Hussein Aljunied was the ‘fatherly figure’ of Singapore football

Hussein Aljunied’s body leaving the Sultan Mosque accompanied by friends and family members. (Photo: Safhras Khan)

A fatherly figure who had a deep knowledge of football. That was how his friends and former national team coaches and players described the late Hussein Aljunied.

Hussein, who passed away at the age of 73 on Saturday (5 March), was in charge of the Singapore national team between 1984 and 1986. He was also a former coach of Tampines Rovers.

The former army warrant officer guided the national team to the Malaysia Cup title in 1985 and helped Singapore clinched a silver medal in the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in the same year.

Many illustrious names from Singapore’s football fraternity attended Hussein’s funeral service at Sultan Mosque on Sunday (6 March) morning.

Call me Habib

Former national striker, Salim Moin, who played under Hussein’s tutelage in 1985, said he was lucky to have received his footballing education from “a great man”.

“He had no airs. In fact, he insisted that players call him Habib, an Arabic term that is usually reserved for a well respected elder.

“He was still active in the footballing scene and attended the S-League game between Hougang United and Home United a few weeks ago,” said the 54-year-old.

Salim’s views were echoed by another former national player, Roy Krishna, 64.

Roy, who played alongside Hussein in the 1960s, remembered Hussein as a skillful midfielder with a venomous left foot.

“I played with him in the 60s and later on he went on to coach me in the national team.

"He was a fatherly figure who was very strict during training and I remember there was once he pinched my ears during training for not putting in effort,” said Krishna with a smile.

Krishna added that Hussein would drill his team on the tactical aspects of the game constantly, paying attention to set-pieces.

One of the best coaches

Former national coach, Seak Poh Leong, who last met Hussein earlier this week, was surprised to find out about his death.

“I met him recently at the hospital and his (health) condition was fantastic,"said Seak, 64, who served in the military with Hussein.

Omar Ibrahim, who was Singapore’s team manager until the 1990s, said he was supposed to have fish head curry with Hussein a few weeks back.

In fact, he and a few other friends were waiting for Hussein at a restaurant when he was informed that Hussein was hospitalised.

"We immediately packed the dishes and went to the hospital to eat with him.

Omar, 74, praised Hussein as a “wonderful person” and a disciplined coach who was a stickler for punctuality.

"I’ve worked with many national coaches before including Jan Poulsen, Barry Whitbread and Douglas Moore. But Hussein was definitely among the best.”