King of headers Kim Swee dies, aged 76
Consulting Editor GODFREY ROBERT, who has watched 'Gentleman' Kim Swee in action, pays tribute to a hero of the header
Quah Kim Swee scored six goals in Singapore's 11-0 crushing of Pahang in the 1963 Malaya Cup.
If there were television replays and high definition close-up pictures during his heyday of the Sixties, we could have seen "Hand of God" goals by Quah Kim Swee.
The ace striker - who died yesterday, aged 76, after a long battle with illness - was a master at scoring goals not only with his feet.
Swee, as he is popularly known, had an illustrious football career with the national team that spanned almost 12 years - from the late Fifties to early Seventies.
During that period, there were instances when Kim Swee showed that he was the pioneer - not Diego Maradona at the 1986 World Cup - when it came to scoring goals with a "hidden" hand.
As a teen and a close neighbour, I watched up close as Kim Swee poached a goal with a deft flick of his right hand in a game at the Deptford Road at the former Sembawang Naval Base.
It was a match between a Singapore Selection and the Joint Services - and off a high centre from the right, Kim Swee rose high, entangled himself with the leaping goalkeeper and flicked the ball in with his right hand so swiftly that even the opponent did not know that it was an "illegal" goal.
No doubt, those instances when he scored with his hands were rare. Because the elegant striker found the net with consummate ease - whether with his feet, head and even chest.
But he was best known for his flying headers - earning himself the nickname King Of The Nod.
During the Sixties, the Asian All-Star forward's fame and reputation stretched beyond the length and breadth of the Malayan peninsula where the Malaya Cup, FAM Cup and Merdeka tournaments were held.
The third footballing brother in the celebrated Quah family - after Kim Beng and Kim Choon and before Kim Siak, Kim Lye and Kim Song - Kim Swee's reputation transcended boundaries. He received professional offers from Cardiff City, an English First Division side then, and Hong Kong.
But Kim Swee, who studied at Admiralty Asian School before being offered a job at Mercantile Bank, stayed put in Singapore to build a banking career riding on his ingenious football talent.
A member of the 1965 Malaya Cup-winning team who later took over the national captaincy from "The Horse" Lee Kok Seng, Kim Swee was a magical goalscorer who honed his immaculate skills under coaches Choo Seng Quee, Yap Boon Chuan, Lozan Kocev and Rahim Sattar.
In an interview, the late Choo once said: "This is how a typical Kim Swee goal is scored. Running through like a reindeer, he meets a cross from the right flank in front of goal.
"He times and judges the ball as he runs, in his first stride he leaps into the air to meet the ball, then he nods or flicks it past the helpless goalkeeper.
"He is light on the feet, quick and delicate with his touches."
The stylish striker once said that his scoring job was made easy because he had a star-studded team alongside him, which included majestic strikers such as Arthur Koh, Majid Ariff, Rahim Omar, Ali Astar and Ibrahim Mansoor.
Moustachioed and always sporting a crew-cut ("I cut my hair not for superstition but for convenience", he once said), the 1.68-metre striker who had a spring in his step, later became a coach with a firm belief in self-discipline.
He trained hard, worked on his own fitness and mastered the art of scoring regularly via set-pieces - even outside the realm of national team commitments.
Winger Andy Yeo, 70, who played with Kim Swee in the late Sixties, said: "Kim Swee was very strong in the air and had good shots with both legs. He was a no-nonsense player, very serious.
"My best time with him was when we finished fourth in the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok.
"He was an inspiring captain.
"Another memorable competition was the 1968 Merdeka tournament in Kuala Lumpur, where we beat an Australian team 4-0. I scored all four goals, with Kim Swee and Kim Lye providing the assists."
Among Kim Swee's great goalscoring feats were three goals in Malaysia's 5-2 thumping of Nationalist China, a brace in Singapore's Malaya Cup final triumph over Selangor in 1965, four goals (three of them headers) in the 7-2 victory over Selangor in the Malaya Cup in 1957, and a massive "sixer" in the 11-0 crushing of Pahang in the Malaya Cup in 1963.
Kim Lye, 73, who played alongside Kim Swee for six years, said: For me, his best showing was at the 1966 Asian Games when he captained the side.
"He made goalscoring easy because he knew how to run into space, which allowed his teammates many options when it came to passing the ball."
Kim Song, 63, said: "Swee was a true gentleman.
"He never questioned referees or argued with officials. Also he was well respected in the football fraternity."
Singapore football has lost a true icon, and his family (wife Helen and three children) believe that Swee is now in the hands of God.
*The wake will be held at the St Joseph's Church, 143 Victoria Street, from 11am today. Funeral details will be announced later.
"This is how a typical Kim Swee goal is scored. Running through like a reindeer, he meets a cross from the right flank in front of goal."
— Former Singapore coach ‘Uncle’ Choo Seng Quee on Quah Kim Swee
BY THE NUMBERS
Quah Kim Swee scored six goals in Singapore’s 11-0 crushing of Pahang in the 1963 Malaya Cup.