His fiery displays and no holds-barred style of play have made him a legend in Singapore football. Yet Noh Alam Shah wasn’t always the model footballer as the player would also make the headlines due to his ill-discipline.
After experiencing a whirlwind career and retiring from the game, he finds himself in the spotlight once again as he takes up a role as an assistant manager to Fandi Ahmad for the Singapore national team.
Goal Singapore scored an interview with the man nicknamed ‘Ah Long’ as he tells us the how he mentors the current generation of Singapore footballers.
Fierce, combative and driven. These are some of the words fans of Alam Shah would use to describe him and it must be said that is accurate. During the heyday of his playing career, he would wow the crowds with not just some outrageous goals but also his determination.
But to understand the former Singapore international’s hunger for the game, one has to examine his background.
“When I was younger I played under the void decks with older players who were much better than me. In those days we had the Malaysia Cup and watching that combined with the European leagues made me realise that football was what I only wanted,” explained the former Singapore captain.
“At the age of 14 I quit school and before I went for football trials, most of my time was spent on the streets. However it was during those times on the streets which allowed me to build mental toughness.”
“I was all alone and naturally I had to defend myself. Everything I did from the age of 14 was all about hard work. I used to do lots of menial jobs to get money. My mother was a road sweeper.”
“And so by the time I entered football I looked at (Indra) Shahdan and (Ahmad) Latiff. These players had talent while for me I started late in football and so naturally I had to have a high work ethic which made it seem as if I was ready to run through a brick wall to achieve my agenda.”
For Alam Shah, indeed it’s safe to say it was that hunger and poverty which spurred him on to have an illustrious career, as he picked up title after title and certainly inspired my generation to want to have that same desire. When asked what the proudest moment of his career was, the 38 year-old had this to say.
“If you ask me about football, I certainly can’t remember,”
“But for me I will always be proud to say that I never failed to run for my team-mates in every match that I played. It’s because I knew that I was fighting for not just my own kids but also my team-mates’ families,” mused the former striker.
Not many would expect Alam Shah to be philosophical but he always believed what set him apart from other footballers was because he was playing for people that he cared for and loved while others were playing for what they wanted to be.
“They are fighting for what they want to be. I am fighting for someone that I want them to be,” he quipped.
Of course when discussing the career of one of Singapore’s greatest strikers, its hard to ignore his time in Indonesia where he acquired legendary status after firing Arema to a league title. Goal Singapore then quizzed him on what was the greatest lesson he learned playing overseas.
“I would have to say it’s nice to win a championship there. I built a great bond between my team-mates and they are like my cousins already.”
“Yes, we won the league but people didn’t see the hardships behind the scenes. There, I was fighting for people who had much lesser than me and to win the championship was a great achievement.”
“After I came back from Indonesia, I felt that I could give up football already because I had achieved everything within my means.”
From Indonesia to his newly acquired role in Singapore as an assistant manager to Fandi Ahmad in the national team set-up. Alam Shah reveals to us how it all came about.
“When Fandi got the appointment as national team coach, my boss (Teo Hock Seng), told me to go and help him. At the start, I had no clue what to do.”
“But over time I knew the purpose and it was to show the current batch of footballers what not to do because I had been there, done that.”
At the time of his appointment, sceptics pointed out to Alam Shah’s discipline record, questioning his employment, however he never once felt ashamed of his past.
“They say I am a hooligan, trouble-maker and all that. But they failed to realise when given a direction, I am always focussed and have never failed to deliver.”
“When I first came back to football, I was overweight and the boys were making fun of me. However in two weeks I lost weight and worked hard to be fit. That got the players motivated because it showed them if I could do it why not them.”
Given his new-found wisdom and philosophical attitude, Goal Singapore tried to tease out what was the best advice he gave to the current generation of footballers.
“I would have to say don’t be like me!” Exclaimed 'Ah Long'.
“That is why I and Fandi create a good partnership because we are like good cop and bad cop. He (Fandi) has a gentle personality while I am ready to screw the players if necessary.”
“Everything I do is in the hope that we reach the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup because I want the whole of Singapore to support us, and I know we can achieve success.”
“Also with regards to my role, I feel at ease guiding these young players. I come from a broken home and my background allows me to understand each and every child because every player is different.”
From the past to the present to the future, we questioned Alam Shah on what his future goals were.
“I hope to spend more time with my family. And if given an opportunity I want to pursue higher education.”