KUALA LUMPUR: It was an emotional send-off for the family of former national football captain Datuk M. Chandran, as family members escorted the body to Athieswaran Temple Cremation Ground in Sentul today to be cremated in accordance to Hindu rites.

Chandran, the captain of the 1972 Munich Olympic Men’s Football team for Malaysia, passed away this morning aged 77.

Many former footballers, who had come to pay their respects to Chandran at his home in Ampang, Selangor, remembered him as a disciplinarian who is tough on the football field, but also as a firm friend off it.

Datuk Khaidir Buyong, Chandran’s former teammate in Selangor and national team, said the 70s and 80s were the golden football years for them with Chandran at the forefront and leader.

“I knew him since the 70s. He is a very talented and dedicated players. We at that time always gave 150 per cent.

“Our standards were different back then. You can choose anyone with closed eyes (to play for the national team). Unlike today,“ he laughs while reminiscing the old times.

Malaysian 1972 Munich Olympic goalkeeper Wong Kam Fook said Chandran, was a really valuable Centre back and defender, making him a great ally to work with.

“Actually during our time we are very unique. Datuk Chandran is the captain but sometimes I scold him as well. Because the captain and back four have to have good communication.

“I’m lucky to have them around me. I just block some balls. I only know him in football team. You can ask him to do anything for you. I just have to save some of it,” he said.

Former footballer Reduan Abdullah, who played with Selangor and Malaysia from 1973 to 1985, said he had the privilege to both played with Chandran and be coached by him.

“I appreciate him as a very stern and serious character in the football field.

“When he went into the field he changed. It doesn’t matter if he was your best friend. He was very serious and strict. But off it, he is a very good friend,” he said.

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) Exco Christopher Raj Aralanthu, who spoke on behalf of the family, thanked everyone who came to pay their respects.

“On behalf of the family we would like to thank all those who come to pay respect. I think in the last 2-3 weeks there are many people who comes and gave encouragement to his children,“ he told reporters at the sidelines of the funeral.

He said Chandran have been suffering from a motor neuron disease for 17 years and are very thankful for the help provided by FAM, the government and friends.

“We knew that he was struggling for 17 years with his sickness. We would also like to thank the Health Ministry especially the Neuro Center of Kuala Lumpur Hospital that treated him for 15 years,” he said.

As an FAM exco Christopher also promised to help Chandran’s family.

“We knew his services to the country and we relay our condolences to the family. If the family wanted any help FAM will provide it like we did to our former national players,” he said.

Chandran, 77, left behind wife Datin A. Pushpalatha and two sons, C Kumarason, 38, and C Vicknaraj, 36.