Paul Bastock is a legend in his own right in English football, having made over 1000 appearances in his long career. The 46-year-old goalkeeper's list of clubs is extensive and includes Cambridge United, Bath City, Sabah, Fisher Athletic, Kettering Town, Boston United, Dagenham & Redbridge, Worksop Town, Dunstable Town, and his current team, Stamford AFC in the Northern Premier League Division One South.
If you actually read the list above, you will notice "Sabah". Yes, that's right, Bastock actually turned out for the Rhinos 28 years ago during the inaugural season of the Malaysian Semi-Pro Football League. In an interview with Stadium Astro, he shares a little about his time in Malaysia...
You were only 19 and just started your football career when you joined Sabah from Cambridge United in 1989. How did you end up in Malaysia?
I jumped at the chance when my former Coventry City coach Frank Upton [who had been appointed as Sabah’s head coach] asked if I fancied going there with him.
How was Malaysian football back then?
It was the first season of the Semi-Pro Football League era. It was a lot slower and football was played along the floor more than what I was used to Cambridge United [where] we were very direct with long balls.
Did you experience any culture shock?
Apart from the humidity, I loved the way of life in Malaysia. The biggest thing I can remember was the differences in diet between the foreign and local players. We would eat chicken and beans before a game, but they would eat a feast.
You left after just one year. What prompted your departure?
I had a month left on my contract when we won promotion at the end of the season, but I was not offered a new contract. So, I left early to get something sorted back in the UK, went back to Cambridge United for another season and never heard from Sabah again.
What do you remember fondly the most about the country?
I remember how friendly the people were and how beautiful Malaysia was.
Do you still follow Malaysian football or keep in touch with anyone here?
I did not follow it for a few years, but I have tried to keep up to date about it when Internet became accessible. I also used to receive letters from [former Sabah team-mate] Matlan Marjan. What a lovely bloke he was!
When you were here, was there any Malaysian player you thought could cut it in England?
Not at the time, but Hassan Sani came close. He was getting near the end of his career, but I heard a lot of good things about him in his early days.
We’re pretty sure all players from the 1989 season except you have retired from the game. What motivates you to continue playing?
I’d hope they have retired! [laughs] My desire to play is simple; I just love playing the beautiful game.
You're currently playing for Stamford. How's the season so far?
I had a shoulder operation in July but came back too soon and aggravated it, so I’m taking time out at the moment. We had a great run in the FA Cup this season [and qualified for the First Round Proper where we lost to Hartlepool United] and I managed to play in two rounds.
What else do you do besides guarding the goal for Stamford?
I've got my own goalkeeping schools and a cleaning business.
Fancy another crack at Malaysian football at your current age?
I would love the chance to come back out, play a bit and have a coaching role.
(Pictures: Geoff Atton/Stamford AFC)