By Jugjet Singh
CHUA Boon Huat has touched many hearts, and some, including this scribe, are still shell-shocked at how his young and energetic life was plucked leaving a vacuum which will be hard to fill.
To compound matters, we met seven hours before his tragic demise -- at a Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) buka puasa as well as incentive rewarding function at the Park Royal Hotel in Bukit Bintang.
And there was never an inkling that it would be the last.
As I made my way to the dinner tables after the press conference with MHC president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, I noticed there were no more empty seats.
So, I picked up a vacant chair from the back of the banquet hall and coincidentally, or by fate, placed it next to Boon Huat.
With a wide smile, he started: "Bro, how have you been keeping these days?
Not too bad I replied, and just then, Tengku Abdullah walked by and said: "You are looking good Chua, you have lost some weight (since the World League Semi-finals in Johor Baru) and keep it up as we need you at your best in Ipoh."
Turning to the scribe, Tengku Abdullah looked at my pot-belly and said: "You have also lost some weight."
And I replied the favour by saying, "Tengku do you know that Peter Butler has tweeted that he wants to be the director of coaching for FAM (after news broke that the Malaysian football team had lost 5-0 to second division Japanese team, Tokyo Verdy).
Tengku Abdullah, who had earlier in the press conference said that he did not want to talk about the football team, as it would only spoil his appetite, gave this scribe an irritating stare and said: "Well he can apply, anybody can apply."
And after Tengku Abdullah walked away, Chua pulled my sleeves and said: "Bro he just told you in the press conference that he did not want to talk about football and now you have spoiled his appetite!"
I told him, "That only means we will have a bigger share of the spread" and Chua gave out a hearty laugh.
Getting serious, I asked him if Malaysia really needed foreign coaches in football and hockey.
Chua looked around and then said something which was a shocker, and when I told him I'm going to write about it, he said, "No lah bro! Don't write that cause it will only hurt many people.
(And so it will remain a secret)
"But if you ask me about hockey, I feel we did the right thing with Paul (Revington). You know bro, I am not the type who enjoys training, but under Paul, I am actually enjoying every moment as there is never a dull moment lah.
"Also, you know, its something funny, but I'm learning things that should have been taught to me 10 years ago, only now under Paul!
"Every one in the team is enjoying training and are motivated. Before this, we enter the pitch and play on our own strengths, our own special skills, and nobody before this told us even how to trap the ball properly on the run and attack.
"Things are changing and bro, you can also see, only that we were unlucky in the England and Pakistan matches in Johor."
And when asked about playing in the Asia Cup at his favourite hunting ground, the Azlan Shah Stadium, Chua again broke out a beaming smile.
"Ya lah bro, I did score some super goals in the Azlan Shah (Cup). The Ipoh crowd is super, and lets see how I can make them cheer even louder (In the Asia Cup)," said Chua.
Just then, the TV station guys walked up and asked Chua for an interview, which he obliged, and they recorded his last moments.
He was the only Chinese in the senior side for the last two decades, and you would want him on your side in a match, and also a party.
Coach Revington had this fitting finale to say: "Since I came to Malaysia, not a day went by when I was not extremely thankful that Chua was in our locker room and on our side.
"I have admired Chua since I first watched him in the 2000 Olympics, then in Hobart 2001 and always secretly hoped I would get an opportunity to coach him.
"A great athlete and warrior, he was."
Gone today my friend, but remembered forever in the hockey books.