MHS popular hockey master P. Poonendarajah gleaning over the schools' hockey exploits of the yesteryears.
MALACCA: The news that the proposed relocation of the country’s second oldest school - Malacca High School (MHS) - has been shelved by the Malacca Government and would remain at the site along Jalan Chan Koon Cheng, where it stood for 188 years and in core midst of the UNESCO Banda Hilir Heritage Site - certainly comes as wonderful news to legions of alumni members, particularly hockey activists, both local and outstation.
The second oldest educational institution after Penang Free School (founded in 1817), MHS, also affectionately known as the Malacca Hockey School in local sports circles, has not only produced dozens of prominent politicians, royal family members, activist of sorts, academicians but national sportsmen galore, particularly hockey stalwarts, with several of whom making it to the highest level of international competitions - the Olympic Games.
Beginning in the 50s, when Malaya first competed at hockey at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the now late Bakar Said of Kampong Banda Kaba a stone’s throw away from the school field, set the game’s playing credentials list into motion with the late Chua Boon Huat, the latest of a scroll of national hockey talents nurtured at MHS.
Bakar, then played for Malaya between 1948 and 1952 and was drafted into the training squad for the Melbourne Olympics but failed to make the final cut. Among the school’s list of illustrious players are three double hockey Olympians - Koh Hock Seng (1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City), Yang Siow Meng (1968 Mexcico City and 1972 Munich) and Lim Chiow Chuan (1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta).
Chua played in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and if not for his demise could have made the grade like his notable predecessors, as Malaysia is involved in qualifier tournaments beginning this year to make the cut for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Nevertheless, his credentials etched todate would be hard to match. He comes from a rare breed of MHS talents who has chalked up many “firsts” since making his national debut in 1998 at the Kuala Commonwealth Games where a silver medal was bagged.
Chua, also skippered the national team at the 2001 Junior World Cup in Hobart, Tasmania and then went on to play for the senior side at the 2002 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur and the Karachi Champions Trophy meet a year earlier. He also donned national colours at the 1998 Bangkok and 2002 Busan Asian Games, the Champions Challenge I and II (Kuala Lumpur 2001 and Johannesburg 2003) and also the 2001 Kuala Lumput SEA Games. He also featured a record 11 times in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup series in Ipoh.
Close- up of page of the school’s 180th anniversary year souvenir publication relating to two proudest moments of bygone years. One photo shows Poonendarajah (seated) with the schools’ five players (Ali Hassan, Goh Tiong Hui, Danny Saurajan, Siow Meng and Hock Seng) who made the starting eleven of the Federation Combined Schools team in the mid sixties. The other photo shows the MHS Under-18 outfit as the 1965 Malacca Inter Schools hockey champs.
The other MHS produced talents that donned national colours include Benny Tan Soon Seng (1986 Seoul Asian Games and 1988 Azlan Shah Cup series), Goh Tiong Hui (played for Malaya (B) in the 1963 Test series against Singapore), Haricharan Singh (donned Malaysia colours at the 1985 Brunei Games), Ismail Ali (turned out for Malaysia in 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta), M.Selvanathan (donned Malaysia colours at the Asia Cup in Lahore and the Junior World Cup in Paris, both in 1982), M.P.Haridas (played for Malaysia in the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games), Micheal Goh Doh Jin (played for Malaya (B) in the 1960 Test series agains Singapore and the 1964 Tokyo Olympics), Tam Chiew Seng (donned Malaysia colours in the 1982 World Cup in Bombay and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics), Tham Kong Onn (donned Malaysia colours at the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games), Tham Yeow Kong (played for Malaysia at the1979 Junior World Cup) Teoh Choo Beng (donned Malaysia colours at the SEA Regional Games in Singapore).
MHS’ notable double hockey Olympians - Siow Meng (left) who played in 1968 Mexico City and 1972 Munich Olympics and Hock Seng who donned national colours at the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City Games.
P. Poonendarajah, 77, a popular MHS hockey master from 1955 to 1968 and then again from 1972 to 1987, readily testifies that the school ‘production of national playing talents’ like on assembly lines will continue to flow in the years ahead. Coupled with a artificial pitch incorporated in the present day school gamut of in-house sports facilities along with the good news that the establishment’s re-location plan is shelved, hockey has a bright and promising future.
Poonendeajah, who still maintains links with the MHS’ hockey development, coaching and training committee, while also keeping tabs of the school game’s exploits on the domestic and national fronts noted that during the tenure years of three principals — C.T. Wade (1962-1965), K. Anandarajan (1970-1972) and Abdul Rafie Haji Mahat (1985-1991), hockey was treated like a ‘subject’ with regular inter-house and inter class six a side competitions held all year round.
Mister Hockey Poonen, as he is still popularly known in local hockey circles said: “Unlike the other sports and games that adopted a seasonal approach, these regular short game hockey competitions whipped up much interest and participation. All this gave school selectors ample opportunities to pick up talents and potentials to form large Under-15 and Under 18 training squads which made final selection to don school colours difficult.
With hockey playing potentials from our feeder schools so very keen to don MHS colours while moving into the secondary levels, trainees faithfully kept up with daily training grinds and with plenty of predecessors who made the state and national grades to emulate, final selections were made tedious chores.
With parents’ support and encouragement aplenty, the school’s regular winning of every other honours connected with the state and national schools sports council and the state hockey associations, spelt a priority for MHS players, all eager to get a nod from national junior and senior selectors.
Donning school hockey colours was an obsession for most of the MHS students. Yes, we did produce notable athletes and other sportsmen who went on to make the national teams at athletics, cricket, fencing, football, archery and even bodybuilding and taekwondo, but hockey has and will always remain the preferred choice, now that Malaysia occupy a commendable world ranking with qualifying for the World Cup and the Olympic Games.