Friday, August 02, 2013 - 11:50
“Not while I am on the field!,” came Wess’ reply, his German accent thicker than Tom Selleck’s moustache.
We were playing Germany in the Four-Nation invitational tournament in Poznan, Poland in 2000. Malaysia was trailing four goals to nothing with barely 10 minutes left to lay.
The Germans were running circles around us and we were tired to the bone. We kept the game as simple and direct as possible knowing full well the main intention was to keep the score down.
We collectively agreed there was no need to expose ourselves further. The scoreline completely reflected the disparity in standards. We knew we were playing against a team of superior calibre. Everyone gave up and decided to play safe. Well, everyone except for my captain, Chua.
He was running all over the field, zipping from one end to the other, imposing his huge frame against the equally buff Germans. He played as if the score didn’t matter. He wanted the Germans to know that Malaysians were never, and will never be afraid of them.
We had a free hit at the top of the circle. He walked past me and said: “I am going to get a goal now. You just get the ball past the first defender. It will be a goal.”
It wasn’t a thought or a half-baked promise. It was a declaration. Resolute and concrete. I nodded and conveyed the instruction to my teammate who was about to take the hit.
Wess stood beside Chua. There clearly was some banter between the both of them. Chua was effectively riling the German skipper up. A fierce shot was unleashed into the D, right past the first defender. Chua shrugged Wess aside and deflected the ball between the German goalkeeper’s legs. The umpire whistled to indicate a goal was scored for Malaysia. Wess shook his head dejectedly. Chua was all smiles, completely oblivious that we were still losing.
I congratulated Chua and asked him why was this goal so important as we headed back to our half. He said: “When I play a game, I must leave a mark. So people will know I was here and that I made a difference.”
Chua passed away yesterday in a tragic accident. While the nation mourns the loss of an amazing player - who gave his all on the field - I reminisce in the joy and colour he brought to the people closest to him.
He played the game of life and left a huge indelible mark. His presence inspired many and his loss will certainly be one of the greatest.