Published on Saturday 16th August, 2014 (The Malay Mail)
By TONY MARIADASS
A DARK episode at the tail end of Chow Kwai Lam’s illustrious career as a player and coach has not made him a lesser man than he richly deserves.
Kwai Lam, who turns 72 on Aug 26, has always been known as a par excellence midfielder and a firebrand coach, who attained many notable results.
In 2007, Kwai Lam was fined S$50,000 (RM114,000) by the District Court in Singapore in lieu of four months' jail for attempted bribery involving a Singapore League (S-League) match two years earlier.
Kwai Lam paid the fine.
He was charged with corruptly offering a sum of S$200 (RM455) to S$300 (RM684) and an unspecified amount of cash to Zulkifli Zainolabidin, who was the first choice goalkeeper of the Paya Lebar Punggol club, where he was coaching.
“It was an episode which came about through sheer negligence,” said Kwai Lam.
“It was a clear case of misunderstanding as I was testing the player, but my fault was that I had not reported it to anyone.
“I had just asked the player if he would ‘sell’ a game for S$200 as I was doing my own investigations. The player said no, and I left the matter at that.
“But after I left the club, there was an investigation. This player had made a report and I was hauled in.
“Yes, I was charged, but I stand innocent. My conscience is clear.
“I did not appeal (against the sentence) on the advice of my lawyer. Besides, I had already spent RM200,000 on legal fees.
“Singapore was bent on making an example of someone as they were doing everything possible to curb match-fixing. I became a victim.
“Although sad over the episode, I hold no grudges against anyone.
“All that mattered was that people who knew me knew that I was innocent. I had nothing to prove after all the years I had served football.”
Kwai Lam had a successful spell with KL, steering the city team to three Malaysia Cup triumphs in the 80's.
Kwai Lam said he has put the episode behind him.
“I still travel freely in and out of Singapore... nothing has changed," he said. “I have always strived for the best in what I do as a player and coach and have had many memorable moments.
“As a player, I used to score many goals and won many tournaments.
“As a coach, I have done equally well both as a local and national coach.”
Kwai Lam has the credit of having won the Malaysia Cup medal thrice with Selangor as a player and six times (thrice with Selangor and thrice with Kuala Lumpur) as a coach.
His most memorable being as coach of the KL team who went to win the Malaysia Cup three times-in-a-row from 1987 to 1989 besides winning the League Cup (1988), Charity Shield (1988 and 1989) “I think that record is going to be a difficult for any coach to beat,” said Kwai Lam proudly.
Kwai Lam, who hails from Negri Sembilan, played for the state team from 1961 to 1965 and was a member of the national youth team which competed in the Asian youth championship in 1961 and 1962.
His coach then was none other than Datuk Peter Velappan, who had coached the Negri Sembilan combined schools team.
Kwai Lam made his debut with the national team in 1965 when he played against England’s Southampton FC and went on to don national colours till 1971.
One of his proudest moments as a player was when he was selected for the Asian All-Star team in 1968 to play against Arsenal.
Kwai Lam also has a proud runners-up medal from the inaugural Asian Champion Club championship in 1967, losing to Israel.
Kwai Lam owes his equally successful coaching career to the FA of Malaysia for selecting him, Abdul Rahman Ibrahim and Mohamad Bakar to attend a Diploma Grade A course at the German Football Association in Hennef in1978.
He had attained his advanced and A licence from FAM a year earlier.
“In the coaching course in Heneff, I was the top student and it was inspirational in shaping my coaching career.
I also have to thank former national coach Karl Weigang for his assistance,” said Kwai Lam, who was the German coach’s understudy from 1976 to 1977.
Kwai Lam also had the opportunity learn from the best when he was on attachment with German club Borussia Monchengladbach in 1978, then under Udo Lattek and Jupp Hencyekes, for a month.
Kwai Lam, as a coach, was known for his firebrand attitude.
“I was just a strict and disciplined coach. I brooked no nonsense and treated everyone equally. There were no favourites in my team. Even if he was the top player, he had to pay the price if he shirked his workrate," said Kwai Lam.
“Many saw me as a fierce coach, but I think that is because I am a no-nonsense person."
Kwai Lam paid tribute to former KLFA Tan Sri Elyas Omar, who transformed the KL team from minnows to champions over a short period in the 80s.
“He was a visionary man and I am happy to have worked under him and tasted the success which he mapped out,” said Kwai Lam.
“Another man who helped transform KL is former World Cup coach Dr Josef Venglos. I am indeed honoured to have worked under him and learnt a great deal.”
Kwai Lam said he is sad to see the state of KL football today and can only hope that it will regain past glory.
Down but not out.
Kwai Lam suffered a stroke two years ago, where his left side was affected. But being the go-getter that he is, he has made a remarkable recovery and keeps himself fit by going to the gym without fail six times a week at the Selangor Chinese Recreation Club (SCRC).
“I may not be actively involved in football these days, but it is close to my heart," said Kwai Lam.
“I have a daughter, who is a lawyer, and a son who is an accountant. I am happy being close to my family these days. I have had an active football life and have no regrets. Now, I just reminisce about the good times and the achievements attained.”