This man never stops running on the pitch. With a never-say-die attitude, he holds an amazing record for the most international cap for Singapore at 121 times, over the span of 16 long years. He is one of the greatest players Singapore has ever produced and he rubbed shoulders with the legends in his time where together with him, they were known as the Dream Team! In this episode of JPF TALK, we feature Singapore’s very own number-10, Malek Awab, and we bring you this interview right from his humble abode!
JPF: Your name is no stranger to all the Malaysia Cup fans here, so now thinking back, what’s your memory of those glory days?
MA: Indeed, those days were one of the glorious period of Singapore’s futbol. Individually we received recognition and as a team, we were united which brought us the 1994 Malaysia Cup and M-League double. I will never forget those days playing in the Malaysia Cup in Kuala Lumpur jersey and as well as Singapore Lions’!
JPF: You were nicknamed “Singapore’s midfield engine” during your playing days because of your endless running up and down the pitch, do you do lots of running exercises to build up stamina or you are just born with 4 lungs!
MA: I am definitely not born with 4 lungs! I was considered small (pointing to his head) in size, standing at about 1.66m. With my small build, I couldn’t play in a lot of positions so midfield was the best position where I would train and use my running to do all the talking on the futbol pitch!
JPF: Prior to the M-League double with Singapore in 1994, you have donned the jersey of Kuala Lumpur’s from 1987 - 1990, and you even won 3 Malaysia Cup titles with them from 1987 - 1989, how you feel and cope as a Singapore player to play oversea then?
MA: Those years which I had spent playing for Kuala Lumpur were the best of my career. With me, there were also Fandi (Ahmad) and K. Kannan too. The fans made us feel very welcoming and even the Mayor, Tan Sri Dato’ Elyas Omar, treated us just like his own sons. I enjoyed the pre-seasons’ trainings to Slovakia with Kuala Lumpur, I won 3 Malaysia Cup titles with them and I made lots of great friends during my years with Kuala Lumpur.
JPF: You are the most capped international player for Singapore at 121 caps, how do you feel about this achievement?
MA: Not really a big fan of such figures actually. I made my first team debut in 1980 King’s Cup against Thailand (if I remember correctly) when I was 19yrs old. Ever since all I cared about was to represent Singapore and played my heart out in every single game. In fact, I was not aware of such achievement until I was informed by the FA!
JPF: You were also the captain of Singapore team from 1985 - 1986, what went through your mind every time you put on the captain’s armband and lead the team out from the stadium tunnel?
MA: To be honest, my time as Singapore’s captain was not long, but I could remember how it felt - never fail Singapore’s fans. Put the captain’s armband aside, the moment I put on Singapore jersey, I want to play well. I want the team to play well. Sometimes I might not be a good captain on the pitch but definitely I am a good leader!
JPF: You played alongside with many great players such as Fandi Ahmad, V. Sundramoorthy, Abbas Saad, Kadir Yahya, just to name a few, who is the best player you ever played with? Do you still keep in touch with them?
MA: Actually there are too many names to be mentioned. Really, a lot! Abbas is one of my good friends, he is those sort of the good and bad guy around in an accompany of friends. Another great brother of mine is Kadir whom we used to travel to the training ground together. He still stays here (pointing to the window). And also Jang Jung! Currently he’s away oversea coaching in Sri Lanka but he would always call me whenever he returns to Singapore for a break!
JPF: In our first episode of JPF TALK, we featured your former team mate, Lee ManHon. So how’s both of your partnership in the midfield was like and what do you think of him?
MA: ManHon is the best youngster I ever played with. We have had a wonderful partnership on the field for sure. For a 19yrs old, playing in a big league, he showed maturity and played like a senior player! Not only that, he had his unique individual playing style and he’s respectful towards the rest of the senior players in the team. Definitely one of the greatest youngsters Singapore ever produced then.
JPF: What’s your biggest achievement during your career and biggest disappointment?
MA: Biggest achievements were the time I spent with Kuala Lumpur and winning the Malaysia Cup three times consecutively in the 80s, and winning the Malaysia Cup and M-League double with Singapore in 1994. Biggest disappointment was a call-up by CPIB in 1995 where I was interrogated for 18 hours. For sure, I am a clean-player but to be on their suspected list, it was a huge disappointment for me.
JPF: So what keeps you busy these days?
MA: After hanging up my boots in 1996, I am working as a sales representative for Pacific Sports Pte Ltd. As much as I can, I would want to promote Singapore futbol just like what Junpiter Futbol aims to do too. Futbol wise, I am still busy involved with the Singapore veteran team where we would play in the Sultan of Selangor Cup and etc. I treat these games as a form of exercise and an opportunity to catch up with old friends!
JPF: Let’s talk about our our current Singapore team, what do you think of their recent performances and players?
MA: I follow all their games. If you ask me, I would say all our opposition teams in our World Cup Asian Qualifying group are a level above us. Our current team is good but still not enough to progress further.
JPF: Up till now, there are still debates on whether the foreign talents have positive impact on our national setup, what’s your take on this?
MA: I know almost all the neutralized players in our current team and personally I am good friends with them. However if you are to ask me, I would say I still fancy a Singapore team made up of 100% local boys.
JPF: Any advice for JPF TALK readers whom inspired to be a professional futbol player?
MA: Remember, there is no shortcut to success! I am a great believer of hardwork brings guaranteed result. Similar to Junpiter Futbol’s philopshy - enjoy the game, you have to be serious about training too and do your best.
JPF: Lastly, complete this sentence… Co’mon everybody, feel the power, you can feel the steam, its the…..
MA: Dream Team!!
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