Class of 1975
The then MHF deputy president, Sultan Azlan Shah
One particular person who was a witness to the drama of 1975 is the gentleman on loose cannon's right, a hockey coach who has helped produce countless hockey players and RTM radio sports commentator, Vincent Fernandez. He was once loose cannon's PE teacher at SJI
Read Ian Pereira's recollection in 2002, ahead of the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur.
IT was the late morning of March 11, 1975. The last preliminary round match of the the Third World Cup hockey tournament was all square at one-all at the Kilat Club ground in Jalan Pantai, Kuala Lumpur.
Defending champions Holland were hanging out for their dear lives against Malaysia who were also playing their hearts out for a place in the last four.
Poon Fook Loke, his shoulder-length hair blowing in the breeze, put Malaysia ahead with a 21st minute field goal - 42 minutes before Ties Kruize equalised with a penalty stroke. Fook Loke, a miniature master of feint, swerve and the first-time pass, paraded all the arts of forward play before setting the match on fire.
While Holland clung on to the richest prize in hockey, Malaysia were not going to settle for anything but a place in the semifinals.
Two minutes from time a pin-drop dead silence settled over the vast Kilat Club ground when Frenchman Alain Renaud blew for a shortcorner in Malaysia's favour.
Then almost immediately a tumultuous roar of approval from the throng filled the air following a final knife-edge contest. I saw Louis Gillet peer at his watch as Franco De Cruz walked back for
the push-in. De Cruz crouched over the ball like a prized golfer for a 12-foot putt.
He moved forward to address it. He had always been a reliable push-in man, but here was a test he had never remotely experienced.
There was a collective intake of breath as, distracted still, he broke away. Then the frightening silence again enveloped him and the entire Kilat club.
And so he did. With no more fuss or to-do, D'Cruz took a pace backward, settled for the moment as the seconds ticked away and boldly stroked the ball, firmly straight and true to his waiting captain and fullback N. Sri Shanmuganathan, at the top of the circle.
But there was still some mileage left for dramatics on the Kilat pitch. Settled for the mightiest hit of all-time, Shan tamed the ball, nudged it forward and flashed it into the corner of goal inches above the ground, just outside the reach of Dutch goalkeeper Derak Doyer.
The crowd burst into another roar and this time it was for skipper Shan who had turned the match Malaysia's way with just seconds left. The engaging D'Cruz, now in his mid 50s - still day dreams about the moment in particular.
When I met him in Melbourne, Australia, sometime back, he was all excited talking about it: "I placed the ball and said to myself: `Come on boy, you have got no choice but to get it right. You just can't afford to fail this time round. Anything could have happened. Even the ball could have stopped short. I even said a quick prayer: "God, please don't let me fail now." His prayer
answered and Malaysia took their place in the semifinals against India.
This brought the crowd to their feet. Raja Azlan Shah, the then MHF deputy president, secretary G. Vijayanathan and team coach Ho Koh Chye and hardened fans were in tears.
The rest of us blinked back the tears as well - tears for the sheer magic of the moment, that unrepeatable point in time.
Our makeshift Press tent with its zinc roofing was hot and in a bedlam. Few sportsmen and sportwriters have surprised the dramatic timing with which Sri Shan fashioned victory.
And we were richer by the experience of having been part of that great effort.
Pounding on our manual typewriters beside me were veteran sportswriters Leo Nathan, Francis Emmanauel, Alex Soars, George Das, Tony Danker, Mansoor Rahman, Tony Francis, Terrance Netto and Bill Tegjeu.
Also shouting on top of their voice over the airways was RTM's eminence R. Jayanathan and Vincent Fernandez, who is still behind the mike after 37 years.
Shan's teammates of that historic squad of 1975 who carved their names in the history of Malaysian hockey were: Khairuddin Zainal, Mohamed Azraai Zain, A. Francis, Brian Sta Maria, K. Balasingam, S. Balasingam, Phang Poh Meng, Wong Choon Hin, R. Pathmarajah, Len Oliveiro, M. Palanisamy, R. Ramakrishnan, Franco D'Cruz, M. Mahendran and Poon Fook Loke. Little more than an hour after victory, the Malay Mail greeted the rush lunch-time crowd with red banner headlines across the front page screaming: BAGUS! WE ARE IN!.