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You were something special, Dol
Fri, Oct 15, 2010
The New Paper
Photos:
Photos: ST, TNP, BH, New Nation    

By Godfrey Robert

HE LIVED for football.

He died because of football. Dollah Kassim, who extracted true meaning from the label "Gelek King" with his dribbling extraordinaire, breathed his last yesterday morning at the age of 61.

His sad passing came 10 days after the anniversary of the tragic match that caused him to go into a coma and be bed-ridden since.

Dol, as he was popularly called, collapsed at the Sultan of Selangor veterans match at Jalan Besar Stadium on Oct 4 last year and never recovered from that tragic blow.

He will be remembered for dazzling displays in football duels at Farrer Park, Geylang Stadium, Jalan Besar Stadium, and most notably, the National Stadium.

 

Football was Dollah's life.

His Malaysia Cup exploits - in the company of greats such as Quah Kim Lye, Samad Alapitchay, S. Rajagopal, Mohamed Noh and Quah Kim Song - at the Grand Old Dame generated electricity on the stands, lead to the coining of the label "Kallang Roar".

Writing about his mesmerising soccer skills and deep hunger for goals would be cliche.

For the pages of history and tonnes of newsprint have carried, and regurgitated, all those glory moments when he was the scourge of opponents with his mazy dribbles, deft chips, tricky feints and finishing wizardry.

Oh how we danced for joy when he lifted Singapore to Malaysia Cup triumph in 1977, after playing significant roles in the victories over Selangor (semi-finals) and Penang (final).

To talk about his contributions to Singapore soccer as a youth international, club footballer, long-time (11 years) international and then school, club and Lion City Cup coach would be to repeat stories we have become so familiar with.

Anonymity

And Dol himself has heard about all these since he hung up his national boots in 1979 after 11 years of yeoman service to Singapore soccer.

He said 14 years later: "Twenty years ago, maybe 100 people would come up to me on the street and tap me on my shoulder. Today, maybe about 10. "When I was in the national team, I was public property, and everything I did was watched and commented upon.

"Then when I left the scene and didn't have the attention anymore, I realised that was the way life should be.

"After I got used to not being mentioned in the press all the time, I enjoyed the anonymity." Anonymity? No way. Not for someone who should be remembered for posterity.

 

He learnt to enjoy being away
from the spotlight.

Honest, frank, realistic, occasionally shy, and always with feet on the ground was the Dol I became acquainted with after having had the privilege of watching him play, interviewing him, sharing with him, and even playing alongside him in social matches.

He was majestic on the pitch; off it just ordinary.

At one post-match interview in the early 1970s after he scored a hat-trick in a match at Farrer Park, to my question about how he poached those goals, his candid reply was "two with my right foot, the other with my head."

Some months before I wrote the Malaysia Cup book in 1991, I asked him for an interview. He obliged, but added that he could spare only half an hour.

We talked for almost two hours, and when we departed he said: "We can talk again, if you want." For the subject of soccer was close to his heart. In fact, football was his passion, probably the only thing that mattered to him.

From schoolboy soccer he graduated to club and national soccer. And the only job he knew was about soccer at Singapore Pools.

Quah Kim Lye, 68, his striking partner, speaking at Dol's wake at Sengkang yesterday, said: "I brought him into Pools because he was such a likeable character.

"While we were together in the national team for almost seven years, I found him to be fantastic person. During soccer trips we bonded well because we always shared the room.

"He had such a telepathic understanding with me as a twin striker that with precision timing he would relay the ball to me every time I ran into the opponents' box."

The last time I spoke to Dol was at a soccer gathering early last year.

Then I jolted his memory about some earlier moves by a PR firm and clubs to unearth a new Gelek King.

Rolling down the sleeves of his batik shirt and pushing back his spectacles, he asked: "Have they found one?"

"No", I replied.

"Alamak", was his only response.

I suppose there's only one "Gelek King".

We bade him a final farewell yesterday morning. And more than a nation of footballers grieved.

Goodbye Dol.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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