I have thought about this final piece for a very long time. How and where to start; and lately I thought I should just let it pass.
But Mighty Ducks represents a lot more than just hockey or an unexplainable obsession with a team of boys trying to play good hockey or the world of Malay College. Mighty Ducks was a four year journey that had formed a significant part of our lives. To let it pass without a good closure, is to allow a significant part of our lives in the last 4 years to linger on without a finality.
"For Sam to be whole, all the baggage of the past must move on – and that includes Frodo."
Poignant as any tale of good-byes can be, The Mighty Ducks Project has to move on too. We have to say good bye to the boys whom we have watched over since their first year playing hockey to the time they learn to express themselves more adroitly. We have to suppress the guilty conscience of leaving Mr Pala on his own to look after the boys as we withdraw our physical presence drastically after this. We have to contain the sadness of seeing Mr Thaman off, knowing that we may not have much time left with each other.
But moving on is not necessarily a bad thing.
The boys should never have to rely on a group of old boys for emotional and physical support during their most formative years of growing up. Looking back, with a benefit of hindsight, there’s a limit to how much we can be around for them and it’s never a substitute for the adults around them. With a new leadership who was once in our shoes (attached to a group of young boys eager to learn about the ways of the world) things can only get better. Our hope is the people after us can look after the boys and the team much better than we had had in the past.
So, how do I end this final chapter?
The national tournament at Stadium Azlan Shah in Ipoh was a culmination of four months of differences of opinion that split the Mighty Ducks. Over the last few months, we had been hitting a wall when it comes to getting a safe passage to deal with the school. There were roadblocks all over the place and lesser mortals would have given up.
There were 3 school of thoughts among us – to confront and call the bluff; to walk away and don’t even bother and to manage the school just to hold on to the final tournament. We had too many disagreements that finally there was an impasse.
It was against this backdrop that all of us went to the final tournament last week. It was meant to be a final celebration of Mighty Ducks albeit with mixed feelings and a sense of unfinished business.
I drove to KK on the last Sunday before the tournament to give the boys their new jerseys and wished them luck. It was short and concise. I bet my words did not change much as far as their motivation was concerned, but I wanted to see them knowing that I will see them less and less before we all become strangers in the future. The boys did not say much (apart from Amir, the others were with the usual shyness and difficulty to express themselves) but Mr Thaman did pass a letter. I somehow felt I knew the content of the letter and it was confirmed as I read it on the way back to KL.
I was only back in Malaysia the night before the tournament began. Mpro, Pak Tuan, Chibiok and Badut were already in Ipoh. I thought of going to Ipoh with Chibiok and Badut but I arrived late and was too tired to go to Ipoh straight away. The next morning, Epit, Radin, Ezam, Canoe and myself made our way to Ipoh separately.
Due to a slight change in the tournament schedule, I missed the first game. Mpro sent a message that the boys were down 1 – 0 with SDAR, so I thought that was the end of the tournament. Losing in the first game most probably means losing the psychological advantage for the rest of the games.
15 minutes later, apparently we were already leading by 2-1. We won against SDAR and the boys did the same thing again with SHAH Pekan. They scored first and we managed to come back. At the end of the first day, we were through to the next round. By this time, we were joined by Fadhil and Bo(b)utcher .
I decided to give a final pep talk of Mighty Ducks Project (from me) at the end of the last game on the first day, as the boys’ game came down from one game to another. At the rate they were going, we would have a tough day facing the giants like Sains Machang or Sains Johor.
We bought the boys ice cream and when the last one got his ice cream, I realised there was an Alam Shah boy among them. He asked us whether we were old boys and I can see in his eyes how he wished he could have the same for his team too.
The problem with MCKK is we always take things for granted – we take for granted that our boys are the smartest and ablest, we take for granted that there will always be a group of crazy people with undying devotion to it. We take this for granted, while others watch us forlornly and with a tinge of jealousy wishing that the same thing could have been true to other schools too.
I didn’t plan to give feedback about their games to the boys. I knew it would be my last pep talk as I already decided not to say anything on the last day – it would have been too sad to say good bye and I was never good with good bye. So I set out to tell them what I have kept in my heart – our hopes and dreams of them, of why Mighty Ducks is more than just winning a hockey tournament, of what a special bunch of kids they are and not to ever forget what they can do, if only they put their minds to it. This bunch of boys are not expressive, so apart from sad faces all around, I did not get much response.
I did not join the rest of the group at Chibiok’s place because I was not well and needed some rest (they have a high stamina to laugh at everything under the sun and sleep late, as Mighty Ducks is also their escape from their daily routines).
Finally, the day of reckoning - we scored against Machang first and if we held on, we would have been in the final because Machang had defeated STAR and STAR never won against us. But things didn’t work out and we lost 2-1.
The best we could achieve was to repeat the achievement of 2007 at 4th place. Somehow STAR boys could not contain the need to jeer (ha ha hence the return of MCKO Kopi O jeer that I had become accustomed to), so we had to return the favour with our own cheering. There were many crazy things I could develop in my head, but 10 fat people (Epit, Mpro, Chibiok, Fadhil, Pak Tuan, Canoe, Ezam, Radin, Pyan and me) singing on top of their lung cheering songs that all have forgotten was not part of it. There were moments that it was more of a snippet of “Jangan Lupa Lirik”.
We were through to 3rd/4th placing in the afternoon – so armed with a new determination to give the best for our final stand, Bapak Itiks adjourned for cheering practice at Chibiok’s place (ha ha). By this we mean downloading the lyrics of the songs so chosen for the afternoon into our blackberry and trying to remember the tune. The most difficult to remember was Samudra, but once you recalled it got stuck in your head.
If the past four years of Mighty Ducks was beset with more heart breaks, at least I can look back and smile that the last stand of Mighty Ducks was romantic, sentimental, full of indomitable spirit and in one final stroke, encapsulated what we wanted to achieve through Mighty Ducks all along.
Holland (Class of 09) came back from Penang to watch the game and he was there by 4 pm. What was more touching was that Zul and Nasa (Class of 2010) left the school without permission to watch the game (and Nasa is a senior prefect) taking wrong buses from KK to Ipoh and nearly missed the opening whistle blow. The most perfect moment was when the new HM, Mr Anand arrived with a Mighty Ducks t-shirt that I passed to him over the weekend. That gesture symbolises a greater victory than winning any tournament.
We cheered, they jeered. I wonder how the boys could have felt if we were not there, playing amidst of curses and jeers though that has become a part of standard checklist of our boys. We scored first, unfortunately SMS Selangor came back with 3 goals by the same player, who obviously was the most talented player of the lot. The boys did not give up and fought till the end, but we lost to a better team.
And so we ended Mighty Ducks Project with some sense of victory and satisfaction, though there was more sadness than joy at the end.
As we drove back that night, we knew that it’s almost impossible to relive the moments of the last 4 years because we will age and move on – so the best way is to look back with warmth and big heart, so that we don’t feel bitter or disappointed of the whole enterprise.
One day maybe as we pass through Kuala Kangsar, we may yet see a banner that constantly reminds the boys that “we stand for honour and we will fight with valour” because “rain or shine, the show must go on”. And I hope as the remnants of the Anak2 Itik leave the school batch by batch by 2014, they will always tell the story of Mighty Ducks Project to their juniors, hoping that they get enough inspiration to come back one day.
Photos here and here
“Mr Thaman & Mr Pala, thanks for being there today. I know we may be at the end of the road, that's why I really appreciate your being there. Spoke @ length to d boys b4 they left, some of them cried. I hv pulled & exhausted all rabbits I hv in my hat. The rest - the boys will hv to earn it themselves, we've done what we can. And I (the ever optimist) think somehow they will make it to the final. Just one more day & 2 more games :-). I c u tomorrow”
“Ariff, u boys can and should play better. This is ur last chance and I'll feel very sad if ur friends wont give ur dedication and commitment. 2morrow we'll how much u boys luv mc. Do u luv guys mc as I do ~ willing 2 sacrifice my time and looking 4 no money rewards. I am quitting after tournment and I have told old boys. Thaman”
“We r in d second round but u sounded very emotional. I wonder why. The team is where it is today due to ur mates collective efforts with mr thaman n mr pala.”
“Dear boys, thanks 4 good showmanship. It was sad that it has to come to an end. We hv loved u (ur seniors & u) frm day 1 in 2007. Remember everything we taught u. U r in better hands now, do what is best 4 mckk. Maybe one day we'll meet again. Keep in touch, we'll miss u so much. Grow up to be someone we can be proud of. Take care”
“tq for bringing the mighty duck project to the boys and mckk.....very proud being alongside with u and the others for the past 4 years...it was certainly a memorable event...so touched bila dpt sms kau...as an ex-mckk hockey player...tq of making the project a reality and sustainable for the past 4 years...”
“ thanks for everytng that u hve done for us... It is hard to say goodbye because all of your sacrifices towards anak-anak itik... Lastly once more thanks for guide us on how to be true bdk koleq n making our last biggest trnmnt as a success.... :-)”
The songs are corny, but that’s the most appropriate songs I can think of.
The first describes our never ending struggle for achievements and each and every one of us is destined for greatness if only we seize the moment.
The second describes the stage that Bapak2 Itik is and the feeling of the last one year:
"The town is colder now, I think it’s sick of us
It’s time to make our move
Stop and stare
I think I’m moving but I go nowhere
Yeah I know that everyone gets scared
But I’ve become what I can’t be
Stop and stare
You start to wonder why you’re here not there
And you’d give anything to get what’s fair
But fair ain’t what you really need
Can you see what I see”