Wilfred Vias, one of Malaysia’s oldest Olympians, and a rare gem, dies

“He was an example to all of us.”

That was how former national hockey captain and coach, Datuk Seri N. Sri Shanmuganathan described Wilfred ‘Freddy’ Vias.

Vias, one of Malaysia’s oldest Olympians died earlier today. He was 93.

He was a member of the national hockey team that played in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

“We are saddened by Vias’ death. He was a pioneer, as he was a member of the country’s first hockey team to play in the Olympics,” said Sri Shanmuganathan, captain of the 1975 World Cup team.

“He was vice-captain of the team, a towering defender, and a gentleman on and off the pitch. He had great self-discipline and a high level of commitment to the game.

“Later on, he went on to be an umpire before becoming the second director-general of the National Sports Council (NSC).

Vias was NSC director-general from April 1, 1981 to Dec 31, 1981.

“When he was with NSC, he did his best to help all sports. He was someone many of us younger players looked up to.

“He showed that there was a career after the playing days were over.”

Vias, famously known as “Uncle Freddy”, was selected to the national hockey team and was the captain of the Federation of Malaya team in 1954. He was one of the key players who powered the national side to book a spot at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, which he took part in.

He also took up administrative roles while playing the sport. He was elected as Johor Hockey Association secretary from 1950 to 1953, and Negeri Sembilan Hockey Association secretary from 1956 and 1957.

Vias was inducted into the Olympic Council of Malaysia’s Hall of Fame in 2004 for his contributions in the development of sports in Malaysia. He was also selected as one of the 80 torchbearers for the Olympic Torch Relay held in Kuala Lumpur in conjunction with the 2018 Beijing Olympics.

Another former national player and coach, Datuk R. Yogeswaran, said: “When I was coming up as a player, he was near his retirement. I managed to see him play a little bit, and he was really good.

“He was a wonderful, soft-spoken person, but he had mighty hits that terrified many players.

“He was also a great umpire in hockey and cricket. He will be sorely missed.”

Yogeswaran said he had a good relationship with Vias when the latter was NSC director-general.

“He also held many other positions outside of hockey, including as the sports manager at the Royal Selangor Club. He was also manager of the junior team for a spell, and was always giving players advice.”

Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) deputy president Prof Datuk S. Shamala said the national body was saddened to hear of Vias’ passing.

“Everyone at MHC is shocked and saddened by the news. We express our deepest condolences to the family,” said Shamala.

“His passing is a huge loss to the nation. We value everything that he has done for hockey and the country.

“He will be remembered as someone who helped pave the way for many of us in this sport.”

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