Param pursues endless love
Published on Saturday 21st June(Saturday Malay Mail)
By TONY MARIADASS
PARAMALINGAM CHELLIAH, better known as Param, is a rare breed of sportsman who having played hockey, became coach has not stop giving back to the game till today.
An all-rounder during his schooldays in the 1950s at Anglo Chinese School in Teluk Anson (now Teluk Intan), athletics was his first love but he also played hockey, football, tennis, cricket and badminton.
However, a hamstring injury at the Perak AA Open in 1955, where he won silver in the 100 yards final, saw him switch to hockey.
“I was disappointed because the winner was to be selected for the Penang Open and at that meet, Ronald Perry clocked 9.9 seconds in the 100 yards race.
“Till today, I regretted missing that race with Ronald,” said Param, showing the silver coin he has treasured all these years. But what he missed in athletics, he more than made up in hockey as a prolific goalscorer, coach and administrator.
Param, working with the town council in Teluk Anson, went for a technician’s course in Johor in 1955 and it was there that he made his state debut in hockey.
He moved to Selangor in 1956 and went on to represent Selangor for 15 years. He represented the nation from 1956 to 1968, playing in three Asian Games (1958, 1962 and 1966) and the 1964 Olympic Games.
Upon retiring from the game, he went into coaching and returned for his ‘second’ Olympics as coach at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
But the pinnacle of his coaching career was in guiding the Asian All-Stars during their Asian and European tour in 1989.
Till today, no other Malaysian has had the honour of coaching the Asian All-Stars team.
“I'll remember it for the rest of my life. It was a great honour to be the only Malaysian to have achieved that honour," said Param, who is married to Navarojini Devi, a retired teacher, at his home in Klang “Hockey has been my life. I virtually eat, breathe and sleep hockey."
Param started playing hockey at the age of eight with a carved stick from a cherry tree, before his father bought him his first hockey stick.
While his contemporaries are taking it easy today, Param would without fail be at the Pandamaram Stadium every Sunday to conduct coaching clinics for children from the area.
This programme was started after lawyer Selva Mookiah saw Param coach a group of children and asked the latter to start a permanent programme.
Selva donated RM10,000 to get the programme started, including jerseys, shorts, socks and hockey sticks free of charge for the children.
Asked why he is still going to the field, Param replied: "As a youngster in Teluk Anson, I saw dedicated teachers like Sam Paramjothy, Goh Kim Beng and (former international) David Navaratnam impart their knowledge, which made kids like us what we are today. That day, I told myself I will give back to the game for as long as I can."
Among the top players whom Param had coached from young were M. Shanmuganathan, S. Sivabalan, the late Sukhvinderjeet Singh, Zulkilfi Abbas and K. Ghandinesan.
Param, who was named National Coach of the Year in 1999, had helmed the then Malaysian Hockey Federation coaching and selection committees.
He believes Malaysia’s prowess in the game will only grow if politics is kept aside, and emphasis given to development and tournaments organised for the age-groups.
“There is tremendous potential for Malaysia to become a world hockey power, only if we have our carts placed in the proper order and those who are knowledgeable and passionate about the game head the various committees,” said Param, who retired from the Klang Town Council in 1995.