Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ow still a game changer

Sea Games – 1973 Singapore (2nd), 1975 Bangkok (gold), 1977 Kuala Lumpur (gold), 1979 Jakarta (gold)
Asian Games – 1974 Tehran (third),
Olympics – 1976 Montreal (8th), 1980 Moscow (boycott), 1984 Los Angeles (11th)
World Cup – 1978 Buenos Aires (9th), 1982 Bombay (10th)
Lahore International Hockey tournament 1976 (4th)
Esanda World Hockey tournament 1979 (9th)
Nehru Memorial tournament New Delhi (3rd)
Inter Continental Cup KL 1981 (2nd)
Pesta Sukan Singapore 1981 (champion)
Captained the Malaysian team – 1979-1982
Voted Malaysian Hockey team Player of the year for Malaysian Sportsman of the Year Award - 1979, 1980 and 1981
Voted best player – Jakarta Sea Games, Esanda World Hockey tournament
Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame - 2013

Datuk Ow Soon Kooi, former national hockey team captain has done equally well as a businessman but his philosophy of keeping his head firmly screwed to his head, sees him give back so much to the game and remembers his friends.
The former police officer who turned 60 last October 19 has never forgotten where he came from and his generous nature is a rare commodity among those who gone on to become successful in life.
Ow, the right-inside half, who donned national hockey colours for eleven years from 1973 to 1984 and captained the team from 1979 to 1982, is tenth from a poor family of 13 in Georgetown, Penang.
But it was his love for hockey and people who cared for him, that made a difference in his life.
“I cannot forget my early days when I was struggling to make ends meet and even applied for exemption for school fees of $7.50 from the State Education department who granted me the exemption,” recalled Ow of his early days.
“I am indeed lucky to be what I am today and owe it to many people along the way. I am forever indebted to them.
“That is why, I give back to the game whatever I can and never forget my roots,” said Ow who has given employment to several hockey players including Mirnawan Nawawi.
However, Ow for all his generosity is not a publicity seeker. I have been trying to coax him to give me this interview for more than six months, and each time he has declined.
His answer to me each time I ask him: “There are so many other deserving people out there who should be interviewed.”
 But this time around, I managed to finally convince him that it is about time I wrote about him and would make a good Chinese New Year story, and he reluctantly agreed.
Asked how as a Chinese boy he got hooked to hockey, he immediately retorted that there were many Chinese hockey players who have made a name for themselves.
Ow’s love for hockey started when he joined Penang Free School in 1968.

“Penang Free School was noted for its prowess in hockey and the hockey teacher N. Velu Pillay played a key role in developing me,” revealed Ow who was in Francis Light School during his primary school days.
“It all started when the Universiti Malaya (UM) team came to my school to play our school team in a friendly match in 1969. The UM team had an array of international stars and I just fell in love with the game.
“Coupled with Free School having produced players like (Tan Sri) Bashir Ahmad Abdul Majid, Dr Goh Hong Guan and Koe Chong Tin who played in the Mexico Olympics, I wanted to emulate them.”
Ow made his debut for his school as a Form Two 14-year-old student playing for the Under-15 team and there was no stopping from there on.
“I was simply crazy of the game. But being a poor student, my first stick was my elder brother’s old stick which was lying in my home.
“I still remember a hockey stick through the school cost $1.20 and were allowed to pay in instalments of 20 cents monthly, but I could not even afford that.
“But using my old hockey stick I managed to impress upon Mr Velu and was used in different positions because I was fit and fast.”
Ow went on to play for the Penang Under-23 and State team from 1970 to 1976 before making his national debut at the 1973 Sea Games in Singapore with the national ‘B’ team who lost to Singapore by a solitary goal in the final.
Ow had then played alongside K.T. Rajan, Mohinder Singh, K. Bala and Poon Fook Loke, all of who went to become regular national players for more than a decade.
But it was not smooth sailing all the way for Ow.
Ow failed to pass his Malaysian Certificate of Education (MCE and now SPM) and had to find work immediately after school and started off as a waiter at a hotel in Penang.
But he was sacked after a while as he was taking too much time-off for hockey.
It was then that Osman Kamal, hockey convenor of Penang Port Commission PPC), who was the PPC’s security chief, who saw Ow play and was impressed.
“Osman found out that I was jobless and was from a poor family and decided to offer me a job as a fireman in 1974.
“Osman continue look over me and asked me to re-sit for my MCE, which I did privately and passed. He then promoted me to a security clerk. He was my ‘godfather’. If not for him spotting me and encouraging me to re-sit for my MCE, I will not be what I am today.”
Ow then applied to join the Police Force which Osman assisted again and was recruited as Probationary Inspector in 1976.
But in the end, Ow left as a disillusioned officer when he opted out for retirement at the age of 40 as Chief Inspector.
“I was over looked for promotion because they felt that I neglected my duties as a police officer because of my involvement in hockey for the nation. The officer told me to get out of the room saying that the promotion should go to the officers who did my job while I was away on national duty. They were also upset that I received an AMN award for my hockey prowess in 1982,” said Ow with a tinge of sadness.
“I was asked to for promotion interviews five times after that and I refused because it was the same officer who was leading the interview.”
Ow then joined the Waz Lian Group of companies headed by Tan Sri Ta Kin Yan.
“Tan Sri was the team manager of the hockey team I played for – Chui Lok – when I first came to Kuala Lumpur in 1976 and when I left the police force, he roped me in.”
Ow is currently the chairman and director of Waz Lian Hotel Management Sdn Berhad who manages the Olympic Sports Hotel and director of several other companies.

Ow stayed away from hockey for 18 years to concentrate on his job before he was appointed as a member of the Malaysian Hockey Federation (now Malaysian Hockey Confederation - MHC) disciplinary board from 2008 to 2009 before being appointed as Independent Council member from 2010 to 2012.
Ow was asked to be president of Penang State Hockey Association in 2011 which was vacant then, and then elected in as president in 2012. He then relinquished his independent post and became MHC Council member by virtue of president of PHA.
“I am back in the game because it is my passion and in my blood. The game gave me so much and it is only logical that I return to the game and give back whatever I can.”
Ow who is married to Christine Lim and has three sons, Sean (an accountant), Dr Darren (based in Melbourne) and Julian (second year medical student) said that all his three sons played hockey, but stopped to concentrate on their studies.
“I did not want them to go through the tough life I had and wanted them to have a career,” said Ow.
However, his passion for hockey development is undying. In Penang, he had built and donated the first indoor hockey pitch to his alma mater and named it in memory of Master Velu.
Under the PHA, a development programme for kids from 12 years-old to 18 under three centres – Penang Free School, Mutiara Impian and Bertam – have been set up and 150 kids are involved.
Ow has recruited former international M. Mahendran to assist in the programme together with Bob Rajendran and Leo Vinai (women hockey).
Due to lack of artificial turfs in Penang, the teams travel to Sungei Petani on weekends for training and Ow has donated a van for the programme to transport the players. A clubhouse with gym equipment has also been setup in Kampong Kovil in Bertam.
There is speculations that Ow could be nominated for MHC’s vice-president post in the coming elections, but he is non-committal.
“I am suffering from cervical spondylosis and it is affecting me. I do not know if I can execute my job to the fullest if I go for one of the vice-presidents post. I will wait and see.”
Question:  Most memorable
Ow: The 1976 Montreal Olympics (finished eighth). We could have finished higher if we did not lose to Spain narrowly (2-1).
Q: Best team
Ow: Moscow Olympics 1980 team. We had a young, fit and talented team and after two years of training we missed the Games because of the boycott. I believed we would have done well.
Q: Most disappointing
The 1984 Olympics squad. It had tremendous potential but finished eleventh.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Golf a long shot from stardom


 Level Field  

Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s announcement at the end of the Malaysian Open at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club that RM2 million will be given to the Malaysian Golf Association (MGA) to promote the sport at school level was met with mixed reaction.
Clearly, Najib wants to see more of us pick up the sport. He said it should be accessible to Malaysians at all levels as that would help produce top golfers in this country in the future.
He congratulated MGA on having started a golf programme in which 11 schools are participating.
While Najib’s gesture was seen as noble by some, many felt he did not think it through before extending his generosity.
The consensus among golf enthusiasts, especially the national veterans, is that the money could be better spent on building a public course that is affordable to all.
Donating money to MGA for the development of the sport is fine, but many feel it will only be enjoyed by a select few.
Veteran V. Nellan, 63, who started off in the sport as a 13-year-old caddy at the Royal Selangor Golf Club, said golf is an expensive game. “For it to be played by more, it has to be affordable,” he added.
Nellan grew up with golf because his parents were in charge of ground maintenance at RSGC. The family lived in the staff quarters on the fringe of the 18th hole.
Nellan started caddying when he was just seven to earn pocket money for school - he was paid 50 cents for each job. He dropped out of school at 15 to play golf.
Caddying, which used to be the first stage of training for future golfers, is slowly dying out. Our young people these days are not interested in being caddies as it involves long hours and is tiring. No wonder golf clubs opt for foreign caddies, especially Indonesian women.
Moreover, the few local caddies, especially at the smaller clubs and out of the city, are there just to earn some money. They just want to carry the bag, get paid for it and go home. They are not interested in playing the game and hardly give any tips to golfers on the course.
Besides Nellan, other Malaysian top golfers also started off as caddies, including P. Gunasegaran, who in 1994 came within a whisker of winning the Malaysian Open at RSGC but lost to Sweden’s Joakim Haeggmann in a play-off.
Other caddies who made good as golfers are M. Ramayah, R. Nachimutu, S. Sivachandran, P. Segaran, Mohd Shaaban Hussin and Khairul Adri to name a few.
Meanwhile, exorbitant club membership and expensive green fees mean golf is not for the average wage earner.
Also, most clubs do not have structured junior development programmes, depriving many aspiring golfers of the chance to take up the game.
With few public courses or driving ranges, what is there to encourage Malaysians to play golf?
Besides, playing a round of golf at the two public courses in the Klang Valley – Kinara and Sri Subang – is no cheap affair.
Fortunately, currently about 300 to 400 junior golfers have competed under the SportExcel programme which was started 24 years ago.
Golf was the first sport for which a junior programme was organised by SportExcel, and today, in collaboration with the various sports associations, there are also programmes for squash, bowling, cycling, shooting, cricket, swimming, diving, rhythmic gymnastics, artistic gymnastics, tennis, sepak takraw, athletics and taekwondo.
The programmes are managed with the support of both the government and the private sector with the National Sports Council and Milo as the main partners. There are also 20 charter members (companies) that support the programme with RM15,000 a year and project sponsors like AmBank that are title sponsors for tournaments with contributions that range from RM20,000 to RM100,000.
SportExcel has two golf circuits – the national junior circuit (10 legs including the grand final) and the premier elite circuit (five legs) – that are held throughout Malaysia on different courses that present different challenges.
In 2012, SportExcel introduced an international exposure programme for junior golfers with reciprocal arrangements with China, India, Thailand, Japan and Australia.
Among the golfers who have come out of this programme are Gavin Kyle Green, Galvin Kendall Green, Kelly Tan, Wilson Choo, S. Siva Chandran, Nicholas Fung, Ben Leong and Mohd Arie Irwan Ahmad Fauzi, to name but a few.
On hindsight, maybe it would have been wiser to grant the RM2 million to SportExcel. After all, they have a wide pool of young golfers and a proven track record.
In any case, it is not too late to channel some funds into SportExcel.
Food for thought?

Disappearing Chinese Malaysian athletes


 Level Field  

As we usher in the Year of the Goat with our Chinese friends, I cannot help but wonder at the dwindling number of athletes from this segment of Malaysians.
Not too long ago, there was a fair representation of Chinese sportsmen and women in football, athletics, hockey, rugby and tenpin bowling. Today, they seem to feature only in basketball, badminton and swimming, although even this is changing fast.
Malaysia is unique in its multiracial composition and that should be our forte in sports. That is how it used to be when Malaysia ruled sports in this part of the world in the 1960s, 1970s and to some extent, the 1980s.
So, what happened?
According to Census 2010, Malaysia had a population of 28.3 million compared with 23.3 million in 2000. Of this number, 91.8 per cent were Malaysians and 8.2 per cent non-citizens. The former group comprised of bumiputeras (67.4%), Chinese (24.6%), Indians (7.3%) and others (0.7%).
I believe the main reason for the decline in the number of Chinese sportsmen and women is parental focus on education, thus limiting the students from seriously participating in sports at school or in their community.
Independent Chinese secondary schools across the country have about 80,000 students, and counting, not to mention a growing number of non-Chinese enrolments.
These schools don't end until 3pm or 4pm and education is their emphasis - the students are given tons of homework and go for tuition, which leaves them with hardly any time for sports.
The children themselves are preoccupied with their exams and whatever free time they have is spent watching television or playing computer games.
Even if Chinese students show any talent, more often than not, they are stopped by their parents from advancing to district or state-level competitions. Clearly, parents don't see much future in sports for their children.
Of course, the lure of entertainment these days is another factor. Students would rather visit the malls or the numerous cafes, especially in the cities.
Disappearing fields is another factor. Take the Ulu Klang Recreation Club field that is nestled within a Chinese community (it Chinese village project then). It has been taken away by the powers to be, crippling the clubs that served the community.
Many of the Chinese students also go abroad for their higher education, shrinking the group of Chinese athletes for selection even further. And then, there are those Chinese athletes who say they opted out of sports because of favouritism in the final selection of athletes, a problem that seems to exist at the grassroots and school levels.
While this may rankle many, who will deny such a thing is happening, there is no smoke without fire.
Maybe, a fairer process, where the selectors are colour-blind and focus on merit, will see more Chinese athletes come to the fore.
Will the next generation have names like Chow Kwai Lam, Looi Loon Teck, Wong Choon Wah, Chow Chee Keong, Soh Chin Aun, Lim Fung Kee, Wong Kam Fook, Ho Hon Seong, Ong Yu Tiang, Lim Teong Kim, Wong Hung Nung, Mary Lim, Mary Soo, Khoo Chong Beng, Saik Oik Cum, Lee Hup Wei, Lee Chiew Har, Teoh Boon Lim, Ngew Sin Mei, Moh Siew Wei, Wong Choon Hin, Ow Soon Kooi, Foo Keat Seong, Poon Fook Loke, Wallace Tan, Tai Beng Hai, Chua Boon Huat, Ng Jong Pong and Ng Joo Ngan - icons all Malaysians can look up to?
Here’s wishing all Chinese Malaysian sportsmen and women Gong Xi Fa Chai. We hope to see many more of them emerge to be remembered in the future.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tourney lauds Choon Wah

The response was overwhelming as football friends of the late Wong Choon Wah came from all over to pay tribute to him at the invitational memorial football tournament organised last Saturday at Club Aman.
The tournament Initiated by a group of his friends from the United State of America who have a veteran social football team called Wen Parker New York, coordinated the tournament with Kuala Lumpur based International Football Club (IFC), where six invited veteran teams competed in the one-day tournament for 45-years-old and above.
Wen Parker Kuala Lumpur, were the champions of the tournament when they beat Penang Chinese Recreation Club 1-0 in the final, but the real winner was Choon Wah as his friends came to honour the legendary midfielder who had passed away last year on January 31 - the first day of Chinese New Year.
The other teams who competed were Wen Parker New York, Malacca Chinese Recreation Club, Kedah Chinese Recreation Club and Perak Chinese Recreation Club.
The tournament was sponsored by Alex New who is the founder of the Wen Parker team and coordinated by his assistant Ben Wong, which include a full-course Chinese dinner at a well-known restaurant.
At the dinner, the hat was passed around and a collection of RM10,920.00 was passed on to Chong Wah’s widow, Lee Nyok Ching. Choon Wah’s twin daughters Julia Wong Fai Mei and Samantha Wong Fai Lai, another daughter, Jazz Wong Fai Siang, were also present at both the tournament and dinner.
Among the ex-internationals who came to support the event included Datuk Santokh Singh, Datuk Chen Wooi Haw, N. Thanabalan, Ho Hon Seong, Khan Hung Meng, wong Kam Fook, Yip Chee Keong, V. Kalimutu, Khoo Lian Kian, Chow Kwai Lam, Wong Kam Fook, Chow Siew Yai and Looi Loon Teck.
A video of Choon Wah’s playing days was also shown at the dinner in remembering his brilliant playing days including Malaysia’s opening Munich Olympics game against Germany.
On the eve of the tournament, Guinness Anchor Berhad (GAB) through their advisor Francis Yew had hosted a dinner at their Tavern.
“It was a very successful event and the chances are that it will become an annual event. The accolades showered on Choon Wah was endless and it was great memories. He may have gone too soon, but he will forever live in our memories,” said Hon Seong who helped coordinate the event with his brother Simon.
To recap, Choon Wah was the first player to venture into professional football in Hong Kong with South China Athletics Association from 1972 to 1974 before the likes of Lim Fung Kee, Chow Chee Keong and Yip Chee Keong followed suit.
He is among the footballers who played in the Olympics — in Munich 1972 — the only time Malaysia played in the Games. He played in all three matches — against West Germany (the tournament’s opening match) the USA and Morocco in group stage.
His teammates included Wong Kam Fook, Lim Fung Kee, Othman Abdullah, Namat Abdullah, M. Chandran, Khoo Huan Khen, Hamzah Hussain, Sharuddin Abdullah, Wan Zawawi, V. Krishnasamy, Ibrahim Salleh, Harun Jusoh, Ali Bakar, Mohamad Bakar, Loon Teik, Rahim Abdullah and Bahwandi Hiralal.
Choon Wah, who would have turned 68 on March 31, made his Malaysia Cup debut in 1968, playing for Selangor. The state never lost a Malaysia Cup final when Choon Wah was in the team, winning in 1968, 1969, 1971, 1975 and 1976. He also turned out for MCIS in the local league and FAM Cup.
Known for his precision, defence-splitting passes and total control of the engine room, Malaysia has not seen another player of his calibre since.


Future lies in rural Malaysia

IT is going to be rare for sports talents to surface in our cities and even if they did, it will be minuscule.


The list of reasons is inexhaustible, but here are some; the loss of fields to property developers, schools without fields or small ones — no thanks to expansion, the disappearance of clubs that used to promote sports, the lack of dedicated coaches, youth who prefer air-conditioned comfort to the outdoors, the lack of security, parents preferring their children to concentrate on studies and so forth.

Yes, we have sports schools and dedicated development programmes, but these are for select groups only.

What has happened to the good old days when every school-going child was involved in sports, starting with inter-class and inter-house tournaments before the better athletes represented the school, got selected to play for the state at national championships and going on to don national colours at age-group tournaments?

These days, even district level tournaments are reduced to a one or two-day carnival and there are no inter-class tournaments because of the lack of fields in schools or the existing ones being in deplorable condition.

Chances are senior officers and maybe even the minister may get all riled up about these comments, but it is a fact and if they take trouble to go down to the grounds or get statistics on how many schools are without playing fields or have terrible ones, they would be alarmed.

The Education Ministry may claim it has the 1Student 1Sport programme in place, excellent sports schools and state and national school sports meets. But the majority of students do not benefit from these programmes or the duration is too short for talents to be nurtured.

It is all about records these days. For example, some 4.13 million students from 9,980 primary and secondary schools nationwide joined a simultaneous run one morning and tion of school students in a run.

The schools are ready-made centres for sports and until and when they are utilised with sports given priority and teachers trained to handle the various sports, sports is going to continue falling behind.

Top coaches and ex-internationals should be involved in schools as coach educators or even directly.

At a dinner last Friday organised by the Royal Klang Club in honour of former hockey international and coach C. Paramalingam, who recently turned 80 and was inducted into the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame on Dec 13, the conversation was all about Malaysian sporting woes.

Everything boiled down to the lack of playing fields and schools that are no longer the nursery for sports development.

Klang boy Tan Sri Krishnan Tan — president of the Cobra rugby club from 1995-2009, executive deputy chairman of IJM Corp Bhd and independent non-executive director of Malaysia Airlines — spoke passionately about the lack of development at schools.

Krishnan, who was instrumental in developing and giving Cobra a sting, was spot on when he said it is still rural schools that supplied athletes these days.

“These rural schools still have their fields and dedicated teachers and sports still play a key role in small towns where there is minimum distraction,” he said.

Krishnan was spotted and trained by Paramalingam. He went on to play for the Selangor combined schools hockey team but gave up the game when he entered Universiti Malaya to concentrate on his first love, rugby.

“Those days, the elite schools dominated rugby and other sports, but nowadays the talents are in rural schools.”

Krishnan also touched on the dwindling school fields and public fields in general.

“The Chetty Padang in Klang was a nursery for not only hockey but also basketball, football and cricket. But today, hockey has moved to artificial surface in Pandamaran while the field is hardly used as interest in sports has dwindled too.”

The famous Chetty Padang in Klang which produced top sportsmen now in a sad state
Many other fields similarly produced sportsmen and women, like the ones in Brickfields, Hot Springs (Setapak), Datuk Keramat (Penang), the Ipoh Padang and Javanese Road Padang, ACS field and the town Padang in Teluk Intan. At the same time, fields in many other towns that were sports hubs have disappeared in the name of development or due to neglect or youth shunning outdoor activities.

With rapid development in the country, more and more towns are going to lose their fields. Just last week, I drove to Kuala Kubu Baru (KKB) after a long time. While KKB was a refreshing sight with two stadiums and other sporting facilities, the town of Rawang was a shock.

It is congested almost all the time, has become a concrete jungle and its greenery has disappeared. It is only a matter of time before many more small towns cave in to development and sports take a backseat.

KKB, which was a haven for sports training, is underutilised. It is sad because it is just an hour’s drive from the city and has tremendous potential to be turned into a sports hub.

It is hoped whatever facilities in rural areas that are still intact are used to the maximum to continue supplying the nation with much-needed sports talent.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Keeper for all seasons

If only the Malaysian sports fraternity had more sportsmen like hockey goalkeeper Zulkilfi Abbas, we would have excellence athletes and who are equally successful in their career.
Zulkilfi, who retired from playing international hockey after the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, said that his simple philosophy of making the best of an opportunity given to him, has seen him become a very satisfied and contended person both in sports and career.
Zulkilfi who turns 59 on March 2, is currently the Health Director at the Majlis Perbadanan Klang (MPK) and will be retiring next year after 40 years of service with his first and only employer.
He started his employment as casual worker when he joined them in 1976.
In 1978, he attended a diploma course at the Health Institute and returned to work as an officer. He diligently worked his way up to be appointed as Director of the Health division five years ago.
Footballer turned hockey goalkeeper
Zulkilfi’s first love was football following the footsteps of his father who played football in the Selangor League for a well-known Kampong Baru team called Dynamos.
“I played as a midfielder for my school team – Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) Klang) - in 1973 and 1974 and represented the Selangor Combined School,” recalled Zulkilfi the seventh in a family of ten.
“Then in 1975, the school hockey team were without a goalkeeper. They wanted to find one from the football team and the hockey captain Serjeet Singh, picked me.
“I have never played hockey in my life let alone as a goalkeeper. But somehow I got the hang of it.”
The ACS team played in the Klang hockey league too and it was in the match against MPK, that coach C. Paramalingam spotted him.
“Serjeet after the match, told me that coach Param wanted to see me.
“I did not have a clue on why Param wanted to see. I did not even know him. But I went to see him. He asked me if I wanted to play for MPK and said that I had potential as hockey goalkeeper. And the rest is history as I joined them after school.
“I was to report to Chetty Padang where MPK trained and it was here I was moulded to become the country’s No 1 goalkeeper.
“It was also this ground that produced the liked of late Sukhvinderjeet Singh, S Sivabalan, Abdul Rahi Ahmad, Zulkifli Zainal, Mohd Jailani Jamil, S. Prabaharan, M. Shanmuganathan, S. Sivabalan and K. Ghandinesan to name a few.”
Zulkilfi said that MPK rose from no-hopers to champions under Param.
“I can still remember the days when we went for our league matches in the MPK lorries. In the morning it will send the MPK workers and in the afternoon we used it to travel for our matches.
“We used to leave for our matches so that our opponents who all came in buses, would not see us,” recalled Zulkifli with a laugh.
“But all that changed with us emerging champions and we were given a bus.”
Zulkifli said Param told him that he would make the national team and could not believe it when he was called up for the 1st Junior World Cup squad to train under (Datuk) R. Yogeswaran and then went to play in my first Sea Games in the Kuala Lumpur in 1977, only after a year of playing hockey.
Zulkilfi said that Param told him that how far he intended to go in the game depended on himself and no one else.
“That words of wisdom was my philosophy of life. In everything I did, I gave my best and aimed for the highest and it had stood well for me.”
 Full cycle
There was no looking for Zulkifli as he went to represent the nation in three Sea Games (1977, 1979 and 1983) winning gold medals, New Delhi Asian Games where he won a bronze, two World Cups – 1978 Argentina (finished 10th) and 1982 Bombay (10th) and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics (11th).

 4th. World Cup 1978 Team :
       Standing L to R :  Randhir Singh (Asst Coach), Ho Koh Chye (Head   
       Coach), R.Yogeswaran (Asst Coach),Ow Soon Kooi, R.Ramakrishnan,
       K. Balasingam, Sri Shanmuganathan, R. Utayakumar, Avtar Singh
       Gill, K.T. Rajan, Foo Keat Seong
       Squatting L to R :  Zulkifli Abbas, Len Olivero, Updesh Singh Gill,
       Mohinder Singh, Brian Sta Maria, Azrai Zain, Tam Kam Seng
       Not in photo :  Poon Fook Loke

Zulkilfi is from Pandamaran Jaya, the same village as the late football goalkeeper R. Arumgam came from.
“At the 1977 Sea Games, the country’s top goalkeepers in hockey and football came from Pandamaran Jaya. It must be a rare feat.”
After ending his playing days in 1984, Zulkilfi was involved in coaching under Yang Siow Meng together with fellow teammates Stephen Van Huizen, Colin sta Maria, Yahya Atan and Kevin Nunis – as instructors for the Level 3 coaching syllabus.
Param again played another role in moulding Zulkilfi as a coach when he got the latter to coach the Selangor Razak Cup team. Zulkilfi went to taste national assignment as assistant coach cum manager to Yogeswaran the coach and Yahaya Atan the manager for the Junior World Cup in Hobbart in 2001.
Zulkifli then assumed the role as national manager with Paul Lissek as the coach for the Busan Asian Games in 2002 and the Olympic qualifier in Madrid for the Greece Olympics.
 “I totally isolated myself from hockey after 2002 to concentrate on my career. I am very lucky to have had an employer like MPK who gave me time for hockey and it was time I repaid their kindness.
“Besides, there had to life after hockey and with a family I had to concentrate on my career,” said Zulkilfi who is married to Norsiha Ab Rahim and  has three sons Faizu Ashraff (33), Faizul Eshan (28) and Faizul Reza (24).
“And I am glad I had a career to go back too. I worry for many of the players today who are professionals. What will happen to them after hockey. They can coach but not all are cut out to be coaches.
“I am glad the likes of goalkeeper S. Kumar, Saiful Zaini, Madzli Ikmar and Mohd Rahim all held on to their jobs and can make a career after their playing days.”
Most memorable moment
“It has to be the 1982 Bombay World Cup match against Holland where the world best penalty flick taker, Paul Litjens, had five penalty against me and I saved four,” said Zulklfi with a broad smile.
“But Malaysia lost that match 2-1, but personally it was great satisfaction of having done so well against Paul.”
Most unforgettable moment
“It was the Bombay World Cup too, when I suffered a hairline skull fracture in the match against Great Britain. I was in ICU for 76 hours. It was very lucky escape because I could have been blinded,” said Zulkifli.
“Then, goalkeepers did not wear helmets and after incident FIH studied he reports and made it mandatory that goalkeeper wear helmets.
“I suppose I created history in hockey too,’ boasted Zulkifli.
Zulkifli, however came back to play in the 1984 LA Olympics.
“Although I came back to play in the Olympics with great determination because I did not want to end my career without an Olympic outing, but I decided to quit after that because the incident was still at the back of mind and haunting me.”
Most frustrating moment
“It was the Esanda World Invitational tournament in Melbourne in 1983. We were playing Germany and with 1 second before the buzzer went the umpire awarded a penalty stroke and time was stopped and it showed 1 second left. The scoreboard showed 1 second left, Germany 2 and Malaysia 3,” recalled Zulkilfi.
Germany scored and in extratime to beat Malaysia 4-3.
“Till today, I cannot believe the stop watch stopper had stopped time with a second to go when the umpire blew for the penalty corner. If was delayed by a second, the final buzzer would have sounded and we would have defeated Germany.
“That incident thought me how precious one second can be.”
Zulkifli said hockey had taught many things from patience, meeting people, handling media, being humble, conversing, administration and above always keeping a low profile and feet firm on the ground.

“What I am today I owe it to hockey and my coach Param. If not for the game and Param, I don’t know what I would have turned out to be. Maybe a Mat Rempit,” laughed Zulkilfi loudly.