By Suresh Nair
FORMER Singapore skipper Nazri Nasir couldn’t hold his emotions, likewise many Singapore football celebrities, after they visited Lim Chiew Peng at Singapore General Hospital.
You probably find it hard to even recognise one of the greatest goalkeepers as he looked raw-boned and under-weight enduring the very late stages of cancer.
Wow, Chiew Peng’s a far cry from his awesome playing days in the 1970s and early 80s as he was ranked as one of the region’s best No 1s. The left-footed goalkeeper who became famous not only for his spectacular high-flying saves but also his “super drop kick”.
“He was just spectacular, if not superlative,” says Nazri, who played with him for Jurong Football Club in the mid-1980s when the semi-pro National Football League (NFL) started. “His super drop kick, with the left foot, was just extraordinary and so very accurate.”
With tears in his eyes after his 45-minute hospital visit, the 45-year-old Nazri says: “He can be a very soft spoken person but I know him, he’s a real fighter inside. I have encouraged the Lim family to be strong and not to give up on him.”
Nazri, the captain of Singapore from 1997 to 2003, and led the Lions to the 1998 Asean Championship title, urged the football fraternity to have a “positive mindset” and to motivate Chiew Peng with regular visits at SGH Ward 76, Room 4.
“We will pray continuously for his recovery. We must never give up on a goalkeeper who gave his ‘blood, sweat and tears’ for Singapore.”
ENGLAND TOUR IN 1972
Chiew Peng became famous from the early 1970s, with his tall frame and quick agility between the woodwork during the best goalkeeping era with contemporaries Lee Bee Seng and Brian Rozario. He was the No 1 when the Lions made the first and only two-week tour of England in 1972.
“He was a fantastic goalkeeper and ‘guru’, too. He taught his goalkeeping skills to the younger goalkeepers and we admired his lanky height and dare-devil trademark saves,” recollects Brian Rozario, who described him as probably “the only goalkeeper with the most accurate left-foot”.
Award-winning ex-national coach Jita Singh, who was Chiew Peng’s team-mate during the England tour 44 years ago, says: “How shall I describe him? Fearless, agile, super anticipation and a genuine team-player, and I must say his personal football skills spoke volumes of his trademark as a first-class goalkeeper and gentleman.”
After his playing days, Chiew Peng took to goalkeeper coaching and was with five-time S-League champion Tampines Rovers as he also worked with his mentor-boss Teo Hock Seng at Hyundai for close to two decades.
SUFFERED IN SILENCE
Family members said the 65-year-old kept under wraps his cancer, until the late stages as he didn’t “want us to be worried about him”. A close family member adds: “We realised he looked undernourished and scrawny but he suffered in silence like a true-blue fighter.”
Another former international, who declined to be named, said Chiew Peng’s condition is “worsening with every passing day and he’s under heavy medication”. He adds: “He looks very exhausted under medication, definitely more shrunken but behind the pinched frame, he still offers a nice smile to every visitor.”
Chiew Peng, much as his medical condition is worsening, needs the support and inspiration with regular hospital visits and your prayers matter a lot. He deserves compassion and compensation from the football fraternity and your encouraging hospital presence will make a big difference in supporting one of the greatest Singapore goalkeepers of the post-war era.
Please be there for him. Your presence, especially as a die-hard Lions fan, will offer cheer and comfort for the Lim family as Chiew Peng deserves the best personal generosity from family, friends and football fans now.
Chiew Peng is recovering at SGH Ward 76, Level 6, Room 4.
- Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who followed the heroic goalkeeper for more than two decades and ranks Lim Chiew Peng as an icon in the No 1 jersey.