KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 18 — Malaysia mourns the loss of hockey legend Lawrence Van Huizen who passed away at the Seremban Hospital at 4.30am yesterday. He was 89.
Lawrence had been warded for two weeks before succumbing to old age.
Lawrence leaves behind a legacy of hockey as his son Stephen Van Huzien is currently the assistant national men’s team coach and his grandson Joel, has been a mainstay in the team for many years.
“He loved hockey more than anything else and always emphasised respect and discipline on his team,” said Datuk G. Vijayanathan the former for Malaysian Hockey for 26 years and world-class umpire from 1973 to 1976.
Vijay recalled how he and Lawrence went for the 1976 Quaid-E-Azam International Hockey Tournament in Lahore, Pakistan. Vijay was the team manager while Lawrence was part of the panel of coaches for the men’s team.
“He was a disciplinarian. One day he saw me carrying my heavy bag as I alighted from the transport and he would question the boys as to why I was carrying my bag? He would tell the boys that they should be helping me out.
“Little things like this he imparted on the younger generation. He was very keen on making sure everyone learnt to respect one another and their elders.
“With guys like Lawrence we never needed foreign officials or coaches. He was always on time for training, down to earth and respectful,” Vijay recalled.
One of his former charges Brian Sta Maria, who was part of the 1976 team in Lahore recalled how Lawrence had his own unique way of dealing with the players of whom he felt had potential but would never say it to them personally.
“I’d say he was a taskmaster,” Brian told Malay Mail.
“Training was tough, he would put us through our paces and we’d be cursing as to why were we going through such difficult training. But then when the tournament proper started we’d have been in top condition with lots of stamina.
“Sometimes, we would wonder why he would pinpoint several players and be extremely strict with them. They’d ask us if Lawrence had it in for them. But the truth is if Lawrence felt you had potential and had plenty of respect for you he would tell everyone else but you.
“He needed to keep that separation between player and coach as he did not want to spoil them. This approach was very good and all of us on the team with him learnt a lot from that. In a way he didn’t need to explain a lot of things to us, he knew if we put the work in the results would come.”
“In that sense, he was a bit like Alex Ferguson,” said Brian of the legendary and most decorated English football manager in history who coached Manchester United for 26 years.
Another one of Lawrence ex-students Wong Choon Hin said Lawrence always emphasised playing hockey in a gentlemanly way.
“As a midfielder and Lawrence being a midfielder there was plenty of knowledge I gained from being around him,” Wong told Malay Mail.
“He was a gentleman. He would tell us don’t play dirty. Whatever he was teaching us on the field he wanted us to emulate off the field which was respect, honour and integrity.
“Yes, he was strict and wanted us to pay 100 per cent attention during training as that’s his time with us and time for him to impart tactics and strategies as well as skills. He did not want to repeat himself many times; hence, I learnt a lot about hockey and positional play as well as playing within your zone from Lawrence.”
Lawrence played till the 1960s before taking up coaching. He played at the 1964 Olympics and the 1958 and 1962 Asian Games in Tokyo and Japan. He was then involved in women’s hockey for several years before being avidly involved in Negri Sembilan hockey.
He was assistant coach to the late Ho Koh Chye in the 1975 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, when the Malaysian team finished a respectable fourth.
He was also the coach of the national women’s team for five years from 1981.
Lawrence, a former student of St Paul’s Institution, also coached the school’s Under-18 hockey team for 43 years from 1958, and the team from the Convent School.
He saw five of his players featuring in the Paris Junior World Cup in 1979.
The five were Stephen, Colin Sta Maria, Derek Fidelis, Kevin Nunis and William Lazaro.
Lawrence is survived by his wife Doreen Philomina Van Huizen @ Koh Kim Bee and children Johan, Stephen, Stanley, Diana, Valarie, Cassian and Francis as well as 12 grandchildren.
The wake service will be till tomorrow at 832 Taman Nee Yan, Jalan Temiang, 70200 Seremban with prayer time at 5pm.
The funeral mass will be on August 20 at 10am at Church of Visitation, Seremban, thereafter the cremation at Jalan Templer, Seremban.
For further details, members of the public can call Catherine at 010-3661847 or Joel 010-2254253.