Friday, July 11, 2008
R.I.P, Supermokh, 17 years on
When footballing legend Mokhtar Dahari passed away after succumbing to muscular dystrophy on July 11, 1991, exactly 17 yars ago, I was on the verge of joining the world of journalism, as a trainee of the NSTP Pre-Editorial Training Scheme (PETS).
It meant getting the daily supply of four newspapers under the NSTP stable. Harian Metro and the Malay Mail front-paged the news and tributes came pouring in the other papers which lasted for weeks.
To catch a glimpse of the great man was always my aim every Friday back when I was schooling in the heart of the city. Masjid Jamek was within walking distance from my alma mater and those days Mokhtar was working, playing and coaching for Talasco.
I watched numerous games involving Mokhtar at the Merdeka Stadium at the tailend of his career, thanks to my late dad, a football fan and a referee who had officiated Datuk Peter Velappan as a player.
Later on I got the opportunity to speak to people who were close to him apart from his family, his friends such as Datuk Soh Chin Aun, Reduan Abdullah, Bakri Ibni (pictured below with Supermokh's widow Tengku Datin Zarina Tengku Ibrahim), and journalists who had the good fortune of getting up, close and personal with Supermokh.
Only after I joined Berita Harian that I got to know the ghostwriter for the Supermokh column On Target in the New Straits Times was Dan Guen Chin or sifu to most of us. Datuk Fauzi Omar also had tons of anecdotes to share from his experience with Mokhtar.
When I spoke to former England supremo Bobby Robson in a teleconference ahead of the FAPL Cup in 2003, he remembered the 1978 trip he made with the England B side mainly due to Mokhtar's goal.
"Yes I do remember the 1978 trip. I had just lifted the FA Cup with Ipswich Town when the FA asked me to take the England B side to KualaLumpur.
"We drew 1-1, I can't recall how the match went exactly but it was held under conditions which we were not accustomed to. Your team scored a good goal."
The late Mansoor Rahman covered the match. Here's the excerpts of the report
"Mokhtar Dahari, Malaysia's soccer pride, stole the limelight from under the noses of England's second stringers its this friendly match at Merdeka Stadium last night.
"After Alan Kennedy had shot England into the lead in the 14th minute, Mokhtar carved out a stunning equaliser 18 minutes later, which had a packed crowd roaring with delight.
"Mokhtar made two more distinctly dangerous runs - both the second half - and a shot hit the post and dropped out of play.."
" ... At the other end, Mokhtar was enjoying some tremendous runs but was unfortunately not having the support he deserved from the other forwards.
"Then he decided to try a goal-grabbing feat on his own. He drove the English team to panic stations with a delightful display of dribbling, culminating with a goal, one of the best from this master striker.
"Mokhtar collected the ball right in midfield, and showing superb acceleration, weaved past Kennedy and David Needham to work his way to the top of the box.
"He then unleashed a shot which found the far corner of the net, leaving goalkeeper Joe Corrigan clawing at thin air.
"The English players were definitely dejected and Mokhtar threw his clenched fist three times in his characteristic manner as the others rushed to congratulate him.
"Even opposing team manager Bobby Robson, who managed Ipswich to their dramatic FA Cup triumph against Arsenal at Wembley earlier in the month, was thoroughly impressed.
"Robson said: `It is one of the best goals I have seen so far."
I met former Selangor defender Walter Biggs the other day. He said: "I could feel the earth moving when Mokhtar was in full flow. He would be more determined and inspiring if we were trailing."
K. Rajagobal said he would have goosebumps having to partner Mokhtar, whether it was for the Selangor team or the PKNS side then managed by Datuk Yap Nyim Keong.
"I used to be overawed by his sheer reputation but he made the junior ones like me feel at home."
Datuk Dina Rizal was fond of reminding me he was skipper and left flanker of the VI team with Mokhtar spearheading the attack. Mokhtar was already knocking on the doors of the Selangor Burnley Cup team then.
A family friend revealed one of the secrets of Mokhtar's prowess was horse meat.
"His whole family used to eat horse meat for meals."
His son Mohd Redza and I share the same alma mater.
There will never be another Mokhtar, a real thoroughbred of a man and the epitome of a marauding, powerful footballer. Al-Fatihah.
p.s The VI Old Boys Association held a special tahlil at the Al-Bohari mosque yesterday.