Dollah Kassim



Dollah Kassim (b. 13 March 1949, Singapore–d. 15 October 2010, Singapore) was a footballer who represented Singapore between 1968 and 1981.1 A centre-forward, he was nicknamed the “gelek king” (gelek is a Malay word for a bending movement) for his languid, graceful style of play and deceptive dribbling. His fame was underscored in local pop culture when songwriter, Azim Chan, and singer, Kamaliah Latiff, released a song titled “Dollah Kassim” in 1975.2

Childhood and education
Growing up in a kampong (village) at Owen Road in Farrer Park, Dollah was the fourth child in his family, with five brothers and two sisters. He attended Rangoon Road Primary School from 1957 to 1962, and Serangoon English Secondary School between 1963 and 1966.3

While in Primary 3, Dollah made the school’s football team. A school athletics champion, he also competed in hockey, table tennis, softball and basketball. The young Dollah’s neighbours around Farrer Park included Singapore national football team coach Choo Seng Quee also known as “Uncle Choo”, future Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president, N. Ganesan, and prominent referee George Suppiah.

Early football career
It was “Uncle” Choo who spotted Dollah playing football in the kampong and brought him for training sessions at the famous Farrer Park fields. In 1966, Dollah formed a team named Burnley United with some friends, including future national team players, Samad Alapitchay and S. Rajagopal.5 

In 1968, Burnley competed in and won the FAS’s youth tournament. Dollah impressed in the tournament and was called up for the national football team, which came with a training allowance of S$5 per session.6 He made his debut for Singapore in April in a Malaysia Cup away match in Negri Sembilan, Malaysia.7 Dollah entered national service in 1968, together with most of the players in Burnley United.8

National team

Dollah’s national team career progressed when he made his mark in the 1971 Merdeka Tournament by scoring a penalty in a memorable 1-0 win over Burma (Myanmar).9 The following year, Dollah was part of the Singapore squad that spent a month in London training with English clubs Arsenal and Chelsea.10

In September 1974, Dollah was dropped from the national team for skipping training.11 He went on to lead the International Contract Specialists (now Geylang United FC) to win the National Football League. His impressive performance incited the FAS to invite him to re-join the national team.12 Dollah was the top goal scorer for Singapore in the Malaysia Cup in 1975, with one goal proving particularly memorable. It came in the semi-final against Pahang at the National Stadium, as Dollah dribbled his way past four defenders and the goalkeeper before scoring.13 The goal was described as “one of the world’s most beautiful goals” in a news report published after Dollah’s passing in 2010.14 Singapore, however, lost the 1975 Malaysia Cup final 1-0 to Selangor.15

In 1977, Dollah was part of the team that defeated Penang 3-2 in the final, marking Singapore’s triumph in the Malaysia Cup for the first time in 12 years.16

Retirement from football
After the 1979 Malaysia Cup final, Dollah played for Singapore in the Merdeka Tournament against Indonesia, where he dislocated his shoulder. His recurring shoulder injury – he first dislocated it in 1973 – prompted him to exit the national team.17 At the end of July 1979, Dollah announced his retirement from the national team, citing his age, a wish to make way for promising young players and his shoulder injury.18 

To mark his 11-year national team career, the FAS presented him with a gold medal worth over S$1,000. The FAS also organised a testimonial match for Dollah against Japanese side Hitachi FC. The event, which was attended by 15,000 fans, ended with a 3-2 win for Singapore, with Dollah scoring the first goal. At the end of the 1979 season, Dollah was voted the FAS Footballer of the Year.19

Coaching career
In February 1980, Dollah passed a coaching course held by the FAS,20 and went on to coach Singapore’s youth teams in the Lion City Cup as well as school and company teams while working with Singapore Pools.21

Heart attack and death
On 4 October 2009, Dollah played the first 10 minutes of a veterans’ match between Singapore and Selangor, a curtain-raiser for the Sultan of Selangor’s Cup, at the Jalan Besar Stadium. At half-time, he collapsed on the team bench after suffering from a heart attack.22 While en route to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Dollah’s heart stopped and he was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). According to the doctor on duty at the match, Dollah’s heart had stopped beating for up to 18 minutes before it was revived23 and he had suffered brain damage.24 Dollah underwent an emergency angioplasty at the hospital,25 and was found to have diabetes and coronary heart disease, which was only discovered after his collapse. In January 2010, he was reportedly discharged from the hospital,26 where he was visited by former teammates and well-wishers including Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and officials from the FAS.27

In January 2010, the FAS raised S$82,000 for Dollah’s family through donations from S-League sponsors, club chairmen and the public, as well as gate receipts from a friendly match. The fee for the use of the stadium was also waived in support of Dollah and his family.28

On 14 October 2010, Dollah passed away in his home in Sengkang. He was buried at the Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery.29 In a letter to Dollah’s widow, then Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan called him “a legend, and a sports hero for all Singaporeans”.30

Family31
Wife: Faridah Syed Anwar.
Son: Mohammed Ezaad Abdullah.
Daughter: Ellya Hafsah Abdullah.



Author

Alvin Chua



References
1. Zarina Yusof. (Interviewer). (2003, September 4). Oral history interview with Dollah Kassim. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002793/11/01, Bibliographical information, p. 1]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
2. Perera, A. (1993, August 15). The Gelek King scores new goalsThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Zarina Yusof. (Interviewer). (2003, September 4). Oral history interview with Dollah Kassim. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002793/11/01, Bibliographical information, p. 1]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
4. Zarina Yusof. (Interviewer). (2003, September 4). Oral history interview with Dollah Kassim. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002793/11/01, pp. 3, 10–11]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

5. Zarina Yusof. (Interviewer). (2003, September 4). Oral history interview with Dollah Kassim. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002793/11/01, pp. 15–16]; Zarina Yusof. (Interviewer). (2003, September 4). Oral history interview with Dollah Kassim. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002793/11/02, p. 19]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

6. Zarina Yusof. (Interviewer). (2003, September 4). Oral history interview with Dollah Kassim. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002793/11/02, pp. 19, 27]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

7. Zarina Yusof. (Interviewer). (2003, September 4). Oral history interview with Dollah Kassim. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002793/11/02, pp. 19, 27]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

8. Zarina Yusof. (Interviewer). (2003, September 4). Oral history interview with Dollah Kassim. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002793/11/02, p. 23]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

9. Ng, C. (1971, August 8). Hurrah! It’s a great S’pore winThe Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
10. Low, J. (1972, March 15). It will need more than a UK trip. New Nation, p. 15; Low, J. (1972, March 22). Be well geared to create an impression. New Nation, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Dorai, J. (1974, September 26). Prima donna Dollah is sacked from the squadThe Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
12. Palakrishnan, R., & Das, M. (1996). S.League: The kickoff.  Singapore: Singapore Professional Football League, p. 77. (Call no.: RSING 796.33406095957 S)
13. Low, J. (2010, October 15). Dollah’s jinking all the way to heavenThe Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Humphreys, N. (2010, October 16). Meeting Dol the gentleman. The New Paper, p. 53. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Dorai, J. (1975, September 1). Sticky end for Singapore in the final. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Low, J. (2010, October 15). Dollah’s jinking all the way to heavenThe Straits Times, p. 18.  Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Zarina Yusof. (Interviewer). (2003, October 8). Oral history interview with Dollah Kassim. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002793/11/8, p. 122]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
18. Dorai, J. (1979, July 29). Dollah calls it a day after 11 yearsThe Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
19. Dorai, J. (1979, August 3). FAS say ‘thank you’ to Dollah Kassim in goldThe Straits Times, p. 33; Dorai, J. (1979, August 20). Dollah bows out in a blaze of gloryThe Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Dorai, J. (1980, February 1). Enter Dollah, in new roleThe Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Perera, A. (1993, August 15). The Gelek King scores new goalsThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Zarina Yusof. (Interviewer). (2003, September 4). Oral history interview with Dollah Kassim. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 002793/11/01, Bibliographical information]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
22. Voon, T. (2009, October 5). Dollah collapses in mid-gameThe Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Voon, T. (2009, October 7). New concerns for DollahThe Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Wong, J. (2010, January 1). Dollah discharged and home with family. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Voon, T. (2009, October 6). Dollah still in critical conditionThe Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Wong, J. (2010, January 1). Dollah discharged and home with family. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Football Association of Singapore. (2016). Update on Dollah Kassim's medical status. Retrieved 2016, July 21 from Football Association of Singapore website: http://www.fas.org.sg/news/update-dollah-kassims-medical-status
28. Osman, S. (2010, January 22). Football chips in for DollahToday, p. 63. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Lim, L., & Noir, S. (2010, October 15). Goodbye, Gelek KingThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Chan, U-G., & Nair, S. (2010, October 15). A legend and friend remembered. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Lim, L., & Noir, S. (2010, October 15). Goodbye, Gelek KingThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Sports, recreation and travel>>Ball games>>Football
Football players--Singapore--Biography
Dollah Kassim, 1949-2010
Personalities
Personalities>>Biographies