Team player: In this 1982 file picture, Sultan Azlan Shah is sitting with the MHF panel of selectors at the Asian Games trials at the Tun Razak stadium. Alagendra is seen turning to Sultan Azlan Shah as he made a point.
PETALING JAYA: 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 Tan Sri 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