Malaysia have lost another of their sporting greats – goalkeeper Chow Chee Keong, 69, who passed away at 7am this morning at University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC)  where he was admitted a day earlier for heart complications. 

One of the first Malaysians to play professional football when he joined Hong Kong club Jardines FC in 1970, Chee Keong – simply known as CK – later played for famous football clubs South China AAA and Hong Kong Ranger FC.

The present generation may not remember Chee Keong but the older generation will remember him as making his debut with the senior national team at the tender age of 15-year-old after playing for the youth team as a 13-year-old.

His career took off from there and Chee Keong was named Asia’s Best Goalkeeper for five consecutive years from 1966 to 1970 by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). He also played in the Merdeka Tournament from 1965-1969.

His teammates included Ghani Minhat, Robert Choe, Wong Choon Wah, Richard Choe, Dali Omar, Syed Ahmad, Santokh Singh and many others.

Such was Chee Keong’s goalkeeping that he was once offered to play for top Brazilian club Cruzeiro FC. However, there was a clause in the contract that stopped him from plying his football trade in the “Mecca of Football” where football great Pele honed his football skills. He was to take up Brazilian citizenship which he did not want.

Dubbed the “Steel Gate of Asia” the best known Malaysian goalkeeper also had his disappointments in his football career when he was a called a “traitor” by football fans and officials alike when he turned professional.

But turning pro was the only way out for Chee Keong who needed money as he did not come from a rich family as football was his career. It also did not go down well with FA of Malaqysia (FAM) officials when he asked for a professional league to be run by professionals and not FAM.

In several media interviews Chee Keong voiced his regrets on the lack of professionalism in the game at that time.

After quitting football Chee Keong took up golf and was a golf coach and spent a decade in the job in Hong Kong and China before returning home to his beloved Malaysia. 

Chee Keong married Christina Kwok, daughter former FAM secretary-general, the late Datuk Kwok Kin Keng. The couple has a son Adrian Chow, 30.

Wake service: 8.30pm on Friday (23 Feb) and Funeral service at 10am on Saturday (24 Feb) at the Nirvana Memorail Centre, Carnation Room 11, Jalan 1/11 6, Off Jalan Sungei Besi, Kuala Lumpur.

A celebration of his life will be held at the same centre on Thursday and Friday from 2pm – 11pm). 

The cremation will take place at Nirvana Crematorium Shah Alam. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH

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