C.Paramalingam: If there was one person who was responsible for seeing my hockey career flourish, it is none other than Freddy Vias.
I had already appeared for Perak as a 19-year-old schoolboy in 1954. In late 1955 as a second year Technical College student on a field training course in Johor , I came in touch with Freddy and Aminullah Karim, both of whom represented Malaya in the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956.
Freddy was a wealth of hockey knowledge and he imparted this to all who came in contact with him and I was one of them. As a youngster I thought I knew quite a bit about playing hockey until Freddy showed me a whole new world of how to play in an attacking position.
Hockey was just not all dribbling. How do you beat a six-foot defender like Freddy who also had the reach? And he was no timid defender. He was fierce and could put you out of action with just one strike.
He told me that almost all defenders are flat-footed and you should study them to see on which side to beat them on the run on. As a centre-forward he told me: ‘‘Don’t run blindly into them. Draw them towards you and deceive them with a feint.”
To frustrate the defender taking a free hit, he told me I should stand five yards in front of him. This will irritate him and he will intentionally undercut the ball which would be an offence and it will be a free hit to you.
He demonstrated to me the wrist shot, which you acquire as a cricketer and comes in very handy in front of the goalmouth. It’s an effortless motion but very effective.
There was the flat shot, punch shot, and the deflection shot. He showed me how to run from behind inside the opponents’ goal area and deflect the ball past the defence. The Indians and Pakistanis were very adept with this move.
The flick was another move I studied from him. It was to draw the goalkeeper out and on the run flick the ball into goal.
I just absorbed everything that Freddy showed me, the techniques, the positioning, running into space. What a teacher he was and a very unselfish one too.
In that single year I was in Johor, I had the greatest opportunity of being in the midst of this giant of a man. Every weekend I would follow him to play for Ceylon Sports Club in the Singapore League and utilised all that I had learnt from him.
After returning to Selangor, I was selected for Malaya for some “Test Series” against Singapore in 1957 and this was the stepping stone as I went on to wear national colours in the 1958 Tokyo Asian Games, the 1960 International Ahmedabad tournament in India, the 1961 Hong Kong International Tournament, the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games which climaxed with the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.
My greatest glory was the Tokyo Olympics where I scored eight goals in nine matches and I dedicated this achievement to Freddy.
I shall always cherish and remember Freddy. He was not only a great athlete but also one of the best fullbacks I’ve played with and against. He was not only a class of his own, he was a man with a big and generous heart. It was all his training that gave me the privilege of playing for my country.