School sport: Footballer becomes RI’s hockey hero

He's a midfielder for S.League giants Home United's youth team and a goalkeeper for Raffles Institution's (RI) hockey team. "A hockey goalkeeper needs to be good with his legs," Ashwin Unnithan explained.

But the 16-year-old didn't need to use his legs when he saved two penalty flicks to help RI beat Victoria School 4-1 in a shoot-out in the boys' B Division hockey final yesterday.

The match at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium ended 1-1 after regulation and extra time.

The victory marked the first time in 10 years (2004) that RI won the B Division hockey crown.

"I was confident when we went to penalty flicks," said skipper Ashwin.

"I didn't want to let my team down, so I had to stand up brave. When we scored and I saved their first attempt, I knew we were going to win."

RI scored all four of their attempts, while Victoria - who went into the game as favourites having beaten RI 4-2 in the earlier rounds - managed just one out of three.

RI started the game much brighter than their opponents and were duly rewarded when forward Ahmad Faris picked up a poor clearance to rifle home from close range.

Victoria, spurred on by boisterous support from the stands, finally settled down in the second half and equalised from a penalty corner. Marcus Lee coolly chipped over Ashwin after a neat exchange of passes.

RI had four penalty corners to move back into the lead but couldn't convert and midfielder Adam Amir hit the frame of the goal just before the final whistle.

"I told the boys before extra time to keep their focus," said RI's co-head coach, Fazly Abdul Rahman.

"It was the same situation in the semi-final against Northland Secondary. We controlled the game, but couldn't win it until extra time.


"So, I told them to think about that game and how we played towards the end."

An extra 15 minutes couldn't settle the tie, so it came down to the roulette of penalties and Ashwin emerged the hero.

"We beat the defending champions Northland in the semis when no one gave us a chance. That boosted our confidence," he proclaimed.

Victoria's veteran coach Fred Martens cut a disappointed figure on the sidelines during the trophy presentation, but he was quick to concede that RI were the better team on the day.

"The difference (between the earlier 4-2 victory and the final) was that two, three of our boys didn't perform," he said.

"When it comes down to penalty flicks, well, it's also not easy when your best players miss.

"But I'm proud of my boys, considering where they were when they first started in the C Division.

"Their effort and spirit were commendable."

This article was published on April 17 in The New Paper.

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