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Arumugum Vijiaratnam: Master of Brains and Brawn

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 Dr Vijiaratnam was the first athlete to represent Singapore in 4 sports: Cricket, Hockey, Soccer and Rugby (photo by SportSG).

Dr Vijiaratnam was honoured at ‘An Evening of Tribute for Sports Pioneers’, during the opening of the Singapore Youth Olympic Museum and Singapore Sports Museum.

Despite the common saying, ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, he has proven to be the complete opposite; he is the master of the four sports – hockey, soccer, rugby and cricket – that he has represented Singapore in. While most athletes these days stick to just one sport, given how exhausting trainings can be, he insists that four is just the right number for him.

Playing soccer competitively since he was 10-years old, Dr Vijiaratnam said that he chose four sports because they were all available to him in school.

“They had these sports in school, so I just went for what was available,” he said, laughingly.  

While most people would consider training for four sports to be tough, Dr Vijiaratnam said: “Hard? It’s not hard when you have passion… Whenever I have a chance, I played (the sports). I played hard.”

His favourite sport? Soccer. Dr Vijiaratnam said that he loves soccer because “it’s popular with the people… everyone understands it”.

He recalls vividly: “The most memorable (event in my sporting career)… not the Olympics. It was the Malaysia Cup, because it was popular with people, there was a big crowd, so many people in the stadium. You can tell that people really loved the game.”

Besides his achievements in the sporting world, Dr Vijiaratnam has also contributed greatly in other ways. He was the perfect example of brains and brawn, being one of the first few government scholars. While studying civil engineering at Brighton College in the United Kingdom, he also captained its hockey team and was a member of the school’s cricket team as well. He returned to Singapore in 1953 as our first engineer, and secured a job in the Public Works Department of the Singapore Port Authority (PSA).

As further proof of his tenacity, Dr Vijiaratnam eventually made it to the position of Director of Engineering of the PSA, from which he retired at the age of 75. He was also the first pro-chancellor of Nanyang Technological University, as well as the president and chairman of Tamil Murasu, a consultant to the World Bank.

As one of the pioneers of the Singapore sports scene, Dr Vijiaratnam has this to say to young athletes: “No matter what, have passion. Don’t be afraid to train hard, and don’t just play the game for the sake of playing. Play for rewards, play for your teammates.”

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