Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Hockey Greats" - A legacy of Ho Koh Chye.

Family Push Hockey Carnival Ho Koh Chye Trophy started as a carnival encompassing the spirit of fun, love, family support with hockey internationals, so as to draw continuous attention of young players. In this way new talents could be discovered and the game can rise in popularity. Its modus operandi was to have parents with their young children together with former and current internationals, creating a big hockey family for the common goal of hockey development (extracted from Family Push Hockey Carnival Ho Koh Chye Trophy magazine).

Reviewing the annual magazines of the Carnival, it would seem over the years the Carnival had been transformed. I understand that the Organisers had done so taking account of the sentiments, particularly that of Koh Chye . It started when the Carnival went nationwide beginning with Malacca. The idea was to honour former hockey internationals, their coaches and outstanding officials. They are to be classified as "Hockey Greats" and the State would issue a Certificate in recognition.

In Malacca, 31 people were honoured and the Certificate had State endorsement and the Chief Minister was the signatory. Among the recipients were Koh Chye's teammates from the 1968 Mexico Olympic namely Koh Hock Seng, Ameenuddin Ibrahim, Jack Johnson and Yang Siew Meng. There were also teachers in the same mould as Koh Chye who were honoured for developing talents in Malacca and these teachers are the likes of Teja Singh, S Kesavan, P Poonenderajah and K Machap.

From Malacca, in 2005 the Carnival moved to the home State of Koh Chye i.e Negri Sembilan. This time it was a very touching moment for Koh Chye. After all, he studied at St Pauls (SPI), taught at King George Fifth School (KGV) and turned out for Negri State in hockey. The equation became more complex, for as a student he played for SPI and the arch rival was KGV, and as a teacher he was coach of KGV and the arch rival was SPI. It does not end here, in the Razak Cup he turned out for Penang and Selangor and on many occasions had to play against his home state. Friends and yet rivals was the order of the day in hockey. Yet he found a balance and there were no grudges as he lived by the principles of sportsmanship. Each time he recognised it as a duty to perform and he had to perform it. In victory he did not gloat over it or sulk in defeat. He must have been a vivid reader of the "Gita".

In Negri, the Carnival was yet again re-engineered to take account of the players who had departed from the world. A "posthumous" category was created for the "Hockey Greats" and the family representatives of Rangit Singh, S Satgunam, Sheikh Ali, C Navaratnam, S Davendran, S Jeevajothy and M T Lingam were at hand to receive the Certificates from Negri's Mentri Besar, who was the signatory of the Certificate. The Negri chapter of the Carnival saw48 personalities who were honoured as "Hockey Greats" and indeed all of them were known to Koh Chye. The ones who played with him were Tan Sri P Alagendra, Peter Danker, K Alagaratnam, Peter Van Huizen, P Mahendran, C Thavanayagam, Wifred Vias, Lawrence Van Huizen and M Joseph. The officials including coaches and umpires he had close links were William Fedelis, G Paramasivam, John Kanagaratnam (has passed away since) and Sivapthasundram. There were many to whom he was a coach or team manager and they are Brian Sta Maria, N Palanisamy, Franco De Cruz, Michael Yan, Stephen Van Huizen, Colin Sta Maria, the Fedelis brothers Gary & Derek, Kevin Nunis, Dr Brian Siva and S Suriaghandi.

These were the people who, in the name of Ho Koh Chye Carnival, were honoured as"Hockey Greats". This was possible because the name Ho Koh Chye was a name acceptable to the hierarchy in sports and to the Government who were prepared to endorse such Certificates.

In 2006, the Carnival achieved another milestone. This time it was in Perak in conjunction with DYMM Sultan Azlan Shah's 78th Birthday. What an achievement as His Majesty is the "Father of Modern Hockey" in Malaysia. Further Koh Chye had an excellent relationship with DYMM Sultan of Perak and YAM Raja Muda of Perak. The Perak chapter saw another innovative idea which Koh Chye was simply excited with and this was honouring parents who had produced 2 hockey internationals in their family. They too were to be honoured with the title 'Hockey Greats" and they are R Krishnan (K Balasingam & K T Rajan), Madam Lau Nyuk Siew (Anita Kaur & Major(R) Savinder Singh), Zainab binti Hassan (Abdul Rahim & Mohd Yazid) and Madam Dhilla Dass (Manokaran Dass & John Dass).

Perak is always recognised as the cradle of Malaysian hockey as a number of internationals and officials originate from here. As such 72 personalities were honoured as "Hockey Greats" in Perak and DYMM Sultan Azlan Shah personally signed each Certificate and personally presented to the "Hockey Greats" or their family representatives. Of the 72, there were 13 who played with Koh Chye at the 1962 & 66 Asian Games and 1964 & 68 Olympic Games. One of whom is R Yogeswaran, a close friend, very much a family member who has known Koh Chye since their Combined School hockey days in the 1950s through to MTC to Asian Games, Olympic Games and a colleague at work in the Ministry of Sports Youth & Culture.

Koh Chye had great respect for 2 hockey legends of Perak who were in the medical related profession and they are namely the late Dato Dr A W E Moreira and the late Datuk Dr Aziz Durairatnam. Koh Chye considered them as very "big hearted" gentlemen who gave significant part of their life to Malaysian hockey. They too were honoured as "Hockey Greats".

23 of the former internationals who were also honoured had Koh Chye as their coach or team manager. This is the extent to which Koh Chye had played a role in Malaysian hockey and in an event named after Koh Chye, his charges were getting honoured. Koh Chye was in sensational form filled with excitement as the roll call for honours was read out.

The following year, 2007, saw the event move to Penang in relation to theTYT Yang Di Pertua's 69th Birthday. For Koh Chye it was a trip down memory lane, recollecting his younger days in Penang. The most important of which was meeting his wife Karen there. The other being, developing that ever lasting brotherly bond with R Yogeswaran and of course the call up to the national team. Therefore Penang always had a special place in his heart and he wanted the Carnival there to achieve something unique.

For the first time ladies including players, coaches and officials were granted the same recognition status as the men to be classified as "Hockey Greats". Probably falling in love with his wife Karen in Penang during his younger days must have prompted this thought process. Dato Mary Ritchie, Shanta Dewi, Anna Khor and the late Dorothy Sibert were the first batch of ladies to be officially recognised as "Hockey Greats". What a transformation the title"Hockey Greats" has achieved.

Koe Chong Jin at the age of 18 was the only Penang bred player to become Koh Chye's teammate for the 1968 Mexico Olympic. As Captain of the squad Koh Chye always made sure that everyone had a fair input into the team There was no pulling of ranks per Chong Jin. Penang honoured 46 personalities as "Hockey Greats" of which 6 of them had been under Koh Chye when he was a coach or team manager. Most of the others were in special category for being long serving officials or players for the state. Koh Chye always had a special mention for the late N Valupillay, the late Hayati Meah, Titus Havelock and Bob Rajendran. They are people he had interacted over the years and had developed a good relationship.

All in all, the Penang chapter had completed the evolution of the categories of "Hockey Greats". In the main this is a legacy of Ho Koh Chye as he not only wanted young kids and their family involvement but he wanted the players and officials who had served dedicatedly for the nation and state to also be recognised. To date 197 former internationals, officials and parents have received the honour of being called"Hockey Greats". Indeed discussion was underway with Koh Chye to look at Selangor or Kuala Lumpur this year. Many other events had come and such it was not possible. Yet, the "Hockey Greats" is a legacy Ho Koh Chye has started and now it is a journey to ensure that legacy continues as would the memory of Koh Chye.

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