Remembering Serbegeth Singh – great footballer, proud father, good friend

Just as the wood pieces covered the coffin, the many pairs of eyes watching inside the crematorium welled up, until they succumbed to the inevitable.

The final adieu for Serbegeth Singh – a towering personality both on, and off the football pitch – ended with a cascade of tears.

His son, Sonuljit Singh, accompanied by Sebegeth’s daughter Natassha Kaur, put up a brave front as he lit the wood around his father.

Harbans Kaur – the woman who stole Serbegeth’s heart and became the mother to their two beautiful children – was stoic and dignified throughout, but her eyes betrayed the pain and anguish that was hers to bear, over so great a loss.

A former national athlete herself, Harbans was accustomed to pain. But not this. Nothing could have prepared her for this.

Family members, former teammates, two ministers, a former minister and friends came to the Shamshan Bhoomi Hall in Loke Yew, Kuala Lumpur, to pay their last respects and to bid farewell to the former international turned football pundit.

Members of the media scrambled to get comments from those who attended the funeral. Most tributes that flowed sounded clichéd – how disciplined Serbegeth was, or that he was a walking football encyclopaedia. Those were indeed his traits. But he was more than just that.

Many wondered how a man who did not smoke, consume alcohol, who exercised regularly, and who, in recent months, had cut sugar from his diet, passed away from a heart attack while cycling near Iskandar Puteri, Johor, on Wednesday. He was young, only 61.

In fact, Serbegeth is the first among his team members – who played for Kuala Lumpur and donned the national colours –to go. His death shook them to the core.

For Serbegeth’s loved ones, the tributes and messages that came flooding in did, to some extent, alleviate the pain they endured when they saw the images and video clips of a motionless Serbegeth lying on the ground after the heart attack. As Sonuljit said: “Social media can be cruel.”

Much has been written about the Kluang-born who grew up playing football, represented the nation at three Asian Games (1982, 1986, 1990), was part of the 1989 Sea Games winning team, a core member of the legendary Kuala Lumpur team that won the prestigious Malaysia Cup for three consecutive years (1987, 1988, 1989), and who later became a well-known football pundit.

His voice, and his sharp, on-point, and sometimes ‘painful’ analyses will continue to ring in the ears of football fans.

Serbegeth wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is. He couldn’t stand to be trifled with, and consequently, he seldom was. With him, you always knew where he stood. Even those who hated his views but secretly admired and envied him for his courage and convictions, will miss him.

While football was his life, Serbegeth was fiercely devoted to his family. He inked the names of his two children on his arms. He didn’t do it because he wanted to make a statement, or because of a fad, or to get ‘likes’ on Facebook or Instagram.

Serbegeth did it for deeply personal reasons – he was extremely proud of his children, and wanted them with him, wherever he went.

To Harbans, Sonuljit and Natassha – Serbegeth was a fine gentleman, widely respected and loved. Grieve, but remember to continue his legacy in your own way.

We at Twentytwo13, are honoured to have had him as a columnist. We will miss him dearly.

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