Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rekindling memories

Come November 3, it will be 30 years since my first story was published in the Malay Mail, which I wrote as a stringer.
It was a story on ex-national soccer player Yip Chee Keong who was playing his trade in Hong Kong (left). I was in Hong Kong with the New Straits Times soccer team for the then Inter-Media Quadrangular Games - NST, Straits Times Singapore and South China Post. I met Yip, who was playing for South China FC, after a crucial First Division match against Bulova.

When I returned home, I wrote a short piece on Yip's stint in Hong Kong and the byline given for the story was T. Mariadass. by the late Francis Emmanuel, who went through my story.
Although, I had asked for Tony Mariadass as my byline, Francis had given me bylines such as Tony Mariasoosai, Anthony Mariadass and A. Mariadass as well as T.Mariadass.

Giving different bylines was normal with Francis, especially with newcomers on the desk, so that he and the rest on the guys on the desk could have a good laugh over tea the next day. But after one year of writing, dear Francis, let me off the hook as he had found a "new victim".

Coming back to meeting Yip in Hong Kong. It was the first time I was meeting him and being a rookie, I was having cold feet speaking to him.

But five years later, when Yip returned to Malaysia and played for Kuala Lumpur for two seasons, we became good friends and shared some great moments.

Since Yip stopped playing for KL in 1985, I would bump into him occasionally, but hardly had time to stop and talk.

But last Friday night, when Yip turned up at the inaugural International Footbal Club (IFC) Ruby Nines tournament draw on Friday at the Home and Away Cafe & Bar at Desa Sri Hartamas, we spent time talking about the good old days. At the draw, there were also other ex-internationals like Ho Hon Seong (IFC captain), Chow Siew Yai, Khan Hung Meng, M. Kalimuthu (double international - soccer and hockey), midfield maestro Wong Choon Wah, Kua Kim Lai (Singapore's 1st National captain) and K. Kannan.

The conversations certainly kept flowing.
Yip Chee Keong receiving a souvenir from R. Ravindran, Carlsberg's Senior Key Account Manager. All ex-internationals present at the Victory Dinner were presented with the souvenir as a token of appreciation.

The Cool Dane acts as a cooling agent on a hot Saturday afternoon at Club Aman as (from left) Chin Aun, Santokh, Ravindran and Yip discuss Malaysian football.

And on Saturday night at the Victory Dinner of the tournament at Club Aman, Yip was there again and we had a merry time. Other internationals who turned up at the field or dinner on Saturday included Datuk Soh Chin, Santokh Singh, Chong Chun Yun, Chen Wooi Haw, Looi Lun Teck, A. Jayakanthan, Kamarulzaman Yusof and Yap Kam Choon.

For me, it was blast from the past and I thoroughly enjoyed myself meeting all these players whom I had interviewed at one time or other.

Spending time with Yip, certainly brought back memories of how I first started off my sports journalism career.

For those who cannot place Yip, the midfielder cum winger has the rare distinction of making his international debut in the 1976 King's Cup tournament in Bangkok even before playing for his State (then Selangor) in the Malaysia Cup competition.

The 54-year Yip, who still looks trim and fit, except for his white moutache, has played in the President's Cup in Seoul, the World Cup preliminary rounds, the Sea Games and Merdeka tournament.

Yip rose to prominence through his club - Hong Chin from Brickfields - left to play professional soccer in Hong Kong in 1978. He was among the higher paid players in Hong Kong where he earned RM$2,000 per month and bonus ranging from RM200 to RM600 - certainly pittance compared to what Malaysian players are earning locally now.

But Yip's playing quality and determination to be a top player was very much above current players. Maybe that is why our soccer standards then was something to shout about?

To earn RM2,000 and become a professional player, Yip had to uproot himself from his family and make sacrfices - a quality which is missing these days although Malaysian local players earn anything from RM3,000 to RM15,000 (although the FA of Malaysia caping of salaries is at RM8,000)

To Yip, thanks for rekindling memories for me. Looking forward to our next meeting.


rizal hashim said...

Great stuff, your reminiscent piece. Now who became the victim of funny bylines after you? I didnt know they did that on purpose...

tony mariadass said...

The funny byline stuff was a trademark of our dear late Francis. It was not really a case of victim, but just purely Francis way of ragging the new reporters. I think among those got different bylines include Leon Lim, the late C.Navaratnam. Sadly, Francis passed away 8th January 1984, so did the pranks. God bless him and may his soul rest in peace.