The towering figure of K Enbaraj used to be the dominant figure in the defence of Malaysian hockey from the late 80s to the early 90s. This 6-footer started sporting life as an athlete and till today, well over 25 years later, his 400 metres record in Malacca High School (MHS) still remains unbroken. He was in MHS just for his 6th form and the school where he came into contact with hockey was St Francis Institution (SFI).
At SFI he was trained in hockey by a non-hockey playing coach Mr Durairaj. Apparently this teacher was so advanced in his techniques then that he trained the boys to run with the ball using the "reverse" stick. Today as Enbaraj watches the various hockey games he sees this style commonly used and it brings memories back to 30 years especially of Mr Durairaj's vision of the game.
Enbaraj, like most of us, has certain peculiarities and in his case he used to be the "live wire" of the team. A person who spontaneously gives nicknames to his colleagues like "Boss" for Mirnawan. In the case of "Boss" it has stuck on and somehow it personifies Mirnawan. As much as Enbaraj takes the mickey on his teammates, they too have given him back and to many he is known as "Unta" or "Camel". It is probably his height, movement, and the ability to carry sufficient store of liquid that may have prompted such a nickname.
"Unta" is a true "Gandhian" in spirit, of course barring the amber liquid. He gets emotional when he sees people being ill or mistreated including being undermined. He tries in his own ways to change things and usually finds resistances in the initial period. With time and sufficient experience from the setbacks he finds people tend to appreciate and understand his point of view. Something he puts down to everyone's "learning curve".
Used to be living in a glamour as one of the finest fullbacks in the world with the best consistent flat hits for short corners. All this came to an abrupt end when the Malaysian hockey contingent broke camp just 2 weeks before the 1992 Barcelona Olympic. "Unta" returned home and in helping his friends move a large glass sheet, it broke on its own weight which resulted in Enbaraj having a severe injury to his leg. His muscles and ligaments were severely damaged and he literally bade farewell to his Olympic dreams. This also meant that he had to come to terms that hockey was history for him. Something that devastated him as he painstakingly tried to return and it was near impossible. He even had a knee surgery in the hope it would help him but all that only added further frustration to his life.
After a short stint with Yayasan Negri Sembilan in 1995-96, the "Camel" faded a way into oblivion. The humorous Enbaraj was suffering from severe arthritis and the debilitating illness nearly crippled him. The years of suffering took a toll on him and this in a way changed his outlook to life. His philosophical approach of " mind over matter" aided and abetted his struggle to contain the effect of his illness. This forced him to change his lifestyle.
When Enbaraj felt he was ready to come back to society, the timing coincided with the crying need for change in Malaysian hockey because of the declining standards particularly in Malaysia's international hockey furore. Enbaraj together with his friend Azlin became co-signatories of an "open letter" to the relevant authorities, where they solicited the support of former hockey internationals. The group became known as "102 former hockey internationals", who went on to produce a comprehensive document for the future of Malaysian hockey.
This gave a new lease of life for Endaraj and provided the much needed impetus to find himself in society. His break came when he was appointed as coach for Sapura in 2008 for the Malaysian Hockey League (MHL). On his first attempt as coach, Sapura was in the overall final and their opponent was EY, which was coached by younger brother Dharma. The "sibling" rivalry fell in favour of Dharma as EY became the overall champion on penalty flicks.
For the 2009 MHL , Enbaraj became assistant coach to UniKL, a new team in the Malaysian hockey scenario. They were mainly young boys around the age of 21 and UniKL was making a "statement" of wanting to give young talents the opportunity to participate. This led him to continue as assistant coach for UniKL for the 2010 Junior Hockey League. This where one sees the best in the "Camel". He loves working with young kids and he seems to understand their "lingua".
The trial and tribulation he has undergone in his life post 1992, in a way has given Enbaraj a better understanding of people. He believes that everything is time proportional and there are no short term remedies particularly if people are used to certain ways. Change cannot be forced on rather it must be a process encompassing all the necessary elements if there is to be success. Ultimately it must be a self regulating process and this has to be started with the young.
His time with UniKL was very enriching for him. He got to know his players well and slowly was appreciating what made them tick. He may not agree with them but the point is at least he knew their point of view. He stayed , ate and mixed with them throughout the JHL and that gave him an insight. He believes that beyond the resources that is provided to the young players, there is a need for closer interaction so as the young kids also become part of the decision making process. Enbaraj believes this on the long term becomes a self regulating methodology for the young players to self train on issues such as fitness, diet and weight training.
Indeed UniKL's success in the JHL, ie as runner-up in the league and as overall champion is a befitting comeback for Enbaraj to hockey especially in administration. The one-time finest fullback seems to be on the right pathway as he takes upon Malaysian hockey yet again. This time more matured and philosophical having found the inner strength through his "bodily sufferings" and the education process the young boys have given him in the past few months, must surely equip the "Camel" to set the stage to become the finest in his new responsibilities.