‘Mat Noh’ goes down with a heavy heart

NOW get ready to know the other reverse side of Singapore’s most handsome football striker Mohamed Noh Hussein, who, rather surprisingly, died of a heart atta

22/9/2021 6:03:00 PM

NOW get ready to know the other reverse side of Singapore’s most handsome football striker Mohamed Noh Hussein, who, rather surprisingly, died of a heart attack on Monday (Sept 20) morning. The 67-year-old was, rather ironically, one of the most

NOW get ready to know the other reverse side of Singapore’s most handsome football striker Mohamed Noh Hussein, who, rather surprisingly, died of a heart atta

The 67-year-old was, rather ironically, one of the most publicity-shy personalities although he played heroic roles in the famed 1977 Malaysia Cup-winning side.More significantly even for speaking in monosyllabic replies, so the majority of the writers came away with umpteen questions unanswered!

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- Advertisement -Indeed, ‘Mat Noh’, as he was popularly known, became a reluctant poster boy for the Lions primarily because of his ultra-dashing looks as well as his outstanding dribbling ability and skill. His elegant persona and charm came from his grandmother who was Japanese.

“He had a number of rousing nicknames but ‘Allan Clarke’ (the former England striker of the 1970s and 80s, who was recognised as the ‘gentleman’ player) stood with him for his silky footballing skills and the way he carried himself in and out of the field of play,” said former Lions striker-colleague Ho Kwang Hock, 67, who worked together with him at the Singapore Press Holding’s (SPH) Advertising Department. headtopics.com

Kwang Hock, Mat Noh and I, all now in the mid-60s, were even part of the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) football team in the 1980s and 90s, where we played locally and even in regional tournaments in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. This trio regularly played upfront and it was simply magic to click with two of Singapore’s most versatile marksmen.

But the younger generation of women folks adored ‘Mat Noh’ and queued for his autographs and personal photographs because he was simply an adorable celebrity sportsman. He further garnered smashing headlines when he tied the knot with famous singing icon Rahimah Rahim in 1977.

- Advertisement -Let me drive home the other seldom-heard-side of ‘Mat Noh’ who confided in me, multiple times, of the round-the-clock sacrifices he had to make to be a Singapore sporting icon – literally from dawn to dusk to keep pace with the glamorous football world, a celebrity entertainment-wife and the night-life she relished as one of Singapore’s favourite singers, not to mention earning his wages as an advertising manager with Berita Harian, the Malay-language newspaper.

“His self-discipline was extraordinary and he hardly had any major vices, which allowed him to focus straightforwardly on football,” said award-winning coach Jita Singh, who won the Malaysia Cup in 1980 as well as two SEA (South East Asia) Games silver-medals (1983 and 1989). He was also the first Sikh to don the Lions jersey and also the first Sikh national coach (1979-1984). headtopics.com

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“That’s why I was stunned when Mat Noh went down because of heart attack, which usually cripples those who keep irregular work, family and social life. Perhaps, in hindsight, it could be a culmination of a prolonged coronary artery disease which is usually the main cause of heart attack.”

- Advertisement -In my opinion, having been Mat Noh’s work-and-playing colleague and recognising the very high national-interest stakes that were accompanied by tremendous pressure, it was perhaps just inevitable. Pressure for the country as a whole, the coaches and of course, the players who had to compete in such a long-standing testing, nerve-jangling environment.

BIGGEST TRUMP-CARDI still maintain that the biggest trump-card of ‘Mat Noh’ was his “gentleman qualities where he worked very hard in training and in big matches. He just wanted to get his job done and that’s why he was Uncle’s (Choo Seng Quee) blue-eyed boy”.

It is often said that in the money-rich world of modern football, the distance between players and fans has never been greater. How can supporters relate to the vast wealth and privilege of those who take to the field every week like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi? headtopics.com

That’s why the romantic notion of a hometown hero, in a little red-dot of an island, continues to hold sway to this day. A gentleman-player like ‘Mat Noh’ who started out like the supporters themselves and understands the joy and heartbreak of being a fan is a welcome throwback to a bygone era.

I can go on record to say that ‘Mat Noh’ was one of the humblest humans I’ve ever met. He never argued with anyone, worked hard and that’s how he became a notable Asian-class footballer, with distinctly Hollywood-styled looks to match.More surely, publicity was the last thing on his mind. He just knew deep down he had done his job and whatever other tasks were given to him, he did it very well.

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Jita Singh rightly compared him to unique Made-in-Singapore icons like Arshad Khamis, Dollah Kassim, Quah Kim Song and S. Rajagopal who could almost single-handedly win the hearts of thousands of Singaporeans when Malaysia Cup fever was at its precocious height in the 1970s and 80s.

Even the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) this week 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 March 6, 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”.

CHILDHOOD FRIENDSFew know that ‘Mat Noh’ and Rahimah were childhood friends from the Jalan Tenteram neighbourhood. She was born the eldest of four children to Rahim Hamid and Mariam Baharom.Rahim was known as the “Nat King Cole of Singapore” after he won the 1953 Xavier Cugat singing competition. Rahimah’s mother was the popular actress Mariam Baharom, who had stints with regional film companies while her father worked as a film editor with the latter.

From her father, Rahimah learnt to entertain and create a rapport with an audience, although it was through Mariam that Rahimah started acting.In my books, and with a very big heart, I dare say that Singapore’s uncomparable version of Allan Clarke, will always be the original pin-up boy of Singapore football.

The final heart-endearing words from Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan:“The dazzling skills of Mat Noh and his teammates left indelible memories for my generation. The Malaysia Cup was a rite of passage for so many of us. May he rest in peace.” /TISG

_________________________________________________________________Suresh Nair is an award-winning Singapore-based journalist who was a work-colleague and football striker with the iconic Read more: The Independent »

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Mat Noh: The quiet gentleman who let his feet do the talkingHe was publicity-shy, yet he often came under the media spotlight for his silky footballing skills. He was monosyllabic with replies, so you came away with many questions unanswered. He preferred the low profile, always slipping away from reporters and...

Mat Noh: The quiet gentleman who let his feet do the talkingHe was publicity-shy, yet he often came under the media spotlight for his silky footballing skills. He was monosyllabic with replies, so you came away with many questions unanswered. He preferred the low profile, always slipping away from reporters and...

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