Hong Kong that he made a great save against Brazilian legend Pele, and even drew an offer from Pele’s club Cruzeiro to play for them.
4. Dollah Don a.k.a Harimau Malaya, Johor (1923 – 2014)
The pre-independence star, who also played under the name ‘Toh Ah Ton’, was the ultimate penalty-box predator and often turned out for Johor, Peninsular Malaya and Singapore Malays. Dollah (born Abdullah Mood Don) was an extremely outstanding player during his heydays in the 1940s and 1950s. His nickname was given by the late Indonesia president Soekarno, after watching Dollah score a hat trick against Indonesian football giants Persija FC in Jakarta in 1953.
5. Edwin C. Dutton, Kuala Lumpur (1928 – 1985)
Edwin burst into the scene shortly after World War 2, opting to play football instead of badminton and follow in his legendary uncle A.L. Henry’s footsteps. A cultured, composed and reliable defender, Edwin enjoyed an illustrious career and was the national team captain in 1953, which was also the year he appeared in his first international tournament , going against Hong Kong. Such was his stature that he remained a non-playing skipper despite being sidelined after a jaundice attack in 1958. He also represented Malaya in Asian Games 1958, SEAP Games 1959 in Bangkok and SEAP Games 1969 in Rangoon. His last Independence Cup tournament was in 1960 when Malaya became the champion in Korea. As a token of appreciation, Edwin was awarded the Pingat Ahli Mangku Negara (A. M.N) the following year.
6. Isa Bakar, Penang (1952 – 2010)
Isa represented Malaysia when it finished third in the 1974 Asian Games in Iran. In the same year, he was part of the Malaysia Cup – winning Penang side. He also helped Penang side to win the international tournament Aga Khan Gold Cup, which was held in Dhaka in 1976. While his game was not based on strength and power, Isa was known for his ability to position himself at the right places at the right time. He was also the perfect foil to the powerful late Mokhtar Dahari.
7. Dato’ Mokhtar Dahari a.k.a SuperMokh, Selangor (1953 – 1991)
For more than a decade, Mokhtar marauding runs, power-packed shots and diving headers captured the public’s imagination. His game was all about power, pace, accuracy and strength. His goals defeated Arsenal FC, he faced off against Diego Maradona and he scored against England’s national B team, which resulted in a draw. Mokhtar won his 100th cap for Malaysia’s national football team when he played in the Merdeka Football Tournament match against Japan’s national football team. In a dramatic career, Mokhtar announced the first of his three retirements in 1979, before finally calling it a day after the 1985 World Cup qualifiers, but not before gracing the Asian Games in 1974 and the Asian Cup in 1976.
8. Peter Rajah, Sabah (1951 – 2014)
Rajah played for the Sabah team between 1972 and 1995 alongside his teammates Hassan Sani and James Wong against Manchester United in a friendly game in 1981. During his tenure as a goalie, he helped Malaysia qualify for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow but did not play as the country boycotted the Games due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Among his best achievements was to help Malaysia qualify for the 1980 Moscow Olympics Games.
9. R. Arumugam a.k.a Spiderman, Selangor (1953 – 1988)
His agility, flamboyance, long arms and a giant safe pair of hands have coined him the nickname “Spiderman” since his international debut in the 1973 pre-World Cup in Seoul. With Wong Kam Fook and Chow Chee Keong having pursued their professional ambitions in Hong Kong, Arumugam grabbed the chance to stamp his mark as the undisputed No. 1 custodian. From 1975 to 1985, he was an automatic choice to form an impregnable rear guard with the central partnership of Soh Chin Aun and Santokh Singh.
10. Wong Choon Wah, Selangor (1947 – 2014)
Choon Wah was one of the earliest Malaysian footballers to blaze the professional trail when he played for Hong Kong’s South China Athletic Association from 1972 to 1974. Often referred as the Malaysian Paul Scholes, Choon Wah was known for his ability to pinpoint accurate passes to unlock defences. His intelligent passes and positioning made him the Man of the Match against West Germany in 1971. He was a fixture of the national team in the 1970s and played all three of Malaysia’s matches at the 1972 Munich Olympics.