HE belongs to a generation of footballers who were both feared and respected in the golden age of Malaysian football.
Datuk M. Chandran may not be a name that rings a bell for the millennials but certainly for many Baby Boomers and those in that bracket will recall the steely, tough tackling centreback. He emerged to not only become one of Malaysia’s leading defenders but of Asia as well.
He became skipper for both Selangor and Malaysia. Later, he would burnish his credentials further by becoming coach of both sides.
Chandran, 74, suffered a stroke 10 years ago but he has kept himself busy despite that.
For the past six years, he has been running his own company selling football under the Nike brand with the help of two staff.
He has no qualms continuing to do business in the sport that has captivated his life-long attention.
“I come to the office several hours a day to keep myself active rather than being inactive at home.
“We don’t do any wholesale but choose to do our business with the various states in the country, including Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.
Even though he is less mobile moving around with the aid of a walking stick, Chandran does not totally avoid football events.
Recently, he attended a ceremony held in tribute of Datuk Seri Paul Mony Sameul.
“Before my stroke, I used to be more active in attending events and functions,” he said.
Now he undergoes physiotherapy three times a week at his home and has regular check-ups at the National Heart Centre.
“One of the things I enjoy now is to play with my two grandchildren, one girl and one boy,” he added.
Chandran, the son of a train engine driver with the then Malayan Railways, was born in Sungai Siput, Perak.
After moving to Selangor, he started playing football for the Selangor Indian Association (SIA).
He was first noticed by Datuk Harun Idris, the Selangor team manager, when he was with his employer then, Chartered Bank.
“I was merely carrying my boots around at that time. You could not join the Selangor team easily back then as there were too many great players like Stanley Gabriel and others around,” he recalled.
During that period, Selangor formed the bulk of the national team.
“Once I got in, I stayed and held my position (of defender) for a long time, except for periods when I got injured,” he said.
Chandran would grow into a strong and capable centreback for Selangor, earning many medals and trophies including the Malaysia Cup. He was part of an enviable line-up of some of Malaysia’s most illustrious players of the past.
“At that time I played with footballers like Abdullah Nordin, Chow Chee Keong, Wong Choon Wah, and Dell Akbar Khan, and later with Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, R. Arumugam and Mokhtar Dahari,” he recounted.
He was soon drafted into the national team and remembers making his debut in Vietnam.
His prowess in defence became legendary. His crunching tackles, uncompromising manner and fierce never-say-die spirit were the hallmarks of his playing style.
Taking over the national skipper’s armband, he would lead Malaysia to one of its greatest achievements in international football.
In 1971, Malaysia topped the Olympic qualification group consisting of South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines to qualify for the first time to 1972 Munich Olympics.
In 1974, Chandran retired from the national team and the following year from Selangor. As one door closed, another opened and Chandran moved into coaching.
As a coach, he proved to be a no-nonsense disciplinarian.
While he took Selangor to a number of Malaysia Cup victories, he remembers not recording any wins under his watch as national coach.
Career-wise he had moved from Chartered Bank to Arab Malaysian Bank where he retired at age 55 in 1997.
Since then he was co-opted into the technical committee of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and later handled administrative matters of FIFA’s Development Office for four years.
He has some comforting words for Malaysian football.
“Our players should think more positively when they play. There are many good players. They should play more games every year. Right now they only play in the league,” he said.
“Back then we played around 60 games a year, for our employers, state- and national-level. You will know how to run in to position and play better with regular games,” said Chandran.
For his service to national football, Chandran was awarded the Datukship from Pahang state in year 2000.