PETALING JAYA: He was a warrior on the pitch but Namat Abdullah, one of Malaysia’s most successful footballers, cuts a gaunt figure these days.
Ex-teammates and fans were shocked by a picture over social media of the 74-year-old football legend looking frail, drawing concern for his wellbeing.
The defender’s body appeared ravaged by intestinal cancer but his wife, Mahani Sulaiman, 71, said it was not bad as it looked.
“He might be frail, but he has good memory, speaks well and has a good appetite,” said Mahani, adding that they were now in their son’s house in Taiping.
Former internationals who visited Namat said the Butterworth-born footballer was facing his condition courageously, just like he kept attackers at bay on the pitch.
They said his gentle, friendly and humble nature was still overwhelming.
Namat, who celebrated his birthday on March 30, is suffering from stage four cancer.
The former Prisons officer in Sungai Petani is the older brother of illustrious striker Shaharuddin Abdullah.
Namat began as a striker but ended up a no-nonsense defender.
A Penang player from 1965–1975, he was capped 115 times for the country and last donned national colours at the Jakarta Anniversary Tournament in 1975.
He made his national team debut in 1968 when Malaysia emerged champion in the Merdeka tournament by beating Burma 3-0 in the final.
He captained the national team following the retirement of M Chandran after the 1972 Munich Olympics.
As a member of the Munich Olympics team, he often talked about the opening match against Germany when he had to mark the speedy Uli Hoeness.
Malaysia suffered losses to Germany (3-0) and Morocco (6-0) but beat USA 3-0 at the Games.
The Munich team competed in the Tehran Asian Games in 1974 and won the bronze medal by defeating South Korea 2-1 with goals from Isa Bakar.
Namat was awarded a datukship by the Penang Governor in 2011.
Namat’s former teammates, speaking to FMT, offered words of encouragement to him.
Mohammed Bakar (Penang, national teammate and childhood friend):
“We believe he will display the same fighting qualities on the pitch to battle his illness. I am confident he will remain as tough as his tackling.”
V Kalimutu (Munich pre-Olympics qualifying tournament teammate):
“His discipline and fighting qualities will indeed prevail during his trying period now. I wish him well. He was fearless on the pitch and I don’t see him giving up easily in his current battle against cancer.”
V Thanabalan (national teammate Merdeka tournament and Sea Games 1968-69):
“He was a disciplined player and this quality will certainly see him fight his challenges now.
“I urge him to invoke all the qualities of the great defender that he was to confront his ailment.”
Teoh Yit Huat (Penang teammate):
“It is our time to give him all the support now. Just as he helped to make Penang a great team that was managed by the late Tan Aik Mong’s father, Tan Cheng Hoe, from 1975 to 1979. Let’s lift him in our prayers.”
Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.