Tuesday, March 2, 2010

70th Birthday of an iconic Malaysian hockey legend.

Once in 4 years, the world is entertained to the fascination of sporting events such as the Olympics, the World Cup for various sports, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and so forth. While the spectators and participants are thrilled by the achievements or behest with disappointments, the events are an embodiment of careful planning, hard work, discipline, determination and perfection of the human anatomy to its best, in order to seek the ultimate glory.

Many are just happy they have made it there, others push their bodies to humanly generate that extra "hormones" in their system to fathom the best in them such that it is the "best of best". It is this competitive spirit and nature that makes the difference between "champions" and the rest.

This brings me to the topic of people born on 28th February. They too go through the "rigmarole" of having to celebrate their birthday once every 4 years. Maybe like the Olympics or the World Cups, they too represent a rare breed of personalities who embody certain principles which specially illuminates them in their profession, vocation or sports. Maybe i am generalising but at least i know of one such person who till today "stands above others or with his peers" by going through the journey of being the best and above all he is still subscribing to it as he celebrated his 70th birthday.

This person is 4th of 11 siblings in the A T Rajaratnam family. Born in Sungkai, educated at Government English School (GES), Tapah, he has come a long way from where he was to what he has gone through to what he is today ie the fulfillment of a destiny. This person is no other than Datuk R Yogeswaran, who celebrated his 70th birthday at a very "fitting" place, the Olympic Hotel at Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Building, surrounded by the sporting heritage structures like the Merdeka Stadium and Stadium Negara. These iconic structures and the cross-section of friends who were there gave the function a colourful spectrum to reminisce the past by sharing the comradeship that has held them together till today. It is 1Malaysia at its best.

Today, Yoges as he is known to many is a complete sports personality. He has journeyed through as a player, captain, coach, manager, coaching chairman while being a teacher and thereafter as a national sports administrator. The gigantic 1st step in his journey was not in hockey but rather in football. In 1957 just as the Merdeka Stadium was hastily completed in record time for Merdeka celebration, GES Tapah were playing Sultan Sulaiman Kota Baru in the Malayan Champion Schools football final there. The star of the game was Yoges as he netted the solitary goal that gave GES Tapah the victory. At a historical site on an historical year Yoges started to "pen" his mark into the Malaysian sporting history.

Yoges was a multi-talented sportsman. As a sprinter, it helped him "waltz" his way through as one of Malaysia's natural left wingers in hockey, while the short burst runs gave him a distinct advantage in football and finally cricket rounded him to be a true gentleman. Such was his grace in the sporting world, he easily found a place at Malayan Teachers College (MTC) especially after his scintillating performance and scoring against South Korea in 1959 at the Merdeka Stadium. It is at MTC that he teamed up with another of hockey's iconic legendary sons, the late Datuk Ho Koh Chye. They commenced their "bonding" that made them "spiritual brothers" as the years went on. Both together represented Malaysia at 2 Asian Games and 2 Olympics and each created history as they went along. Koh Chye for heading the hockey ball with his bare head to save a goal against India while Yoges despite his hamstring problem played against India and scored the winning goal. The mighty India was humbled for the 1st time by Malaysia at a Test match in Malacca. It was history in the making.

When Yoges decided to retire as a player he had served Malaysian hockey for a good 10 years. As he left one aspect of hockey he started another and this time as a coach. He received his training as a hockey coach in the UK. Yet again he teamed up with his "spiritual brother" Koh Chye as his Assistant for the 1975 KL World Cup. History was again in the making as Malaysia came 4th in the tournament and that position still awaits being emulated for the last 35 years. Yoges then became coach of the National Juniors and in Paris at the 1979 Junior World Cup Malaysia came 4th. Yet another feather in Yoges hat.

Every good thing has to come to an end, so Yoges also moved on from coaching and this time it was about team management. In 1998, Yoges became team manager of the national team for the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games. For the 1st time Malaysia made it to the final of the Commonwealth Games and won a silver. Another bit of history was written. He continued as team manager for the 2000 Olympics where Malaysia were just a few minutes away from the semi-final when we were let down in the dying moments of the game. With the 2002 KL World Cup, Yoges also gracefully retired as team manager probably recognising that there was not much more he could bring to hockey.

Hockey is Yoges's obsession. It is part of his DNA, and more so as his buddy and "spiritual brother" Koh Chye was in the same boat. Both have families who tolerated their husbands' or fathers' love for the game. That sort of family understanding provided that greater commitment of what they brought to Malaysian hockey. Above all, it is not what they did or did not do rather it is their thinking and their interaction with people from all walks of life that made the difference. It is this fine "art" that is in the possession of Yoges that wins him his friends and make his enemies (if any) dread him.

With the demise of his "spiritual brother" in December 2008, Yoges seems to have taken a "back seat" on the active mode of hockey. He probably thinks with time the younger generation must find their way into hockey administration and do things the way they feel is right. He does not believe that the "old ways" is the only way forward and thinks everything must be given its own weight in merits. Since he has spent a good 35 years in administration of hockey over and above the 10 years as player, it is time Datuk R Yogeswaran becomes the "elder statesman" of Malaysian hockey. Indeed Datuk Yoges must not be seen purely as a role model but rather as a metaphor for aspiring Malaysian hockey players, coaches and managers in their journey to succeed in world hockey.

"Many Happy Returns on your 70th Birthday, Datuk R Yogeswaran."

1 comment:

ex international said...

Dear Dato Yoges,

Ghandhi has your life history right and got to agree you are an Icon. A beacon to the sporting world. A small town boy who has made it right to the top. Your contribution to hockey is no match by anyone. Putting all that aside you are truly a family oriented person. Even with the tireless commitments in hockey you still have managed to be with your family and the close ones. Your daughters have kept you in their hearts to make this happen. Being very stern as coach yet doubled as fatherly figure as well.... A fine gentleman is the order. One of the proud moments in Malaysian Hockey history to bring the hockey fraternity together to celebrate your 70th birthday.