ICON: DATUK R. YOGESWARAN
By Tony Mariadasss
Pictures by: Azneal Ishak
Sports keeps Yoges alive
The best thing that happened to former hockey Olympian, Datuk R. Yogeswaran, was his love for sports which not only made him an icon, but saved his life not once but thrice.
“If not for sports, I probably will not be alive to tell this story,” said Yoges, as he is affectionately known in the sports circle.
Yoges survived being struck by lightning in 1991 while playing golf at the Sentul Golf Club and two weeks later a severe heart attack and another in 1983 when he was managing three Malaysian veterans’ hockey teams competing in the Pacific Rim tournament.
“If not for my sports background which made me a fighter besides being in reasonably good physical shape, I would have succumb to the mishaps,” said the 75-year-old Yoges.
“The first attack after just recovering from the lighting strike, was serious and my heart had stopped several times. I must thank Tan Sri M. Jegathesan who was then the deputy-director of the Health Ministry, who had arranged for some of the best doctors to attend to me.
“But even they had given up hope on me and it was a miraculous recovery and I certainly owe it to my fighting spirit from sports. Dr Jega told me that I was a 20th century miracle,” said Yoges laughing.
Yoges said that besides sports, he owed his teaching vocation to building his character and he had turned out to be.
Yoges did his teachers’ training at Malayan Teachers College in Penang in 1961 for two years together with his good friend the late Datuk Ho Koh Chye and in 1965 did a one year course in Specialist Teachers’ Training Institute in Cheras.
“Sports and the teaching background was my foundation to my life. It is little wonder that I dedicated my life to sports and enjoyed every minute of it,” said the Sungkai born Yoges who had his sports background embedded in him in Tapah.
And it no surprise that Yoges rose to the ranks in sports because Tapah was a hub for Olympians and in particular the Government English School (presently known as Buyong Aidil Secondary School).
While Yoges played in the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico Olympics and managed the team for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, others from Tapah who became Olympians include hockey players Hamzah Shamsuddin and Aminullah Karim (both 1956 Melbourne), Datuk Poon Fook Loke (1976 Montreal and 1984 Los Angeles) and athlete Datuk M. Rajamani (1964).
And Yoges paid tribute to the late Abdul Hamid Arrop, the father of Tan Sri Datuk Seri Ahmad Sarji, who was instrumental in shaping his and many other players of their hockey career from that era.
“Abdul Hamid, a civil servant, was an all-rounder representing Perak and the nation in hockey, cricket and state in football and he voluntarily coached our school team. He made a difference in all of us,” recalled Yoges.
It was cricket which Yoges first picked up before hockey. He was also an all-rounder playing football and being an athlete.
“The field was my second home. I lost my father when I was 13 and that’s when we moved to Tapah. While mother was trying to make ends meet and bring all of us up, I found my joy in the playing field,” said Yoges who was the fourth in a family 13.
But the biggest impact on Yoges to aim for highest in hockey was when he captained the Government English School to win the inaugural national Inter-School hockey championship in 1957 defeating many bigger and renowned schools throughout the country.
What was even more special to Yoges was that the tournament was inaugurated to commemorate Malaya’s achievement of independence.
“The communist insurgency was at its height then and public transport was not what it is now. The players travelled by bus from Tapah and at least on one occasion, by lorry to the other towns,” recalled Yoges.
“The players had to lug their bags and gear from bus stations and walked to their venues. ‘Beds’ were created by joining desks in classroom.”
But the best was yet to come for Yoges and his teammates comprising Ahmad Shah Amin Shah, Mohd Sidek Mandeh Shah, Harmon Singh, Abdul Malek Shamsuddin, David Chow Kee Cheok, Khairuddin Abdullah, V. Michael, K. Kumarakuru, Sarjit Singh, Farouk Karim, Poonciraman, Roseli Mohamed Noor, Chow Choo Leng and Mohd Ramli Nordin.
The semifinals and final was played at the Victoria Institution and they were billeted at the Methodist Boys School. Beating St. Francis Institution 2-1 in the semfiinals, in the final Yoges, a dashing left-winger scored the only goal beating Sultan Ismail College, Kota Baru.
“For winning the title, our reward was to witness the historic event, the declaration of independence by Tunku Abdul Rahman at the brand new Merdeka Stadium on the morning of Aug 31, 1957.
“I still remember we were seated on Block J (near where the Stadium Negara was located) to witness the event. We awed by the occasion,” said Yoges with tears welling from his eyes.
“It was a very nostalgic event for me and every time I speak about it my hair stands, I choke and tears well in my eyes.”
Yoges has been to the Merdeka Stadium many times including when he made his national debut in 1959 against South Korea, but it was the 1975 World Cup semifinals, when he was the assistant coach to the Malaysian team coached by Koh Chye, that was like returning to the mecca of Malaysian sports and memories of his historic moment came flooding back to him.
Malaysia lost 3-2 after extratime to India in the semi-finals and finished fourth losing to Germany – the best ever finish in the World Cup.
“The Merdeka Stadium is another part which had a big influence in my sporting life,” said Yoges whose wife Datin June Manohara Shanta who has been an equally strong pillar in supporting his sporting endeavours.
Besides playing in two Olympics, Yoges played in two Asian Games – Jakarta 1962 (won the bronze medal) and 1966 Bangkok and named in the Asian XI in 1966.
As a coach, besides being assistant Kok Chye at the 1975 World Cup, he has coached the Junior World Cup team in France 1979 to fourth placing, the 1982 Bombay World Cup team, 1985 Barcelona Inter-Continental Cup and 1988 Inter-Continental qualifier. Yoges has coached at all levels – schools, state, national juniors, national and also the women’s team.
He has managed teams from 1998 to 2002 in tournaments like the Sea Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Champions Challenge, Olympics and World Cup.
He has served in various boards like the coaching and selection in then Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF).
“My whole life has been dedicated to hockey and I have no regrets because I loved what I was doing,” said Yoges.
“Besides my playing career, the joy of having coached so many players, especially the juniors who went on to make their mark as national players, is joy money cannot buy.”
Among the cream of players of the Junior World Cup players of 1979 who made a mark in Malaysian hockey included the likes of Kevin Nunis, Ahmad Fadzil, Foo Keat Seong, Updesh Singh, William Lazaroo, Wallace Tan, Razak Leman, Chin Boon Gee, Derek Fedelis, Surya Prakash, James Murthy and Colin Sta Maria to name few.
“I only wished at the 2000 Olympics when I was manager, we missed the semifinals by a mere 37 seconds when Pakistan levelled to make it 2-2. Instead of semifinals berth, we were relegated to classification matches.”
Yoges indeed is a man of vast experience and a much wanted man by many sectors.
After teaching in St Michael’s and Anglo Chinese School in Ipoh from 1963 to 1973, he was seconded to the Ministry of Sports as a sports officer from 1974 to 1983 including a stint with National Sports Council before quitting government services at 43-years-old to join the bank - RHB - as the head of administration.
“It was a tough decision, but my daughters we studying and I needed to take care of their education expenses. In the end, I ended up not getting my pension as there was a delay in the optional retirement age of 40.
“But it still worked out well, as I enjoyed my new working environment and my employers still allowed me to be involved in hockey.”
Yoges philosophy for sports was simple: “Respect and honour the game.
“But it is a wholesome philosophy because besides respecting the rules of the game, one has to respect the opponents, respect the officials, honour your teammates and honour yourself.
“With that in place, it will be a joy to be involved in any sport.”
While Yoges now only observes the game of hockey from the sidelines and gives advice when needed, his passion for the game lives on.
He spends more time now looking after his two daughters – Shirnita and Shirlena – children these days with his wife.
Yoges has certainly left behind a mark in hockey which will always be remembered and cherished.