The Retiree: Noh Rahman reflects on 20-year football career

Singapore legend Noh Rahman finally hung up his boots after 20 seasons in the S.League and he gave FourFourTwo the opportunity to sit down with him as he looks to the past and future...  

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Making his professional debut as a fresh-faced 16-year-old for Geylang United (now Geylang International) in 1997, Noh enjoyed two decades at the highest level before retiring at the end of the 2016 season. 

When FourFourTwo met up with the 36-year-old at the Coffee Bean outlet in Kallang Leisure Mall last Thursday, the man himself admitted it feels weird to wake up every morning without football training to look forward to. 

"It just feels strange," he said while having a sip of his hot Mocha Latte. "Even now, I still wake up trying to do something (to keep fit). Then my wife will look at me and say something like 'I thought you are just going to stop playing? Why are you still doing all these?' "

Throughout his career, Noh has been known as the model professional and is one of the fittest player around, for both club and country.

Despite his advancing years, his last 2.4km fitness test timing stood at a pretty impressive 9 minutes 10 seconds. 

"Apart from the club's training, I love to train during my free time," he shared. "Usually I just try to find some excuse from my wife, telling her I need to go for a run or go to the gym and that I'll be back in less than two hours. 

"I don't consider that hardworking; I think it's an attitude a professional player has to adopt because technically you're only working two hours (a day) for your club.

“Obviously the coach has to do something with the team, but you need to do your part as a player in order for you to stay at the highest level." 


Noh played for 20 seasons in the S.League. Photo: Weixiang Lim/FFT

During an interview with FourFourTwo in early 2016, Noh previously stated that he would not hang up his boots as long as he felt passionate about the game.

While his drive and enthusiasm are still there, multiple knee injuries had taken its toll on him and he could not convince himself to undertake another gruelling season. 

"There are a few considerations on my part, but the most obvious one is that I was getting more injuries than I used to," said the veteran. "The body starts to talk to you and I just feel that I just have got to start listening to your own body." 

"I've had two knee surgeries done in the last three years, one of which I sustained in China while playing for the national team in 2013 and that was pretty bad. 

"I was supposed to go under the knife once I came back from China, but I decided to postpone the surgery because my club (Home United) was having a decent season then. I went on playing with a bad knee for about four months to finish that season and win the Singapore Cup final. 

I had to frequently take in gel jabs for my knees, take painkillers for every games till the point that it was like having sweets

"I finally went for surgery six days after the final and by that time, I had badly aggravated the injury. I didn't really recover from it and you start to experience the effects of aging; the pains and aches were getting more regular. 

"I had to frequently take in gel jabs for my knees, take painkillers for every games till the point that it was like having sweets. Every two to three days, I have to pop in one painkiller.

"I enjoyed training hard and suddenly I could not do that because of these limitations. I started to have difficulties making certain movements during the games because of my knees." 

The decision to quit did not come easy, Noh shared, but he realised his playing days were numbered during an off-the-pitch incident two years ago.

Noh Rahman with Home United

Gone were the days Noh could do such stretches without injuring himself. Photo: S.League

"If I recall, it was around two years ago when I was carrying my then three-year-old son and there was a big step in front of me," he shared. "While I was going over the step, I suddenly felt a very sharp pain in my knees and that's when I thought 'I don't think I can do this anymore!' "

"I wanted to grow older and enjoy life at the same time, instead of trying to prolong my career and damaging my knees to the extent that it's not functional after I stopped playing. 

"On top of that, I started doing my sports science studies over the last two years and that affected my time management. Thus I decided this is the right time to move on."