PIC 2008: Malaysia's Kevinder Singh Makbul Singh (C, #19) scores past Japanese goalkeeper Hirofumi Miyoshi (R, #21) during the first half of the men's hockey qualifiers for the Beijing Olympics in Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture on April 12, 2008. Malaysia and Japan ended a 3-3 draw. AFP PHOTO / Kazuhiro NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
By Jugjet Singh
KUALA LUMPUR: Not many know that Malaysia gifted the hockey world Video Referral on April 12, 2008 in Kakamigahara, Japan.
This scribe was assigned to cover the Beijing Olympics Quallifier and was part of the history which opened the eyes of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on the need for a third-eye.
But sadly, the FIH shut their eyes again when Malaysia needed VR for the World Series which will be held at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on April 26-May 4.
Malaysia, coached by Sarjit Singh, needed to beat Japan while Japan needed a draw to play in the final against mighty Germany.
The scene was serene, as Kakamigahara stadium is surrounded by vast rolling paddy fields, but it turned out to be a day of utter havoc.
The cool evening breeze brought along scents of sakura in full bloom, and the match started well with Malaysia taking a 3-1 lead when the late Chua Boon Huat opened scoring while Jiwa Mohan and Kelvinder Singh added more misery to the hosts and it was only 33 minutes into the match.
But as usual, Malaysia started crumbling and Japan scored their second goal off Tomonori Ono in the 35th minute.
And while Japan celebrated, the crowd kept shouting to the two umpires, Hamish Jamson from Britain and Australian Murray Grime, to look at the big scoreboard which kept showing an amazing replay -- at least three times before the screen went blank.
The replay showed that Ono scored with his right thigh, as the ball missed his stick by inches, but both the umpires' views were blocked.
Grime was standing about 10 feet exactly behind Ono, while Jamson was at the middle of the pitch and his view was blocked too.
Grime blew for goal, while Malaysian goalkeeper S. Kumar kept asking the umpire to look up at the big screen but the Australian never did.
That freak goal ignited a fightback which Japan needed, and they went on to score the third in the 69th minute and qualified to play Germany in the final.
Malaysia were clearly robbed but there was no VR to lean on, back then.
Players were in tears, while coach Sarjit was fuming mad but did not know what to do.
But the German tournament director knew what to do and he approached Sarjit and asked Malaysia to appeal the goal inside 20 minutes, as regulation allows.
The match had already ended 15 minutes ago and with 5 more minutes remaining to place the protest, there was panic at the Malaysian bench on who, how and what to write inside 5 minutes...
This scribe, watching everything unfold before his eyes then stepped in by tearing off a piece from his reporters notebook, writing a two paragraph appeal with flying fingers and handed it to team manager Satish Kumar to sign.
The German TD took the letter, with a US500 deposit, and walked away smiling.
"I remember that faithful day clearly as it started a strong lobby for VR in Europe and the world benefited a year later when VR was used in the Melbourne Champions Trophy.
"The TD gave us back our money (which never happened in any appeal back then) and said that nothing can be done about the goal scored with a thigh, but he will bring up this matter with the FIH to strengthen a lobby for VR.
"Even FIH president Els (Van Breda) was sympathetic with Malaysia's plight and said something would be done soon about it, when I met her later," said Sarjit.
And this is how the hockey world won a referral to have VR, on Malaysia's misery but it brought joy to good decision making for 11 years.
Sadly, it would not be used in Kuala Lumpur for the Series Finals, as FIH decided to be fair to all but unkind to Malaysia.