Hussein Aljunied - a class act as a player, coach and fan
The menu for our small lunch gathering at a quiet Sin Ming restaurant six months ago was nasi padang and a few side dishes.
And the agreement was "no football talk" as Singapore soccer was at a low just after the last South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
In walked latecomer Hussein Aljunied, and his opening words to the gathering were : "Hey, what is happening to our football?"
Hussein and football go hand in hand. Hussein cannot be without football. His passion for the game is beyond explanation, and rationale.
So when the former national footballer and coach, aged 73, died yesterday, at around 3.40pm at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), the football fraternity was alerted by phone, e-mail and whatsapp within minutes.
One of the first buddies to rush to SGH was the legendary Quah Kim Lye, also 73, and Hussein's teammate in the '60s and early '70s.
Quah said: "To many, he was a star midfielder, who came over from the Malaysian Armed Forces in 1965 and etched his name in Singapore football.
"But few know that he was a brilliant centre forward, a great goal-poacher who kept me out of the national team for a couple of years.
"One more thing: he had a bicycle-kick better than V Sundramoorthy's, and that in itself explains that class and quality of Hussein as a God-given talent."
Hussein had been hospitalised at the SGH since Feb 22 because of breathing problems, and it is said that he later suffered from pneumonia, kidney failure and a weak heart and died of complications.
But he lived football, as a player in the late '60s and national coach from 1984 to 1986, interspersed with a coaching stint in Brunei.
Hussein, whom I have known for almost 40 years, led the Lions to the Malaysia League title in 1985 and also to the SEA Games final - losing 2-1 to hosts Thailand - that same year.
Hussein Aljunied consoles Quah Kim Song after the Lions lost 1-0 to Hong Kong in a World Cup qualifier at the National Stadium in 1977. ST FILE PHOTO
Then team manager Omar Ibrahim, 74, recalled: "We went to the Games with a slim chance, but Hussein boosted our hopes. His footballing experience made him a top-class coach, and his knowledge of tactics, formation and in drawing the best from his players made him a superb tactician.
"He has a great rapport with players and, although he was a disciplinarian - a trait from his army days as a warrant officer - he always backed his players.
"He commanded the respect of players, and was a real joker whose ways were down to earth."
Popularly know as "Habib", a salutation that not just officials but also how his players addressed him, Hussein once told me that he "considered players as human beings, and a slight tolerance of their misdemeanours off the field does no harm".
Even until early last month, Hussein continued to attend Singapore's matches, and you could never stop him from analysing their games, which made a lot of sense to his listeners.
Hussein, who leaves behind his wife, a son, three daughters and 10 grandchildren, was a longtime Manchester United fan who switched allegiance to Manchester City two years ago because of the Red Devils "messing" up their football after Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.
His explanation at the Sin Ming lunch: "Football is a simple game and, when you get the players to play for you, the battle is three-quarter won. With United, the coaches after Fergie have made it so complex and boring that you cannot align yourself with them."
The Football Association of Singapore said yesterday that it was saddened by his passing, adding: "Our thoughts are with Mr Hussein's family in this difficult time."
Singapore has lost a loyal footballing son and a rare three-in-one (player, coach and fan) patriot.