WITH the passing of Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah, 86, the nation has lost a great statesman, ruler and visionary leader as well as hockey president.
News of his death came as a shock to the 1975 World Cup hockey players, who were in tears and expressing sadness over the phone to me as a fellow friend and former national athlete in the 1970s.
Sultan Azlan Shah was the 9th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia from April 26, 1989 to April 25, 1994.
A lawyer by profession, he served as a judge and the Lord President of the Supreme Court before becoming the Sultan of Perak.
Malaysians will always remember him as the one who had contributed immensely to the development of hockey and who put the nation's hockey on the world map in 1975, when the country was placed fourth at the Kuala Lumpur World Cup.
The 1975 World Cup team brought the whole nation together, irrespective of race, colour or creed, rooting for our national team which played a crucial role of the host nation qualifying for the first-ever semi-finals.
Malaysia was unlucky to lose to India in the sudden-death extra time when the score stood at 2-2 at full time.
India edged Malaysia 3-2.
Sultan Azlan Shah was president of the Malaysian Hockey Federation until 2005, but remained the president of the Asian Hockey Federation and an executive board member of FIH (International Hockey Federation).
He was an avid golfer, and patron of the Royal Perak Golf Club, the Iskandar Polo Club, Ipoh, the Kuala Kangsar Golf Club and the Perak Veteran Hockey Association.
The prestigious Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament is an annual hockey tournament, played in Ipoh. It has attracted world-class hockey nations.
Goodbye and thank you, sir, Sultan Azlan Shah.
May God bless your soul for you have left an incredible mark in hockey through your strong leadership that was full of charisma, personality, passion with style and grace.
C. Sathasivam Sitheravellu,Former national athlete,Seremban, Negri Sembilan New Straits Times Letters to the Editor 29 May 2014