A name Mary So-o cherished

MANY would do anything to make a name in sports.

But would you change your name, for that matter?

Well, that’s exactly what Mary Lim, former national women’s hockey goalkeeper did back in the 60s and 70s.

You see, the problem then was that there were two Mary Lims – one the goalkeeper and the other a striker.

And both were famous in their own rights.

So, to end the confusion, Mary Lim the goalkeeper decided to take up the name of Mary Soo (after the surname of her husband Soo Poh Seong).

That’s quite a big sacrifice for someone who had just started making a name for herself in the sport.

“I didn’t see it that way, though. There was so much confusion about one scoring goals and another stopping others from scoring. So, I made the decision to change mine. I have no regrets,” said the 64-year-old at her house in Taman Gembira, OUG, recently.

Mary Soo, for the uninitiated, has dedicated much of her life to the game since 1967 – when she was only 18.

She retired at the age of 37 in 1985 – that’s an amazing 18 years at the top of her game.

Mary Soo comes from a special breed of national athletes who took pride in representing the country. To them, personal glory and cash rewards were furthest from their minds.

“When you looked at the situation in the 60s, we took to sports for the love of it ... and to further our careers. At that time, money was the last thing on our minds. Playing for the country was supreme and we worked hard to get into the national team as it meant having the chance to do something for your country. Of course, the chances of joining the government service was uppermost in our minds too,” said Mary So, who joined the Police force and retired in 1992 with the rank of sub-inspector.

“At that time, the jobs were either with the Police, PKNS, NEB (Tenaga), waterworks and other similar agencies.

“I must thank former Selangor Police chief Tan Sri P. Alagendra for getting me into the force.”

Mary Soo played alongside some famous women hockey players of that time – like Daphne Boudeville, Rani Kaur, the only woman hockey player to have won the national sportswoman award (in 1972); K. Maheswari, Christina Chin and Mary Lim, of course.

Mary Soo remembers that when she first started playing hockey for her school – the Methodist Girls School of Malacca – she was a fullback.

“I didn’t know anything about being a goalkeeper. Then, I got selected for national training and that marked a change in position for me,” she said.

She was lucky in that she came under the guidance two of the most respected coaches of that era – the van Huizen brothers of Lawrence and Peter.

It was the late Peter, a former national goalkeeper himself, who got her to switch positions and from then on there was no looking back as she kept her place in the national team for 18 long years.

She captained the national team in the 1983 SEA Games in Singapore and also played in the Inter-continental Cup in New Zealand.

A year earlier, the team won the bronze medal at the 1982 New Delhi Asian Games.

The game brought Mary Soo many joyous moments.

But there is one incident which has stayed with her all these years.

It happened in 1976. Then, she was playing in a tournament in Hong Kong and the ball hit her head. It didn’t trouble her then, except for a bit of pain now and then.

And she didn’t think too much about it, either.

In 2000, she suffered a mild stroke due to a blood clot in her head – at the same spot where the ball had hit her 24 years ago.

“It was a complete surprise to me that the old injury had caused the stroke. I have recovered a little but it’s been tough going through the motion now. My husband too is ill and has to have dialysis treatment three times a week,” she said.

“We’re retired now and spend most of our time at home. Our children (two boys) have grown up and have their own lives.”

After retiring from playing, Mary Soo was also the team manager of the national team for two years before finally calling it quits from the hockey scene.

“My advice to young players is to work hard at your game and learn to stay at the top of your game.

“Of course, if you are not willing to make sacrifices, then your game will go nowhere.

“The older players not only had the passion but also the drive and discipline to be the best.

“Nothing beats playing for your country at the international level. I really enjoyed my time with the national team.”

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Sport , Mary Soo , Alagendra , Rani


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