LOYALTY nowadays is a very rare commodity and only a few know what it truly means but TNB's loyalty to Malaysian hockey is beyond reproach.
No price can be put on its support for the game, and by the same token, is hockey goalkeeper S. Kumar’s allegiance to TNB.
It all started 16 years ago when TNB offered Kumar an opportunity to work for them and at the same time to enhance his hockey career.
The offer came at an opportune time. Kumar had just finished competing in the Junior Asian Cup and was unemployed, so the keeper grabbed the opportunity with both hands. This was in September 2000.
Now a veteran on the world stage, Kumar is very much rated as one of the best goalkeepers in the sport and he unashamedly credited TNB for being a huge influence on his long and rewarding career.
“When TNB approached me, I did consult some senior players about the job offer and not one person had anything negative to say about TNB and I was advised to take up the offer," said Kumar, who works with the Technical Support Team.
“Shortly after joining TNB, I could feel the passion that they had for the game and it gradually rubbed off on me. They were very serious about helping the sport to recapture its glory days. Added to this, they also offered benefits such as sports leave, medical benefits, bonus and special allowances for national team players.
“Working and playing for TNB has really helped me take my game to a higher level.”
Kumar also disclosed that after joining TNB, besides his playing career improving by leaps and bounds, his personal life also started to be more stable, especially financially.
And as is always the case, the keeper's loyalty to his recent employers was severely tested on many occasions when other MHL teams came calling with offers of higher paid jobs, better incentives and perks but Kumar stayed faithful to TNB.
“TNB was the only team to offer me a job when I desperately needed one, and I am not one to forget those who were always there for me during my darkest times. It's no secret that that's the reason why I stayed with TNB so long. I wished to repay the kindness they showed me,” said the former Uttar Pradesh Wizards player.
Besides being a long term supporter of the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) and the National Hockey League, TNB has also increased its efforts to establish development programmes which help nurture young aspiring hockey players.
"In my opinion, TNB has stepped up its efforts to help produce quality young players through the Thunderbolt Programme and the Junior Hockey League”, added the 36-year-old national goalkeeper who is from Tampin.
Kumar’s love for hockey started at SMK Tunku Besar Tampin, when the school’s hockey coach, the late V. Sivapathasundram appointed him to be the reserve goalkeeper for the school team.
“I was more into football in school but the turning point came when the hockey coach asked me to join the hockey team. I grew to like the sport and decided to take it to another level,” he said.
SMK Tunku Besar Tampin is well known for producing budding hockey talents as many national and state players today hail from there.
Dedicated towards hockey development and realizing the enormous potential coming from this school, TNB will be collaborating with it for the second year running to organize the YTM Tunku Besar Tampin – TNB U14 cup which will kick off from the 16th till the 20th of September 2016.
Plenty of fresh talent will be showcased on the school’s very own hockey turf during the tournament which is also being held in conjunction with the Malaysia Day celebrations.
Meanwhile, the avid Liverpool supporter has only one piece of advice for the current and future young players and that is to work hard and never give up no matter what the odds.
“There are no shortcuts to success in any sport or anything in life. Youngsters need to know the importance of hard work, discipline and persistence to make it as a professional.
“If it wasn’t for my determination to succeed, perseverance and dedication towards the sport, I would not have achieved what I have today. Being dropped consistently during my first four years as a professional did not put me off, instead it made me more determined and I continued to give my all to get selected for the national squad,” said Kumar with a touch of pride.
The TNB stalwart is back in TNB’s squad after an injury lay-off that saw him miss the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in April and is looking to carry the team throughout the TNBMHL campaign which kicked off last weekend.
He also stressed on the importance of specific, planned and separate training regime for the younger players which brings about longevity at the highest level of international hockey.
Kumar hopes to keep playing for TNB and the National team for another year or two, if he can stay fit, before calling it a day.
Kumar and TNB are two names which will definitely be etched with pride in Malaysian hockey books and magazines. The stories told will, hopefully, go on to inspire the future hockey stars of Malaysia.