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Malaysia’s Best: Five of the best goalkeepers to guard Harimau Malaya’s goal

The likes of Indonesia’s Andritany Ardhiyasa and Thailand Kawin Thamsatchanan often top the list when it comes to goalkeepers in Southeast Asia these days, but there were several Malaysians who were once in a class of their own. FourFourTwo lists down five of the best custodians Malaysia have had in this first part of a series

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CHOW CHEE KEONG

Some of the other goalkeepers on this list also lay a great claim to being Malaysia’s ultimate custodian of all time but Chow walked the talk and received widespread recognition for it.

Just the fact he was named Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) goalkeeper of the year for five years running between 1966 and 1970 was enough to illustrate how great he was.

Yet that was not his only achievement.

Chow first represented Malaysia Under-20 at the age of 13 and made his senior debut at the age of 15! You rarely hear that in any part of the world these days.

Nicknamed the ‘Asian Stainless Steel Gate’ and ‘Crazy Sword’ during his heydays, Chow earned cult status following a move to Hong Kong, where he twice attracted interest from Brazilian clubs – including one where he needed to obtain a Brazilian citizenship as condition.

Not going to Brazil was arguably the biggest regret of his career, he said in an interview with Malay Mail a few years ago.

At his passing in February 2018, South China Morning Post in Hong Kong revealed Chow earned higher than the Europeans and had even taken a helicopter to the stadium for one match.

Photo: South China Morning Post

R. ARUMUGAM

Mention the words “best goalkeeper in the country” and it will be tough having a conversation without mentioning Arumugam’s name.

By far the most recognisable name in goal for Harimau Malaya, Arumugam was given the ‘Spiderman’ moniker for his agility, flamboyance and long arms. He had the safest pair of hands around.

Arumugam, who made his Selangor debut in 1971, made his international debut at the 1973 pre-World Cup in Seoul. Chow and Wong Kam Fook's (featured below) departure to Hong Kong paved way for Arumugam to claim the No.1 jersey and the then 20-year-old made the most of it.

The Spiderman won five Merdeka Tournament trophies between 1973 and 1986. The tournament was among the premier international competitions in Asia at the time. He also won the bronze medal at the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran.

Arumugam, however, will be best remembered for playing a key role in Malaysia's 1980 Olympic qualification. The Malaysians defeated South Korea in the deciding match but later joined a US-led boycott on Soviet Union.

He retired from international football in 1986 and was killed in a car crash on the Federal Highway in 1988, leaving behind his wife and two daughters.

His character was re-lived in the 2016’s Ola Bola, an adaptation of the 1980 team’s story. A mini stadium in Klang was recently renamed after Arumugam.