Goalkeeper extraordinaire Ahmad Wartam dies of pneumonia

Goalkeeper extraordinaire Ahmad Wartam dies of pneumonia
(L-R) Irfan, Iksan, Ahmad Wartam, Fandi Ahmad.

He broke into the national team during a period when there was a glut of top goalkeepers in Singapore.

Former great Chu Chee Seng was in his twilight years, no doubt.

But, with Wilfred Skinner, Idros Albar, Seet Yew Chang and Loh Fook Teng all vying to stand between the posts for the Singapore team, Ahmad Wartam faced a tough battle to break in.

And being relatively short, at around 1.70 metres, Wartam's challenge was monumental.

Yet, he had the heart to take on the bigger guys, and was successful on several occasions.

That was the main talking point among Singaporean football fans who bade farewell to Wartam, who died yesterday morning because of pneumonia.

He was 79 and was buried at the Muslim Cemetery in Lim Chu Kang.

He had been warded at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for seven weeks after prolonged heart and lung problems.

Although he will always be known as the father of Singapore's most famous footballer Fandi Ahmad, Wartam was a great athlete in his own right.

Keeping goal for the Lions from 1963 to 1969, Wartam was a quick and agile custodian who was well known for his diving saves. He also played in the 1967 Malaysia Cup final, which Perak won 2-1.

And he made some sensational headlines with his saves for Woodbridge Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital in the Government Services League.

While such headlines put sportsmen on Cloud Nine, Wartam always had his feet on the ground.

For that, fans hailed his humility, his good sense to put his teammates always before himself after winning games.

Interestingly, Wartam's reflexes extended off the pitch and on to the track as well. In the 1960s, he was among Singapore's top five sprinters for the 100 yards in Singapore, along with Kesavan Soon and the late Ernest Frida.

Wartam actually started his football career as a fleet-footed left winger, before a knee injury forced him to pick up the goalkeeper's gloves.

WORK ETHIC

His athletic genes and strong work ethic were subsequently passed down to Fandi, as father and son would wake up early at 5.30am to go jogging when Fandi was a kid.

The early-to-bed, early-to-rise habit has been kept by Fandi to this day.

"I carried his boots to all his games," Fandi, 52, recalled proudly yesterday.

"He was my inspiration, my mentor and a wonderful person with lots of good humour and honesty.

"He was very supportive in my career, always giving good advice. He also taught me good values like humility and giving back to the society.

"He was a great father and grandfather, and my family and I will miss him dearly."

godfrey@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 30, 2014.
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