Starting all over
Lions striker Noh Alam Shah opens up to GARY LIM and talks about his football ban, marital problems and hopes for the future
The firm handshake and eye contact suggested nothing that Noh Alam Shah’s personality has changed – the strength, the sincerity and the confidence.
But it has been a trying year for the Singapore striker.
Football was his life.
Then, it was taken away from him.
The ban (which was later reduced from 12 months to seven months following an appeal) he received for an assault on an opponent during last year’s Singapore Cup final has been well-publicised.
Yet, it was his marital problems that so nearly brought him to his knees.
His five-year marriage to wife Shakina Akeb was on the verge of crumbling down.
There were countless occasions when he wondered if it was too late to pick up the pieces.
‘Ask me anything you want, Gary,’ said Alam Shah, his tone lowered and hands clasped.
Soon, he poured out his feelings.
Said Alam Shah, who has two kids, 9 and 7, from a previous marriage: ‘It was a huge emotional strain, not just for me, but also for my wife and our three kids.
‘The fact that she accepted me back was all I could ask for.
‘She is the greatest wife on earth.
‘I feel so foolish and totally remorseful.
‘I am sorry for whatever happened and so relieved that it came to an end. Thank God.’
The couple’s ordeal lasted close to a year before ‘everything was sorted out two months ago’.
During this period, there was no football to fall back on, a welcome distraction, if you will.
Ithar Shah, 4, Miqdad Shah, 3, and Shikha Ulfah, 1, were his pillars of strength.
Coming from a less-than-privileged background, he makes it his priority to provide the best for his pride and joy.
Alam Shah’s father, a repeat drug offender, has been in and out of jail for as long as he can remember.
His mother toiled to bring food to the table, while his nanny, who worked as a cleaner, took care of him and his two younger brothers during the day.
The neglected Alam Shah had a brush with the law for a motorcycle theft during his teenage years, which resulted in his being put on probation for one-and-a-half years.
He said: ‘During this difficult past year, my children gave me strength.
‘They are everything I need.
‘When I step on the field, they are the ones I play for.
‘I want them to have a comfortable life.’
Now, with his off-field problems off his mind, his attention is turned towards helping the Lions win the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup (previously known as the Tiger Cup and the AFF Championships) for the third time running.
Singapore’s title defence starts on Friday, when they take on Cambodia in Jakarta, before they play Myanmar and Indonesia.
Brushing his newly-dyed, ash-coloured crop with his hand, he said: ‘I hope to atone for what I’ve done, to my family, in every way I can.
‘I am more focused than ever before.’
Alam Shah feels like a reborn man.
The past 12 months, as tumultuous as they come, have been buried.
Now, he’s back in business, with nothing but football on his mind.