October 2, 2012
A Tribute to Malaysia’s Soccer Giant Abdul Ghani Minhat: “There will never be another one like you”
by Leslie Andres (09-30-12) @http://www.nst.com.my
A COUPLE of decades ago, a young boy sat enthralled as his father regaled him with tales of the best footballer the nation has ever produced.
Abdul Ghani Minhat, who was to earn a Datukship only much, much later, and only recently became a Tan Sri, dazzled with his feet and his mind, jinking his way through opposing players like a hot knife through butter.
No one could stop him. In fact, as soon as Ghani got the ball — and it didn’t matter if it was in his opponents’ half or his own — the crowd would be on their feet, shouting “Goal!”.
The father told his youngest son it was he who had discovered Ghani, when he was still a young teen playing football with his friends. Now, father was a sportsman himself, when he was much younger. He boxed, played hockey, football and table tennis for the police when he was doing his National Service, and was one of the force’s top marksmen.
In the Police football team, he played alongside several people who were national players. After leaving the force, father also played for Selangor twice, but after suffering two consecutive broken ankles at a time when medical treatment was nowhere near what it is today, he couldn’t continue.
Now it was when the father was still in the Police team, in Kuala Kubu Baru, that he was said to have discovered Ghani, who regularly played football adjacent to the field being used by the police team for training.
The story apparently was that he approached Ghani and found out that he had yet to turn 16, so he went to the police team coach and told him to sign the boy up before he came of age. Unfortunately, that wasn’t done and the police force team did not end up with the country’s greatest player.
Still, the young boy found it hard to believe that his father had discovered Ghani. There were other stories too. The father said he was walking to a game once, when Malaysia was still Malaya, when he was picked up by a Mat Salleh he used to know when he was in the force. The foreigner was, apparently, a successful football coach back in Britain who started talking about Ghani and how he could “walk into any team in the English First Division”.
Fast forward several years, and son, now in his late teens, drives the father to the hospital for his monthly check-up. Who should they bump into but the legend himself. Despite the fact that both were very much older now and had not seen each other in eons, Ghani and the father recognised each other. “Is this your son?” Ghani asks the father. “Yes, my youngest,” was the reply.
Turning to the teen, Ghani says: “You know, your father discovered me.”With jaw wide open, the teen just stared, not knowing what to say. He later vowed to believe everything his father told him.
That was the man Ghani was. He was the best the nation ever produced. Not even the late, great Datuk Mokhtar Dahari came close to having his skills, though he may have had greater charisma.
Yet, he gave credit to a man who basically had no influence on his career, let alone the natural, God-given skills he possessed. But he was also a straight talker. During that meeting in the hospital all those years ago, Ghani had some choice words for the country’s top striker at the time.
“Not even fit to tie my boot laces. He is a prima donna. They all are,” he said of the nation’s best at the time, and the entire national team in fact. Ghani was still involved in the Football Association of Selangor and FA of Malaysia at the time, so he knew what he was talking about when he called the national team a bunch of prima donnas.
His credentials also meant he knew just what the players were worth. Of course, you can argue that everybody thinks that he or she, or his or her era, was better than the present one. But if you compare the fact that Malaysian football has dropped so low when we used to be one of the best in Asia, it’s not hard to imagine that Ghani was right.
Ill health in recent years has meant that the country lost an experienced voice long before his death this week. But for those who knew him or of him, he lives on.
Rest in peace, Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Minhat. There may never be another one like you.
Leslie Andres is NST news editor