It was probably the worst debut imaginable for Singapores 18-year old goalkeeper Samudra Sam Pang Chian Ong against India last Saturday. As a raucous crowd cheered every Indian attack,the youngster could only watch for most of the match,as 15-goals flew past him on the opening day of the Olympic Qualifiers in Delhi. Amidst the sea of hostility,however,there was one voice of support. Standing behind the goal posts,Singaporess reserve goalkeeper Robin Wan Chiang constantly chirped out instructions and encouragement. I told him to remember the processes and not worry about the outcome,says Chiang,who has also coached Sam at various levels for the last three years. Sam says the support helped calm him down and make a few saves,which though not critical to the outcome of the game,helped with his morale.
Sam was first coached by Chiang on the play fields of Singapores Jurong West high school,when he was still a student. Subsequently Sam continued his apprenticeship under Chiang when he played for the Singapore U-18 and U-21 teams,for whom the latter was the goalkeeping coach. At the Olympic qualifiers,though,the two are playing as teammates,vying for the same spot in the playing XI. I consider it an honour that I am playing for the same side as he is. We both want to be the number 1 goalkeeper in the country and on any given day,it can be the either of us, says Sam. Despite the strain of competition,Chian remains protective of his protege. He is like my father in how he always looks out for me, says Sam.
After the loss against India,Sam was so disappointed that he that he threw his dirty kit away and slept early. By the time I woke up in the morning,he had washed my clothes, says Sam.
Chiang,a veteran who has been playing for Singapore since the 1998 Asian Games is more than pleased with his wards progress. He is my student. So if he does well,that makes me happy as well, he says.
Sam watched from the bench during Sundays game against France and also on Tuesday,against Canada as Singapore lost 9-0 and 15-1 respectively. Chiang wasnt perturbed despite the goal count. Singapore isnt the strongest side and I know what to expect against the bigger teams. You cant get too upset over it, he says.
Infact,at the seven-nations tournament in Macau in 2005 featuring Korea,China and Japan among others,Chian was declared the best goalkeeper. And in the junior Asian Hockey Federation Cup last year,Sam received that award.
Chian says Sam needs to use the Olympic qualifiers as a preparatory tournament in the lead up to the Junior World Cup Qualifier in May. At his age it doesnt matter about the scorelines. He needs to ensure that he is constantly learning, says Chiang.