Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Tribute to two greats, from a legend himself
As an alumnus of SJI, I grew up admiring the school hockey teams carefully nurtured by Vincent Fernandez. They were winners, losing only occasionally to Mirnawan Nawawi's Royal Military College (RMC).
My first tournament as a young fan was the Intercontinental Cup at Merdeka Stadium, yes on grass. That was in 1981 and I was still in primary school. My late Ayah, a keen sports fan and chairman of his organisation's sports club, took me to watch with my own eyes players I knew only through the newspapers - Ow Soon Kooi, Poon Fook Loke, Surya Prakash, Colin Sta Maria...Foo Keat Seong...
The team skipper was Soon Kooi, whose technique, leadership qualities and skills were exemplary. I was in awe of him.
By the time I became a reporter, Soon Kooi who played in the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the Los Angeles edition in 1984, was already mentioned in the past tense. I did bump into him once or twice but he remained elusive for an interview, until recently!
The moment I introduced myself, he broke into a wide grin. "I read your blog..." Quickly I reminded him of the 1981 game. "Yes, we lost 1-0 to the Soviets," he said.
The former policeman is now chairman of the Olympic Sports Hotel, known as the Grand Olympic Hotel under the previous management, the tenant of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM).
I told Soon Kooi (I call him Tuan) the facelift was impressive.
"Now I feel as if I'm in a real hotel."
Soon Kooi even took the trouble to show me the rooms and that his company had gone to great lengths to give the place a new look.
"You see the two halls there?" he asked me.
The two newly-refurbished halls, he said, will be named after two greats - Datuk Mokhtar Dahari and Datuk Ho Koh Chye.
A fitting tribute to two legends, from a legend himself.