It’s 3+ am in the morning. Ha ha couldn’t sleep and I finally get to do what I wanted to do for a very long time (bukan bangun jadi batman ha ha) – some quiet moments for the things that matter most.
Pak Tuan ada kat sebelah ni, clearly struggling to have a good sleep on a piece of mattress that feels more like a rock. We are in Sungai Petani for the north zone hockey tournament for SBP. We’ve been here each year without fail since 2007 (except 2008 when the venue was shifted to Kangar).
This year’s tournament is officially hosted by Sekolah Menengah Sains Kepala Batas. I didn’t get any details so Pak Tuan and I left for Kepala Batas this morning. It has been quite a taxing 2 weeks (brain wise) so I thought a quiet time from KL is more productive; and given how flexible things are with my current arrangement, I took 2 days off just for this.
We arrived at an empty turf in Kepala Batas ha ha, only to find out later that the actual tournament will be held at Sungai Petani. Pak Tuan has done all the bookings; complete with Googlemap of Kepala Batas ha ha, but we are back where it all started here in Sungai Petani in 2007.
It has been hard since the last few months; especially in the last 3 weeks. The morale has been low on both sides – the old boys and the boys. I could understand the feeling of pointlessness to continue doing this because the constant run-ins and sabotage just sapped too much of our energy. When I met Mr Thaman on the field, he asked me to talk to the boys because they had been quite down in terms of spirit and morale for the last few days (according to Mr Thaman). Well I don’t blame them; it’s not easy to be caught in between the school and a bunch of outsiders.
Talking about the boys, I don’t know what they feel about this. They spend more time there and only see us once in a while especially this year when we leave things mostly to Mr Thaman and Mr Pala. They are so detached from us, unlike their seniors who we pampered a lot more to get the initial buy in. With all the hate mongering of old boys and my batch that has been taking place lately, I am sure they are quite confused somehow. I grow older by the day and could no longer (or bothered or have the energy) to spend time specifically to get to know them; like I did with their seniors.
But at least I know they wanted us there. For the last few days Azu and others have been sending SMS or trying to call. I was busy so could not pick the phone or returned their call. I used to talk to the boys (their seniors) at least once a week. Nowadays I hardly talk to them once a year. It’s only this morning I managed to pick up their calls and assured them that we (the old boys) will be there.
Perhaps, that could be one of the main reasons we never failed to make this trip. Not because of MCKK, that one I am sure of. I think we just didn’t have the heart to let them wait for us to turn up and get disappointed before the game that their no 1 fan was not there. Boys at that age require some attention no matter how macho they put their pretences up – I still get SMS or messages from the debaters asking whether I will ever drop by to see them again. Since 2007, no one else had ever watched their game except the old boys (and Mr Thaman & Mr Pala when they came on board).
Anyway, despite the initial hiccup and confusion, we arrived just in time before the game. Spotted a few new faces. We found out that Mr Thaman brought a few Form Ones and Form Twos – he likes to do that to prepare for the future. I guess all coaches do that, we used to rent hotel rooms to bring juniors to debating tournaments.
I spent 5 minutes to talk to them before the game, as requested by Mr Thaman. I really didn’t know what to say (ha ha ye lah tu) or maybe too tired to say much. Mr Thaman and I agreed that we will put the last 3 months behind and will just focus on the tournament – I wanted to tell that to the boys; but I guess that would just confuse them more.
So we talked about tips how not to be nervous. They laughed when we were talking about the body language, the tricks to send signals to the opponent of your self confidence etc.
That’s one area where I pity the present boys most. Gone are the days when MCKK boys carry themselves with utmost confidence to the point of being constantly labelled as arrogant and snobbish. I carried that tag all my secondary school’s and A-Level’s life – I don’t blame people for thinking that. It’s very easy to confuse the self confidence that MCKK boys were brought up with; with snobbery.
But we were nearly fearless. We may face last year’s defending champion; or a school with reputation – but it never mattered to us. What mattered was how we performed judged against ourselves. The greatest enemy was always ourselves and that made us fearless in competition (and for some; they carry this trait in life later on).
Unfortunately, it’s not the case with the present boys. Not their fault really; but the environment has changed so much that they lack the killer instinct, the self confidence and the demeanour of champions. With our hockey boys, even when their skills match other top players; their fear of opponents always downgraded their game. In the end, they appear as timid and fearful on the field.
But today was different.
After a series of torrential rain that delayed the game for half an hour, the boys were up against SMSAH in a middle of semi flooded turf. It was the best game that MCKK hockey team has played since 2007. The ball hardly crossed the half line and there were attempts at the goal every other minute. All in all there were 14 penalty corners but the water on the turf slowed down the ball all the time – out of all those attempts, in my count only 2 went in (the official results put it at 4-0 in favour of MCKK).
How did it feel? Damn proud. We used to watch SERATAS in awe and our boys got nervous breakdown before meeting good schools like SERATAS. Today I thought we returned the favour to other schools.
Whether they win or not in the next 2 days is no longer an issue with me – I think we partly achieved what we set out to do when we naively first embarked on this journey 4 years ago. We wanted them to have fun, to know the meaning of love for a game, to be fearless, to have the air of confidence and “can do” attitude.
KNO would be proud with the no of penalty corners awarded ha ha and others would feel comforted looking at the manner they hit the balls – no longer any hesitation.
I just hope it ends with some good news this year. We desperately need that to make up for the frustration and sorrow.
Pak Tuan made a deal that we will upgrade to a better hotel if we win the next game handsomely ha ha. But we already made the booking last night, fully confident that we should win today.
Pak Tuan also brought me around Sungai Petani to relax and sample the food. So last night we sampled a damn good kuew teoy kerang by a longkang (ha ha), a damn good laksa penang that made my lips went Angelina Jolie’s because it was full with cabai (!) and Radix Halal Fried Chicken and kopi Radix. My verdict – the chicken was inferior to KFC, but the iced coffee was good albeit over-priced. Ha ha I know KNO would be green with envy :-p
MCKK went on a rampage of curses against this batch generally and some of us specifically. I thought of responding immediately but good judgment prevails – I wanted to let it rest so that it does not escalate further. It will entrap the boys further and make life difficult for Mr Thaman and Mr Pala.
But I can understand the frustration and fury of my other batchmates. Over the last few years we had pooled our money to help MCKK boys. We made countless trips to MCKK to help the boys though nobody ever thanked us. We didn’t expect to be thanked at all. We just expect some decency and manners from everyone.
Between us, we divided the coaching of the debaters, the F1 team, the hockey team and the career program. We had frustrations along the way but not in the magnitude of curses hurled at us.
Sometimes I feel that just because we are relatively younger, people take advantage of our kindness to push us around. We never took a confrontational stand before because it’s our promise to put the interest of the boys first but there are always limits to anything.
I personally felt a bit down (in spite of the unperturbed facade we put up) reading some of the comments from certain fellow old boys. It’s always rich to preach from high horse about character assassination; about telling off younger people to leave it to people who “know best” when you are not there battling all this. Making comments from behind your computer screen is the easiest thing to do – try to do what we have been doing for the last four years; baru lah kami respek sikit Abang! Ha ha.
But then we expect that; so it’s quite easy to brush it off and move on. There are bigger things to focus on.
Nevertheless, Pyan’s email to the batch perhaps summarised the feeling prevalent in the batch. Of course eventually it degenerated into jokes including on how we should write a formal letter requesting for a permission to crash someone’s car with an army tank (ha ha) – but the mood was generally sombre.
My advice to any junior batches who is gullible enough to do this in the future – don’t expect support from anyone. You only have each other to rely on. If anything, it’s a proof of brotherhood with your batchmates.
In retrospect, I understand why not many would have attempted what we did (which even Koja confessed ha ha). It’s not that they wanted to let things rot in front of their eyes – they knew better. It was a case of we who were being too naive.