Malaysia mourns the passing of goalkeeping great Chee Keong


KUALA LUMPUR: Another star in Malaysia’s galaxy of once formidable football greats has had its light snuffed out. This morning, goalkeeping ace, Chow Chee Keong passed away at the University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) here following a struggle with bladder cancer.

He had been hospitalised at the same hospital on Jan 17 to undergo heart bypass surgery. While the bypass itself was successful, other complications arose, and he subsequently ended up in the intensive care unit of the UMMC.

Chee Keong’s son, Adrian Chow, in confirming his passing, said he could not remember much of his father’s playing days, but heard many good stories of his prowess as a goalkeeper.

“I probably remember him more as a golf professional, a sport he took to, after quitting football,” he said when contacted.

Adrian is a national ice hockey goalkeeper.

Chee Keong, without doubt, the best goalkeeper Malaysia has produced, would have turned 69 on November 26.

He was a former student of St John’s Institution and had the distinction of playing for the national Under-20 youth team at just 13 and made his national debut at 15. He played in five Merdeka tournaments from 1965-1969 and was a member of the side that lifted the coveted trophy in 1968.

Malaysians will remember him as the player who turned professional in Hong Kong in 1970, a career that would stretch over a decade. His teams included Jardines FC, South China AAA and Hong Kong Rangers FC with whom he ended his professional stint.

It is significant that he was named the Best Goalkeeper from 1966-1970 by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Chee Keong turned away from football upon retirement and instead became a golf professional and a fairly good one at that!

Interestingly, he was offered an opportunity to play for Brazilian club, Cruzerio FC who were mesmerised by his goalkeeping skills, while on a tour of Hong Kong. Chee Keong turned down the offer.

Then, when Chee Keong was back in Malaysia and Cruzerio happened to tour Malaysia and he was asked to play for the national team, the offer was repeated. Unfortunately, it came with the caveat that he had to take up Brazilian citizenship. Things did not work out as anticipated and Chee Keong missed out on the golden opportunity to star in Brazilian football.

Former AFC Secretary General, Datuk Peter Velappan described Chee Keong as a simple and humble personality despite his achievements.

“He was of a generation that did Malaysia proud in football. He is a true inspiration and as Malaysians, we can all be proud of Chee Keong,” he added.

Chee Keong was married to Christina Kwok, the daughter of the late former Football Association of Malaysia Secretary General , Datuk Kwok Kin Keng. – Bernama

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