HE was ranked as a “giant” goalkeeper by Asian standards, almost impossible to beat in aerial duels, and rated one of Asean’s greatest goalkeepers in the 1960s.

The name Idros Albar struck fear in umpteen strikers as they were always wary of him in face-to-face confrontations because of his awesome physical attributes.

Idros, who was part of Singapore’s iconic 1966 team that finished fourth in Asia, lost a prolonged battle to multiple illness and died Friday night at Changi General Hospital. He was 83.

Singapore’s iconic “football son” Fandi Ahmad recalls the 1960s and 70s when Idros played with his father (the late goalkeeper) Ahmad Wartam. He says: “He was very humble off the field and as a teenager I played against him, as he continued playing even into his 40’s and later became goalkeeper coach for Singapore Malays.”

Just after completing school, Fandi, as a football-child prodigy, played for Guthrie and remembers the “outstanding goalkeeper presence of Idros Albar”.

Fandi says: “You can have an average team with a good goalkeeper and that team is a competitive team. You can have an average goalkeeper on a good team and that team becomes very average. The role of the goalkeeper is the crucial key to the success or failure of the team.


“Idros Albar ranks as a giant goalkeeper. He showed many times that he’s an important player as a baseball pitcher to baseball, a quarterback to a football team or a big center to a basketball team. Idros with his jumbo bodyguard-like presence was always the eyes of the defence, the commander of the defensive line.”

Malaysia Cup 1977-winning skipper Samad Allapitchay says he was an 18-year-old teenager when he played Idros, who he recalls as “instantly offering a gladiator mentality”. He says: “The ‘Gladiator’ is rough and tough and extremely focused as he prepares for battle.  He has his routine and rituals. How he dresses. How he prepares his ‘thinking’ moves. How he mentally gets ready for the battle.

“When Idros makes decisions, it is with conviction. No doubts. It’s with everything he has in reading a big match.  The goalkeeper’s personality and physical presence can dominate his goal-area like a gladiator. The goal is his house and the goal area is his ground.  It is clearly his domain.”

Samad visited Idros at a care-centre recently and says he was “progressively getting weaker and eventually passed on at Changi Hospital”. He adds: “I will miss him, he was one of my boyhood idols and I dare say he’s one of the greatest goalkeepers in Asean.”



Idros broke into the national team in the 1960s during a glorious period when there was a glut of top-act goalkeepers from Chu Chee Seng, Wilfred Skinner, Seet Yew Chang, Loh Fook Teng and Ahmad Wartam.

Former Singapore midfielder-striker Sam Rahmat happily recounts how Idros came out of retirement at 45 years to spur Singapore Malays to win the Sultan’s Gold Cup.

“It was in 1975 he was recalled after he hung up his boots to keep goal for Singapore Malays. When Rashid Hassan left and played for Malaysia, there was a vacuum in the goalkeeping department and Idros was forced to come out of retirement.”

Former Singapore striker Redza Naim says: “He was a remarkable giant goalkeeper who was very domineering with his physical presence and his astute reading of the game, especially in the penalty area. In aerial duels from corners or high crosses, he was simply magnificent.”

Redza, who now stays in Johor, recollects a SBHFL (Singapore Business Houses Football League) Division One match between Hongkong Shanghai Bank (HKSB) and his team, Shell Singapore, where he was stretchered out after a confrontation with Idros.


“Facing him just gives you the shivers. He won majority of the aerial duels and when I played against him in the SBHFL match, he fell on me after making an acrobatic save and I had to be carried out,” he says.

Idros was a star No 1 jersey-clad personality for Fathul Karib FC, with the late Asian All-Stars striker Majid Ariff in the 1960s and 70s as he starred for Singapore, together with the late goalkeeper Wilfred Skinner.

Redza says: “Skinner was a terrific goalkeeper and his consistent form always stopped Idros from playing regularly. But both goalkeepers were remarkable as they powered the defence, where we could take on the best in Asia, from South Korea, Japan, China and Burma (now Myanmar).”

The high-point of the Lions, 53 years ago, was in finishing fourth at the Asian Games, the best-ever achievement to date. Idros’s team-mates in the team included iconic players like Quah Kim Swee (skipper 1966 Asian Games squad), Quah Kim Siak, Quah Kim Lye, Ibrahim Awang, Lee Teng Yee, Matthew Chin, Freddie Chew, Ahmad Wartam (Fandi Ahmad’s father), Andy Yeo, Samad Abdullah, Hussein Abdullah, Hussein Aljunied, Majid Ariff, Yong Chee Fatt, Leong Han Kar and  Mahat Ambu.

Defence strongman Matthew Chin, who migrated to Perth, says: “He’s a friendly guy and a joker. He had a long manhood. He had a loud voice and spoke his mind without fear or favour. I was very new to the team at a very young age.”

Malaysia Cup striker Simon Fernandez, from the famous footballing Fernandez family, hails Idros as the “king of the six-yard box’. He says: “I played along with him at Farrer Park United . He’s got a long and safe pair of hands and a very good reader of the game. His position allows him to be pro-active and to lead their team with verbal and physical communication.”

Robert Lim, the former Lions assistant coach in the 1990s, acknowledges the “tall and supremely-commanding presence in between the sticks”. He says: “Idros was my coach when I was a young aspiring player. He’s best known for his intimidating confrontation against opposing strikers during one-on-one  situations. Remarkably, he instills confidence in the defenders in front of him.”

Football die-hard fan Munir Shah, who is also a World Squash Federation referee since 1990 and  inducted to the Asian Squash Federation (ASF) Hall of Fame in 2010, describes Idros as a “sterling figure who had the built of a Trojan warrior”.

Munir says: “But he had to play for Singapore in the shadows of first-choice great goalkeeper, Wilfred Skinner. A quiet, soft spoken is the apt description, who became involved in community work in Eunos constituency after his footballing days were over. Not much was known about him in recent years.”

Idros will always be remembered as the biggest No 1 to match in size with even the legendary Gordon Banks, one of the world’s most famous goalkeepers, who passed away in February at the age of 81.


Personally, I have great sadness in my heart this weekend and I send condolences to the Albar family he was so proud of.

Rest in peace, Idros Albar. Yes, you were a giant goalkeeper with regional magic. But you were also so much more. You were a fine God-fearing human being, who for all the major sporting headlines and glamour, always had his feet on the ground.

Like the thousands of Singapore fans, I hail this distinct humility, and most importantly, to put his team-mates always before himself after winning matches. – BY SURESH NAIR


  • Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who vividly recalls Idros Albar as a hugely loved and respected figure within the world of South-East Asia football. A giant goalkeeper in size and character.
- Advertisement -