KUALA LUMPUR — Legends never die, living on in the memories of those they brought countless moments of joy to.
Datuk Chandran Muthuveeran will be one of them. This leading light, a towering giant and famous son of Malaysian football, passed away peacefully at 7.30 this morning at his home after a bout of illness.
He was 77.
News of his death, led by Baby Boomers, went viral on social media almost immediately.
Those who grew up watching his exploits both at home and abroad expressed sadness, but also relived those moments when he thrilled them with his exploits on the field, notably in the Malaysia Cup and Merdeka Tournaments.
As a centre-back during the golden years of Malaysian football, Chandran walked tall. He was feared for his steely tackles and brilliant leadership in wearing the skipper’s armband for both Selangor and the national team.
He was a household name not just in Malaysia, but easily in Asia too, when he marshaled the defence.
Indeed, Chandran’s inclusion in the Asian All-Stars squad that played Arsenal in 1968, speaks volumes of his calibre and stature!
He was the sort of player and defender every schoolboy wanted to emulate and eventually become.
Born in Sungai Siput, Perak to a train driver with the then Malayan Railways, Chandran could not have foreseen the heights to which he would rise to in the game.
But rise he did, against great odds. Noting he was from an era dominated by great names in the Selangor team such as Stanley Gabriel.
From Perak, he moved to Selangor and played first for the Selangor Indian Association.
As he stated in one interview, it was not easy to break into the Selangor side then.
It took the keen eye of none other than the then Selangor team manager, Datuk Harun Idris to give Chandran his big break when found playing for his then-employer, Standard Chartered.
It must have been the fact that he was in the company of such great players that Chandran worked even harder to burnish his credentials and hold how his own in the Selangor team, to eventually become the legend that he is.
Interestingly, he was just 19 when he was chosen to play for Malaya in the 1961 Merdeka Tournament before going on to bag a gold medal at the SEAP Games that year, followed by a bronze at the 1962 Asian Games.
Ten years after winning the 1963 Merdeka Tournament with the national side, he went on to get another taste of success in the tournament – this time as team captain.
The icing on Chandran’s remarkable career was undoubtedly when he captained Malaysia to the 1972 Munich Olympics.
I remember being in awe of Chandran as a young Selangor supporter boy and watching him in action in the Malaysia Cup and the Merdeka tournaments. From afar he seemed aloof and always had that serious look about him.
But, when I got to know him as a sportswriter and later when working with the Asian Football Confederation, he was far from that.
I would describe him as humble and a true gentleman in every way.
Chandran retired from the game after stints as coach of the Selangor and national sides.
He was named a member of the the Football Association of Malaysia technical committee and also worked with the FIFA Development Office.
If his sport had been cricket, you could easily say Chandran had long innings.
But, whatever said, as he loomed large in life, it is the same in death now and leaves behind a legacy that many can only dream of.
He was truly one of a kind where football was concerned.