Relatives and friends paid their last respects to one of the nation’s most notable football personalities, former national goalkeeper Chow Chee Keong, at Nirvana Memorial Centre yesterday.
- Malaysia’s best goalie, first professional footballer
- Paid a record salary in Hong Kong
- Was so revered that he was once brought to the stadium by helicopter
- Voted Asia’s best 5 times in a row from 1966 to 1970
- Brazilian legend Pele hailed him as one of the best goalkeepers he played against
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had paid his last respects on Friday.
“Paid last respect to late Chow Chee Keong and extended my condolence to the family. He was the greatest goalkeeper Malaysia ever had,” he tweeted.
Najib also uploaded several pictures of him signing the visitor’s book with the words: “We (Malaysia) will miss him, greatest goalkeeper we ever had.”
The Number 1 national jersey that Chow wore was displayed on an altar at the memorial centre.
Chow’s remains were cremated at the Nirvana Crematorium in Shah Alam.
Chow died on Wednesday at the age of 69 at the University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC).
He had been hospitalised on Jan 17 to undergo heart bypass surgery.
Friends and fans alike have paid tribute to Chow’s many attributes, including his humility despite being one of the best goalkeepers in Asia and his “fight to finish” trademark.
“Until his last breath he remained a fighter,” said Chow’s wife Christine Kwok, 64.
His son, Adrian Chow said he “fought hard and long for a long time to stay with us”.
His widow was quoted as saying that Chow had developed an infection that had spread to his organs.
He also had bypass surgery on January 17 and some time later suffered from internal bleeding.
In addition, he suffered from urinary bladder cancer.
Chow made his international debut at the tender age of 15 in 1965 and was the first Malaysian to play abroad when he signed with Bedford Town in England in 1967.
He played for the national team from 1965 to 1985.
From 1970 to 1982, he also played for several Hong Kong football teams, among them Jardines for a then-record salary of HK$2,500 a month.
So revered was Chow in Hong Kong that he was paid more than his European counterparts and he was once brought to the stadium for a match by helicopter.
Nicknamed ‘Asian Stainless Steel Gate’ for his fine work keeping out goals, Chow even attracted interest from Cruzeiro but he turned down the offer to sign with the Brazilian club as he had to take Brazilian citizenship.
He played against Pele and was hailed by the Brazilian legend as one of the best goalkeepers he had crossed paths with.
According to close friend and teammate N Thanabalan, Chow’s martial art background was among the reasons for his prowess between the posts.
“Chee Keong was a very brave player and it’s all due to his karate training. He held a black belt and he’s very fit and can jump very high because of karate,” said Thanabalan.
Chow, who was voted Asia’s best by the AFC five times in a row between 1966 and 1970, became a professional golfer after retiring from football. Until his death, he was teaching golf.