NATIONAL football legend Datuk M. Chandran died at his home in Ampang Jaya at 7.30am yesterday after a 17-year battle with motor neuron disease (MND).

He was 77.

Chandran is survived by wife, Datin A. Puspalatha, two sons (Kumarason and Vicnaraj), daughter-in-law Adeline Chew and two grandchildren (Vilas and Marissa).

His friends in the football fraternity pointed out that another legend, Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Minhat, had also died on this very day, seven years ago.

As news of Chandran’s death spread on social media, many turned up to pay their last respects, including FA of Malaysia (FAM) exco member Christopher Raj, former FAM secretary-general Datuk Aizuddin Ahmad, Datuk Khaidir Buyong, Reduan Abdullah, Datuk Dell Akbar Khan, Datuk Windsor John and Wong Kam Fook.

“On behalf of his family, we want to thank all those who came to pay their respects and visited the family to show their support.

We know he had been struggling for years with MND but he died this morning after a long battle.

It’s a great loss to the country but he has now gone to a better place,” said Christopher.

Chandran’s former Selangor teammate Khaidir said: “We are saddened by his death. I’ve known him since the 70s and he’s a great, dedicated and hardworking player.

“He would give 150 per cent during training and that’s why we were able to do what we did. But death is something we can’t run away from. We pray that he is safe, wherever he is.”

Aizuddin said he would remember Chandran as someone who was stern and disciplined on the pitch but a true jovial friend off it.

“It’s very rare to find someone who can lead and earn the respect of others,” said Aizuddin.

Former national player Reduan believes it was Chandran’s attitude and personality which inspired the Selangor team to lofty heights.

A file picture of the late M. Chandran celebrating with teammates by holding the Merdeka Cup trophy in 1973. - NST PIC

“When he became coach, we went through a lot because his training was tough and that’s what made us better,” said Reduan.

Meanwhile, ex-State and exNational Footballers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Soh Chin Aun, along with members Datuk N. Thanabalan and Datuk Santokh Singh, conveyed their heartfelt condolences to the family of their late teammate.

The trio were in Perth, Australia for a fellowship football match against the Western Australian Football Association and were unable to pay their last respects.

“He had excellent leadership qualities and was respected by his teammates and the football fraternity. Agreat role model as a player and administrator, who led by example and wasadisciplinarian. He led the association with distinction as president and it’s a responsibility I found very hard to fulfil when I took over in 2014,” said Chin Aun.

Thanabalan added: “Itis a great loss to me personally as he was more of a close friend than a teammate. We played together in the national team for seven years — he as the great defender while I was trying to sneak the goals in.

Our friendship extended beyond the football field as we became close family friends too. It is an irreplaceable loss for me and the nation”.

Association vice-president Santokh praised Chandran for his high level of discipline, commitment and dedication.

“He was always there to provide moral support when the odds were against us. He will be greatly missed,” said Santokh.