By Tapasya Singh (17S03C) and Grace Lau (18S03I), photos by Ong Tsien Jin (18S03I)
On the 11th of May, spectators streamed steadily into Seng Kang Sports and Recreation Centre to watch the Raffles Hockey boys play their final match against defending champions Victoria Junior College (VJC). The tension in the air was palpable as our players took their positions against the opposing team, awaiting the blow of the whistle with bated breath.
The game was expected to yield a tough fight, with both teams equally matched in skill, strategy and determination. How this fight would manifest on the pitch, however, was perhaps unexpected by the audience.
The match had barely begun when Raffles captain Abdurrahim Hanif (RI #4) was hit in the face by a swinging hockey stick. Spectators looked on in both shock and concern as he collapsed to the ground while holding his head in pain. While injuries are common in hockey, this one was more serious than most, resulting in Hanif being rushed out of the pitch for medical aid. However, it was only a few minutes before he returned to the pitch, ready to keep the fight going.
The neck-and-neck competition kept spectators on the edge of their seats as the ball constantly switched possession between the two competing teams. Within just 30 minutes, RI experienced two near-misses, with the ball missing the goal by a hair. What can describe this more aptly than the rueful phrase “so near yet so far”?
Despite valiant attacks by the RI team, they were faced with the skilful defence of the opponents, and as a result, the whistle was blown for halftime with neither team having scored.
The second half saw both teams return onto the pitch with an even greater hunger to win. Every player displayed impressive technique and control, and played instrumental roles in dictating gameplay.
As the clock ticked by, the players’ frustration and exhaustion became visible. Many suffered muscle cramps, and the pace of the game slowed down as both teams fought to maintain possession of the ball. Needless to say, it was their unwavering spirit that pushed them beyond their limits and motivated them to perform to the best of their abilities.
Soon after, Raffles was awarded a penalty corner. The place suddenly fell into nerve-wracking silence, with all eyes on the ball. While the team did not score, Raffles was awarded a second penalty corner, which we unfortunately were still unable to turn into a goal.
With barely a minute left before the final whistle would be blown, everyone was prepared for the match to spill into overtime. It was then that Ramalingam Gouthaman (RI #14) took advantage of a foul by a VJC defender, and skillfully dribbled past four defenders to score a brilliant goal that led his team to victory. With only a few seconds left in the match, the game’s fate was sealed, with RI winning back the championship trophy and maintaining a clean record of conceding zero goals the entirety of this season.
Emotions ran high and the entire Raffles contingent rose to their feet in exhilaration, cheering victoriously for our winners. However, even as they celebrated their victory, the Raffles hockey players were sensitive to the feelings of the opposing team and showed concern by giving the crestfallen players a hand.
As Rafflesians sang the Institution Anthem in unison, everyone’s heart swelled with immense pride. The team’s victory did the school proud, but the commendable sportsmanship and tenacity demonstrated by the sportsmen is what truly makes us proud to be called “Rafflesians”.