Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kana still at it!

K. Kanagaraja was elated that it was a Selangorian who broke his record of having been the only Malaysian player to have scored against Manchester United in their last four visits here since 1981.

Kana, as he is affectionately, scored that goal when he was turning out for the Selangor Selection team in 1981 when the MU team played three matches in Malaysia - two in Sabah and one in Kuala Lumpur.

The speedy right-winger in his heydays scored the goal after MU were leading 3-0. MU won the game 4-1.

Kana whom I tracked down yesterday morning to the Sri Johor ground in Cheras (thanks to a former Malay Mail player from Cheras too - MG), was doing what he been doing when I last reported on him in 1991 (read this) - coaching young kids from the area together with his local teammates from the Pemuda Cheras team.

When he spotted me at the field, he immediately greeted me and asked what I was doing there on a Sunday morning.

When I told him that I had tracked him to talk to him about the MU goal, he was elated.

"I was not at the game. These days, I go to bed early and the thought of having to find my way there in the jammed situation just saw me watch the television. Besides, I had to fetch my ten-year-old daughter from tuition that evening," said the 52-year Kana.

"I also did not have a ticket for the match," said Kana who is a Human Resource executive with a construction company.

"But I am honoured that Amri Yahya was a Selangorian who broke my record. He did very well, for he not only scored a brilliant first goal, but scored a second and against two top class goalkeepers. I am really very happy for Amri and proud as a Selangorian.

Kana is a thorough bred-Selangorian because there were three occasions when former Kuala Lumpur mayor, Tan Sri Elyas Omar, asked him to play for Federal Territory, he politely told the God Father of KL football that he was a die hard Selangorian, he would not think of playing for another team.

"In fact, two other States were trying to lure me then, but I told them the same thing," said Kana who last played for Selangor in 1987. He started off with Selangor as a Razak Cup player in 1975 and made his debut with the senior team in 1978.

He played in the Asian Youth championship in 1977. At national level, he played for the National B team and has only four international caps with the senior team.

When asked him about the goal he scored against MU, he recalled: "It was a goalmouth melee and the ball landed at my feet. But I had Scottish international and World Cup defender, Arthur Albiston in front of me. I managed to get past him and slot it past towering Gary Bailey.

"It was a fantastic feeling although we lost the game. At the end of the game, I exchanged jerseys with Arthur. But Rajagobal (current national coach) who had exchanged his jersey with Steve Coppel who was wearing the Number 7 jersey, exchanged it with me because I was wearing the No 7 too for Selangor."

Steve Coppel scored two goals in that game, with the other two coming from Joe Jordan and Garry Birtles.

Asked he still had the jersey, Kana replied: "I never kept any souvenirs from my days of playing expect my winning medals," said Kana who has Malaysia Cup winning medals from 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1984

He has runners-up Malaysia Cup medals from 1980 and 1983. 1984 is a very memorable year for Kana as Selangor were treble champions - Charity Shield, League and Malaysia Cup.

And it was indeed a welcoming sight to see Kana yesterday still coaching the young kids from the Cheras area after all these years.

"There was a short break in 2005, when the 3rd mile JKR field was taken away for development. We then managed to get this present ground and have been conducting clinics for about 180 boys with ages ranging from five to 19 and from all races.

"It costs about at least RM150 to RM 300 per session, as we buy drinks, serve light breakfast and sometimes give bus fare to those players who come from outside Cheras. The money is from the players of Pemuda Cheras and well wishers," said Kana who holds a "C" Coaching Licence.

"The jerseys were sponsored by a friend's company Vyran Holdings. We bought the balls, cones and bips from our collection for this programme," said Kana who conducts the clinic every Sunday from 8am to 10am together with his friends.

Last year, Deputy Federal Territory Minister, Datuk V. Saravanan - a product of Cheras - had helped Pemuda Cheras financially to organise a Deepavali soccer for the children.

"We certainly can do more if more well-wishers come forward to assist us," said Kana who does not charge a single sen for the players who attend his coaching clinic.

"The boys from this area are generally poor and it will be burden on them even if charge them RM10. Cheras is noted for having produced many talented players who have done State or national colours," said Kana who was among the pioneers to put Cheras on the map.

Two players before him who came from Cheras include goalkeeper Lim Fung Kee and Mokhtar Ahmad.

Others players who have donned Selangor, KL or national colours, include S. Thanaskodi, M. Pavalamani, the late K. Ravindran, A Jayakanthan, Azman Adnan, S. Tamilarasan, V. Gunalan, S. Mathen, Mohd Satar Aziz, K. Murugapillai and K. Kanagasabai.

"We want to keep this proud tradition of Cheras being a hub for producing top players."

Indeed a noble contribution and probably Kana and Pemuda Cheras, who now play in the Kuala Lumpur FA Div 1 League, can do a great deal more for the development of soccer, if a helping hand is given.

This year, Kana's contribution was recognised finally, when the Olympic Council of Malaysia gave him a commendation letter as the Olympian Goodwill Ambassador for Community Service - thanks to New Straits Times report by Nuradzimmah Daim. (Read the report)

Indeed, Kana has done Cheras and the nation proud in his small way. We salute you Kana!


Tham said...

Kudos to the great Kanagaraja.

Azrul Amri Burhan and GChandrasegaran whom are also frm Cheras,have don the colours..

Hakim Amir said...

heartwarming report indeed...this is the kind of individual that gives true meanings to being a Malaysian..thanks Tony for this piece. Rizal is right..the PR machinery of the man u tour should have done more 'in-depth' thinking and coem out with ways to include Kana and his peers, and his little charges in the programme somehow..

I remember K.Kanagarajah..what a true Selangorian..even tho' I'm a true blue KL supporter since the days of Khalid Ali, Marzuki Ismaun, Ho Hon Seong etc ..


rizal hashim said...

tony, I've linked this great story to my blog. It would have been nice if it was highlighted by the mainstream media...and for the organisers and FAM to make a good PR exercise by taking Kana and his boys to the stadium and meet the stars in the flesh. An opportunity missed.

tony mariadass said...

Rizal and Hakim,
Thank-you for your kind comments. I could not agree with you more. It would have been a grand idea to get Kanagaraja and his kids for the match - even to watch from the opposite side of the Grand Stand - especially since there were only about 35,000 people at the Stadium last night. I was hoping that some newspaper will pick up the story and use the story - not because I wrote it - but for Kanagaraja's sake.
But I suppose I was it was just plain wishful thinking. But at least I had hoped that my former employers for 27 years - THE MALAY MAIL - would have given some space for this old horse!
Never mind, maybe they want to do their own story and I sincerely hope they do. And there are many more feel good stories out there, if only the sports journalist of today, make their rounds - TURUN PADANG!
Cheers and thanks again Rizal and Hakim.