PETALING JAYA: Datuk N. 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 Datuk Seri 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.
Datuk Seri 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.
Datuk 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.