KUALA LUMPUR: After giving his “sweat and blood” for 20 years, S. Kumar yesterday shed tears when announcing his retirement from international hockey.
Kumar, who was emotional at yesterday’s press conference in Kuala Lumpur, was the nation’s longest serving goalkeeper, featuring in 321 international matches since 1999.
The Tampin-born Kumar, whose legacy will be hard to emulate by others, will now help the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) in nurturing goalkeepers.
MHC president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal said yesterday: “We finally have to part ways with Kumar as an international player. But he will still be involved with hockey.”
Subahan said Kumar will coach the national juniors alongside Nasihin Nubli and Roslan Jamaluddin.
Kumar used to be the third choice national goalkeeper behind Nasihin and Roslan in the early days, before becoming Malaysia’s first choice.
His move into coaching will begin by attending a level two course held during the Azlan Shah Cup in April.
Kumar has faced many adversities, heartbreaks and bounced back in his storied career. His father and three-year-old son passed away while he was playing in tournaments overseas, and he also served a ban for a doping violation.
But at 40, age has caught up with Kumar, and foiling his dream of playing in the Olympics.
“I had wanted to retire many times before especially after losing my son during the Antwerp Olympic Qualifier, but I kept on training and playing because the nation needed me,” he said.
“But after two failures... in the Asian Games and the London Olympic qualifier, I decided to call it a day with a heavy heart.
“I will go into coaching and hopefully in the near future, take a Malaysian team to the Olympics, a dream which I failed to realise in my 20-year career.”
Kumar actually started as a football goalkeeper in 1994 at Tunku Besar Secondary School in Tampin, Negri Sembilan, but was “ordered” to attend hockey training by the late S. Sivapathasundram, a former teacher and coach.
Sivapathasundram saw a lanky and agile lad keeping goal in a football match and he later asked him to pad-up and stand between the hockey posts, and the rest is history.
“I have played in two World Cups as well as won two silver medals at the Asian Games, but the Olympics eluded me in a funny way.
“Not playing in the Olympics is my biggest regret, as it's every player’s dream to reach that pinnacle,” he said.
One of Kumar’s most memorable achievements was being named as the Best Goalkeeper in the World League Round Three in London after he helped Malaysia finish fourth and qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
“There are at least four young goalkeepers who have the ability but have not yet realised their true potential. I hope to bring out the best in them,” Kumar.
Thank you for the memories, and your blood, sweat and tears for Malaysian hockey, Kumar.