TRIBUTE TO KOH CHYE

There are no words to describe how I and the rest of the sporting fraternity feel at the demise of Dato Ho Koh Chye. When I received the SMS from George Koshy, a sense of disbelief was what I felt for I had total admiration for Koh Chye. Having first seen him at the sidelines of the World Cup in 1975, I got to know him better in 1993 on my frequent visits to NSC at Stadium Negara. And when he was at Sportexcel, I truly learnt a great deal from him.

Below is an article I did on Koh Chye when I was a Journo with Malay Mail in 2003.

HO KOH CHYE has gone where Malaysian sportsmen only dream of. He has been a top rate player, coach, manager and sports administrator. Koh Chye is truly a sporting icon who has served the nation without reservation.
Seremban-born Koh Chye has added another feather to his career by being appointed the joint chef de mission for the Malaysian contingent to the Vietnam SEA Games in December. This is the first time the Olympic Council of Malaysia have appointed joint chefs de mission (the other half is Norminshah Sabirin).
In addition, the honour bestowed on Koh Chye is a shot in the arm for former athletes as OCM are giving opportunities to former internationals to provide leadership to the current batch of athletes.
“Being in charge means independent and goal-oriented decision-making, free from external and internal influences – the most important challenge of leadership,” says the articulate Koh Chye.
“True leadership is only possible when personal interests play a secondary role to the interests and requirements of those you are entrusted to guide.”
Looking back it is quite easy to see Koh Chye was bound for sporting greatness. Some 150 metres down the road from Koh Chye’s home on Paul Street (currently Jalan Yam Tuan) was St Paul’s Institution and almost adjoining it was the NS Padang. His parents – father Ho Tan Sze and mother Kuan Yoong – were blessed with 9 children (four boys and five girls). The seventh sibling was born on Nov 5, 1942 and little did the Ho family know that the child born under the zodiac sign of Scorpio would grow up to be one the nation’s eminent sports personalities.
Koh Chye was educated a St Paul’s Institution, developed his hockey skills on the NS Padang and started his teaching career in King George V School (KGV). After school, Koh Chye joined the Teachers Training College in Penang and turned out for Penang. He started representing Malaysia in 1960 at the age of 18 with two Asian Games and Olympics topping his list at the end of his playing career.
But unknown to many, Koh Chye was also an accomplished footballer having donned Negri colours in the early 60’s when he played alongside former Negri team manager Datuk Jamluddin Ahmad. When he was appointed captain of the national hockey team to the Mexico Olympics some of the great names in Malaysian hockey – R. Yogeswaran, the late Ranjit Singh, K. Alagaratnam, the late S. Jeevajothy, M. Arulraj, Aminnudin and Yang Siow Meng – lined up beside him. He is best remembered for the `heading the ball’ incident in a game against India that led some to label him as `hard headed’ but Koh Chye said he did what was expected of a good goalkeeper.
Koh Chye says there are valuable lessons in sports that have universal application.
“Sport has an inexhaustible store of lessons, metaphors and paradigms that can be drawn upon,” says Koh Chye.
“As athletes learn about goal-setting, teamwork, anger management and dealing with fatigue, these skills can used in parallel situations outside of sport. Competition in its various forms and settings will be with a person throughout life. Facing challenges does not mean learning to win, it means learning to sustain integrity. Without the ability to sustain one’s commitment to the virtues of character in the face of competition, character fails us.”
Though a Paulian, Koh Chye characteristically gave 100 per cent to the old enemy. As KGV’s sports secretary, he helped to create an atmosphere of trust, support and mutual enjoyment that was the sporting face in KGV. Georgians of that era would vouch how the field, the courts and the grounds were filled with the joy of sports!
At 28, Koh Chye received his first assignment to prepare the national team for the Asian Games in Bangkok in 1970. And 1975 remains in the annals of hockey as Malaysia’s best year. Koh Chye and his crew made it all the way to the semi-finals of the World Cup but were edged out 3-2 by India. In 1978, Koh Chye quit coaching but kept going as a hockey administrator. Koh Chye was appointed manager to the national team for the Olympic qualifiers in Auckland in 1991 and his Midas touched enabled Malaysia to make the 1992 Barcelona Olympics after an eight-year hiatus. His final assignment as Malaysian team manager was at the Junior World Cup qualifiers in 2000 in Kuala Lumpur where they qualified for the Junior World Cup 2001 in Hobart, Tasmania.
Koh Chye was appointed Sports Officer with the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture in 1974 and went on to join the National Sports Council (NSC) where he retired as the Director of the International Preparation Division. But his desire to improve academically did not end as he obtained a Masters degree in sports management in the United States. Even after his retirement he could not stay away from sports and was fittingly appointed executive director of Sportexcel, a body that paid emphasis to the development of sports amongst the young.
Koh Chye is proud that some of the beneficiaries of Sportexcel awards have gone on to become top stars in their respective games.
“Even in this new millennium, opportunities to participate and excel in sports are limited
by economic circumstances, discriminatory practices and expectations based on stereotypes,” says Koh Chye.
“Athletes who achieve some measure of excellence face extreme pressure, both in terms of reward and punishment, to go for the win – no matter what. The `win at all cost’ mentality is a huge problem, even in youth sport. Coaches and administrators, whose jobs too often depend not on their performance but on that of young people in their programme, encounter countless ethical dilemmas about how to balance their own professional interests with the needs of the athletes for whom they are responsible. Coaches, sport psychologists and sports physicians are enticed, sometimes coerced, into enhancing athletes’ performance at the expense of those athletes’ health and well-being.”
While he was with NSC and Sportexcel, Koh Chye headed the Malaysian Hockey Federation coaching panel and also formulated the idea of a hockey academy. The sporting world never left him alone. His expertise was not only sought by hockey but by the other sports too. This recognition was best seen when he was appointed Deputy Chef De Mission of the Malaysian contingent to the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games. Koh Chye’s talent as a sports administrator was further recognised when the Johor government appointed him as a sports consultant.
Today, at 61, fully retired, with the exception of being vice-president of the Malaysian Olympic Association, the youthful Koh Chye enjoys the game of golf and the company of his old friends. His approach is direct and simple. What is most important to him is working as a team towards a common goal – not necessarily to win the game, but to play the best possible game.
“Sports can and should be a place for fun and excitement, for joy, even ecstasy,” says Koh Chye.
“Sports can contribute to the participants’ health and wholeness, to their psychological, physical, social and spiritual development. But even more important, sports can and should be courts of justice, venues for rejuvenating ideals and promoting the character needed to work toward those ideals.”
It is hard to imagine how far Koh Chye would have gone in a perfect world.
BIODATA

Name: Ho Koh Chye

Date of Birth: Nov 5, 1942

Career Record:
Teacher at King George V School in Seremban until 1974 when
he joined the Sports Ministry and later the National Sports Council.
Retired as Director of International Preparation Division, NSC in 1992.
Appointed Executive Director of the newly-formed Sportexcel and served
until 1996.
Consultant to the Johor government for sports development and
is currently the vice-president of the Malaysian Olympian Association.
Sporting Achievements:
Hockey international from 1960 to 1968.
Competed in
the Asian Games (1962 Jakarta, 1966 Bangkok) as well as Olympics (1964 Tokyo, 1968 Mexico).
Coaching Career:
National coach for the 1973 (Amsterdam), 1975 (Kuala Lumpur) and 1978 (Buenos Aries) World Cups.