On 3rd December 2008, the country was "robbed" of a great sports personality, Datuk Ho Koh Chye. A popular figure, who even in his last hours at home recovering from an operation, was still engaged in discussion on the future of Malaysian sports, particularly hockey. A few months earlier he had completed the national call-up as Chef De Mission for the Malaysian contingent to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Having been embroiled with the Olympics for months including the completion of the various reports and recommendations to OCM, Datuk Ho found the time to have a family holiday prior to his operation. While sports was in Datuk Ho's blood, family was of paramount importance and the holiday may seem to be a divine intervention of getting them together before his final farewell. Now looking back the family would treasure every moment of that holiday.
For Datuk Ho's friends a year has passed by and rarely has his name not been mentioned. Whether it is hockey or OCM or NSC or Ministry of Sports or other sports, usually they would finish a comment by stating, "What would Koh Chye have thought about it?" This is the lasting impression he has left with people. Physically not around yet his spirit and what he stood for continues to remind us of Koh Chye's presence.
His style of handling issues, without having to "upset the cart" is something uncommon in normal people. This extraordinary nature permits Koh Chye to go with the believe that nothing is impossible. He believes people must be given the opportunity to try things out and if they succeed, it is well and good. If they fail, he still believes that they have learnt something which would equip them better for the future. This probably was one of the tenets he utilised to go through life and probably gave him the calmness to handle the challenges he had to face. Indeed the word "NO" was not a common vocabulary with him, as he believed that there were many ways to approach an issue. It was all about finding the right path.
A former Malaysian hockey international K Enbaraj, related an incident in Auckland, New Zealand in the early 1990s, where Koh Chye was the team manager of the Malaysian hockey team for the Olympic qualifiers. This player was not getting his "deadly" hits on target at the warm-up matches and training, which concerned the team management. Enbaraj felt that his attire was too tight-fitting and he was extremely uncomfortable with it and it upset his playing rhythm. The coach did not pay much attention to that matter. However Koh Chye only wanted to know whether if he had the right attire, he would be able to return to his normal play. Trusting the player, Koh Chye took him shopping to sort out the attire. From then on the player was on "fire" and Malaysia qualified for the Olympics.
The point being what may be trivial to others, Koh Chye was prepared to look into and help in the transformation. It may be a small matter yet it was a big issue for Enbaraj and ultimately the team. Koh Chye did not "pooh pooh" the matter, rather he got down to solving it. This is Koh Chye, he had the time for people.
This is where his friends still remember him and are finding ways of honouring him. A former player under him, now a corporate personality Ow Soon Kooi, whose company is involved in the OCM hotel, has got one of the meeting rooms named after Datuk Ho Koh Chye. Apparently he is collecting the various memorabilia of Koh Chye, to be displayed in the meeting room. Koh Chye has the capacity to make an impact on the people who meet him. That itself creates a life-long friendship and one such person is Ow Soon Kooi.
The friend who probably misses him the most would be Datuk R Yogeswaran. Even till today when Koh Chye's name is mentioned, there are tears in Yoges eyes. Koh Chye and Yoges were like brothers and their respective families also understood that relationship. They met in the hockey field as young boys, blossomed their relationship at MTC Penang, deepened their understanding of one another as players of the national hockey team from 1962 to 1968 and thereafter it was a "brotherly" bond that took them through the administration of Malaysian hockey including working together in NSC. For Yoges without Koh Chye is like "his arms missing". That is how close they had been.
While his friends remember him, it is my hope that MHF, OCM, NSC and KBS would do something posthumous to honour Koh Chye. He gave a lot to the country and he did not ask for anything in return. He was always grateful that Malaysia gave him the opportunities and he shouldered these beyond the call of normal duties. Maybe a Sports Scholarship named after him or a posthumous national award or the combination of both would be very appropriate. In years to come future generations of Malaysians would know there was such a high-calibred person like Datuk Ho Koh Chye. What a way for history to record Koh Chye's achievement.
Finally, it is only fitting we also extend our warmest regards to Datin Karen, Koh Chye's spouse and to the family. You all meant a lot to him. Although he gave a major part of his life for the country, it was because he had an understanding wife and family. This probably gave him the peace of mind to venture out and serve Malaysia. We have to thank Datin Karen and the family for giving Datuk Ho Koh Chye the space to have us as his friends.
May God Bless all of you and the soul of Koh Chye.