FORWARD M. Mahendran has likened the camaraderie of the 1975 World Cuphockey squad akin to the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.
This he says wasthe single most reason on the success of the team in emerging fourth inthe last World Cup played on Malaysian soil.
"We were all single minded in our approach and wanted to bring glory tothe country. There were no prima donnas in the team those days for every player knewthat teamwork was essential to ensure success. We had the barest minimumin terms of training facilities, encouragement or incentives," said Mahendran.
"But that never discouraged us one bit for we knew that the hopes of thenation were on our shoulders."
He said the national players at that time trained three sessions a day. A day would start off with a 15 mile run followed by a training sessionat 11.00am. Another training session would be held at 3.00pm before they called it a day.
"All this physical training helped us to be one of the fittest squads inthe World Cup," said Mahendran.
Mahendran made his debut for the national team at a relativly young ageof 21. But as fate would have it, an injury during training put paid to his hopes of playing in the Mexico Olympics the same year.
"It was disappointing to say the least but I never let it get to me.Rather I doubled my efforts and continued to fight for a place in thenational side."
He was rewarded for his efforts in 1972 when he was named as theSportsman of the Year.
Winning it was all the more satisfying, as he had to fend off achallenge by the Towkay Soh Chin Aun.
"I suppose the votes swung in my favour following my good performance both in the Munich Olympics as well as the Regional Tournament where I emerged as top scorer."
Coming back to the 1975 World Cup, Mahendran said team spirit was verygood be it in training or during the tournament.
One for all and all for one may be the rallying call for the ThreeMusketeers but many do not know that the national hockey team were usingit as well.
"We stood together in tense situations during a match and never allowed any of our teammates to be bullied. I guess this was what earned us the respect of other teams for they knew that the Malaysians were prepared fora fight collectively."
Besides creating scoring opportunities, Mahendran managed to get on the score sheet twice against Poland and Pakistan. Mahendran said that another contributory factor in their success was the ability of the players to play in several positions.
One does not have to look too far to justify his argument. Mahendran played as right inside, right wing and eventually left wing during theWorld Cup.
"This was an advantage. The players were versatile and therefore able to play in any position. This meant that no one was assured of his position and kept the competitiveness for a place in the team wide open."
Mahendran had the distinction of coming up against the late VirenderSingh, the Indian right half in the semifinals.
Virender is well known for his stiff tackles that put Pakistan'smercurial left wing Samiullah out of action barely minutes into the WorldCup Final.
"Well, I think he knew better than to try any of his tricks on me forthe Malaysians had a reputation of playing dirty when required," said Mahendran with a laugh.
Name: M. Mahendran
Marital Status: Married
Occupation: Maintenance Manager Grand Centrepoint Hotel
National Team Debut: Regional Championship, Pakistan 1968 Caps: 179
Awards: AMN 1976, Sportsman of The Year 1972
Asian Games: 1970 Bangkok, 1974 Tehran
Olympics: 1972 Munich, 1976 Montreal
World Cup: 1973 Amsterdam, 1975 Kuala Lumpur, 1978 Buenos Aires.
Coaching Qualification: Level Three
Coaching Experience: Indonesia 1987,1989,196,1997; Thailand 1998;National Juniors 1994/1995; Malaysian B Team: 1987/88; Malaysian SeniorTeam: 1989-1991