National hockey coach Tai Beng Hai was making a dash back home from New Zealand yesterday to pay his final respects to his number one fan – his dad Tai Chin Seng.
Beng Hai had only arrived in Invercargill on Sunday with the Malaysian team for the World Cup qualifying tournament which begins on Saturday.
Yesterday, he was back on a plane for the gruelling 18-hour haul home after receiving the tragic news that his father had passed away in Taiping earlier in the day.
Chin Seng, 77, was a victim of a hit-and-run motorcyclist as he was cycling home on Sunday morning. He sustained head injuries and was admitted to the Taiping General Hospital.
Doctors carried out an operation but. The former sundry shop owner, succumbed to the injuries early Tuesday morning. And he always supported Beng Hai, be it during his playing days as well as coaching the national team.
Chin Seng used to make it a point to watch Beng Hai play in Ipoh and even Beng hai’s siblings were supportive of his involvement in hockey as his sister and youngest brother were in the stands at the Tun Razak Stadium during the final Test Match against Australia last month.
The funeral will be held at noon tomorrow, the cortege leaving the family home at No. 29 Lorong Tun Salleh , Assam Kambong, Taiping, for Crestwest Crematorium.
Beng Hai, third in a family of five, is rushing back from Invercargill where the Malaysian team is preparing to compete in the World Cup qualifying tournament. Six teams are vying for the single ticket to the World Cup Finals in New Delhi next year.
The mood at the camp was dour as players and officials came to grips with the bad news. They had only arrived in Invercargill on Sunday for the tournament, which also features New Zealand, China, Scotland, Wales and Austria.
Team manager George Koshy said Beng Hai would fly back to Invercargill immediately after the funeral tomorrow.
Koshy said the players were shaken by the news as the team was like a close-knit family.
"We all feel for Beng Hai but he has prepared the team well and the players are fully aware of what needs to be done,” said Koshy.
"Assistant coach Nor Saiful Zaini is more than able to execute the plans until Beng Hai’s return.”
National Sports Council Director General Datuk Zolkples Embong also expressed his heartfelt condolences to Beng Hai and his family.
“It came as a shock as we were not aware that his father had met with an accident,” said Zolkples.
“It’s a great loss but Beng Hai is a professional and his desire and commitment to the national cause will not waver.”
Malaysia face an uphill task as they face strong challenges from hosts New Zealand and China. Scotland, who are staying at same hotel as the Malaysians, were the second team to arrive at Invercargill.
The others are expected to arrive tomorrow ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony.
"The team will spend the next two days getting used to local conditions and fine tuning certain technical aspects," said Koshy.
They will do so with a thought for their coach. Malaysia open their campaign against Austria on Saturday.