Thursday, January 3, 2013


 S. Kumar ended up playing hockey by chance. For in 1994 when he was studying at the Tunku Besar Secondary School Tampin, he was training with the school football team that he was approached by the late V. Sivapathasundram to give hockey a try as a goalkeeper since he could kick with both feet.

Kumar was assured by Siva that he only had to be the reserve keeper for the school team, but little did he know that his whole life will change after that.
For not only did Kumar end up as the first choice keeper, but he went on to represent the national team, making his debut at the 1999 SEA Games in Brunei. He has gone on to win 203 interentional caps, playing in two World Cup Qualifiers ( 2006 China and 2009 Invercargil) besides three Olympi Qualifiers ( 2004 Madrid, 2008 Japan and 2012 Dublin) but never once played in the actual events as Malaysia failed to qualify.

And come January 16, Kumar will be creating history, for he will be the first goalkeeper from Malaysia to play in a foreign league when he turns out for Utter Pradesh Wizards in the Hockey India League.

The team is based in UP capital, Lucknow and holds one of the highest paid marquee players of the tournament, Teun de Nooijer from Netherlands. Among the notable players in the team are Tushar Khandker (India), Edward Ockenden (Australia), David Alegre (Spain) and  Luke Doerner (Australia.

UP Wizards will be coached Roelant Oltmans and the technical director of the team is Dhanraj Pillay, the former Indian captain who played in the Malaysian Hockey League.

The team has two goal keepers from the international circuit in George Bazeley from Australia, Kumar and one from India, Sreenivasa R. Katharu.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think of this moment, that I will be auctioned and be part of the HIL,"said Kumar when met while applying for a visa ll by himself without any official from the Malaysian Hockey Confederation.

"It is indeed not only a personal honour but one for the country as well for I had to compete with well known custodians from all over the world. And to think that I was picked over some household names in goalkeeping has further bossted my confidence.

"It will be a totally newexperience for me as I will be up against the world best players, what more playing in India, where hockey is amongst the most watched sport after cricket.

"This is a chance of a lifetime and I hope to fight for a place in the starting XI as it will be tough competing against Bazeley."

Kumar owes much of his interest in hockey to his late father S. Subramaniuam who passed away when Kumar was representing the nation at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. And it was with the encouragement of his mother K. Sarasah that Kumar continued playing the sport.

Not many are aware the sacrifices that Kumar had to make as a parent, for he was in China for the 2010 Asian Games when his first son Varshan was born two years ago. And he could only spend hours beides his wife L.Parimalah and their second born Haarshenn before catching the flight to Amsterdam for a goalkeeper coaching stint in November last year.

"My family is very understanding and have been supporting me. This month long stint requires a lot of sacrifices and I am indebted to my wife for being able to manage the kids," said Kumar who has won several accolades during his career as the best goalkeeper in many an international tournament.

Kumar feels that there is a wide gap between the senior and junior goalkeepers as both he and Ros;an Jamaluddin are in their 30's.

"It all boils down to have match exposure. And one will not get that sitting on the bench and waiting for their chance. Thus my advise to the keepers in the junior squad is to look for teams in the MHL where they will get to play instead of warming the bench," said Kumar.

"There is not better way to gain experience but by getting the necessary exposure. So what if you are on the losing side always. You will get to improve your game instead of just standing between the posts playing for a top team."

The UP Wizard Squad

George Bazeley (Australia), Sreenivasa Rao Katharu (India), Kumar Subramanium (Malaysia), M Gunasekar (India), Jeroen Hertzberger (Netherlands), P.L Thimmanna (India), Nitin Thimmaiah (India), S.K Uthappa, Pradhan Somanna, Tushar Khandker (India), Teun de Nooijer (Netherlands), Edward Ockenden (Australia), David Alegre (Spain), Pradeep Mor (India), Harjeet Singh (India), Sander Baart (Netherlands), Rocky Lohchab (India), Vivek Dhar (India), Siddharth Shanker (India), Luke Doerner (Australia), Harbir Singh (India), V.R Raghunath (India), Marcel Balkestein (Netherlands),Wouter Jolie (Netherlands).