I was no State soccer player, but I had the rare opportunity to play alongside Mokhtar - although only for 15 minutes as I came on as a substitute - when he turned out for the New Straits Times (NST) soccer team as a guest player in 1978 in Pasir Mas, Kelantan.
Mokhtar was invited by our team captain, Dhalan Zainuddin (yes the one and only singer of Kisah Seorang Biduan!), to play in the friendly match which was a curtain-raiser to his concert on the same field that evening. Mokhtar obliged despite his busy schedule playing for club, State and nation and Dhalan made arrangement for him to fly to to Kota Baru. The NST team including Dahlan and his accompanying band Jays Band members travelled by a bus - the Sri Jaya public bus.
One for the album for the 1978 NST team in front of the Sri Jaya bus. Mokhtar too posed for the pix - (squatting second from right). Dhalan is in the second row (seventh from right).
There was no highway then and the journey took forever. The seats were as hard as rocks and there was no head rest for comfort. But it was a journey to Kota Baru I will never forget because we had so much fun, especially being teenagers.
Mokhtar joined us on the day of match after lunch and immediately he was an instant hit among us. For many of us, it was the first time we were meeting Mokhtar and the thought of playing alongside in the evening was like a dream.
Relaxing before the match at the hotel.....Mokhtar (third from right) and yours truly (second from left) with the look alike Santokh Singh (Baskaran) squatting.
And in the evening for the match, thousands surrounded the field to catch a glimpse of Mokhtar in action.
After the match Mokhtar was mobbed by his fans and he obligingly signed autographs.
That night Mokhtar was introduced at the concert to screaming fans. It was an experience I cherish.
And the following year, when I started stringing with Malay Mail before I joined them full time in 1981, I met Mokhtar more regularly when covering the Selangor League and later years the Malaysia Cup and national team.
I was glad that I had that early introduction with Mokhtar, because it was not an easy task to speak to players like Mokhtar, Santokh, Arumugam, Chin Aun and the rest because they had so much character in them, that rookie reporters just fear interviewing. Ask a silly question and the reporters will be told off, and they had no time for small talk.
But I had it easy with Mokhtar having had the early introduction. Later, I even got to know his family because his wife, Datin Zarina Tengku Ibrahim was working in NSTP for a few years.
However one reporter who can ask Mokhtar anything under the sun and were best of pals was NST's Dan Guen Chin (now with Bernama in Johor Baru). Dan was the ghost write for Mokhtar's column On Target and their friendship grew with each passing day.
It is 18 years today, since Mokhtar left us so suddenly and his legacy will live forever. He was one player, who never allowed his success to get to his head and was always the down to earth man.
I am blessed to have had the opportunity to have been able to see him play and worked closely with him - although no where as close as my good friend Dan. And the fifteen minutes I was on the field with Mokhtar, I will carry it with me for the rest of my life.
May Mokhtar rest in peace and may his family be forever be blessed with good tidings.