RIP: ‘Firebrand’ coach Kwai Lam

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A well-known former Malaysian player and coach ​Chow Kwai Lam ​passed away at the Ampang Puteri Hospital in Selangor on Monday, 11.00am.

Family members said he has been sick for a few months but bravely fought the medical ailments in recent days.

“He was a great player and coach,” says Richard Wong, manager of Singapre Ex-Internationals, who broke the news to me. “He was well liked by players, coaches and the football fraternity because of his personality. He was a down-to-earth footbal gentleman.”

Chow, 76, represented Malaysia from 1965 to 1971, being made captain of the 1965 Merdeka Tournament squad, before becoming the coach in 1978. He coached Selangor FA from 1979 to 1983, before moving to coach Sarawak FA in 1984. He coached Kuala Lumpur FA in 1989, 1992, 1995, and 1996.

He has the credit of having won the Malaysia Cup medal thrice with Selangor as a player and six times (thrice with Selangor and thrice with Kuala Lumpur) as a coach.

His most memorable being as coach of the KL team who went to win the Malaysia Cup three times in-a-row from 1987-1989 besides winning the League Cup (1988), Charity Shield (1988 and 1989)

“I think that record is going to be a difficult feat for any coach to beat,” said Chow proudly.


For the record, Chow made his debut with the Malaysian national team in 1965 when he played against England’s Southampton FC and went on to don national colours till 1971.

Significantly, one of his proudest moment as a player was when he was selected for the Asian All-Star team in 1968 to play against Arsenal.

Over in Singapore, he also made a name for himself, coaching Tampines Rovers (2002-2003) and ​Paya Lebar Punggol from December 2004 to June 2005.

Like the late “Uncle” Choo Seng Quee, Chow was known for firebrand attitude in the field of play.

“I was just a strict and disciplined coach. I stand no nonsense and treat everyone equally. There is no favourites in my team. Even if he was the top player, but shirks, he pays the price,” he said.

“Many saw me as a fierce coach, but I think that is because of personality where I stand no nonsense.”

RIP Chow Kwai Lam.

I will remember you as a fiery discipline-minded coach and also as a popular players’ coach, who genuinely cared for the younger generation on both sides of the Causeway. ​ – BY SURESH NAIR


* Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who has known Chow Kwai Lam for over three decades​
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