Priceless memoirs of ‘Mr Hockey’

Wednesday, 23 October 2013 11:13

In his memoirs, aptly titled The Memoirs of ‘Mr Hockey’, to be launched on Sunday, Vijayanathan undoubtdly oversees the “golden era” of the sport in Malaysia.

Much of the groundwork on the subject took a good 10 years in the drafting.

Vijayanathan, 80, is uniquely qualified to tell his story. 

He has the nuts-and bolts knowledge of hockey acquired first as a player of no mean repute, playing fullback for close to 25 years with the TPCA, the powerhouse of Malaysian hockey in the 1960s, and the following four decades that were arguably the golden age of the sport in the country.

Strictly a teetotaller and a non-smoker, Vijayanathan maintained a high degree of stamina and fitness that saw him play till his late 40s.

The real charm of the book in essence is Vijayanatan’s candid account of the rise of Malaysian hockey the way he saw it from inside the ‘D’.

He relies largely upon memory to reveal the past in 650 pages held together in two volumes of 52 chapters.

Vijayanathan carries his readers along a lifetime of experience from becoming the Selangor Hockey Association secretary in 1957 and doubled up the following year by taking the secretaryship of the Malaysian Hockey Federation as well as from his mentor K. Ayadurai.

Volume One bares some of the problems he faced with friends and foes alike as a TPCA player in his early life, his family and his school days before joining government service and then the private sector. 

He also served public bodies.

Certain chapters elaborate on his contributions to associations and clubs like the Hindu Youth Organisation, The Malaysian Ceylonese Congress, FOMSO and TPCA.

Volume Two deals more with life in sporting arenas of World Cups, Junior World Cups, the Asian Games and the Seap Games and of course the famous 3rd World Cup in Kuala Lumpur in 1975. 

Here we also have an insight into the goal that he awarded India which gave them their only World Cup triumph. 

Ironically not long after he was awarded a gold medal for his high standard of umpiring by the President of Pakistan.

Interesting reading also comes from the KL World Cup where Viji (as he is fondly called) was not only the tournament’s organising secretary but was also on the panel of umpires. 

He went on to umpire the finals with Alan Renaud of France.

Vijayanathan was undoubtedly one of the finest international umpires of his time and generation. 

He was considered the ‘No 1’ umpire in the world during the period from 1973 - 1976 after becoming an international class One umpire in 1969.

What particularly made Vijayanathan an umpire apart was his body language. 

He complimented his decisions by a show of hand and leg signals that gave little room for supporters to vent their displeasure at him.

His name was often mentioned in the same breath as Frenchmen Renaud, Louis Gillet, Spain’s Santiago Deo, Argentina’s Horacio Sereto and England’s Graeme Nash.

Apart from his time umpiring, he recalls with pride the 1973 World Cup finals in Amsterdam between the Holland and India which he umpired with Hotratio of Argentine.

The crowd having appreciated by giving the two men a standing ovation as they departed the field.

That was not all. 

He also recalls with pride the occasion during the 23rd men’s Champions Trophy at Rotterdam in 2001 when the crowd of about 5,000 stood up and sang ‘happy birthday’ to him on Nov 7. And the stadium’s resident band picked up the strains.

This was a rare sentimental outpouring of admiration from spectators for an umpire never seen before.

In short, the book is vital reading for anyone wishing to have a glimpse into Malaysian hockey in its finest hours

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