By Suresh Nair
HISTORY will be created at Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday during the AFC Cup match when the late refereeing icon Maidin Singah gets the first of a “double” tribute.
To my mind, two-time honours are a rarity even in the Asean region but the 74-year-old Maidin, who passed on Valentine’s Day will get an exceptional double one-minute salutes as a distinct salute for his contributions to regional refereeing.
For his Asian advancements, Maidin will be recognised at today’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) match between five-times S-League Tampines Rovers and Malaysia’s Felda United. And on Sunday, for his value-add services for Singapore football, he will be remembered at the S-League season-opening Community Shield match between Albirex Niigata and Tampines Rovers at the National Stadium @ SportsHub.
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Transitional Council President, who endorsed the “double” tributes, said he even invited Maidin’s eldest son, Shamsul Maidin, who is AFC Director of Refereeing and two-time AFC ‘Referee of the Year’ winner, to play a personal role in Sunday’s tribute.
“I spoke to Shamsul and suggested that he symbolically referee the Community Shield match at the National Stadium on February 26 for about 15 minutes in remembrance of his father,” said Mr Lim. “But he could not make it and he was also uncomfortable doing it.”
The AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur immediately endorsed Tuesday’s one-minute silence, where as Mr Lim says, a “silent montage will be observed”.
“The same one-minute silence with be observed on February 26 and Shamsul has arranged for nostalgic photos to be provided for the occasion.”
But it must be put on record that it was Tampines Rovers President Krishna Ramachandra, who first proposed a “double tribute”, which is uncommon in Asian football circles.
“I’m happy to support the one-minute silence request not only for the AFC game but also for our Community Shield game on February 26, which must rank as equally fitting tributes to the late Mr Singah in the Asian context (AFC match) and in local context (S-League opening match),” said Krishna, a well-known corporate lawyer. “Also please extend VIP tickets on my behalf to the family of the late Mr Singah.”
Former AFC general secretary Alex Soosay sent me this SMS: “Yes, it’s fine for FAS to do ‘double’ honours for both domestically and international recognition. Most importantly, it will be a very special honour for the family of our late friend.”
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, from Bahrain, was one of the first to express his condolences when he heard of Maidin’s demise: “Asian football has lost a remarkable servant of football. Maidin will always be remembered for his passion and commitment to elevate the standards of refereeing in the continent. His contributions, along with those of his peers, have helped transform Asian refereeing into the world-class standards we see today. On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to convey our deepest sympathies.”
Shamsul Maidin, on behalf of his family, thanked the FAS for the special “double” appreciation of one-minute salutes. “We are very honoured. We never expected such an overwhelming acknowledgement and we thank FAS President for making this commendation. My dad will be bowing his head for this unusual recognition.”
The late Maidin was thrilled when his eldest son, Shamsul, took up the whistle and went on to global fame at the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany – 32 years after George Suppiah did it, as the first Asian referee, at the 1974 Finals in the-then West Germany.
DIRECTOR OF REFEREEING
Shamsul created history in his own ways when in January 2016, he became the first Singaporean to be Director of Refereeing at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in Kuala Lumpur, where he now overseas referee development in over 45 countries.
It must go on record that Shamsul, 50, who retired as a referee in 2007 after twice winning the AFC ‘Referee of the Year’ award, enjoyed an illustrious career which saw him officiate the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup and 2006 FIFA World Cup. Other highlights include the 1996, 2000 and 2004 AFC Asian Cups, as well as the 2001 and 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship. He was the only non-African referee to officiate at the 2006 African Cup of Nations.
Former FRAS (Football Referees Association of Singapore) President Ravi Krishnan described the “double tributes” as an “extraordinary affection, applause and approval of Maidin’s refereeing status”.
“The refereeing fraternity is overwhelmed by the awesome recognition of a football hero, a FIFA referee who held the whistle with pride,” he added. “Maidin was an icon for his refereeing principles and never will we see a father-son combination, who have globally lifted Singapore’s sporting image.”
Former FAS Referees Committee Chairman Jeffrey Beh said the “precedence, preference and prestige” to a double one-minute remembrance salute will be “very hard to match”.
“It goes to show the affidavits to how much the men-in-black have brought world-class honour to Singapore, right from the 1970s era of George Suppiah, who was the first Asian referee to hold the whistle in the Poland versus Haiti match in 1974,” he said. “The FAS owes gratitude and gratefulness to many referees who have consistently honoured little Singapore on the big world stage.”
Maidin Singah’s passing was a personal tragedy to me as the 74-year-old was a long-standing family friend, referee virtuoso and sporting gentleman. In the eyes of countless contemporaries, he was an extraordinary military-trained cavalier, with hardly anyone having a negative word about him.
He always set the highest standards, like a disciplinary military man, but with a sincere caring heart for the grassroots. No nonsense in whatever he did but very conscious to treat anyone and everyone, with due dignity and respect.
Maidin became a FIFA Referee in 1981 and one of his biggest moments was officiating the high-profile 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico Final Round qualifiers match between South Korea and Japan in 1985.
Following an outstanding nine-year international career on the pitch, he continued to impart his knowledge and experience off the pitch, serving as an AFC Referees Instructor and Secretary to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Referees Committee.
What I personally admired about the Maidin-Shamsul father-son relationship was absolutely no sign of nepotism and Maidin professionally ensured there were no inherent conflicts of interests as Shamsul, slowly but surely, rose up the refereeing ladder.
Singah stands for “lion” in Malay and Indian terminology and this latest “double tributes” will be endearing sporting memories that the men-in-black will never forget.
- Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist with refereeing expertise with the AFC and FAS. He has known the Singah family for over three decades.