SEA games 2015: Hockey boys do us proud

SEA games 2015: Hockey boys do us proud
GRITTY: The Singapore players (in red) during a tense moment in the match which eventually went to the penalty shoot-out.

Veer Singh still remembers the feeling when that final whistle was blown, the crowd rushing onto the field, players lifted up on unseen shoulders, and his chest bursting with pride.

His name may not ring a bell.

Memories fade, time ravages faces and bodies, but there are some things that prevail; strong emotions that are burned into the psyche - and history books.

Veer was the skipper the last - and only time - Malaysia lost the SEA Games hockey gold medal in 1973.

But last night at the Sengkang Stadium, the Singapore hockey psyche had new images carved into it, earning an asterix in the record books - and a new entry.

Singapore dragged themselves back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 right at the death, only to fall 4-3 after a shoot-out - the asterix - but they also did what no Games team have managed in 44 attempts over 38 years.

They prevented Malaysia from winning a SEA Games fixture in regulation time.

The last team that managed that were another Singapore side, at the 1977 Kuala Lumpur Games.

But this time it was on home ground, in a jam-packed Sengkang, where the hosts belted out the Majulah Singapura with pride.

Enrico Marican raised his hands above his head, as if in prayer, but it was forgiveness he was begging for from the crowd as he stepped off the pitch last night - but it is a different memory that will stay with him.

The Singapore skipper - along with midfield star Ashriq Ferdaus - missed his shoot-out attempt to leave Singapore clutching only silver.

But there were no more teary eyes as he greeted the media, only a beaming smile.

"At first I thought that this was our time, and no one likes to lose, but we really gave it our all.

FANS' BACKING

"I could feel all the fans behind us - they were behind us from the first minute and they were going absolutely crazy. It was amazing.

"It's something I'll never forget," said Marican, who turned in a captain's performance.

After falling behind to two Malaysian penalty-corner goals from Aminudin Zain (14th minute) and Azwar Abdul Rahman (45th), Marican came to life.

He burst down the wing to give Hafiz Abdul Rased a tap in the 51st minute, then again blitzed the Malaysian defence with just a minute remaining of regulation time, his incisive run seeing Timothy Goh slap in the ball from close range.

"We've made big advancements, and we are getting closer and closer (to Malaysia). One day, we'll beat them," added Marican.

Malaysia are ranked 12th in the world, streets ahead of Singapore in 38th spot, but naysayers will point to the fact that this Malaysian side were made up of mere boys, their Under-20 side, preparing for November's Junior Asia Cup.

But some things fade with time.

When Veer's class of '73 won gold, it was against a second-string Malaysia that had their best side at the World Cup in Holland.

Veer said: "Malaysia were a very good team then too, the 1973 Games clashed with a bigger tournament. And they sent their second team, but even then they were no pushovers," he said before the SEA Games kicked off.

Veer, who runs a hockey facility catering mostly to schools, believes last night's result has ignited a spark in youngsters.

DISAPPOINTED

But he lamented the fact that hockey is still not in the top tier of sports in the country - a fact that has seen him prevent his teenage son from playing the sport competitively.

None of that mattered on a night that Farhan Kamsani believes has injected belief into the game.

"This was very, very special. This is my last game before I retire, and to play in front of my mother on a night when one word - belief - told the story of the stands and the pitch," said the 27-year-old, tearing.

"It was very special, something I'll never forget."

shamiro@sph.com.sg

 


This article was first published on June 14, 2015.
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