|Given the fact that Malaysia's hockey has progressed
rapidly over the years while that of the Republic has failed to keep
pace, it would need an overly optimistic man to believe Singapore
can pip its arch rival for the South-east Asia Games gold.
In fact, there are two such men who firmly hold the view that the
coveted medal is not beyond reach.
And they should know.
For they played key roles when the Republic's hockey team last clinched
"In all these years, this is one team that has managed to build
up a high team spirit and morale. Each player is committed to playing
-- 1973 skipper Veer Singh
It was exactly two decades ago when Veer Singh, then 28, led Singapore's
men to the unthinkable task of defeating Malaysia 2-0 in a replay
of the final after the teams were deadlocked 0-0 in the first tie.
And midfield maestro M. Jeevanathan, then only 17, showed why he was
regarded as one of the most talented players when he distinguished
himself in the Sea Games series.
Now, as the competition moves from the grass of Jalan Besar Stadium
to the artificial turf at Delta Sports Complex, these two men believe
Singapore has a realistic chance of reliving the glory.
The sentiments expressed by Veer and Jeeva are not based entirely
"This year's squad is the only one, since
the 70's, that has trained together for more than a month," said
Jeeva. "We have very dedicated players and some of them start
training at six in the morning before rushing off to work."
Added Veer: "In all these years, this is one team that has managed
to build up a high team spirit and morale. Each player is committed
to playing hard." However, both believe the medal will not come
easy. The duo point out that the Malaysians have enormous international
experience while the Republic's team has been deprived of this exposure.
|"The present team is fit," comments
Veer. "If they play according to instructions and take their
chances well, we will have a 50-50 chance. "We have players who
are fighting to get a place in the team. Nothing is confirmed for
He singled out for mention two players - Gavin van Rooyen and Ranjit
Singh - whom he felt were very good individual ball players but he
added that the duo managed to blend well into the team. Jeeva says
that the team's dedication is exemplified by the fact that none of
the 16 players short-listed wanted to opt out.
"This shows they want to play for the country," he said.
"They have been fairly regular at training sessions despite constraints
and they have shown utmost commitment." He feels any comparison
between the present team and that of the 1973 victorious squad is
"It is a different game altogether," he says. "Playing
on grass and in turf require two different playing styles. Any comparison
is inappropriate." Jeeva feels that playing at home will prove
a valuable advantage.
"We have very dedicated players and some of them start training
at six in the morning before rushing off to work ... This shows they
want to play for the country. They have been fairly regular at training
sessions despite constraints and they have shown utmost commitment."
"The team will feel more comfortable and hopefully, we will also
get a good crowd to cheer the boys," he said. For the record,
Singapore's 1973 victory was achieved with goals from right-half Arul
Subramaniam and left winger Naginder Singh.
The chances of repeating this phenomenal victory may seem improbable.
But if the words of encouragement from Veer and Jeeva are anything
to go by, then perhaps history might just repeat itself. And hockey
would be provided the appropriate fillip to re-establish itself.