By Suresh Nair

THE special footballer (the late) “Uncle” Choo Seng Quee hailed as Singapore’s version of Bobby Charlton, was faithfully remembered this week.

Surash Anandan (back row, second from right) was saluted in the ‘SINGAPORE HEROES’, a 30-minute series over Channel 5, on Tuesday, which featured the unbelievable dare-devil heroics of the Malaysia Cup midfield star, who was a Singapore Airlines chief steward.

I shuddered and had goose-bumps as I watched the dramatised re-enactment of Singapore’s worst air-disaster tragedy on October 31 2000 at 11.18 pm (local Taiwan time). It brought back to very frightening reality, the horrors of the SQ006 crash, 16 years ago, at Taipei’s Chiang Kai Shek Airport. It was, in my tear-jerking eyes, like it just happened in front of me.

The fiery final moments before take-off, during a horrific storm, and the subsequent crash were just out of this world, possibly worse off than a Hollywood explosive movie.

Significantly, the recounts from surviving passengers were amazingly hell-like stuff and vividly pointed to the extraordinary last-gasp sacrifices Surash Anandan made to save lives, rather than think of his own life.

Surash’s elder brother, Sudheesan, a retired military specialist, and lawyer-nephew Sunil’s heartfelt recounts were amazingly breathtaking. I could feel the terrible pains the Anandan family went through as they seriously pieced the jigsaws of the final tragic moments and the post-crash trauma. And they genuinely saluted Surash, the youngest in the Anandan family, who distinctly went went beyond the call of duty to be more than an exemplary SIA role-model.

For Malaysia and Singapore football fans, Surash was part of the legendary “Kallang Roar” era of the mid-1970s, and praised as the “Bobby Charlton of Singapore” by his coach, (the late) Choo Seng Quee.

He played alongside Malaysian greats Mokhtar Dahari, Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, Wong Choon Wah, Isa Bakar and G. Arumugam during the golden era of Asean football, when the Lions had legends like Dollah Kassim, Arshad Khamis, Samad Allapitchay, Hasli Ibrahim, Quah Kim Song, S. Rajagopal, M. Kumar and so, so, so many more.

I once asked (former Singapore striker) Simon Fernandez, who was the Singapore player with the most powerful shot. Instantly, without a blink, he didn’t name the star-spangled big-name strikers, and replied: “Surash Anandan. He could kick a left-footer from 20m or more, and you can feel the upright or the post just move, like a sudden tremor hitting it!”

His elder brother, Sudheesan, also a Singapore youth footballer, revealed that Surash was looking forward to returning home after the SQ006 flight to belatedly celebrate his house-warming to a new five-room apartment, with his wife, Justina, and family. He, tragically, never made that date.

The “big shooter” Surash is no more. He sacrificed himself. He died unselfishly, very professionally performing his SIA steward-duties and, absolutely, if not extraordinarily, putting passengers’ safety absolutely first, even when he faced an explosive aeroplane-hell.

On the field and off-the-field, the lion-hearted Surash Anandan will always remain Singapore’s hero of multiple heroes!

There will never ever be a footballer with such passion and personality, bold and brave, high-minded and honourable, gallant and gentleman-like, unfearing and unflinching, who will risk his life to rise to the exploding-occasion, in order to save human lives.

If you missed Tuesday’s SINGAPORE HEROES telecast, click:


  • Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist, who counted on Surash Anandan among his closest friends. He joins the Anandan family’s annual prayers and memorial matches for the late “Bobby Charlton of Singapore”.
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