Former Lion and two-time Malaysia Cup winner Haslir Ibrahim dies at 73

Hasli Ibrahim holds the Malaysia Cup after Singapore's victory in 1980. - ST File

SINGAPORE: Famous for his uncompromising tackles and commitment to the game, former national footballer Haslir Ibrahim valiantly fought lung infection for the last two years before he died of pneumonia at the age of 73 on Friday (June 7).

He leaves behind his wife Munifah Haji Hussain, six children and 16 grandchildren.

Affectionately known as the Tanker to fans in the 1970s and 1980s, the former right-back played for the Lions from 1974 to 1981, helping Singapore win the Malaysia Cup in 1977 and 1980.

Always looking to bomb forward with his speed and superior fitness, he also scored the opener in the 1978 final, which Singapore lost 4-2 to Selangor.

His affable nature made him one of the more popular players in a star-studded national team that included goalkeeper David Lee, defender Samad Allapitchay, wingers R. Suriamurthi and Mohamed Noh and striker Fandi Ahmad.

The former Malaysia Airlines ground staff also worked with Sats Cargo and as a security guard after he hung up his boots, and got his football fix as a regular at veterans’ matches.

In a 2012 interview with The New Paper, Munifah recalled how fans would call their home to speak to Haslir in his heyday.

But, more than the fanfare, it was the 1980 triumph that he held most dearly. With a laugh, he said in another TNP interview in 2012: “My wife had just delivered our second child and the team brought the trophy to my house to celebrate lah!”

It was clear Haslir loved his family and football.

Following his burial on June 7, his eldest daughter Norashikin, 46, told The Straits Times how they would all look forward to a big birthday celebration for him at home or at a hotel on National Day.

She said: “We are a very close-knit family and he would always look out for all of us. His birthday is on Aug 8 and we would always have a big combined celebration with National Day the following day.

“My father was the pillar of strength for our entire family. He was a gentle, patient and loving father and husband, and he was very humble. He was also someone who didn’t give up and would fight until the end, whether it was in football, at work or even up till the last moment in his ill health.”

Singapore football legend Fandi was among those who benefited from Haslir’s big heart.

Haslir had played for teams like Toa Payoh United, South Avenue, Singapore Cosmos, Tiong Bahru, KLM and Singapore Malays, and it was at Kaki Bukit where he took a teenage Fandi under his wing.

Fandi, 62, said: “It was an honour to play with him. On the pitch, he was a no-nonsense player who was always motivated to give 100 per cent in training and in matches, and he also always advised me to work hard.

“Off the pitch, he was down to earth as a senior player and was very nice to allow some of us to sleep over at his house in Tampines, so it would be easier for us to go to training.”

Jita Singh, coach of the 1980 Malaysia Cup-winning team, attested to Haslir’s humility.

The 75-year-old said: “Opponents were afraid of his tackling and aggression, which were his hallmark. But he was not a dirty player and he was key in forging the camaraderie within the squad.

“He also shared team responsibilities by helping to prepare the ground by laying cones and markers for training. No task was too small for him.” - The Straits Times/ANN

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