Brotherly boost for Singapore's floorball team

DILENJIT SINGH

Sports teams are sometimes described as a band of brothers. But that label is particularly apt for the men's national floorball team, who will head to next month's World Championship with two pairs of siblings - including a set of twins.

Captain R. Suria, 29, leads a squad that features his brother R. Sathish, who is two years his junior, and 25-year-old twins Vignesa and Kumaresa Pasupathy.

According to the Singapore Floorball Association, this is the first time that two sets of brothers have been selected for a World Floorball Championship (WFC), which will take place in Helsinki, Finland, from Dec 3 to 11.

For Vignesa and Kumaresa, who are each other's harshest critics, this will be their second WFC together, after featuring in 2016 in Riga, Latvia.

Just weeks before the 2018 tournament in Prague, Czech Republic, Kumaresa tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and missed out.

Nevertheless, he kept bombarding Vignesa with advice on how to play better despite them being almost 10,000km apart.

Said Vignesa, a Singapore University of Social Sciences student who shares a room in their Jurong home with his twin brother: "A lot of our training camp videos were uploaded for us to view, so he would watch the videos. Even though there was the time difference, he would send me some long messages on what I should be doing better.

"To me, it was a good thing because I have an extra set of eyes that is always trying to help me do better."

Said Kumaresa: "I'm very critical of him as a forward because I play as a defender. So I know exactly what defenders are thinking. I try to give him a different perspective."

After a painstaking year of rehabilitation, Kumaresa made his competitive return to the floorball court under the watchful gaze of his brother in October 2019. Later that day, with Kumaresa this time watching, Vignesa tore his own ACL.

"What my mother told me when I went home was: 'Just because you are twins, doesn't mean you have to get the same injury'," quipped Vignesa.

While the injury was devastating for Vignesa, he at least had his twin's support and personal experience to lean on during his long recovery.

When asked what advice he gave his brother, Kumaresa, a Singapore Management University student, said: "With ACLs, different people have different complications, so that's one thing that I let him know... everyone recovers at a different pace."

WFC debutant Sathish, a forward, readily admitted that his older sibling is "the goal for me to reach" in terms of technical skills and competition experience.

"Since his first international tournament, I always wanted the feeling of donning the (national) colours together and playing in the same team together," said the research engineer.

Suria, who plays as a centre or forward, will be participating in his third WFC. The mechanical engineer considers this year's edition special.

"You don't see a lot of siblings in the international scene playing together," he said. "It'll also be my first international tournament as captain."

Suria added that his goal in Helsinki will be "to score at least one goal in every game" and for the team "to win at least two of the three group stage games". "If we do that, we will automatically qualify for the eighth to 12th placing (matches)," he said. "Even 12th will be way better than our finishes in previous years."

Singapore's best result was 12th in the inaugural 12-team tournament in 1996. The WFC expanded to 16 teams in 2012.

Singapore are in Group D with Canada, Estonia and the Philippines. Estonia finished 10th in 2018 and Singapore beat the Philippines, who have qualified for their first World Championship, 5-2 en route to silver at the 2019 SEA Games.

Singapore drew 4-4 with Canada in a group match in WFC 2018 after squandering a two-goal lead. Canada finished 11th though and Singapore 16th. Singapore open their new campaign against Canada at the Helsinki Ice Hall on Dec 3.

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