THE news of any acts of football kindness feel heaven sent.
If ever there’s Made-in-Singapore role-model with a genuine heart of gold, look no further than former international goalkeeper Shahri Rahim.
Yes, you seldom find this beautiful quality in footballers: The feeling of being like an angel and never letting down anyone, especially those connected to football.
The President of National Football League (NFL) Second Division club South Avenue Football Club has a growing God-sent reputation as he unfailingly lends a helping hand to organise charity matches for ailing or departed football contemporaries.
Most significantly and recently, he spearheaded football charity ties for the late former Singapore Malaysia Cup hero Nasir “Crazy Horse” Jalil, ex-Singapore striker Yunus Baba and also the leukemia daughter of Lokman Hadan, an ex-Intermediate, Tiong Bahru and Police SA player.
Shahri, a service executive at Komoco Motors Private Limited, says: “I enjoy helping footballers’ families. It is always good to bond people together through sports charities and, more importantly, have a deeper social cause for the community.
“Charity football matches are a fun way to raise money for good causes. Players and spectators can enjoy the match and there are number of ways to raise funds from the event. Organising a charity match takes time and effort, but the rewards should make this worthwhile if the day runs smoothly.”
Shahri was particularly touched last November when he did the charity fund-raiser for 66-year-old Yunus Baba, one of the founder members of South Avenue (formerly known as Bakat Baru). Yunus has been home-bound as he silently battled Hodgkin disease (Hodgkin lymphoma), a type of lymphoma, a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system.
Yunus went for prolonged treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy but family members say that at this advanced stage, they’re just hoping for a miraculous recovery.
Lokman’s daughter was another heart-endearing case last year as it’s the first living paired kidney exchange transplant performed at the National University Hospital (NUH).
The exchange was between Siti Rasyidah Lokman Hadan, 23, who received a kidney from an anonymous altruistic donor, and her mother Mdm Noor Rafidah Nasir, 47, who donated her own kidney to a compatible recipient on the national waiting list.
Now Shahri brings a special quality as he joined Bill Ng’s “Game Changers” Team to encourage more big-hearted activities, especially at grassroots level. He says: “Giving back to those who have supported us should be a huge part of our football mission and who we are. We must be passionate about our charitable giving platforms and be proud that this is a significant and meaningful part of our role in our community.”
Hailing the “Game Changers” as the “big hearts who can change the football landscape”, he adds: “We have a mixture of experience and expertise from many fields in this team. Everyone works to their specific strengths to be a united team, inspired to rebuild Singapore football.”
Shahri, who played professional S-League football for Singapore Armed Forces FC, Tampines Rovers and Balestier Khalsa and later became goalkeeping coach at Geylang United, also has a soft spot for the grassroots sports clubs, rather neglected in recent years.
“They play a vital role in their local community all over the island,” he says. “Not only do they help people stay fit and healthy and help develop an individual’s sporting talents, they also bring people from the local community together.
“They give young people the opportunity to meet new friends from different backgrounds, as well as providing parents with the opportunity to meet with other parents, who they otherwise may not have met.”
His celebrity status has been used well as the “Ambassador” for Toyota and Borneo Motors for three years when the S-League was introduced in 1996 and he was the lead-actor in a television commercial for the motor giants,
For the Lions, he was in the 1988 Malaysia Cup squad that won the M-League and for the historic 1994 Double-winning team (Malaysia Cup and M-League), he was a squad-member.
Shahri, who also promotes ‘Seguro’ goalkeeping gloves in the region, intends to specialise as a goalkeeping coach and has attained a Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Level 1 goalkeeper-coach certificate and is also a AFC Licenced coach, He has trained goalkeepers in the national women’s team, national Under 21 squad and the National Football Academies (NFA) Under 15, 16, 17 and 18,
He believes more funds should be pumped to the little-known clubs, who can also “provide adults with the opportunity to share their talents and learn new skills, whether it be helping with coaching, administration, transport or sourcing sponsorship or funding”.
In his view, football must continue to be an inspiring sport for the masses, from Choa Chu Kang to Changi, Balestier to Bedok, Potong Pasir to Pasir Ris. He adds: “It’ll be nice if every weekend, Singaporean families can come in droves to the stadiums to watch our leagues and make it a family outing. In the long-term, we must work hard to bring back the ‘Kallang Roar’, too.”
He has been President of South Avenue Sports Club since 2015 and despite budget constraints emphasis has been put towards youth development, the club winning the FAS Island Wide League (IWL) in the first year of inaugration in 2015.
UNITING A FAMILY
“In 2016 we made it to the National Football League (NFL) Division One play-offs and we plan to have a women’s team playing in the FAS League.”
Shahri says football has played a crucial “unifying factor” in the Rahim family. He is blessed to have a football-loving family with wife, Kamisa Rahmat, 51, and a family of five, Muhammad Farhan, 25, Farah Huda, 23, Muhammad Sufiyan, 19, Nur Adam Shah, 16 and Nur Alisha, 13.
“Football links the shared experiences of family members across generations and creating a lasting sense of tradition and belonging. The strongest of these relationships is that of father and son,” says Shahri, who still plays active football with the Singapore Ex-National Legends, who take part in the annual Sultan of Selangor Cup.
“Most men become fans because their father would take them to matches as a child, and many older fans still retain strong memories of these formative experiences.
“As football fandom is socially inherited within the family, matches regularly comprise ritualised days out for all members, even toddlers and grandmothers included, and the passion for football is a unifying event that frequently leads to animated conversations at home in front of the television or around the family dinner table.”
These are beautiful words coming from a gentleman footballer, with a serious and sincere heart of gold.
These acts of kindness on the part of Shahri Rahim, is one to applaud and to emulate.
‘Game Changers’ is led by dynamic businessman Bill Ng and the refreshing alternative team of 15 football-hearted personalities will be contesting the FAS elections on April 29 at the SportsHub.