Windsor John: In our journey of life, many will come into our paths, through family ties, friendship, colleagues, and people we know on social media.
Some of them, will be like ships passing in the night. Some, stay on a little bit longer and touch a part of your life, before they leave. And then there are those few who will leave huge imprints in your life that stay with you, even long before they are gone.
My journey in football, I believe, was through divine intervention.
My baptism in football was by my late father, John Paul. He was a player and a referee. Apart from training me on the basic foundations of the game, he also took me with him to matches he was officiating in. The early exposure, was to set me on a course that only God could have charted.Growing up in this family, where my uncles and cousins were either into coaching or playing the game at a high level, made this path seem even clearer to me.
And it was through this divine intervention, that two personalities were placed in my life, playing contrasting but very significant roles that would shape my football career, and define me as a football official that I am today.
These two men, who had left those huge imprints that not only won’t be washed away by the sands of time, but served as my tutors and mentors, are the late Dato’ Seri Paul Mony Samuel, and former Malaysian football great Dato’ M. Chandran.
Paul introduced me to professional management and administration in football. He was indeed a unique personality, a larger than life character who will be ready to assist anyone coming to him for advice. His biggest advice to me was to drop my idea of pursuing a career as a coach and instead focus on football administration. He said, “You are a teacher and you have both languages at your disposal, don’t waste time in coaching”. That ended my dream of becoming a coach. But looking back now, at what I am today, that advice turned out to be a defining one in my career, and even in my life.
Dato’ Paul as he was known for many years in the football circle, and just Paul to his close friends, had a wealth of knowledge about the game, not to mention its politics too. As the General Secretary of FAM, I guess he needed to be armed with the wiles of politics, as he had to deal with some powerful Barisan Nasional politicians who were heads of their various state FAs. And he acquitted himself quite admirably, considering many of these leaders were not easy to please all the time, more so all at the same time.
I believe, he had much less stress or anxiety dealing with the monarchy in the FAM ranks. In fact, I believe FAM president Sultan Ahmad Shah, and deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, were the least of his concerns in FAM. Paul actually was able to function the way he wanted to, because he had their support.
He was always thinking on his feet, and he had answers bouncing off his fingertips. Which was why, he emphatically advised me to never step into a meeting without being prepared with answers for questions that could be asked. He would say that we need to be at least two steps ahead of the others, and not be caught with our pants down, and looking clueless and disoriented.
I doubt he was ever caught in that position. Even the media, who would leave many an official in FAM red-faced in press conferences, always found Paul, a worthy ‘adversary’. I dare say, even the well-informed sportswriters found him enlightening.
I found this enlightening myself, as through this experience, I was able to confidently handle the international media as General Secretary of the Asian Football Confederation, and even the various stakeholders in Fifa World Cups, as a General Co-ordinator.
Something else that caught my attention, which also provided an invaluable insight in my football upbringing, was his preference to be at players’ lounge, or in the players tunnel, when as the GS of FAM, he should be watching matches from the VVIP stand.
When I asked him why he did that, he told me that he would not be able to remain impartial and advise the Disciplinary Committee on the offences without prejudice, if he saw the incidents himself. He said that one should only base one’s case on the reports presented by the match officials. Of course this was way before video could be admitted as evidence.
He was also very particular with minutes-taking and would require the minutes on his table 48 hours after the meeting. He would say that it’s better to write when it was still fresh in the mind.
When he was the FIFA Development Officer, he would expect my report on his table the next day after I arrive from an overseas mission. Which is why, until today I finish the reports either in the airport lounge, or in the plane itself. That was the training I had, and it was a legacy that I passed on to my subordinates as well.
Working seven days a week and 365 days a year was normal for Paul, and he also expected the same from his team. If there was one thing which I did not compromise with him, it was going to Church on Sunday mornings. But I always made it to office after lunch.Work was his passion and his life. Anything else was optional. I remember family members would try and get his available date for family functions, so that he could attend. And still, he would miss a lot of them due to his travels.
The one thing he did not master till the end was the use of the Computer even though he had one at his table. He used it to play solitaire, a card game that required one to be sharp. I realized that while he was physically clicking on the mouse, his mind was elsewhere on football matters.
My only argument with him, not sure where I got the nerve to do it, was in 2008, when I encouraged him to resign from FAM, as he was not happy. And this was not normal for a man who loved his work more than anything else in his life. Coupled with the fact that his health was eventually taking a beating from his punishing schedules and regime, it seemed the best decision. He was reluctant at first, but was shortly forced to throw in the towel, as his health just got worse.
He had a very short temper and not known for his patience, but would forget about the issue so quickly that you would wonder what was all that about. For the man he was, he actually loved simple Indian food including ‘dhal curry’ and brinjal puree. He also loved traditional cakes.
He told me not to lend people money but rather give them something and not expect anything back from them. Our parents have been debtors but we should be givers and not lenders. He also advised me to have two separate bank accounts – one for my monthly salary for expenses and one for other allowances I would receive doing additional work like competitions, tournaments and events.The second account was my savings, which I did religiously and was of great assistance in my later years.
Dato’ M. Chandran or M. Chandran or Chan back then was a player I grew up admiring. I remember following my father when I was small all the way from Kedah to Kuala Lumpur to watch the Merdeka Tournaments. He was a big name in Malaysian football during my growing up days and nearly everyone knew his name and wanted to be like him as well.
You can imagine the shock and also joy when he met me one day in 1991 and offered me the of position of Trainer to the Selangor team playing in the M-League and Malaysia Cup. It was a dream come true for me as I had just passed my FAM Advance Coaching Certificate and was eagerly looking to make my career in coaching.
It would not have been easy for him to convince the officials in FA Selangor as I was not from Selangor nor played for Selangor at any level. I cannot imagine what he would have said to them and bearing the risks that came with it.
Until today I had have not asked him why he picked me and how he managed to persuade the Selangor management.
Once can learn integrity, discipline and right work ethics from Chandran’s values which I was told was with him during his playing days as well. He was meticulous with accounting and accountability. Every expense was accounted for, and supported by the relevant invoices and receipts.
A man with a no-nonsense attitude and few words, he was feared and sometimes disliked for his coaching methods which focused on conditioning work, physical fitness and positional play.
Diplomacy is not in his blood as he does not mince his words. If there was something that needed to be said for the greater good, he would just come right out and make his point. If he thought it wouldn’t bring any benefit, he would remain silent.
But Chandran, was very, very disappointed and hurt, when it was revealed that some of his trusted players in the team of 1992 were exposed in the 1994 match fixing crackdown. I am not sure if he has forgiven them for what they did to him and Selangor football.
That’s who he is, a man of honour and dignity. He was a silent achiever, who let his achievements speak for him.
A man of very few words and one who minded his own business. In all those years I have known him, he still brushes off any attempt to speak ill of anyone.
Which is why, many will have only good words and memories about their relationship with him.