Kuala Lumpur – The demise of the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah at 86 today was a huge loss to the local and international sports arena.
His fascination especially for hockey began during his school days in Batu Gajah and Kuala Kangsar.
He held important posts in the sport as the former Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) president, president of the Asian Hockey Federation and vice-president of the Federation International Hockey (FIH).
Malaysian Hockey Confederation head coach Tai Beng Hai described his committed and determined personality as “irreplaceable”.
“His demise would be a big loss because he was very committed to hockey and his passion for it was very deep and should be imitated,” he said when contacted by The Rakyat Post.
He said one of his fondest memories of Sultan Azlan was when the ruler visited the national team that was playing in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
“He always provided us with encouraging words and always visited us when we were in action.
“I still remember his advice to us: he told us to to keep an indomitable spirit and play ferociously for the nation that we loved.”
Former national hockey player Maninder Jit Singh, better known as “Mike”, said he was saddened by the news of the loss of a man who was the hockey icon of the nation.
“He was the father of hockey because since 1966, he had already joined the national team until today. I got to know him as I was playing for the national team between 1990 and 2002.
“After joining the squad, we grew close and had a father-son relationship because he would always join us on the field to advise us. Every bit of advice was never forgotten.”
He said the sweetest memory of Sultan Azlan was when the national squad got to celebrate its glory of winning the silver medal in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur with him.
“All the players owe him a lot, especially his initiative of opening the Malaysian Hockey Foundation, where we got to enjoy benefits like scholarships to further our studies and a retirement scheme, among others.
“He was also a hockey player and had represented the Perak team in the early 1950s. Because of that, he was a man who understood the players, was enthusiastic when he advised us and always kept abreast of what the national team was doing,” he said.
Mike went on to say that he hoped the legacy of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup would be continued.
“The Cup is now already in its 25th edition.
“If it was possible, let this Cup remain as it has seen the emergence of many talents in the country. This was his contribution to hockey, resulting in us qualifying for the Olympics.”
Former national team captain Nor Saiful Zaini said there were a lot of bittersweet experiences he shared with him and other players.
“He never had protocols on the field because he was very down to earth with all the hockey players.
“He always prioritised hockey issues over official royal duties when he was the country’s ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
“His contribution will never be replaced as he had sacrificed a lot for the sport.
“Without him, the national team would have never achieved a ranking of 13th best in the world and 2nd best in Asia by the FIH.”
The national hockey squad will wear an black armband during its opening game against Australia in the Hockey World Cup on Saturday as a sign of tribute to the late Sultan Azlan.