Fri, Oct 15, 2010
The New Paper
Goodbye, Gelek King
Photos: ST, TNP, BH, New Nation    

By Gary Lim

AN ENTIRE nation mourns.

Thursday morning, Dollah Kassim, 61, a name etched forever in Singapore football folklore, died in his Rivervale Drive home.

According to his son, Ezaad Abdullah, the Singapore football great was discovered "motionless and not showing vital signs" by Dollah's 28-year-old daughter Ellya Abdullah at close to 6am.

It has been slightly more than a year since Dollah suffered a heart attack, and subsequently brain damage, while playing for the Singapore Veterans in the Sultan of Selangor's Cup last October.

He slipped into a coma and had been bed-ridden ever since.

He was brought home from Tan Tock Seng Hospital by his family on Dec 30 in the hope that he would get better in the home environment.

Indeed, he showed encouraging signs after that.

When The New Paper visited him at his home in June, he was awake and conscious.

But yesterday, following a year-long battle, he finally succumbed.

Said Ezaad, 32: "I remember him as more than a father. He was more like a friend.

"I don't really know what to think right now. We need time to get through this. The worst-hit is my mum. My father was her backbone."

More than 100 friends and relatives crowded at the void deck at his block to send off Dollah for one last time yesterday.

Among them were ex-national team players, former teammates such as Quah Kim Lye and others who had been inspired by Dollah when they were young, including V Sundramoorthy, Rafi Ali and Rezal Hassan.


Dollah's goals used to flow freely at the National Stadium where he made his name. This time, tears took over.

At slightly past 3pm, his loved ones and family members emerged from his second-floor five-room flat.

His wife of over 30 years, Faridah Syed Anwar, 56, was seen tearing as she walked down the stairs with the help of two relatives. The body was first moved to Sultan Mosque,

where Dollah used to go for his prayers every Friday. Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed was one of the pallbearers at the mosque.

Football Association of Singapore president and mayor of Central Singapore District, Zainudin Nordin, also conveyed his condolences.

He said: "I am deeply grieved to learn of the passing of Dollah Kassim.

"He was an exceptional individual and an outstanding footballer who moved many people. His life will continue to inspire countless Singaporeans in the future.

"My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to his family at this trying period."

Later, at Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery, where Dollah was buried, Swandi Ahmad, 60, fought back the tears as he recalled the passing of a great man.

Ironically, the former Gombak United and Sengkang- Punggol coach was also battling for his life at the same hospital just three storeys below, just four days after Dollah suffered from the heart attack.

A surgery to remove a head tumour had resulted in complications, leaving Swandi's loved ones to fear for his life.

But, after spending five days in a coma and another five months in the hospital ward, he recovered. Said Swandi, as tears welled up in his eyes: "I knew him from the days when we played football together at Farrer Park as kids.

"When I was at the hospital, I knew he was near me. I was hoping that he would recover like me, and we could go and sit down at a coffeeshop for a chit-chat.

"I made it, he didn't.

"I knew it could so easily have been me.

"It makes me so sad that he didn't make it."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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