1974, a year of football madness

12 02 2010

1974 was a year which I remember most for the feast of football that it provided. That was of course the year in which the World Cup was to be staged. That year it was to be hosted by West Germany, the half of western leaning half of a Germany split by the Cold War into East and West. The World Cup was something that I had looked forward to in anticipation being a little too young to appreciate the spectacle that the World Cup had provided four years earlier in Mexico City. It was also the year in which football fever reached a fever pitch in Singapore riding on the good run of the Singapore team in the Malaysia Cup competition, and with the year closing with the visit to Singapore of the world’s greatest footballer: Edson Arantes Do Nascimento, known to us all as Pelé.

Pelé in action: Pelé was considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time. He held a coaching session at the humble Toa Payoh Stadium in December 1974 (Photo source: BBC).

For me, what started with kicking a ball around the wide corridor that was the circular lift landing of the block of flats I lived in with a few neighbours (and having to scramble down 19 floors every time the ball flew over the parapet), developed into a passion for the game by the time 1974 had arrived. The neighbourhood boys had formed a team in which I somehow ended up playing as a goalkeeper for. In school, my classmates and I were kicking a ball every little scrap of time we found: before school, during recess and during P.E. lessons. I had also become an avid follower of the English game – of which we would get a glimpse of through highlights shown every Sunday of the previous weekend’s action. I became a big fan of the mopped haired Kevin Keegan and the team he played for, Liverpool, and remember 1974 well for their triumph in the F.A. Cup – beating Newcastle United 3-0 in the finals in May of that year. Unfortunately, the team didn’t win the Division 1 championship that year, losing out to Leeds United.

My football mad classmates and me in the Class football team.

The visit of Pelé would perhaps have been the highlight of the year of football to many Singaporeans. For my friends and me, the football crazed schoolboys that we were, the opportunity to see the world’s greatest player up close on the pitch of the Toa Payoh Stadium on 2 December of that year was certainly one not to be missed, even if that meant watching him demonstrating his sublime skills from a distance. He had been scheduled to conduct a coaching clinic for a select few, and my older neighbours had got wind of it and brought me along as a most willing accomplice.

The National Stadium provided the setting for a football match in 1974 that left a lasting impression on me.

What would, however, leave a greater impression on me that year was not seeing Pelé in person, or the World Cup, but, watching the first leg of the semi-final of the Malaysia Cup between Singapore and Penang at the National Stadium. That match played on 26 May, was the first that I ever watched live in a stadium and would be one that got me hooked on the Malaysia Cup. As a match, the semi-final was filled with much drama as the tide ebbed and flowed. Penang took the lead early on before Singapore equalised. At the interval Singapore was trailing 1-2 and the game looked beyond Singapore. However, a second half revival which saw wave after wave of Singapore attacks, and Singapore’s Jaafar Yacob hitting the bar from the penalty spot, saw Singapore first equalising through Quah Kim Lye, and scoring a winning goal through its captain Seak Poh Leong.

The National Stadium under construction in 1973.

What I remember most about the match was the raucous atmosphere in the stadium and how the stadium literally shook as the match went on. The stadium had been packed to the rafters, probably seeing the largest crowd ever seen in the stadium. 70,000 fans had crammed in spilling into the aisles. My parents and me had been seated right at the top of the East Stand of the stadium, as the stadium had already been packed when we arrived some two hours before the match. While not being the best place to observe the action on the field, it provided an ideal vantage point from which to observe and soak up the atmosphere  on the terraces. The thunderous noise that accompanied each wave of Singapore’s attacks was deafening! This was amplified by the stamping of feet by the boisterous crowd causing the whole stadium to tremble. This was definitely the Kallang Roar, which was in its infancy, at its loudest! The atmosphere was electric, as fans rose in excitement at each attack, corner, free-kick and unpopular refereeing decisions, which had me shaking in excitement even after the game had ended.  The team then featured the likes of Dollah Kassim, Mohammad Noh, Quah Kim Lye and Quah Kim Song, all household names in Singapore football in the 1970s. Unfortunately, the efforts of the team on the night came to nought as Singapore lost 1-4 to Penang in the return leg.

The newly constructed stadium was the most modern in South East Asia and provided an ideal setting for the birth of the Kallang Roar (Photo source: Singapore Sports Council).

I had watched the 1st leg of the semi-final seated near the cauldron as the stadium was packed with 70,000 spectators.

After following the exploits of the Singapore team and rejoicing at Liverpool’s triumph in the F.A. Cup, next on the menu was that summer’s World Cup, one in which we were very much mesmerised by the magic woven by the feet of the new Dutch masters led by the two Johans: Neeskens and Cruyff. We were treated to a show of “total football” by the Dutch, who met West Germany in the final. There was some controversy surrounding the German route to the finals in which it was suggested that they deliberately lost 0-1 to their eastern counterparts during the group stages to avoid meeting the defending champions Brazil in the next stage. Whatever it was, Germany eventually triumphed 2-1 in a pulsating final which saw two penalties awarded, the first to the Dutch in the very first minute before any German player had touched the ball, through a Gerd Muller goal.

Johan Cruyff in action during the final of the 1974 World Cup (Photo source: Wikipedia).

1974 saw the introduction of a new trophy after Brazil's third triumph in 1970 allowed Brazil to keep the original Jules Rimet trophy (Photo source: Wikipedia).

1974 was certainly for me, a year to be remembered for the football feast that it served up to me.




17 responses

12 02 2010
The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 12 Feb 2010

[…] and everything – The Useless Tree: More on Confucianism and Modernity – The Long and Winding Road: 1974, a year of football madness – Singaporean Skeptic: The power of imagination – Asterpix Interactive Video: All Indian […]

13 02 2010

Great post but worth mentioning that the World Cup Finals 1974 was the first match to be telecast in colour in Singapore! I remember going to my uncle’s home to watch!

14 02 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks Paul! Now that you’ve mentioned it, yes I do remember that. In fact my father bought a Setron colour television set just to be able to watch the telecast in colour!

20 02 2010
Brendan James

I am a past pupil of St. Anthony’s Boys’ School and used to live in Stamford Road. My dad, Frank James, taught at both SABS and SJI. My mum, Iris, taught at the Convent of the HIJ, Bras Basah Road. These pictures and comments about my former hunting ground are most interesting. The bit about that elephant donated by Prince Chulalongkorn is something I did not know. And it connects me to my granfather, Joseph, who succeeded Anna Leonowens as tutor to the Royal Court in Siam. Part of his duties was to accompany the princes, Chulalongkorn among them, to the UK for their studies. So thank you, Jerome, for taking me back down memory lane.

20 02 2010
The wondering wanderer

Brendan, thanks for your comments. Wow! It’s wonderful to know that there is a link your grandfather has to the bronze elephant through Chulalongkorn and the Siamese Royal Court. It would certainly be nice if there are some stories or accounts that you grandfather might have had about his experiences at the Royal Court and during his time in the UK with the princes. It is also nice to know you lived in Stamford Road – coincidentally I am just about to complete a post on my memories of Stamford Road. Did you live at Eu Court? I am actually looking for a photograph of Eu Court – it is a shame that the building had to step aside for a road. When did your mum and dad teach at the two schools? I am certainly pleased to know there are few fellow beings out there who are there to join me on my walk down memory lane! 🙂

3 03 2010

Hmm, I have an old photo of Eu Court somewhere – I was in primary school around the area and one day decided to take a camera and take photos of all the buildings around. Let me see if I can find it!!

4 03 2010
The wondering wanderer

That would be neat!

2 04 2010
JC Carino

Great blog, I remember this so well as it was then that I started to really get into international football…they had shown a highlight film of the 1970 WC weeks before the 1974 world cup and I’ve been a Brazil fan ever since…I had so many heartbreaks in Singapore football…my first live game being Singapore vs South Vietnam in the 1973 SEAP games…another heartbreak was losing to Selangor in the Malaysia Cup finals (can’t remember when, probably in 1975, my idol Quah Kim Lye was no longer part of the team…my other idol Mohd Noh had a cheeky back-heel saved at the goal line.) My family had already returned to the Philippines when they finally won it all in 77 or 78…i remember watching the LIVE FA Cup finals (Jim Montgomery in Sunderland’s miracle against Leeds Utd, Keegan and Liverpool vs Macdonald and Newcastle, Alan Taylor for West Ham vs Fulham, Mick CHannon for Southampton vs Man U)…great times

5 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks for your comments JC. Yes, I remember the highlights – and the image of Franz Beckenbauer playing on in a sling! There were indeen many heartbreaks in Singapore football – I remember the 1973 semi-finals as well – my father had watched the match at the stadium … there were several occasions when we lost in the Malaysia Cup finals as well – there was one final in Fandi Ahmad’s debut season where I actually travelled to watch the finals at the Merdeka Stadium, sitting amongst the hostile crowd, only to see Singapore lose to Selangor. My idol was Mohd Noh as well – I loved to watch his stylish style of play! Great times and great memories indeed! 🙂 Are you still residing in the Philippines?

3 04 2010

Hi Dude

I’m just in to writing a fooball blog, and I was wondering is I may use your photograph from the stadium in Singapore. It will have no commercial use and I will acknowledge where it came from, of course

I’ve also spent the last two hours reading though. Brilliant writing


3 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

Hi Cameron, appreciate your kind comments. You are most welcome to use the photograph – what’s the name and url of your blog? Cheers!

4 06 2010
The Grand Old Lady takes a bow « The Long and Winding Road

[…] the many fanatical fans of the Singapore team during the days of Singapore’s participation in the Malaysia Cup, was the holy ground of football, to which they could be mesmerised by the magic of their football […]

7 06 2010

I had a classmate who lived in Toa Payoh at the time. He managed to get quite close to Pele. What surprised him was that Pele was not tall at all. Pele was only slightly taller than him( He was about 5′ 5″). Another classmate who lived in Toa Payoh was staying in the same block as Mohd Noh. Mohd Noh was of course then a soccer pin-up boy with his resemblance to Allan Clarke of Leeds. Furthermore National Stadium will always have a special place in my memory as I participated in a callisthenic display for the opening ceremony. The actual date of the opening ceremony is always easy to remember as it is the day that Bruce Lee died. On the day of the opening ceremony, news had filtered in that Bruce Lee had died just as we were preparing to leave our school for the opening ceremony at National Stadium.

9 06 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks for adding your memories, Tony! Yeah, Mohd Noh was the pin-up boy of sorts – and married to a Malay songstress Rahima Rahim at that time. He was actually my favourite player at that time in the Singapore team. 🙂

31 08 2010
The next poster boy of football? « The Long and Winding Road

[…] had many (at least in football) whom we can identify as poster boys for some time … not since Singapore’s participation in the Malaysia Cup perhaps, when the likes of Fandi Ahmad, Quah Kim Song, Dollah Kassim and many others before them […]

14 10 2010
Thanks for the geleks, Dollah … « The Long and Winding Road

[…] Roar – in the late 1970s, helping Singapore lift the Malaysia Cup in 1977, retiring from the Malaysia Cup and International scene in 1979. He collapsed following a match between ex-internationals from […]

5 01 2012
Kal Sandhu

Great post that I ran across. Does bring back memories. I was at SJI then. Three years later I played at National Stadium for Tampines and I had the job of marking then Singapore phenom, Mohn Noh, against Toa Payoh. Tampines handily won that game, and I came at age:)
Join me on the soccer social platform: http://www.pass2me.com.
Kal Sandhu

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