Thavanayagam: In 1961 I left Seremban, my hometown, for Kuala Lumpur after having secured a job with the Ministry of Health. As hockey was my first love I was very eager to continue playing the game.
I met a fine gentleman, Michael Lourdes, older brother of Olympian Michael Arulraj. He was then playing for and managing the Selangor Indian Association team which participated in the Division One League of the Selangor Hockey Association. I began playing for SIA from 1961.
We were not a team of stars but a determined and committed lot who sacrificed our Sundays mowing the grass pitch of SIA at Kampung Attap. We did fairly well and even upset kingpins Kilat Club that boasted the Shepherdson brothers–Mike, Christie and Dennis.
In 1963, I was watching an inter-state game when Dato Chet Singh, the then president of SHA, informed me that I had been selected to represent Selangor in the forthcoming Malaysia Day quadrangular to be played at the Mindef Stadium.
I was pleasantly surprised as the Selangor team was made up of virtually the Malaysian side, notably M. Shanmuganathan, Michael Arulraj, M. Doraisamy, A. Sabapathy and C. Paramalingam.
On Friday and Saturday, I played both matches beating Perak and the Armed Forces. After the game I went to the men’s toilet at the stadium where I met S. Selvarajah, brother of Olympian S. Balasingam, who was in the Selangor squad. Selva told me that I would probably be dropped for the final game against Singapore as the selectors wanted to field a more experienced player.
On Sunday morning, together with some friends from SIA, we went to Banting to attend the wedding of one of our players, Mokhtar Ahmad. After the wedding, someone suggested we taste some Banting toddy which was noted to be the best in Malaysia.
Convinced that I was not playing that evening I had a glass or two of the white liquid. I returned to Kuala Lumpur and had a rest before leaving for the Mindef Stadium at about 4pm on my trusted Raleigh bicycle.
On arrival at the stadium, I parked my bicycle and entered the stadium. There was M. Shanmuganathan or Big Shan as he was known, frantically waving a Selangor jersey and shouting at me to hurry-up. I ran up and he gave the jersey and asked me why I was late. I meekly told him I thought I was not playing.
Anyway I took the field and it was an exciting game. The Singapore XI were a formidable team comprising the likes of Anwarul Haq, Hon Yoon, Chong Beng, Kanagalingam, Kartar Singh and Douglas Nunis. At the interval the score was 1-1 and all the while I could hear the toddy shaking in my stomach! I was running all over the field and the toddy gave me a lot of extra energy.
In the dying moments of the second half, Selangor was awarded a long corner and M. Shan trapped the ball on top of the circle and slammed it towards goal. Anwarul Haq padded it. I came running in and scooped the ball to the roof of the net, thereby scoring the winning goal.
We emerged champions. I collected the gold medal and without a whimper got on to my bicycle and rode into the sunset. I dedicated the win to all toddy drinkers, young and old.