NEVER look down on a goalkeeper if he looks small because he’s likely to show how big he really is when the football action gets hot in the field of play.
Known for his quick reflexes, the late P.T. Raviendran, the pint-sized Singapore goalkeeper, was able to command his penalty-area outstandingly. His timing and anticipation were seldom second-to-none and very rarely was he beaten from a high-end cross.
Rest In Peace, Raviendran: He suddenly passed on Thursday after he collapsed in the toilet of his Yishun Street 11 apartment. He is believed to have suffered a heart attack, which left family and friends in shock.
His eldest daughter, Ashwini, says he was a “heart patient for the past three years” but showed health improvements recently. She adds: “It comes as a total surprise when he suddenly collapsed.”
The late 54-year-old Raviendran leaves behind wife, Santhi Marimuthu, and four teenagers: Ashwini, 24, Gautham, 22, Rohan, 17, and Rohit,10.
Gautham looks set to follow his father’s footsteps with the junior squads at Geylang United and Hougang United while Ashwini says that as the only daughter, her late father always said, tongue-in-cheek, that he “didn’t want me to be like another son and play football!”.
She adds: “He was such a jovial leader of the home and family and friends relished his friendly and good-humoured character. He grew up in the Silat Road kampong, where he was nicknamed ‘Boy’. He was a true-blue sportsman, who gave his best shot in whatever he did. We will miss him very much.”
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Council Member Yaakob Hashim, a former Lions goalkeeper, remembers him as “humble and very well liked by colleagues and officials”. He says: “Ravie was small in built but he makes up for this physical setback with his courage, anticipation, agility in big matches.”
National Football League (NFL) South Avenue Sports Club President Shahri Rahim, also a former international goalkeeper, recollects Ravie from Singapore Intermediate, Singapore Indians and Pioneer Arsenal era. He was renowned for his “lightning reflexes and top-class anticipation”.
Ravie’s “lack of height leaves him susceptible to certain bits of genius especially on the international front” but he always gave his best shot, adds Shahri. “Some may view Ravi’s lack of inches as a negative but I’ve always admired him for being a very hard-to-beat goalkeeper, particularly in one-to-one confrontations.”
Many believe size matters when it comes to a top-ranked goalkeeper, says former FIFA referee T. Rajamanickam, and it is hardly rare for an aspiring youngster to get overlooked because he doesn’t tower over his opponents.
He adds: “But history tells us that height isn’t everything. A superbly athletic shot-stopper with magnetic hands, my memories of Ravie was his agility and reflexes with his feet, which matched his fast-moving hands. He was also credited with helping create the sweeper-goalkeeper role, playing the ball out from the back.”
An eccentric in every sense of the word, says former S-League Hougang United coach Johana Johari, a former Lion City Cup international striker, as Ravie was able to command his penalty-area despite being small physical build.
He says: “Playing big is based on having the mobility to get into the proper position to make a save and by filling space in a way that forces a striker to shoot around the goalie (no access through the goalie), while still having a chance to stop rebounds and passing plays without having to be reckless and out of control.
“Ravie, in my mind, was absolutely a ‘thinking’ goalkeeper, who is also playing big when they are able to understand patience and what vertical and horizontal angles they are actually giving up in any situation,” he adds.
The late Raviendran is resting at Apartment Block 150, Yishun Street 11, #02-14, Singapore 760150. The cortege leaves on Friday at 4.30pm to Mandai Crematorium Hall 2 for cremation at 6.00pm.
RIP Raviendran: Small goalkeeper with a very big reputation. – BY SURESH NAIR
Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who covered the late Raviendran’s goalkeeper exploits in the late 1980s and 90s when the Lions had a stable of outstanding goalkeepers.