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Father of Malaysian hockey

The late Sultan Azlan Shah celebrating with Malaysian hockey players and former MHF president P. Alegendra after a triumph over Belgium in 2006.

Publication Date : 29-05-2014

 

Sultan Azlan Shah is a name synonymous with Malaysian hockey. The late Sultan of Perak indeed was the “Father of Malaysian hockey”

 

Sultan Azlan Shah is a name synonymous with Malaysian hockey. The late Sultan of Perak indeed was the “Father of Malaysian hockey”.

He was the longest serving president of the then Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF), having taken over as president in 1976 from former Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak.

He remained at the helm until 2005.

He was a man known to have a small circle of friends who were very close and stood by his side for decades.

One such friendship was forged at a hockey game some 67 years ago.

Sultan Azlan Shah was then a player for the Perak state team and it was then he befriended a player from the opposing side.

It was a partnership in hockey that lasted almost 30 years.

The friend was P. Alagendra who was to become Sultan Azlan Shah’s able and loyal deputy.

They ran Malaysian hockey through the good and bad times and their friendship never wavered.

Alagendra remembers the start of their friendship very clearly, although it was way back in 1947.

“I was the centre forward for Negri Sembilan while he was the opposite number for the Perak side. It was a match played at the Ipoh Padang. Just prior to the start of the match, he introduced himself with a simple ‘Lan’ and I said ‘Ali’.

“I will not forget the immense contributions he made towards hockey not just in Malaysia, but throughout Asia.

“More than anything else, he brought a human face to the game. His caring attitude and compassion, his simple ways, humility and also his knowledge of the game were outstanding,” said Alagendra.

Alagendra recalled an incident in early 2000, when the Thai women’s hockey team visited Ipoh for matches and one of the players lost her purse containing money.

This was during a Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament.

“The Sultan heard about it and called up the Thai official and player. He gave her the money that she lost.

“At the Chiangmai SEA Games later, the Thai women’s hockey team paid tribute to the Sultan by bowing before the start of the game which he attended.

“It shows the kind of attention he paid to hockey players and how they appreciated it.”

He said the late ruler’s most significant contribution to hockey was the hosting of the annual Sultan Azlan Shah Cup which draws top teams to Ipoh till this day.

It is ranked only behind the Champions Trophy in the world hockey arena.

Tributes pour in for 'father of Malaysian hockey'

Sri Shanmuganathan has credited the late Sultan Azlan Shah as being the man behind the heroics of the 1975 World Cup hockey team.

“Sultan Azlan made us bring out our best,” said Sri Shan, who captained the team to a creditable fourth placing in the 1975 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur.

He said that the late Sultan Azlan was the first chief selector of the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) and played a significant role in the national team’s progress in the 1975 World Cup as well as in the 1972 Munich Olympics, where they finished eighth.

“Sultan Azlan’s active involvement in the team was the key factor behind our strong showing. He was a father figure to the players. Obviously, hockey was in his blood and he was really close to us. He may have been a man of few words but what he said meant a lot ... mostly words of encouragement.

“It saddens me to find him gone. My deepest condolences to Tuanku’s family. We will all miss him,” said the 67-year-old Sri Shan, who was awarded the Darjah Datuk Paduka Mahkota Perak (DPMP) by the late Sultan of Perak only last month.

Another veteran, C. Paramalingam, described the late Sultan Azlan as “simply a great man”.

“I have worked closely with the Tuanku as a player, coach and manager for more than 50 years. There is none like him,” said Paramalingam.

“He mixed freely with everyone. At international assignments, he would come to our rooms and sit on the bed like a friend. He kept nothing at heart because I remember he once made me retract my resignation letter,” he said.

Meanwhile, Selangor Hockey Association (SHA) president Subahan Kamal said that Sultan Azlan Shah’s passing was a great loss to the sport.

“Not only to Malaysia ... but to Asia,” said Subahan.

He said the national team, currently in The Hague for the World Cup, should keep in mind the invaluable contributions of the late Sultan.

“This is one more reason for the national team to give a strong account of themselves (in the World Cup),” said Subahan.

What the others say:

K. Dharmaraj (former international and current national coach)

There had been rumours about Sultan Azlan Shah’s demise over the past two days but we told the players to ignore all that until we are told officially. Now that we have confirmation, the whole team is sad ... all the players were downcast during our team meeting. The Sultan had been a tremendous inspiration for the national teams. He was always very caring and would enquire about the welfare of the players. I met him when I was playing for the national team and he was very down-to-earth. This is indeed a sad day for Malaysian hockey.

Mirnawan Nawawi (former international and current junior team manager)

I played for the national team for 14 years and he was the president all that time. For me, he is the father of Malaysian hockey. His contribution to the game, and more importantly to the welfare of the players, is outstanding. The Yayasan Hockey and the retirement scheme for national players are just some examples of how he took care of the players. It is a big loss to Malaysian hockey and Asia. I will always remember him for the efforts he put in to bring Malaysian hockey back to the top. He was a real sporting person.

Azlan Misron (Perak-born and national skipper)

This is a sad day for Perak and Malaysian hockey. All the players here are saddened by the news. We have been hearing rumours but only today we’ve had confirmation of the Sultan’s death. His contribution to the game is there for all to see but for me, as a player, he was a father figure who made sure that our welfare was well taken care of. His passing is a big blow to all hockey lovers and players, in particular.

S. Kumar (national goalkeeper)

I feel sad because since the day I joined the national team, he has been president. Even after he retired, the Sultan always kept track of the national team and I had the honour of receiving from him the award of Best Player for Asia in 2010. It is an award that I will treasure ... and the moment as well. It goes without saying that he was the number one supporter of the national hockey team.

Zolkples Embong (NSC director-general)

There is no doubt that the late Sultan Azlan Shah is the father of Malaysian hockey. No one can claim it better. His vast contributions will be cherished by all. I was with him on several sports assignments. He was a humble man. It is a great loss to world hockey.

M. Karathu (former Perak football coach)

The late Sultan Azlan Shah played a dynamic role in the development of sports in the country. He was a highly-educated man with a strong passion for the people. Sultan Azlan Shah was responsible for the rise of hockey to world standards. He gave due recognition to those who had served the state well.

Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah passed away at 1.30pm, Wednesday at the age of 86.

 

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