KUCHING: Former Sarawak head coach C. Sivasubramaniam’s list of championship wins reads like the calendar of a Malaysian hockey season.
Of significance to Sarawak is the Sukma women’s gold in 2006 in which the team that he led won for the second and last time in the national games.
His time in Sarawak began in 2005 but he also coached the 2004 women’s team just for the Sukma.
“We managed to make the quarter-finals then,” he recalled.
In 2005, he was signed as full-time coach by the then Sarawak Women’s Hockey Association (SWHA) under the leadership of Jennifer William and Margaret Fong.
He targeted the 2006 Sukma title and was given support for the campaign.
“We scouted for players throughout Sarawak and also retained the core of the 04 team,” he said.
The preparation included playing tours and tournaments in West Malaysia. It culminated in another title to Siva’s long list of championship wins.
Born in Alor Star, Kedah, Siva was a typical rebellious youth.
Sport was his salvation and he became a top hockey player as well as a good footballer.
“If it had not been for hockey and especially coach C. Paramalingam, I don’t know what would have happened,” he confessed.
“He saw me playing for Kedah in 1969 and asked me to move to Selangor,” he said.
He flourished there and started coaching early on.
All the highs and lows of a sporting life has passed through him.
He has coached in all age-group levels and the biggest Malaysian tournaments like the Razak Cup, President Cup and Malaysian Hockey League.
He also took the Malaysian women’s team to the 1993 Singapore and 1995 Thailand SEA Games.
A prestigious assignment was coaching the women’s team for the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games after being assistant coach for the 1998 KL Commonwealth Games.
A low point was a fracas with fans during a National League away match in Ipoh.
“I was a player-coach and the fans were throwing things at our bench,” he recalled.
One of his men went to try to stop it but it escalated.
“We were told that our guy was getting pummeled, so I had to act,” he said.
It went from bad to worse and ended up making the TV news and headlines.
He was suspended by the Hockey Association.
“Actually, some of the Ipoh team thanked me afterwards,” he said.
Under Siva’s guidance, Selangor won the Under-21 men’s title in 1991 and 1992.
The 1994 Sukma saw him lead the Selangor men’s team to victory.
He also won the President Cup with Selangor and the Champions Cup with Klang Municipal team. He also led the Klang team to runner-up spot in the National League.
He lifted the Selangor women’s team to a runner-up spot in the Raja Norshikin Cup. He was in charge of the Malaysian women’s team to the Junior Asia Cup and the Asia Cup in India.
He took them to France for a pre-World Cup tourney and test matches in New Zealand.
Not many Malaysian coaches have achieved as much as he has.
His last mission was leading the Sarawak women’s team for a training camp in Pandamaran, Selangor for the postponed Johor Sukma.
Coaches Sri “Murti” Sakrunathan and Dangerous L. Mathew were also with the team.
It was just before the MCO started and they only returned in June.
“It was tough as we could not do much. Fortunately, our compound allowed us to do light training,” he said.
They also watched a lot of training videos.
In Sarawak, he was a tireless figure in coaching beginners to elite players. He has been to all over Sarawak, going up the Baram even.
Sarawak has had top coaches before but not all could do both youth and elite training.
Siva is the rare one who can groom youngsters and handle the demands of elite teams.
He is a fan of practising the basics of hockey.
“You need strong basics in order to play good hockey,” he stressed.
He was happy with his Sarawak tenure but did have two regrets.
“I wish we could have a team I could train regularly.
“I am also disappointed that I could not get the project school approved,” he said.
SMK Paku is the de facto hockey school as it has the only school Astroturf pitch.
However, it has no official recognition as a project school.
His retirement has been greeted with excitement by his Klang friends who are expecting him to be back at his old Pandamaran pitch haunt. He could have left Sarawak long ago.
“I had other coaching offers but I turned them down,” he said.
“I love Sarawak. The people are wonderful and there are a lot of hockey talents here,” he said.
“If I strike the lottery, I will buy a place and retire here,” he joked.
Siva made it clear that Sarawak would be his last stop.
“I don’t plan to coach a team again. The players here are close to my heart and they are like my grandchildren,” said the life-long bachelor.
Sarawak hockey is indebted to this most approachable of coaches.
Thank you for all your hard work all these years, coach Siva.