Geylang International FC

A chat with Prime League coach Noor Ali!


In all honesty, when Noor Ali first joined GUFC in June, I have not the slightest idea who he was. Nevertheless, I could sense there always seem to be a certain buzz about his return to the club. Thus, being the inquisitive person that I am, I went to do my research online and flipped through the old football magazines that were still sitting awkwardly at one of the shelves in the office.

“Ahh…a decorated National Player who played for Geylang United,” I thought to myself.

Even weeks after Noor Ali joined the club, I haven’t had the chance to speak to him much till last evening when Sugunan, Noor Ali and myself decided to have dinner together.

Being the curious bee that I am, I saw this as an opportunity to know him better.

“Noor Ali, I’ve heard a lot about you. Tell me more about your football career leh.

However, he seemed to be really busy on his I-Phone so he gestured frustratingly, asking me to give him some space.

When he was finally done with his call, he finally replied with much angst, “You want the long story or the short one?”

Figured that I have no plans to be home anytime soon although it was close to 9.30pm, I told him “Long one lah.”

But just then, our dinner arrived.

“Eh wait ah, I eat first. I’m very hungry.”

Immediately, I gobbled my Mee Hong Kong and after his second mouthful of Mee Goreng, Noor Ali finally began, “Well, I was from Tao Nan Primary School. As you know, Tao Nan was a Chinese school so there was no football CCA. Therefore, I had to join badminton.”

I burst out in laughter.

“It’s such a sissy sport!” I exclaimed, still madly laughing away.

Obviously unimpressed, Noor Ali continued, “Well, I was playing Badminton really well for Tao Nan and I continued playing the sport even when I went to Dunman Secondary School. Still, in Dunman there wasn’t a football CCA so naturally I continued playing Badminton.”

“It was until one day when one of the teachers told me to compete in a Track and Field event for my school sports day. I was told to compete in the B Division even though I was still in Secondary 2 then. Naturally, I told the teacher I can’t compete in the B Division as I don’t think I can out run the competitors. They’re a year or two older and are much fitter!” he exclaimed.

“Nevertheless, my pleas fell on deaf ears and I was made to run the relay. So, I just ran my heart out and I actually finished second!” he said, obviously still in disbelief even till today.

It was then when Noor Ali finally realized there is something that he’s actually good at. His confidence was sky high and being a star of the school’s Athletics team, he became a very popular figure in school.

“Being the mischievous character that I was, I started to get into a lot of trouble. Then, it was one particular incident that changed my life.”

On one occasion, Noor Ali was arrested for a brawl and charges were pressed against him in Court.

I remember the judge telling my parents, “Do you want take care of your son? Or do you want me to take care of him for you?”

“I was this close to being sent to the Boys Home. But this was the moment that eventually changed my life,” he said, clipping his thumbs and index finger an inch apart.

Although Noor Ali wasn’t sent to the Boys Home, he was put on probation by the Police. Every evening after school, two officers would fetch him from his home to the police compound.  It was then when he had his first encounter with football.

“They made me train with the Police youth team every evening. I really enjoyed the evenings and day by day, my football started improving.”

“Thereafter, my friends convinced me to join the Goh Chok Tong development scheme. Although I didn’t make it to the final, I made it to the Top 20 of the competition. It was then when I met Coach Johana.”

“I was playing in the Business House League for Scotts Holdings before he convinced me to play for Tiong Bahru U-18 team in the NFL. When the S-League started in 1996, I joined him at Tampines Rovers after I finished my National Service.”

“Then the rest is history. But in all honesty, if it wasn’t for Coach Johana I would probably never have played in the S-League.”

Noor Ali then went on to win numerous S-League titles in 2001, 2006 and 2007 and the Singapore Cup in 2006, 2007 and 2009. He was also nominated the young player of the year in 1997 and player of the year ten years later.

An experienced veteran playing until the age of 36, he captained teams such as Geylang United, SAFFC, Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United and scoring a total of 123 goals in the process.

-Rodney Tan

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