Dedicated to the Bapak Itiks, coaches and all who have helped throughout the last four years, especially from the Class of 94
Finally we come to this. It’s a lot to write for the last few days when I am not in the best of health, but we have been yearning for this closure for a long time so we should get over and done with it. As always, I planned a while back what to write but with only Kristi sleeping by the laptop and a hungry stomach, I have forgotten everything.
The natural place to start is to thank all of you for agreeing to be a part of this journey. The lesson that you should learn is to be careful before you agree anything with me, because it’s always more than meets the eye (ha ha). To be fair to me, I didn’t expect that we would be drawn so much into it that it consumed us the way it did. By the end of 2008, it has become so personal and intertwined with us that extricating ourselves from this venture would not have been easy.
The first part of the journey was so melodious and happy that I wish it stayed that way throughout, before we started to encounter dead walls all around us. However, with a benefit of hindsight, it was the dead wall that tested our friendship and understanding of each other – though it was not always happy and easy, we stayed true to the reason why we agreed to this on that fateful night at Pelita in 2007.
So what was the reason?
My reason was simple – to keep company with each other and we needed a reason for us to come together. I have this complex in my mind that everything happens for a reason and I over-read in everything that happens around me. Each of us has a specific purpose and role to play – in all of us, I see very special roles that we will have to play for each other in the future, so keeping the bond intact was important.
Hockey in MCKK was a convenient cause. We couldn’t touch rugby because it is sacred to some others; football was not as neglected as hockey. As I travelled to and fro Kuala Kangsar in between 2004 and 2006, I realised the hockey boys came down on their own without any adults. The attendance was poor, but some of them persevered. That must have counted for something.
And I was fairly proud of our hockey team because you guys were close and continued to play for MCOBA. The arrangement was convenient (and fated) because among us, we had the expertise to help a team so abandoned in MCKK. It was most convenient for me because in all sincerity, I needed the company more than the longing to see MCKK excels in hockey again (ha ha).
Of course, true to our culture, we predicted correctly that the school wouldn’t have agreed to our assistance without any big names. Our culture suppresses the talents and contributions of the smaller people; there is an obvious bias for establishment and power. The decision to include Thorsten was perhaps the best decision we had made throughout the project.
I had enjoyed every moment of the Mighty Ducks years although occasionally we went through arguments, but then I am notorious for tantrums and mood swing (which is not a new thing as you guys have known me for the last 20 years). The early years were the best, as we were full of ideas and determination to see this through. Looking back, obviously a thick fitness instruction sent all the way from Beijing, for the boys to follow was a bit too ambitious. We forgot that it required the boys to have self-discipline; which obviously remains a key issue till the end.
Or who can forget the first Mighty Ducks Cup that we organised in Manjung? We were asked to cancel last minute and on the day itself, we found out there was a double booking before the boys arrived from KK. The list of dramas from Mighty Ducks years can fill up an entire book!
But what is most precious is when it was all over we would regroup and had a blast. The customary big dinner full of jokes and fun time after each big event would go down as the best part of the Mighty Ducks experience.
I can go on and on recalling every single moment but we will bore others to death. It’s very difficult to understand how much it means to us unless you go through it yourself. I went through the photos and videos over the years (and in between us we have thousands of photos and hundreds of videos) – just as much as the eagerness in the eyes of the boys was genuine, the happiness on our faces was equally priceless.
It’s precisely because those moments are priceless to us that I feel we should keep it where it belongs – privately in our hearts. As we grow older, may we look back at those moments as one of the best moments growing old; in the same way that we cherish the MCKK years as one of the best moments growing up.
At the stadium last week, I did have tears in my eyes – not because the boys lost, because we were at the end of the road. We were at the end of a journey that was so perfect in every sense and frankly I don’t know whether we can find the time (or have the patience and energy) to walk down a similar road in the future (the optimistic part of me keeps saying “we may yet Mr Frodo, we may” but we all know it is not going to be easy).
So what did we achieve?
The most certain part is we did not win Perak championship (if there is one) as carelessly set as the final target by KNO at the beginning. We didn’t even beat Clifford ha ha (though we did narrow the gap and each year the Clifford boys must have admired the fighting spirit of the MCKK boys). We did come close to the national final for SBP twice (losing by penalty flick in 2007 and losing by one goal in 2010 in the equivalent of semi-final) but that is nothing to shout about.
So did we fail?
We definitely failed in the winning department, but we won their hearts big time. The ability to touch someone’s life, to have an impact on his memory for a very long time, to inspire someone to go beyond what he thinks he was capable – is an achievement far bigger than any cups in any tournaments. And we did this constantly each year with each batch as we extend our hands and hearts to them.
When they lost, the teary eyes betrayed their sadness for letting us down; more than for the loss itself. Each year or after each of our visit, the SMS sums up their feeling and warmth for having us around. The capacity to bring the best out of a quiet boy and turn him into a cheerful person who returns the trust back to us; is a victory that cannot be exchanged with any goals.
So when we look back to our years in Mighty Ducks, I hope we all see the smiling faces of these boys – not the heartbreaks we went through trying to stay on course when everything was stacked against us. Not only we had to contend with limited resources, we had personalities in and out of the school trying to bring the whole project down in any ways they could.
Hopefully, one day these smiling faces will reflect and return our kindness to the next generation. May they find rooms in their heart and small pocket to extend assistance to those after them, because throughout all this we taught them that life in service of others is the only life worth living.
But perhaps the biggest achievement of Mighty Ducks was never a target to begin with. Our painful experience observing and going through the troubles on the ground of MCKK convinced us of what needed to be done for the sake of Malay College. When the trumpet was sounded and the battle line drawn, it took its toll and dragged everyone that was ever connected with Mighty Ducks into it. It did not occur to me that it would take that long to accomplish (therefore I under-estimated the pain it would eventually inflict on all of us), but in the end the outcome was the best for MCKK. We may not win any tournament, but we won the bigger battle that was more critical for the well-being of MCKK in the long run. If we had not been so close to the ground, we wouldn't have witnessed the continuous damage being done to the school and we wouldn't have had the conviction to push through what had to be pushed through.
As we withdraw into our small existence, don’t despair that all was in vain, because Allah in all His greatness rewards what is due. I used to tell this to everyone and I still believe this – the kindness that we invest in other people’s children, Allah will return in other people’s investment in ours in the future. Teach others so that others can teach ours in the future.
Finally, let me end this journey in the same way that we had started it years ago (what seems to feel a long time by now) – by thanking you for believing in the whole enterprise and by apologising for being ultimately a human being.
I thank you for the sacrifices of time that you have made, leaving your wives and children (especially on the eve of her birthday leaving for a game at 1 am!) to cheer for a group of boys whom wouldn’t even remember your face the next time you turned up.
Thank you to the wives – I do not need to mention names here because we go by heart by now – for understanding that your husbands have to do this at this stage; that they need to reconnect with things beyond the daily confine of a family life in order not to lose touch with the bigger picture of life. Thank you for looking after the children while they were happily having fun (ha ha!) or for cheering for the team, making it feel homely as one big family.
I apologise for my transgression, harsh words and impatience – it’s a mark of how close we are that I know you would take all of them in good faith knowing I have little time for anything that I touch.
Sorry for my hot-headedness, thinking that I know best for everything and I have the final call for anything – when in reality the Mighty Ducks Project shall remain a figment of our imagination without the collective efforts of everyone.
Thank you to everyone from the Class of 94 who never fail to give a ringgit or two to lift our financial burden, although you don’t have much to begin with. Thank you for taking pride in the boys as much as we had. Thank you for the cheering and support as we follow the boys as a groupie from one tournament to another.
Thank you to the ex-hockey players from various batches (in particular from the Class of 92 and Class of 96), who had provided great support throughout the years and willingly travelled to Kuala Kangsar to become sparring partners for the boys.
Thank you to a few individuals (whose names I won’t put here) who drew inspiration from the whole Mighty Ducks journey and contributed financially to the efforts, though they are unrelated whatsoever to MCKK.
Lastly, thank you to 3 great individuals whose magnanimity and big heart beat all of us – for in their sincerity we see value in the whole project; from their kindness we drew strength to finish it.
Thank you to Mr Thaman Singh, Mr N Jeyapala and Mr Thorsten Heidelberg who showed us that kindness knows no boundary, colour, religion or place. What a fate that of all the things in the world, we were brought together by a struggling hockey team in a small place called Kuala Kangsar.
We can’t see into the future, but I for one know that I come out of the whole experience more level-headed and mellow as a person. I am sure as much as we have touched the boys’ lives they too have touched ours in various positive ways.
Thank you for believing – may the spirit of giving is alive on the hockey pitch of MCKK for many years to come. Rain or shine, the show must go on.
THE MIGHTY DUCKS PROJECT were:
Hafiznizam Hashim - Epit (E27)
Mohd Nadzrie Azhar – Mpro (E46)
Ahmad Johari Jaffar – Joe (E67)
Didee Ezral Rashdi – Chibiok (E – ha ha aku dah lupa!)
Affendi Rashdi – Badut (E – pun aku dah lupa)
Khairul Nizam Omar – KNO (OK aku give up with no dobi)
Idzam Noor Shahidan – Ezam (errr E135?)
Wan Azman Wan Mahmud – Wong (E24)
Mohd Hazly Abdulah – Chamat (shit Chamat is going to kill me)
Syed Asrul Shahrim Syed Abdullah – Pak Tuan (he he E..... 82?)
Radin Mazlan Radin Baharuddin – Radin (E99), the resident t-shirt & banner artist
Syahril Nizam Jumaili, Class of 93 – Canoe (D – kalau aku tahu ni scandalous la)
(did I miss anybody?)
Don’t Stop Believing is a natural choice no matter how corny it is. Besides, it relates better to their generation (ha ha ha).
I was actually quite impressed with the cheering considering we had to compete with the jeering STAR boys ha ha. We attracted more attention with the girls compared to the game (who snapped a few pictures or two), unfortunately much to Chibiok’s frustration they were all underage.