1975 REVISITED – BRIAN STA MARIA

IF Brian Sta Maria could go back in time, there is only one thing he wouldwant to do. That is to throw his body in the path of the bullet coming off India’sAslam Sher Khan’s penalty corner hit in the 65th minute of their 1975World Cup semifinal clash at Merdeka Stadium.

Until then Malaysia were close to pushing India over the cliff as theyled 2-1 through goals by Poon Fook Loke and Sri Shanmuganathan.

“I was the first runner in the penalty corner situations and saw theball hit by Aslam slip under my stick.

“When it was all over I wished I had thrown my body in the path ofAslam’s shot for it would have given us a place in the final.”

But to be fair to Brian he had thwarted the penalty corner attempts by another Indian fullback, Surjit Singh. It was a case of being in the national team at the wrong time for Brian.

For when he was at his peak, he had to contend with A. Francis, who together with Sri Shanmuganathan formed a solid defence. But Brian took it all in his stride as he toiled to prove his worth and make the national team.

It was football, not hockey, that was Brian’s first love and he even represented Negri Sembilan in the Burnley Cup (now the Razak Cup) in 1969as a goalkeeper.

But on the encourgament of his mentor, Lawrence van Huizen (father of current national coach Stephen), Brian took up hockey seriously and never looked back.

Brian made his debut for Malaysia in 1969 and quit the national team asa disillusioned man after the 1978 World Cup. The events that led to his retirement still rankle as he recalls the fateful day he decided to give up hockey.

“The team had just returned from Argentina when M. Mahendran asked a photographer to take his picture for he wanted to retire.

“Alagendra (now Tan Sri) told me to join Mahendran too. That to me was an indication that my services were no longer required.

“The words did affect me and I quit the national scene. Still, I hold no bitterness against anyone.”

Brian’s career had its down side as he was suspended for a year for refusing to don national colours and had to miss the 1976 Montreal Olympics as a consequence.

“All I did was ask for a break as I had been playing hockey continously but they wouldn’t allow it.

“Compare that with the current situation where you find officials begging players to play on.

“This is what Malaysian hockey does not need. Ban them if they refuse toplay. Why must the rules change now. After all the officials are the sameones as in 1976.”

Brian quite clearly recalls the day he was fielded against India following an injury to the no-nonsense Francis.

With the score at 0-0, Francis was replaced after pulling a hamstring. And in stepped Brian.

“The semifinal against India was rained off but not before Francis aggravated his hamstring injury.

“I knew I would have to face the Indians and boy was I nervous. It took me almost 20 minutes to settle down in that match. But the fact that we were leading helped.”

With Malaysia playing the pyramid system, Brian was entrusted to markout India’s inside left B.P. Govinda.

“India were a skilful side and made life difficult for us. But we gave them one hell of a fright.”

Brian, who came on mostly as a substitute in the tournament save for the3rd placing match against West Germany, was adept at defending on eitherflank.

He saw action against New Zealand, Spain and Poland prior to thesemi final clash with India.

“The advantage we had in 1975 was that the team had been kept together since 1970 with few changes.

“In fact, there were only five changes to the 1975 team from the onethat played in the 1970 Asian Games.

“This helped us build a good understanding and that served us well inthe World Cup.”

FACTFILE
Name: Brian Sta Maria
Age: 52
Date of Birth: 12-9-1949
Position: Fullback
Profession: Director of Suci Cleaning Services
Marital Status: Married to Elaine LumChildren: Trevor Calvin Sta Maria (16)Shaun Kingsley Sta Maria (12)Amanda Jane Sta Maria (5)
Awards: Pingat Jasa Kebaktian (1975)
World Cup: 1973 (Amsterdam), 1975 (Kuala Lumpur), 1978 (Buenos Aires)
Olympics: 1972 (Munich)
Asian Games: 1970 (Bangkok), 1974 (Tehran), 1978 (Bangkok)
International Career : 1969 to 1978
Caps: 114
Coaching Career: None