Brotherly boost as S’pore aim high at World Floorball C'ship
2 pairs of siblings add rivalry and uniqueness to Republic's squad, who are targeting their highest finish at World Floorball Championship
Sports teams are sometimes described as a band of brothers, but that label is particularly apt for the men's national floorball team, which will head to next month's world championships with two pairs of siblings - including a set of twins - in tow.
Captain R. Suria, 29, leads a squad that features his younger 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 two sets of brothers have been selected for a World Floorball Championship (WFC), which takes place in Helsinki, Finland, from Dec 3-11.
For Vignesa and Kumaresa, who describe each other as their 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.
Despite the pair, who share a room in their Jurong home, being almost 10,000km apart, there was no escaping the constructive brotherly criticism for Vignesa.
The Singapore University of Social Sciences student told The New Paper: "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 will send me some long message on what I should be doing better. To me, it's a good thing because I have an extra set of eyes that is always trying to help me do better."
Kumaresa added: "I'm very critical of him in his role as a forward because I play as a defender, so I know exactly what defenders are thinking... So I try to give him a different perspective, to help him see from different angles."
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 same day, with Kumaresa this time watching on, 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 did at least have his twin's support and personal experience to lean on for his own long recovery journey.
When asked what advice he gave his brother, Kumaresa, a Singapore Management University student, said: "With ACLs especially, different people have different complications, so that's one thing that I let him know - not to compare with me, because the both of us are quite competitive, especially because we are twins...
"Everyone recovers at a different pace."
Kumaresa joked that the competitive streak sometimes takes on "nonsensical" dimensions, with the pair competing over who is the better driver when they give their friends a lift home, by polling them on who delivers the most smooth, speedy, yet safe, passenger experience.
While the Pasupathy twins' dynamic is more competitive, WFC debutant Sathish, a forward, readily admits his older sibling is "the goal for me to reach" in terms of technical skills and competition experience.
Said the research engineer: "Ever since his first international tournament, I always wanted the feeling of... donning the colours together and playing in the same team together."
Suria, who plays as a centre or forward, is a veritable veteran and will be participating in his third WFC in Helsinki. But this year's edition of the biennial tournament, which was postponed by a year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, also holds special significance for him.
Said the mechanical engineer: "You don't see a lot of siblings in the international scene... So I think it is something special, and it is the first time we are playing together...
"Second thing is it'll be my first international tournament as captain."
Ahead of the team's departure for Eerikkila, 100km from Helsinki, for a 10-day training camp tomorrow, Suria laid out his targets for the WFC.
He said: "My personal target is I want to score at least one goal in every game.
"For the team's target, we want 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). Even 12th will be way better than our finishes in previous years."
The Republic's best result was 12th in the inaugural 12-team tournament in 1996. The WFC has expanded to 16 teams since 2012.
Singapore are in Group D with Canada, Estonia and the Philippines. Estonia are their toughest opposition, having finished 10th in 2018.
The Philippines have never qualified for a world championships, but Singapore beat them 5-2 en route to silver at the 2019 SEA Games.
While Canada (11th) finished higher than Singapore (16th), the teams drew 4-4 in the group stage in WFC 2018 after the Republic squandered a two-goal lead.
Singapore start their WFC campaign against Canada at the Helsinki Ice Hall on Dec 3.