Football hotbeds that launched stars, forged solidarity

Some of the players who shone at the JKR fields in Cheras in a kickabout outside the building that occupies the grounds. From left: M Pavalamani, K Kanagarajah, K Murugapillai, K Kanagasabai and A Jayakanthan.

KUALA LUMPUR: The number of football grounds in the city that have vanished over the past four decades is staggering.

They were once fertile fields for the development of young talent and an active production line for some of the best players from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Many of the players, to whom the grounds were “second home”, went on to gain national acclaim while some became household names.

Today, neighbourhoods are missing the football culture, community spirit, and the flow of talented players as playing fields have given way to concrete structures.

FMT picked out the more famous old grounds in Kuala Lumpur that time has forgotten – landmarks that once helped shape Malaysian football.

Jalan Chan Ah Thong field, Brickfields

Legend N Thanabalan points to what used to be the Chan Ah Thong ground in Brickfields where some of the biggest names in Malaysian football used to play.

Then: A “dug-out” field that was popular among boys from the government service staff at the “100 quarters” on Jalan Rozario and Jalan Chan Ah Thong, and students from La Salle Brickfields, SMK Vivekananda and SK Brickfields 1 and 2.

Notable players who rose from here were Selangor and national players – midfielder Ng Mun Kai (50s), striker N Thanabalan, centreback T Nagaratnam, leftback Clement Soosay and goalkeeper G Daniel (all 60s), defender and national skipper, the late M Chandran (late 60s to mid-70s), defenders K Gunalan and K Ramachandran (late 70s to mid-90s).

The field was first filled and turned into a track for the ‘Shell Traffic Safety Games’ in the mid-80s. In the past 10 years, it was also used as a temporary food court for former occupants of the famous Pines restaurants, opposite the La Salle Brickfields school field.

Now: MRCB condominium project in progress.

Brickfields Railway Recreation Club (RRC)

Brickfields Railway Club ground, the home of football force, Hong Chin FC, made way for development 20 years ago.

Then: Home ground of Hong Chin FC, a powerhouse from the 60s to early 80s.

Hong Chin (which means “ever onwards” in Chinese) was started by the late Charlie Tan and friends. The club now operates from a flat on Jalan Padang Belia formerly Jalan Kandang Kerbau.

The big names who came through Hong Chin were the late goalkeepers Chow Chee Keong and Ong Yu Tiang, Yip Chee Keong, R Subramaniam, Peter Rajah, Reduan Yunus, John Engketesu, K Gunasegeran and Khalid Ali.

Now: The ground was closed 20 years ago when the land was sold to YTL for development. Work began recently.

Sentul Railway and 3rd Mile Ipoh Road Railway grounds

Then: Frequented mainly by children of Malayan Railways (KTM) workers.

Among those who made the mark were Mark Ambrose, his brothers Ronnie, Peter and Clement, ex-national goalkeeper Chinna Karuppan, centreback Joe Soosay (Malaya 1957), midfielder Kassim Abdullah and former national coach N Raju.

Now: Sentul Boulevard (blocks of shops and offices) stand on the Sentul Railway ground while Sentul West occupies the Ipoh Road ground.

3rd Mile JKR grounds, Cheras

Then: These two fields were also the training grounds for the Selangor and national squads as well as visiting teams to the Merdeka tournament in the 70s.

Apart from children of City Hall staff whose quarters were close by, youths from surrounding areas like Jalan Peel, Jalan Cochrane, Sungei Besi and Pudu also made it their turf.

Notable players include goalkeepers Lim Fung Kee and M Pavalamani, K Kanagarajah, Mokhtar Ahmad, A Jayakanthan, Azman Adnan, Mohd Satar Aziz, Ho Tuck Keong and Wong Fook Keong.

They turned out for teams such as Pemuda Cheras FC, Cheras United FC, JKR FC, Sukaramai FC, Harimau KL, Malay, Indian, Chinese and Others (MICO) FC and FT Hindian FC.

Respected coaches like the late Jeswant Singh, PC Dorai, Chow Kwai Lam and Chinna Karupan began their football journey here.

Now: The grounds made way for development in 2005 and today the imposing Convention Centre of the Construction Industry Development Board stands tall.

Selangor Chinese Recreation Club (SCRC) ground, Pudu

The sore sight of the abandoned Plaza Rakyat stands at the site of the Selangor Chinese Recreation Club (SCRC) ground, Jalan Pudu.
The sore sight of the abandoned Plaza Rakyat stands at the site of the Selangor Chinese Recreation Club (SCRC) ground, Jalan Pudu.

Then: The club was a breeding ground for Chinese players, administrative officials, referees and coaches.

SCRC’s most illustrious player was the late midfield maestro Wong Choon Wah.

Choon Wah was the first player to venture into professional football in Hong Kong with South China Athletics Association from 1972 to 1974 before Lim Fung Kee, Chow Chee Keong and Yip Chee Keong followed suit.

Other players who came through from SCRC included Ho Hon Seong, Chow Siew Yai, Wong Fook Choon, Chan Choong Yoon, Ong Chee Keong and See Kim Seng.

The club’s treasurer, the late Goh Ah Chai went on to serve the FA of Malaysia (FAM), and Selangor and Kuala Lumpur FAs while the late Koh Guan Kiat was a Fifa referee.

Now: The club has been without a field after being relocated to Jalan Damai, Ampang, in the late 80s to make way for the now-abandoned Plaza Rakyat project (next to Pudu Raya).

Other famous clubs associated with community football were:

  • Selangor Indians Association (SIA) at the Kampong Attap ground: Now, a flyover near the old Istana.
  • Umno and Sultan Sulaiman Club at Kampong Baru: Still existing but under threat from the Kampong Baru redevelopment plan.
  • Tamilian Physical Culture Association (TPCA), Raja Muda Stadium, Kampung Baru: Taken over by National Sports Council for a sports complex.
  • Royal Selangor Club ground (also known as Selangor Padang): Now Dataran Merdeka.