I was at the Malaysian Digest office this morning when I heard the sad news on the passing of Raja Bola Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Minhat at 76.
He leaves behind wife Puan Sri Tengku Aishah Tengku Ibrahim and four children - two boys and two girls.
Ghani, regarded one of Malaysia's greatest football players of all time, had earlier undergone a by-pass operation at the National Heart Institute (IJN) a couple of days ago.
I knew about this operation yesterday after former The Malay Mail colleague Haresh Deol posted on Facebook that Ghani was stable after a triple bypass. But suddenly this sad news of him passing less than 24 hours later.
I was one of the lucky ones who had the opportunity to get to know this talented and mild-mannered Ghani. During my schooldays, I never had this dream that one day I would know him personally.
At that time, I only knew about Ghani's exploits on pitch via newspapers or live commentaries on radio. I also saw him playing live at Perak Stadium, when he represented Selangor in the FAM Cup final against Perak.
Perak thrashed Selangor.
At that time, Ghani was already in his twilight of his illustrious football career with the national team and Selangor.
In 1984, I started my career as a sports journalist with The Star and this was when I began to know him. This was because at that time he was the coach of Selangor where team always trained at Sultan Suleiman Club in Kampung Baru.
Ghani, a dashing attacker, represented the country from 1956 to 1963 and played for Selangor from 1955 to 1968.
During his heyday, in the 1960s and 1970s, he played in the position of inside forward (sort of an attacfking midfielder in modern game) and was a crafty and agile player dreaded by opponents.
Although, he was born in Rantau, Negri Sembilan, Ghani contributed his great talent as a player and coach to the Selangor team.
In 1959, the Selangor Football Association (FAS) conferred on him the title ""Raja Bola" in appreciation of his vast contribution to the state.
He was adjudged the best national player in 1959 and 1960.
I can't say much about him during playing days as I did not know him then.
But as a coach, Ghani was approachable and ever willing to answer whatever questions the journalists about the team, players and so on.
He was soft spoken and tried to satisfy the journalists with his answers. He would still answered questions even if his team lost and not tried to elude the journalists. Remember those days, there were no arranged press conferences.
The journalists just have to approach coaches at the dressing room after matches.
Ghani, of course, was very knowledgeable about the game - as he was a player as well.
He also had the opportunities to attend courses overseas in places like England and Brazil. So his answers made sense most of the time.
Oh yes, call it fate or what, I became Ghani's neighbour in Ampang Jaya later as I was staying at my sister's place and interviewed him about his coaching course at one of the Brazlian clubs (I can't remember which one) at his home.
He welcomed me into the house and we had a real long chat about football - both local and foreign. And he was wearing a sarong.
Again call it fate or what, I ended up renting his house for a while later as he decided to move to his other house nearby.
I think the last time I met him was about a year or two years ago at Ampang Point.