Farewell, Shebby. We will miss you dearly

There have been very few moments in my journalistic career where I have been numbed with shock and grief that I just can’t seem to get my fingers to flitter across the keyboard.

Tonight, is one of those rare moments.

The passing of Serbegeth Singh, aka Shebby, from an apparent heart attack, is hard to take in. For me. For all of us at Twentytwo13.

Serbegeth was more than just a former national football player, a renowned football pundit, and Twentytwo13 columnist. He was one of us.

The news of his death was like a gut punch. First, came a message on my phone earlier this evening, informing me of the unthinkable. Just as I was trying to verify it, images of Serbegeth off his bicycle, started to make their rounds. Finally, the confirmation. He was 61.

Serbegeth was cycling at what locals call Bukit Sunway, or Bukit Ayam, near Iskandar Puteri in Johor, when it happened.

The man had seen it all – both locally and abroad. He was part of the legendary Kuala Lumpur team that won the prestigious Malaysia Cup for three consecutive years (1987, 1988, 1989) and donned the national colours to play in three Asian Games (1982, 1986, 1990), and was part of the 1989 Sea Games winning team.

He hung his boots but found a new calling as a football pundit, and became a familiar face in homes in Malaysia, and abroad. Serbegeth even enjoyed stints with Blackburn Rovers and Johor Darul Ta’zim.

There were many who did not agree with his views, but like so many of the shots he sent sailing to the back of the nets with such ferocity and conviction, Serbegeth was a straight shooter. He didn’t care. He called them as he saw them.

After all, the man lived and breathed the game.

He was on the Football Tribe Malaysia talkshow Rembat! on Dec 23, where he told Twentytwo13 executive editor and host Graig Nunis and I:

“I have always polarised opinions. Fifty per cent love me, and 50 per cent hate me. But 100 per cent will watch me.”

That’s so Shebby.

Beyond that, Serbegeth was a true gentleman. We have disagreed on several occasions, but the friendship remained. But what took place in April 2021, is something I will never forget.

Serbegeth reached out, asking me more about Twentytwo13. And following a brief tele-conversation, he said he would like to contribute as a columnist.

His first column was published on May 13, 2021, and he kept on writing. His final column with Twentytwo13 was published on Dec 31, 2021.

We spoke over the phone during those times. We exchanged views, shared good laughs, and promised to meet up over coffee or dinner if I found myself in Johor Bahru, or if he were in Kuala Lumpur.

I regret that the long-awaited catch-up session will not happen in this lifetime.

Serbegeth’s passing comes barely a month after Ross Yusof – a familiar name on radio and a huge football buff – passed away. He was 55.

I am going to miss my conversations with Serbegeth. I’m going to miss his emails to us. I’m going to miss reading his articles on Twentytwo13.

Shebby, thank you for believing in us. We, at Twentytwo13, love you and will miss you dearly.

Farewell, old friend.

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