AS elusive as a mud eel, that was how Melaka-born forward Robert Choe was described for his nifty footwork and nimbleness in the 1950s and 1960s.
Enjoying his eighth decade of life, Robert who resides in Ujong Pasir, Melaka, has a long list of unique achievements to boast of.
As the eldest son of a gentleman who was secretary at the Melaka Amateur Football Association and Melaka Badminton Association, Robert was presented with the option of pursuing a career in football or badminton.
Robert and his two younger brothers – Richard and Johnny – opted to play football, the less expensive sport but the same game which propelled their father Choe Soon Lee’s career in the 1930s.
A member of the victorious Malayan team in the second edition of the Merdeka Tournament in 1958, Robert joined forces with eventual badminton legend Ng Boon Bee (Datuk), Roslan Buang and Abdullah Nordin to help the national youth team advance to the Asian Youth Championship final twice in succession in 1959 and 1960.
Unfortunately, Malaya lost both finals, thus denying Robert as the skipper and his fellow teammates the opportunity to lift the Rahman Gold Cup, donated by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president-cum-FAM president Tunku Abdul Rahman, and valued at RM12,000 at the time.
On top of winning the SEAP Games gold medal in Rangoon in 1961 and the bronze in the Asian Games in Jakarta in 1962, Robert and (Tan Sri) Abdul Ghani Minhat toured Europe for a training stint which took them to Germany, England, Spain and France in 1962.
Known for his dribbling skills and ability to outjump defenders much taller than him, Robert attributed them to his calf muscles allied with his affinity in copying Chinese opera actors performing jumps on their shows.
“When people asked me how was it that I was able to jump so high, I told them I was inspired by the acrobatics of the Chinese opera performers, ” said Robert.
In the Asian Games in Bangkok 1966, Robert was handed the honour of captaining the side which turned out to be his swansong. He quit the international scene at the age of 26 to focus on his career as a bank officer.
Married to Alice Choe on Oct 24,1964, the couple is blessed with two sons - Fahrian Choe Choon Huah and Timothy Choe Choon Seng.
Fahrian was named after West Germany’s 1962 World Cup goalkeeper Wolfgang Fahrian, who made Robert feel at home during his sojourn in Frankfurt.
“Fahrian was quite helpful to me throughout the stint and he was quite happy to know I named my son after him.”— Football Association of Malaysia (FAM)
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