Tony Hadley (left) waded into a disagreement with a Singaporean radio station, earning Muhammad Shalehan thousands of dollars.
London CNN  — 

Spandau Ballet front man and 1980s icon Tony Hadley has stepped in to solve a bizarre controversy erupting in Singapore, earning a man a cash prize by clarifying exactly how the star’s surname is pronounced.

The “Gold” singer was relaxing at his home in Buckinghamshire, England during the lockdown this week when he discovered he was the subject of a weeks-long furor thousands of miles away.

The uproar centered on a national radio station, which had asked listeners to identify 14 celebrities just by their voices in order to win a cash prize.

Muhammad Shalehan called in to Gold 905 on April 21 to offer his answer, and got every one correct – but the station felt he had mispronounced Hadley’s name and decided not to award the railway worker the 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,030) reward.

Weeks later, another caller gave the same list of answers and was crowned a winner – prompting an outcry in Singapore that rumbled on for weeks.

“Our decision remains final,” the station announced on Wednesday, dashing the hopes of Shalehan and the army of supporters he had amassed.

That is, until Shalehan tracked down Hadley himself, and the star waded in.

Singer Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet performing in 2015 in Singapore.

“At first I thought, is it a hoax? Is someone on a wind-up?,” Hadley told CNN, speaking about his reaction after getting a message from his manager with Shalehan’s request.

“I looked into it and realized that this chap had, I thought, won fairly and squarely,” he added. “I didn’t understand what the problem was, I thought he certainly pronounced my name correctly. It’s not the most difficult name to pronounce.”

So Hadley filmed a video telling Shalehan he deserved his winnings. It finally forced an apology from the station, which awarded Shalehan the prize in full – wrapping up a wonderfully unique episode.

‘He was robbed’

The station was initially steadfast in their decision that Shalehan had said “Hadley” with too strong an inflection to earn the prize.

The “Celebrity Name Drop” game continued for more than two weeks after Shalehan’s entry, with he and the public under the assumption that he had got one answer wrong. But eventually, another caller put forward the same set of answers – and was crowned a winner.

Immediately the station was inundated with messages on social media from confused fans, asking the same question: What about Shalehan?

“What happened? A very very truly sad climax to a contest which should have finished on a high note,” one user wrote. “He was robbed of the title,” another exclaimed.

The station came forward with an explanation: “The rules of the game requires callers to pronounce the celebrities name accurately. Mispronounced names therefore cannot be & were not regarded as correct entries,” the statement said. “In the case of Shalehan, he mispronounced Tony Hadley. We hope this clarifies!”

The station even posted an audio comparison on Facebook to clear up the confusion, playing Shalehan’s answer and that of the winner.

But Shalehan spent days lobbying Gold 905 to change the decision, adamant that he had said the singer’s name correctly.

“Have some integrity!” he implored on the station’s page, picking up scores of supporters who bombarded the station’s social media channels for days with pleas for them to reverse course.

In an attempt to smooth over the controversy, which had run for two weeks, the station said they were “heartened by the passion shown by Mr Shalehan” and had privately offered him a “goodwill” gesture.

“Although we had communicated to Mr Shalehan that our decision was final according to the rules of the contest, we are touched by his commitment and resourcefulness – including reaching out to Tony Hadley,” the station added in a statement.

But the controversy didn’t end there. “When (they) offered me the ‘consolation prize,’ I felt a bit insulted,” Shalehan told CNN. He felt he was entitled to the full prize. He knew this much was true, as Hadley would sing – and he finally decided to take his battle to the man who’s got the power to know.

“He obviously felt pretty aggrieved, and rightly so,” Hadley told CNN. “He’s a very nice chap, and him and his wife are expecting baby number four any minute,” added the singer, who spoke with Shalehan shortly before the station awarded him the prize.

“I listened to his pronunciation of my name I though, well there’s nothing wrong with that at all.”

With that, Shalehan’s persistence was finally rewarded.

“We have reached out to Mr Shalehan again to convey that we are deeply sorry. Since Tony Hadley has said that Mr Shalehan said his name correctly, who are we to disagree?” the station said on Friday. “The full prize of $10,000 cash and shopping spree will also be awarded to Mr Shalehan.”

“I am just so happy,” Shalehan told CNN. “The best news of my life,” he added in a Facebook post.

Shalehan thanked those who supported him. “For all we/listeners know I am the righful winner,” he added in the post. “(And) a big thank you to Mr Tony Hadley for his effort.”

Now the story has gone viral – and nobody is more surprised than Hadley himself. “I didn’t know it was going to go global,” the singer said. “I suppose everyone at these times is looking for a nice outcome.”