I took this picture during the launch of Editions Didier Millet's The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Sports and Recreation (Encyclopedia of Malaysia) in June this year. It was launched by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin. It was not everyday that one gets to snap a picture of Koh Chye and his ex-boss, Datuk Noh Abdullah, the former National Sports Council director-general.
"How's your wife, Rizal? Has she gone into remission?"
The late Datuk Ho Koh Chye who passed away around 8.00pm tonight, showed genuine concern for me and my better half Intan throughout our ordeal when she was diagnosed with colon cancer in early 2004. Koh Chye and I developed a common bond of sorts as his son was diagnosed with leukemia around the same time.
We kept in touch through text messages, giving each other moral support in times of need. We were very thankful to the Almighty when both went into complete remission.
It was customary for Koh Chye to ask me my wife's condition each time we met or spoke over the phone. The last time I interviewed him was in 2005, when I was tasked to take charge of the Icons column. As always, talking to Koh Chye gave me immense pleasure.
When I left the Malay Mail in March, opportunities to engage in a discourse with Koh Chye were few and far between. But in June I attended the launch of Editions Didier Millet's The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Sports and Recreation (Encyclopedia of Malaysia) at Stadium Negara. From afar Koh Chye acknowledged my presence and as we exchanged pleasantries, he remarked: "So how's life as a blogger? Your blog has caused a stir in the hockey fraternity!"
I wanted so much to tap his brains but since Koh Chye was preoccupied with his role as the contingent's chef-de-mission for the Beijing Olympics, I told myself "it's OK lah, next time maybe".
Imagine my shock when I was told of his demise and that he had undergone a surgery on his prostate last week.
Koh Chye who turned 66 last month, was due to undergo chemotherapy anytime.
Typical of Koh Chye who shunned the limelight, his condition was made known only to his inner circle. One of them, Randhir Singh, said:
"Koh Chye was one of the finest gentlemen who excelled in his many roles as a player, coach, manager and administrator. A rare breed indeed," said Randhir.
I only knew about his illness upon his demise as my mobile was inundated with text messages from fellow journalists and ex-internationals around 9.30pm while having dinner with two dear friends.
Sports Advisory Panel (SAP) chairman Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad said:
"He sent me a text message today indicating his willingness to serve as a member of the Wawasan Committee of the MHF. His demise is a huge loss to the sporting fraternity, particularly the hockey family. We wanted him to be the new chairman of the Coaching Board but he was reluctant to accept it, saying in all humility that he was old and not up to the task but I knew he was the perfect man for the post."
NSC director general Datuk Zolkples Embong said Koh Chye spoke to him this afternoon, telling the former of his condition.
"We are deeply saddened by the death of a dear friend, a teacher and a boss. Our condolences to the family."
Ahmad Shapawi Ismail who is currently pursuing his Masters degree in the United Kingdom, said:
"I am shocked to learn of his demise. He was one of my mentors as he taught me the art of negotiation in dealing with officials from national sports associations. He did not like to talk behind people's backs and he expressed his anger in a very diplomatic manner. He encouraged us to explore our strengths."
Exploring his strengths was what Koh Chye did throughout his career as a goalkeeper, coach, manager and later administrator.
To Datuk Ho Koh Chye, we bid you farewell. May God bless his soul. Below is the Icons column featuring Koh Chye. Also read here and here and here
DATUK Ho Koh Chye is a rare breed, a sports personality who has been a top-rate player, coach, manager in hockey and later, an administrator and policy-maker.
Mailsport's RIZAL HASHIM remains in awe of the former hockey goalkeeper who was equally adept as a footballer in his heyday.
Mailsport: You are fully retired but still immersed in sports, Datuk?
Koh Chye: Yes. I enjoy the game of golf and the company of my dear friends. As I am also a member of the technical commitee for the Asiacomm 2006 project, I keep myself updated.
MS: Tell us about your early days.
KC: Some 150 metres down the road from my house along Paul Street (now Jalan Yam Tuan) was St Paul's Institution and almost adjoining it was the NS Padang. My parents, Ho Tan Sze and Kuan Yoong, were blessed with nine children (four boys and five girls). I went to St Paul's and developed my hockey skills at the NS Padang. The beauty of my daily activities those days was the fact that we were not restricted to playing hockey. I went on to represent Malaysian schools in both football and hockey. I was a rightback in football and started being a hockey goalkeeper at the age of nine. My involvement and fascination with hockey began when I became the keeper in the Standard Three inter-class competition. As a child, I was happy growing up in an environment that was steeped in hockey tradition. I actually grew up around hockey greats, like Peter and Lawrence Van Huizen, Devendran, Sheikh Ali, Freddie Vias, M. Joseph, etc. Things were pretty simple when I started playing football for the NS Chin Woo Club. Dr Choy Hon Kum, our manager, was provided with a small budget which he had to top up often to pay for ground rentals and refreshments for the team. Jerseys were handed out and collected at the end of a match.
MS: How far did you go in football?
KC: I went on to represent Negri Sembilan. One of my team-mates was Datuk Jamaluddin Ahmad, former team manager of Negri Sembilan.
MS: What do you think of the changing trends in our lifestyle?
KC: No doubt the environment has had an impact on volunteerism and participation levels. People are now working longer hours. More women have joined the workforce, and academic and material pursuits have generally deprived sports of volunteers and participants. Sport is changing rapidly and it is pointless to talk of the past when sport was fun and less business-like. The issue at hand is to find a vehicle that can fulfil the current needs of sports development.
MS: Does the 'win at all cost' mentality pose a huge problem?
KC: Yes it does, even in youth sports. Coaches and administrators, whose jobs too often depend not on their performances but on that of young people in their programmes, encounter countless ethical dilemmas on how to balance their own professional interests with the needs of the athletes for whom they are responsible. Coaches, sport psychologists and sports physicians are enticed, sometimes coerced, into enhancing athletes' performance at the expense of those athletes' health and well-being.
MS: What is your philosophy in sports?
KC: Sports can and should be a place for fun and excitement, for joy, even ecstasy, Sports can contribute to the participants' health, psychological, physical, social and spiritual development. Sports can and should be courts of justice, venues for rejuvenating ideals and promoting the character needed to work toward those ideals.
Profile: Datuk Ho Koh Chye
Date of birth: Nov 5, 1942.
Place of birth: Seremban.
Family: Seventh among nine children. Married to Datin Lee Siew Chan, two children.
Career: Teacher at King George V School in Seremban until 1974, seconded to Sports Ministry and later, the National Sports Council, Retired as Director of International Preparation Division, NSC, in 1992. Appointed Executive Director of the newly-formed SportExcel and served
until 1996. Consultant to the Johor Government for sports development, joint chef-de-mission of the 2003 Vietnam SEA Games. Currently vice-president of the Malaysian Olympian Association (MOA) and member of the Asiacomm 2006 project technical committee. Sporting achievements: Hockey international from 1960 to 1968. Competed in the Asian Games (1962 Jakarta, 1966 Bangkok) and Olympics (1964 Tokyo, 1968 Mexico).
Coaching career: National coach for the World Cups in Amsterdam '73, Kuala Lumpur '75, and Buenos Aires '78.