Datuk M. Chandran ran away from his first national training camp when he was 18.
The legendary football player, who donned national colours in the 60s and 70s and played at the 1972 Munich Olympics, had dreaded the tough fitness training that led him to quit training.
Chandran passed away yesterday morning at his Ampang Jaya home. He was 77.
Twentywo13 has been given permission to reproduce Chandran’s article that appeared in the book Sports Flame: Stories Never Told Before, detailing his 1961 adventure.
“I ran away from my first national training camp at Merdeka Stadium in August 1961!
I could not imagine this episode would be the start of a 12-year association with the country’s youth and national teams.
Looking back at the first call-up for the Asian Youth Under-20 football competition in Bangkok which was held the following year, I was just 18 years and very wet behind my ears. I was still in school when I was called up for training with 29 other players.
I was really excited but this excitement didn’t last long. In the first six days of my training, it (excitement) vanished and I was devastated.
I never imagined that training as a football player could be so tough. I just couldn’t endure the sessions. It was torture. Physically and mentally, I just wasn’t able to take it.
Uncle Choo Seng Quee was a no-nonsense coach, a real task-master. A big fella, standing over six feet, he put us through a punishing physical routine, something I had never experienced before. All I knew was how to play with a ball.
The weight training from 6.30am to 7.30am in the Merdeka Stadium car park was something I wasn’t able to handle.
And immediately after breakfast, I had to run off to school. On returning to camp in the afternoon, we had to undergo another hour of fitness training. Again it was something I dreaded doing.
The only session I liked was when Uncle Choo put us through tactical training for 90 minutes on the Merdeka Stadium pitch in the evening. I enjoyed touching the ball more than all the physical endurance training.
On Monday, a week after being in camp and immediately after the morning session, without anyone noticing, I packed my boots, my books and left for school – never to return to training camp.
No one came looking for me.
I thought that this was the end of the road but in April 1962, I was recalled for the second phase of training. As I reported for training, Uncle Choo recognised me and said: “You ran away the last time. From now on you will sleep on the bunk next to me.”
From then on he kept a watchful eye on me. He was an excellent coach and was nice to all of us. However, when it came to training, he was a disciplinarian.
He was a stickler too for punctuality at training sessions and his physical training regimen turned out well for us in competition. From him I learnt that if you are very fit, you are less likely to get injured.
I was called up for the third phase and to my surprise, I was selected to represent Malaya in Bangkok in the Asian Youth tournament. I played as a centre half in all the matches and we finished fourth overall.
My love affair with the national team started here and I owe it to Uncle Choo. He was the one who put me on this path and I have great admiration for this man.”
Datuk M. Chandran was captain of the national squad when Malaysia qualified for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He also helped Malaysia win the bronze medal in the 1969 Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games, silver in the 1971-edition in Kuala Lumpur and the bronze in the 1973 Singapore Games.
Chandran was also part of the Asian All-Stars squad which lost 2-6 to Arsenal in a friendly in 1968, while winning numerous trophies for Selangor FA, both as a player and coach.
He retired after Malaysia’s bronze-medal finish in the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran, Iran.
He was later made head coach of the national squad from 1982-1983 and 1988.