Published on Saturday 26 July - The Malay Mail (ICONS FROM THE PAST)
By TONY MARIADASS
DATUK Peter Velappan is living proof that one's path in life need not just be a dream. Who would have thought that a Tamil-educated estate boy would one day be dining with prime ministers, presidents, top football officials and big-name players and be a celebrity himself.
Peter, reflecting on his 50 years as a football administrator, is amazed by the journey the game has given him.
After an early Tamil education in a rubber plantation in Siliau, Negri Sembilan, Peter was lucky enough to attend an English school (Anglo-Chinese School) in Seremban.
Many can look upon his achievements with envy and wonder how did it happen.
From the early days, he went to Brinsford, England to attend his teacher’s training from 1955 to 1958. He returned to teach in ACS before becoming a powerful man in world football.
He has achieved so numerous honours in so many fields, that many wonder if this man is for real.
Peter reading a copy of his book Beyond Dreams, which traces his life from the estate to the pinnacle of world football.
Many may not know, but Peter was a keen sportsman from young, excelling in football, hockey and athletics.
Peter, who turns 79 on Oct 1, represented his school in those three sports. He went on to don state colours, too, in all the sports when he returned to teach.
Before long, he returned to his studies at Loughborough University, doing a degree course in physical education sports.
Man for all seasons
It was then that he moved into another area in sports – coaching – as he attended stints with Arsenal and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Upon his return, he became assistant secretary to the late Datuk Kwok Kin Keng with the FA of Malaysia.
While as assistant secretary, Peter assumed another position – coach of the national youth and senior teams for several years.
He was also assistant manager to the late Datuk Harun Idris and was with the national team who played in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Peter’s other appointments included deputy director of sports in the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports, personnel director of Lever Brothers before taking up appointment as secretary of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 1978, a position he held for 30 years before stepping down in 2007.
“I keep wondering how this journey of life was bestowed on me. I certainly did not dream or choose this life," said Peter, who has just returned from the recent World Cup in Brazil.
“Yes, it was my 13th World Cup. My first was in England in 1966 when I went as one of FAM's delegates."
A young Velappan (second row, left) represented his school in football.
“Definitely the most memorable World Cup was when I was tasked to coordinate the Korea-Japan World Cup. It was memorable because it was a diffi cult task and that it turned out to be a success.
“I am glad that I was able to get teams like South Korea and North Korea and Iraq and Kuwait to play the game on the same field.
“I am happy that I managed to implement many youth programmes, introduce new tournaments both for men and women and portray Asia as the future of football.”
“Looking back, I really cannot find any regrets. It has been one journey of experience. “Probably, I was a little sad that former AFC president Mohammed Hammam had come aboard with so much of promise for the game in Asia, but in the end turned out to be a different man.
“Generally, it has been a rollercoaster ride.
But I had no time to think of regrets, only to move forward and make it better.”
After all these years of involvement in football, one would think Peter,, who has been there and done that, would want to take his long overdue holiday.
On the contrary, there is no let-up as Peter is now involved with Special Olympics Malaysia.
He was largely instrumental in getting the International Special Olympics Committee to give Malaysia the nod to host the Special Olympics World Cup in November after Brazil had pulled out at the eleventh hour.
Peter recently launched his book ‘Beyond Dreams’ – a book not be missed by any Malaysian who is passionate about the game.
In writing the book, Peter said: “It is my wish that this story of my life will be an inspiration to young children born to families in poverty. It is education and education alone that can open opportunities to a new world.
However, this must be accompanied by hard work, discipline and assistance of families and friends.”