Fox Sports Asia – HONG KONG, They came, they saw and they conquered. Closer to home, a number of prominent names from Asia have stood out during their time in the Singapore Premier League.
Defender | Iran | Geylang International (1996)
During his only season in Singapore, Khakpour was the fulcrum of a Geylang defence that were the stingiest overall among the pioneer participating teams. An excellent reader of the game and a sound stopper, he packed a powerful shot from distance and was dangerous from free kicks.
The ex-Iranian international helped the Eagles win the first series of the league campaign before netting the opening goal in their 2-1 championship final win over SAFFC (now Warriors FC) with an unstoppable 40-yard free kick that left Rezal Hassan with no chance at the old National Stadium.
Leaving Singapore after that season, Khakpour went on to captain the Iran team at the 1998 World Cup before ending his career in the United States playing for Metrostars in 2000.
He then established a youth academy called MK Soccer Club in Newport Beach, California and became involved in Iranian football where he was coach of their Under-23 side from 2014 to 2016.
Hamid Reza Estili
Midfielder | Iran | Geylang International (1996-1997)
Another Iranian to have made his mark in the S.League is Estili who was signed by Geylang prior to the 1996 season with little fanfare.
A cultured defensive midfielder, he impressed with his ability to not only shield the defence but also to help the transition from midfield to attack. His most memorable moment came when he scored the all-important goal to help the Eagles beat Warriors 2-1 in the S.League Championship playoff.
The former Iranian international left Bedok Stadium after two years with the club and would go on to seal his name in world football history when he scored in Iran’s 2-1 win over United States in the 1998 World Cup.
Retiring from the sport in 2004, Estili last coached Iranian second tier side Malavan FC in 2016, following spells with Rah Ahan Tehran FC and Persepolis FC.