Friday, February 12, 2016

Giving M-League a bad name


State teams, clubs, players and Football Association of Malaysia seem dragging their feet against errant teams tarnishing the image of the M-League.
Now in its 26th edition, the Super league kicks off tomorrow, moving into a new era as a privatised entity. 
But the same old woes exist even though the league went semi-professional in 1989 and professional in 1994.
The Professional Football Association of Malaysia’s (PFAM) revelation on Tuesday that 21 players were owed salaries amounting to about RM4.47 million from last season by three teams is not a good start to the new season.
That Kelantan, for example, are talking about painting their stadium pink and changing the colour of their jerseys - having secured sponsorships worth millions - when they have not settled dues, leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Although their current sponsor is not liable to settle debts from the previous season, Kelantan AFA, when negotiating, should have discussed this matter and worked it into the terms for this season.
Whatever said, KAFA are responsible for all liabilities.
That established teams and high spenders like Kelantan, Armed Forces and Felda have been implicated does not augur well for the image of the M-League.
Armed Forces still have not settled in full dues owed to their former coach, B. Satianathan, despite a directive from FAM to do so.
PFAM president Hairuddin Omar is among the Armed Forces players whose salaries are in arrears but the body has been openly snubbed. Clearly, Armed Forces are not threatened by it.
To make matters worse, Armed Forces have signed two contracts with players in clear violation of professional football ethics, not to mention labour and employment laws, falling foul of the requirements of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), income tax and Social Security Organisation.
While these teams have violated the rules, regulations and contracts, the players, especially those from Armed Forces, are partly to be blamed. They should not have signed two contracts.
Some of the players claim they were forced to sign and that they were at the mercy of their employer on landing a contract for the season.
Then, when the FAM’s – the Players’ Status Committee’s – decision that the teams concerned should make immediate payments is not honoured, and the national association does not act on the defiance and total disrespect of their affiliates and clubs, it points to weakness on their part. FAM has to be firmer on these issues.
Also, whether FAM were aware that some players were signing two contracts need to be answered. That it did happen, FAM are still at fault of not addressing it.
PFAM CEO Izham Ismail admitted that the local football players were wrong in signing two contracts and said they were in the process of educating their members so that they do not become victims because of greed or compromise their rights.
At the same time, Izham said, the separate contracts signed with Armed Forces are legally binding.
Why all these complications? Players’ greed? Teams enticing players and holding them at ransom? FAM’s weakness? Lack of professional players’ knowledge about their rights? Incompetent team management?
A situation that needs to be addressed immediately before the M-League is better known for its idiocy than popularity.
That FAM are issuing a show cause letter to PFAM for their statements which the national body claim was damaging and inaccurate, is also alarming.
If PFAM, the body for supporting the players are challenged, it does not augur well for the future of the game. If anything a forum or meeting should be called to trash out matters as both bodies are working for the game.
Even before the start of season, we have teams that have made a mistake in hiring weak foreign players and wasting valuable money.
For instance, Penang FA have off-loaded their Brazilian striker Jose Tadues for close to half a million ringgit while Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) have relegated another Brazilian striker, Paulo Rangel (a former Selangor and Terengganu player), to play for Johor in the Premier League. How professional is this?
There are probably many other such cases that have not come to the media’s attention.
It is sad that so much money is being wasted because of poor decisions while local players are being taken for a ride over their wages.
Without doubt, management by the states and clubs in the M-League is far from professional, with the exception of a handful of teams like JDT.
Maybe it is time for the new managers of the M-League – Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership – to seriously manage a professional league with probably only eight teams that are truly professional and banish the rest until they learn to toe the line.
Let us not have a professional league just for the sake of having a professional league. We have done it for the past 30 years and nothing much has changed. Teams are still very much amateurs in many of their ways and hardly meet the criteria of professional teams.
Let us get our act together once and for all, before Malaysian football becomes a joke!
TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​​​

PFAM are legal, says Izham

The last thing the Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia (PFAM) want is to get on the wrong side of FA of Malaysia and have been engaging the national body since their formation in 2014.
FA of Malaysia general-secretary, Datuk Hamidin Amin had said that PFAM was not a sanctioned body to represent the players in the wake of the latter’s revelation that 21 players from three teams having arrears in wages from last season.
PFAM chief executive officer zham Ismail said they registered with the Sports Commissioner’s Office on 4th Aug, 2014 and have been a member of the International Federation of Professional Footballers’ Associations (FIFPro) since 22nd October 2013.
FIFPro has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Fifa as of 2nd November 2006 which was signed in Barcelona by then Fifa president Joseph Baltter and FIFPro president Philippe Piat.
“We have followed all procedures to be a legal and recognised body,” said PFAM CEO Izham Ismail.
“The only thing we are waiting is to sign a MoU with the FA of Malaysia. But we have been meeting the national body since 2014 and have meetings in 2015 and one last month,” revealed Izham.
“But our draft MoU had been altered several times and have been going back and forth. With us engaging FA of Malaysia all along and the MoU in the process to be signed, it is misleading to question the existence of our body.
“The last thing we want to do is to antagonise the governors of the game in the country. We want to have a cordial relation working in the best interest of the players and the game.
“However, we want to remain an independent body unlike the previous PFAM setup who were affiliates of FAM.
“We want to work closely with FAM but want to able to voice our views independently. We do not want to be silenced by FAM rules by being part of them.
“We hope the MoU can be signed at the soonest so that we have a good working relationship with FAM.”
Izham said that as representatives of the players it is important that they remain independent as Professional Players’ Associations are all over the world.
“We are like a trade union for the footballers. Do you hear of any workers’ union being affiliated to any organisation or body,” asked Izham.
The sooner this episode between PFAM and FAM is resolved the better it is for the players in the M-League and the game itself in Malaysia.
The last thing we need is a running battle with these two organisations who are working for the game.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ro Bin hood of wushu

By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by Azneal Ishak

Former World champion wushu exponent, Ho Ro Bin is on a mission possible - to crave a career path for his students.
In wanting to more than just to promote the sport, he wants them to be of good personality, built on character and finesse.
The 41-year Ro Bin since he retired in 2005 after winning the World championship title for the second time (first time in 1999) had set up his training centre - Ho Ro Bin Wushu Training Centre - in Subang Jaya 2007.
The academy which started with about 15 students has grown in popularity and Ro Bin now has about 300 students in four centres and three schools in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Klang.
“Wushu is my passion and my life,” said Ro Bin who works 24/7 in developing, promoting and making it vocation for his students.
“For me wushu is not just martial arts or sport, it is an education for youngsters to have the right mind setting and putting them on the right path in life, building their character and providing opportunities to make living out of wushu.
Ro Bin’s trope have been performing at several places as a run-up to Chinese New Year which included performance at the KLCC.
Kimberly Goh performs during a show at KLCC. She is one of Ro Bin;s proteges
Ro Bin has a word with hs students before their performance at KLCC last week as part of Chinese New Year's run-up at the mall.
“I am glad that I have been able to assist many in becoming coaches, performing at functions besides excelling in the sports to win honours,” said the Selangor coach who holds the 7th Dan (green tiger).
The Ho Ro Bin Wushu Training Centre also conducts yearly wushu camps - MILO Wushu Exposure Camps - in collaboration with Nestle as the main sponsor. The camps had been held with great success since 2007.
“The main objective of this camp is to nurture the younger generations not only as future athletes but also to instill a healthier lifestyle with strong moral ethics and discipline,” said Robin who has also acted in a couple movies and dramas demonstrating his wushu skills.
Ro Bin is also planning to organise a trip to Shaolin in September for members of his training centre to compete in competitions besides visiting the home of martial arts.
“I am thinking of taking 50 to 80 of my students and are in the midst of raising funds while the students will be charged some minimal sum. It will be an experience of their life. I have been there and it is amazing.”
Ro Bin first came in touch with wushu at 12 years old and made his national debut as a 22-year-old and was with the national team for eleven years.
In his eleven years competing in the Nanquan, Nandoa and Nangun combined, he has won gold medals in competitions like the World Wushu Championship, Asia Wushu Championship, South East Asian Wushu Championship, Asian Games, South East Asian Games, and other invitational championships.
The gold medal at the world championship went down in the Malaysian Books of Records for being the first person in Malaysia to win gold medal in the NanDao event during the 1999 World Wushu Championship which was held in Hong Kong.
In addition, he won the Olympian of the Year 2002 before being inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame in 2009.
Ro Bin owed his rise to his sifu (master) – Cheang Ah Chow – who nurtured him from a 12-year-old.
“My master passed away in 2004 when I was training in Shanghai and it was the same day my first daughter (Gwyneth Ho Rexuan) was born. I could not come back for the funeral or for my daughter’s birth because after the training in Shanghai, we went for a competition in Mynamar. It was only 12 days after my birth of my daughter that I returned and saw her for the first time.
“That is the kind of dedication I had for the sport and I thank my wife – Yong Sook Ching – for her understanding and support. Even today when I spend more time with wushu than at home, she supports me,” said Ro Bin who has another daughter – six-year-old Gladys Ho Kerni.
The Penangite said that while his centre charges a minimal amount for classes, he also give free lessons who cannot afford it.
“I have had many students come up to me and say that they are interested to learn wushu but come from poor families. I take them on board but they must be serious and committed.
“I have also had many who have come to me as problem teenagers who was to make good in life and turn a new leaf. And I am glad that I have through wushu shape the life’s of a few too.”
Ro Bin is currently on the yearly recruitment drive and hopes that more will take up wushu.
His main training centre is at SJKC Tun Tan Cheng Loke in USJ.
Ro Bin can be contacted at 012-377 0012 or visit his website:

Aiman's love or wushu

By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by Azneal Ishak

Wushu both an exhibition and a full-contact sport derived from traditional Chinese martial art.
It is, however no longer communal sports as youngster Wan Nur Aiman Norazri will attest to.
The 13-year-old who took up the sport as a seven-year-old will be representing Terengganu and making his debut at the coming Malaysia Games.
The Selangor born lad will be representing the East Coast team as the Selangor team is full and his coach Ho Ro Bin not wanting to waste a good talent and to allow him to gain exposure has decided that he be ‘loaned’ to Terengganu.
Aiman’s love for the sport grew watching Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee movies from video tapes which his mother, Sharifah Hanom, brought home.
“I grew up watching Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee movies and fell in love with the art. I asked my parents if I could learn wushu and they readily agreed to my surprise,” said the youngest of four siblings.
Aiman has been with the Ho Ro Bin Traning Centre since he was seven.
A St John’s primary school student decided to change school to SMK USJ 12 for his secondary education just to be close to the training centre in Subang Jaya.
“Training is tough and every day. It has become been more intense as I grew older. I have the ambition to become the first Malay boy to excel for the nation and if I can emulate my master, Ro Bin, it will be my dream come true,” said Aiman who also excels in football and athletics.
“I represented Kuala Lumpur Under-12 team and was the Datuk Keramat district 100m champion and finished third in long jump and also ran the 100m hurdles.
“While I play football on weekends for the fun of it, it is strictly wushu for me now,” said Aiman who plays leftback in the football team.
His father, Norazri Abd Rashid, who follows Aiman to his training and performances said it was a fulltime job for him to help his son realise his dream.
“When I saw he was so committed to the sport, I decided I will assist him realise his dream. I take him to trainings and performance and stay with him and take him home,” said Norazri who took an early retirement from his banking job to be with his son.
Aiman said wushu has helped him to be a better person.
“Wushu is a highly disciplined sport and one has to be mentally and physically very strong. One has to work very hard and there is no shortcut. The art has certainly made build my character and confidence,” said Aiman despite his hectic schedule still managed to attain 4 As and B for his UPSR.
“It is the discipline that has seen me manage my time effectively. I am up by 6am in the morning for my morning training sessions before I go for my afternoon school session. After school it is training again at night. I still manage to do my homework,” said Aiman when met at a Chinese New Year performance by his training centre students at KLCC recently.
Aiman specialises in three arts – Nan Quan, Nan Dao and Nan Gun.
Ro Bin said that Aiman is a very disciplined and committed student who has talent.
“He works hard and never complains even when he gets scolding,’ said Ro Bin.
Aiman when asked how he mixes with the majority Chinese students, he simply said: “I have no problems. They treat me as their brother. I have even learnt to understand Chinese and is only a matter of time before I speak.”
Aiman is not the only Malay student in the training centre.
There are others like eight-year-old Qurratu Aini Munirah and her ten-year brother Muhd Arif Aiman and 17-year-old Nurasyikin Rosli, while Qurratu and Arif’s mother Monaliza Zainol who brings them for training also joins in the session.
Indeed wushu is truly Malaysian now.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Hazy podium



The Podium Programme mooted with the aim of winning Malaysia’s first-ever Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2020 looks good on the surface but a closer examination raises many questions about it.
For starters, the programme was supposed to have got off the ground last year but was postponed several times before Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin finally launched it on Tuesday.
The minister had actually unveiled the Podium Programme on 12th February last year. It was formulated by a team of experts from the Western Australian Institute of Sport after a three-month intensive study of sports development in Malaysia following the below-target performance of the Malaysian contingents at the Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games and the Incheon 17th Asian Games in 2014.
Khairy had also announced the formation of a task force to come up with a blueprint for the overall programme within 100 days, and a Command and Control Committee, to be headed by him, to monitor the progress of every party on a quarterly basis.
At the same time, he set the goals for the next four years: to be in the top 10 at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games, and to win 50% of the medals in all the events that Malaysia competes in at the 29th SEA Games, which will be hosted by Malaysia in 2017.

Question. What happened to the Rio Olympics targets and the RM75 million allocated for the preparation of athletes under the Podium Programme in Budget 2016?

Is it now a collaboration with the newly announced programme?

Have we given up on winning gold medals even before the Games start in August since the new target is the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

In any case, a programme for the Rio Games was supposed to have been launched soon after the London Games four years ago.

According to the National Sports Council website, Rio 2016 is an outlined long-term athlete development programme towards the XXXI Rio Olympics 2016. The preparations are to be for four years from 2013 to 2016. The purpose of the programme is to deliver the first-ever Olympic gold for the nation.
To say that the Podium Programme is the first of its kind is misleading. We have had similar long-term programmes, like the 1993 Program Jaya 98 (1998 KL Commonwealth Games), followed by Program 2001 and 2002, Doha 2006, Cabaran 2010, Road To London 2012 and Elite Athletes Training Programme 2011-2014 established as a preparation programme for the national athletes to face challenges in the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, and XVII Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea in 2014.
When announcing the events for the programme on Tuesday, athletics and hockey – the main stayers of the Olympics – were shockingly left out.
While Khairy had said the current athletes and teams were selected under stringent rules, including current performance and achievements, long-term programmes should also feature budding talents and teams that have a bright future.
Although it is said that the selection is an ongoing process and reviews will be made periodically with room for the inclusion of those who had been left out, leaving out athletics and hockey and including non-Olympic sport like silat, sepak takraw, lawn bowl, tenpin bowling and even squash, for the matter, was baffling.
Of course, it will be argued that the Prodium Programme also covers the Asian Games as these sports are competed in it, and also as a run-up to the long-term programme. Then maybe separate programmes for non-Olympic sport with smaller fund allocations should be in place.
Hockey has featured in the Olympics since 1956, when the Malaysian team made their debut and went on to compete in its 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1992, 1996 and 2000 editions.

The sport also featured in the 1973, 1975, 1978, 1982, 1998, 2002 and 2014 World Cups and at the junior level, the Malaysian team were placed 4th in the 1978, 1982 and 2013 editions. Hockey also delivered at Asian level, winning the silver in the 2010 Asian Games and a host of bronze medals in regional games.
 To leave out a sport that has been a tradition and which has a wide following and huge potential is indeed a slap in the face of the fraternity.
 Yes, they have been set a target to finish in the top in the upcoming Azlan Shah Cup to secure a place in the programme. But is that a realistic target when teams like Australia, India and Pakistan are competing in the seven-nation tournament?
A spot in the final or at worst semifinals makes more sense.
The national hockey team need support for their campaign for the 2017 Asia Cup, 2018 World Cup, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in order to achieve the target of playing in the 2020 Olympics.
 As for athletics, it may not deliver a gold at the Olympics, but what about the Asian and Commonwealth Games? We have talented athletes like Shereen Samson Vallbuoy (400m), Nauraj Singh Randhawa (high jump), Muhammad Hakimi Ismail (triple jump and Sea Games record holder), Russel Taib (400m) and Muhammad Irfan Shamsuddin (discus). It is indeed a pity that they have been left out.
 Then we have athletes named in the programme who have clearly stated that they are going to retire soon because of age or injury. There are also athletes in the programme who have represented the nation for more than ten years. Why are we wasting money on these veterans when, clearly, investing in up-and-coming athletes would be more beneficial?
Newly appointed Podium Programme director, Tim Newenham, has been around for a week, talking about bringing about a mindset change in the athletes and in our culture in order to create sporting excellence. Does he know what he is talking about? Tell us something new. We have heard it all before under various sports ministers and their programmes.

Newenham comes highly recommended by fellow Englishman and high-performance sporting director Keith Powers, who came on board in May last year.

But whether he is knowledgeable about Malaysian sports or is going to do what Powers did upon his arrival - that he was going to talk to all the stakeholders to learn our sporting culture and vision - is left to be seen.
The study on the ills of Malaysian sports and the sports transformation plan was done by Australians but now we have the British steering the programme.
Lastly, wasn't the very colourful launch of the programme on Tuesday a sheer waste of money? The money would have been better spent on a school development programme.
A grand launch is not going to win us any gold medals or change the mindset of our athletes and officials. 
If at all, it is going to make them clamour for glamour rather than performance.
While we celebrate Chinese New Year together next week, let us hope that the Malaysian spirit lifts up our sports arena as well.
TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​​​

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Waiting to bloom

By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by Azneal Ishak

The Openg children of two girls and a boy are among the many raw talent in the Falcon Athletic Club in Seremban.
The children of an excavator operator Muhd Arif Openg from Sarawak – Muhd Sharul (eight years-old), Nur Shafilia (eleven) and Nur Shaida (12) – have been part of the Falcon athletics programme for the last two years.
All in the family - from left Nur Shafilia (11 years old) Muhd Sharul Muhd Arif Openg (8) and Nur
Shaida( 12)
Pint-sized Nur Shafilia is seen as the brightest spark among the three with her agility, speed and well-structured body for athletics.
“Nur Shafilia maybe a little small and short for her age, but she has tremendous potential to be a sprinter,” said P. Tamilselve who supervises her training.
“The other two siblings too have a natural ability to be athletes, but Nur Shafilia seems to standout,” said Tamilselve a former Penang athlete who has moved to Seremban since her marriage.
Pint sized 11 year-old Nur Shafilia shows her agility and potential to become a top athlete in trainingNur Shaida has already competed at the Negri schools athletics meet last year where she won silver medals in the 100m and 200m.
“I missed to represent the state at the national schools meet and hope to achieve it this year,” said Nur Shaida who is under the development programme with the club.
Nur Shafilia and Muhd Sharul get special attention from coach P. Tamilselve before they do their routineNur Shaida and Muhd Sharul are under the grassroots development programme together with 12 other athletes.
Their mother Maznah Sidar diligently brings her three children for training every Sunday at St Paul’s Institution and to their school training at SR Bukit Mewar every day.
The mother of six who met her husband when he was working during the building of the KLIA project in Sepang, said Nur Shaida showed interest in athletics from young as she loved to run.
“Soon Nur Shafilia and Muhd Arif followed her footsteps too. I hope to see them represent the state one day and if they can represent the nation in time, I will be very proud,” said Maznah who was at the training centre with her four-and-half month old baby – Nur Shafira and older daughter Nur Shamin (14) who is not inclined towards athletics. Her oldest son, Muhd Shafiq (17) plays football.
Another budding athlete in the programme is 15-year-old Pavitraa Kuichalan who is a shot putter.
Shot Putt thrower Pavitra Kuichalan trains with Sabapathy watching

“Pavitraa is well-built for a 15-year-old and I decided to try her out for shot putt and she was an instant hit,” said S. Sabapathy.
Pavitraa, who is under the development programme has already won the gold medal at the Seremban Schools district meet.
Pavitraa has another younger brother, Maahsisah training under the grassroots programme.
Another 15-year-old of Indian and Indonesian parentage, Subahtra Sahtiya Murthi is another potential athlete who can go far.
Subahtra has represented her school – SM Bukit Mewar – in the Seremban district meet last year and won the bronze in the 100m and 200m.
Like many parents who bring their children for the programme, her Indonesian mother brings her to the programme on a motorcycle and waits for her to finish her training before taking her home.
Parental care...Subhatra Sahtiya gets a ride home from her mother after training
Other potential athletes under the development programme include S. Kothanayagi (cross country), Nayli Tukijan (100m/200m), B. Ranitha (100m/200m – silver medallist Seremban district meet), G Kishen (800m/1,500m), M. Paveen Raj (100m/200m), R. Nancy (100m/200m), R. Theveen Prakash (100m/200m/400m – Seremban district bronze medallist), R, Sashiv Prasath (triple jump), R. Rubirdraan (400m), S. Rooba (100m/200m), S. Turgashini (100m/200m - Port Dickson district Under-15 champion) , M. Paveen  Raj (100m/200m/relay), M. Jayaprakash (100m/200m) and P. Nathakumar (high jump)
Others potential athletes in grassroots programme are R. Rushaan Pradev, C. Vishnu, R. Darvindran, M. Lohendra, S. Harshamathi, C. Devishree, S. Kartheesan, S. Manishaa and P. Pathmanathan training under multi-lateral programme.
“The number of athletes joining the programme has been steadily been increasing over the years and we target to have at least 50 athletes training with us by the end of the year,” said Sabapathy.
The hot  morning sun is not a deterrent to these young athletes who train hard.
President: Sabapathy Sinnayah
Vice-president: Sity Faridzan Anuar
Secretary: Tamilselve Periasamy
Treasurer: S. Vasu
Committee members: Mohan Rajoo, Muraleedaran Packeri and Segamani Suppiah

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sabapathy soaring like a falcon

 Under the watchful eyes of Sabapathy

By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by: Azneal Ishak

In an age where hardly anyone does anything for free, especially in the field of sports, Olympian Sabapathy Sinnayah, has tirelessly with a few fellow coaches out of sheer passion been coaching about 30 athletes for free in Seremban for the last six years.
Sabapathy, who turned 68 on November 30, represented Malaysia in the 1972 Munich Olympics as a member of the 4 X 100m and 4 X400m relay team, started his athletics training programme on Sundays at the Tamil School in Lobak and has since moved to his alma mater St Paul’s Institution has the programme gained popularity.
Together with coaches R. Mogan (former national walker), P. Tamilselve (former Penang athlete) and S. Segamani, they diligently train about 30 athletes for two hours starting from 8am every Sunday. On week days many of the athletes are part of the State schools programme at SMK Bukit Mewah where Mogan is coach under NS Negri Sports Council.
Setting it for training...from left coaches walks coach R. Mogan, S. Segamani and Sabapathy sets up equipment before training.
“I started this programme as I wanted to give something back to the sport. Although I am late starter at athletics, it has grown to be my passion,” said Sabapathy.
Sabapathy’s desire to give back something to the sport probably stems from the fact that he was introduced to the sport by man who took him under his wings – Mubarak Ahmad - a senior police officer in the 50s and a former Malayan sprinter and president of FMAAU (predecessor of MAAU and now MAF).
Mubarak was the father of late Olympian hurdler Ishtiaq Mubarak.
Sabapathy lost his mother, Letchumy, not even knowing her as a one-year-old. It was then Sabapathy was brought up by Ishtiaq’s parents, with whom the former’s father was working for as a caretaker at their home.
“I owe my athletics career to Ishtiaq’s father Mubarak. I was brought up by their family until the age of eight in Seremban before he was transferred to Selangor. Only then did I went to live with my father in Lobak.
“Although I grew up with Ishtiaq, I was not good at athletics. I left school after Form Five in 1965 and was looking for a job. After two years in search for a job in vain, I decided to contact Mubarak to assist me to get a job in Selangor.
“Mubarak asked me to come to Selangor and I stayed in his house again and used to follow Isthiaq for his athletics training at the Police Depot. It was then that Mubarak asked me to train with Isthiaq and started to take a liking for the sport. I joined the Jets Athletics Club and that was the beginning of athletics career.
“With the assistance of Mubarak, I also managed to get a job with Tenaga Nasional (then Lembaga Letrik Negara – LLN) where I worked for 12 years. I started to represent Selangor in the 200m, 400m and relay team before going on to represent the nation.”
Sabapathy said the coaches in his programme all come on a voluntary basis for the love of athletics.
“I am indeed grateful to them for having managed this programme for the last six years.
“We source for donations and sponsors to get equipment for training and also running shoes and attire for the athletes.
“Among the sponsors who have been kind to us include Datuk James Selvaraj (Bata), Datuk Malek Noor (UFL), SPI who let us use the field for training for free IR N. Ramamurthi who assisted to get some funding from the Education Welfare Research Foundation(EWRF) and a few personal friends. But we certainly could do with more assistance.”
The children bring their own drinks and certainly a drink sponsor and even some nutrition sponsorship will assist them in a long way.
Nestle hearing about the plight of the club is already looking into assisting them with their nutritional drinks during their training sessions.
Sabapathy said only late last year they have registered themselves as an athletics club – Falcon Athletic Club – with the Sports Commissioner’s office.
Asked why he choose the name Falcon for the club, he simply replied: “Falcons are the fasted moving creature in the face of earth.
Falcons have thin, tapered wings, which enable them to fly at high speed and to change direction rapidly and have been recorded diving at speeds of 200 miles per hour (320 km/h).
“We hope as a registered club now, we will get some assistance especially from sponsors,” said Sabapathy the president of the newly formed club.
“There are many talented athletes in the programme who have the potential to make a name for themselves. I have athletes coming from as far as Port Dickson. Some athletes I had personally gone to schools nearby to ask them to come and join the programme, while many have come on their own after hearing about the programme.
“Parents have taken a keen interest in the programme, especially mothers who bring their children for the programme and wait here before taking them home,” said the father of three daughters and two grandchildren.
The programme has several senior boys who have competed in the Malaysia Games and among them are R. Eswaran (20Km walk), R. Thevan (long distance runner) and R. Premkumar (walks).
But it is the development programme which has attracted many athletes many of them who are already representing their respective schools and at the district level.
Sabapathy also has a programme for grassroots development of athletes from the age of seven to ten, many of whom who have tremendous potential to make the grade soon.
Indeed, Sabapathy has got something good going and if only more ex-athletes are passionate like him and assist in the development of sports, many more athletes will be discovered.
Sabapathy made his debut for the nation at the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games as member of the 4 X 400m relay squad, but although the team won the bronze, he did not run as he was relegated to a reserve. Then in the Kuala Lumpur 1971 Seap Games he had the misfortune of pulling a muscle in the 100m race and had to withdraw from the relay squad.
It was only at the 1973 Singapore Seap Games that Sabapathy finally tasted glory when the 4 X 400m quartet comprising P.L.B. S. Payadesa, Harun Rashid, Hassan Omar and himself won the gold medal in 3:15.4.
Sabapathy also won a silver in the 200m clocking 22.3 to finish behind Thailand’s A. Ratanpol (21.6).
At the 1975 Bangkok Seap, Sabapathy won two bronzes medals - in the 4 X 200m running with Peyadesa, Ramli Ahmad and Zainuddin Wahab in a time of 1:26.5 and the 4 X 400m (Marariah Naidu, Peyadesa, Muthiah Dattaya and Sabapathy). The 4 X 200m was won by Thai quartet of Boontud Somsakdi, Suchart Jaesuraparp, Ratanapol and Paratanavong Sayun in 1:25.0 while Singapore’s quartet of C. Kunalan, Quah Kim Tiong and Yeo Kian Chye won silver (1.25.9). In the 4 X 400m it was Singapore who won the gold.
For the 1972 Munich Olympics, Sabapathy trained in US and Germany with his relay mates Peyadesa, Hassan and T. Krishnan who had a finally ranking of sixth for the time of 3:13.51.
After his athletic career, Sabapathy was the Federal Territory coach from 1985-1996, Selangor Sports Council development coach from 1997 to 2006 and Federal Territory chief coach for a year with the Sukan Teras programme.
Sabapathy was an executive with Ex-National Athlete Foundation (YAKEB) from 2009 till two months ago.
Although currently without a job, Sabapathy has not shirked on his passion to continue to assist the athletics community in Seremban.
Sabapathy is indeed a rare gem in the athletics community.

Reminiscing Malaysian football's Olympic miss

By Tony Mariadass

 Datuk Santokh Singh was happy that a local fictionalised movie on the 1980 Moscow Olympics squad – Ola Bola – was made and opened in cinemas on Thursday.
However, the 63-year defender who featured in the Moscow squad, was a little perturbed that the younger generation who were not aware of the facts of the qualification, may take the movie’s story line as the truth.
While he praised the movie for bringing out the unity among the players in the multi-racial team, the team spirit, the passion, the struggles portrayed, sacrifices made, family values and the love for the game, he said he is bound to make some facts known.
Santokh in an exclusive interview with TONY MARIADASS, tells the story as it was with the 1980 Moscow Olympics squad, their qualification and the disappointment of not making it to the Olympics because Malaysia went to boycott the Games due to the American-led political boycott to protest the late 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. A total of 65 nations boycotted the Games.

“For starters, it must be said that the team only knew that we will not going to Moscow after we had qualified for the Games beating Korea 2-1 in the qualifying Group 2 final at the Merdeka Stadium.
In the movie it was portrayed that it was already known that we are not going to Moscow when we played in the final.
It was a good plot for the movie, but I want to put the facts right for the younger generation.
We trained for a month for the qualifiers under German coach Karl Weigang and had a two week stint in Fraser’s Hill before we returned to the city. We trained at the Victoria Institution and the former Selangor Indian Association (SIA) ground – next to the old Istana Negara.
We were billeted at the FAM House at Birch Road and it was dormitory accommodation.
It was this kind accommodation which made the players bond and become close. We could not do anything without the rest knowing.
These days, players are all put up in rooms and there is hardly any comradeship except when they come for their meals or go for training.
For me, it was the best assembled team during my international career (1972-1983) but we started the Moscow Olympic qualifier as underdogs.
We had for company in our group – South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Brunei and Philippines.
We defeated Korea 3-0 in the opening game, then Brunei 3-1 before we were held to a 1-1 draw by Japan. But wins over Indonesia (6-1) and Philippines (8-0) to top the one round league round and play Korea, who finished runner-up, in the final.
It was tough match which saw Korea equalise in the second half after Bakri Ibni had given us the lead for halftime. It was James Wong’s goal give minutes from time which gave the victory and ticket to the Moscow Olympics.
The feeling we had was being top of the world. Except for our captain Soh Chin Aun who had played in the 1972 Munich Olympics, for the rest of us it was making a debut.
Olympics was like the ultimatum for any footballer and having qualified, we were all looking for better things for Malaysian football.
For me personally, up to then winning the Asian Games bronze medal in Tehran was the highlight of career then. But qualifying for the Olympics saw me imagining the feel of competing against the world’s best, staying in the Games Village and missing with athletes from all over the world.
However, shortly after we had begun training for the Moscow Olympics, we were told that we were not going to Moscow because of the government decision to boycott the Games.
The whole world came crushing down on us and many of were in tears when told of the decision.
We could not reason with the decision.
A majority of us felt that sports and politics should not be mixed.
But the decision was final.
The only consolation was the FA of Malaysia decided to reward us for qualifying for the Moscow Olympics by going for a World playing tour instead of heading to Moscow.
It was great to go on the world tour, but it could never compensate for the disappointment of not going to the Olympics.
I continued to play for the nation until the 19983 Sea Games in Singapore and ended my career with Selangor two years later.
It was a rollercoaster career for me starting off a player playing in my village (Hot Spring in Setapak) for my club Hotspurs. I was born in Setapak and it was in my neighbourhood that I natured my love for the game.
Being a defender, my idol was naturally M. Chandran, whom I had the honour to play alongside for a year when I made my debut with Selangor in 1972.
Later it was Chin Aun who was my motivator as we played together for a long period.
I started off by playing for Selangor in the Burnely Cup (Under-20 national tournament) in 1971 at the age of 17. I also played for a club in the Selangor league – MICO (Malays, Indians, Chinese and others).
It was the late Datuk Harun Idris, the Selangor Menteri Besar, whom I went to see for a job who sent me to PKNS where I started work the very next day and was with them for 19 years.
Those years, football was a career path for us youngsters. We did not earn much and started my job with a salary of RM180.
Training with Selangor we were paid RM5 per training session and a match allowance of RM30.
When Selangor won the Charity Shield, League Cup and Malaysia Cup in 1984, we were paid a bonus of RM14,000 and a trip to the Los Angeles Olympics.
Today a player gets paid RM40,000 a month and still wants to move to another team.
I never earned an annual income of RM40,000 during my playing days.
But I know I cannot compare my era and the present era when the game has gone professional.
But what I cannot understand is why the standard has not improved with the high wages paid and the game gone professional.
If I was to pin down on why, it is simple. Players these days do not have the discipline, passion and commitment to win. They don’t love the game. They love the money.
I went to collect almost 170 international caps. These days’ players come and go because they do not have the quality and the will to stay on top of the game for a long period.
I have Sea Games gold medals (1977 and 1979), Asian Gams bronze medal (1977), champions in Merdeka tournament (1973/74/76) and numerous titles with Selangor.
I am proud of what I have achieved, but still regret that I missed the Moscow Olympics. How many times I wished that it was all a bad dream and when I wake up I will be at the Moscow Olympics. It is not be and I just have to live with it.”

Heroes who would have been Olympians:
The 1980 Moscow Olympics qualifying team:

Goalkeepers: R. Arumugam, Peter Rajah, Ong Yu Tiang
Defenders: Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, Jamal Nasir, Kamaruddin Abdullah, D. Davendran, Wan Jamak Hassan
Midfielders: Bakri Ibni, Shukor Salleh, Khalid Ali, Abdah Alif, S. Pushpanathan
Strikers: James Wong, Hassan Sani, Tukamin Bahari, Ramli Junit, Zulkifli Hamzah, Abdullah Ali
Team manager: Datuk Mohd Bakar Daud
Assistant manager: R. Ramalingam
Coach: Karl Weigang
Assistant coach: Mohamad Bakar
Team Doctor: Dr Raja Abdul Malek

Round 1


6 April 1980

2 – 1
Bakri Ibni Goal 12'
Wong Goal 
Kim Goal 58'

Merdeka Stadium, Kuala Lumpur
Attendance: 50,000
Referee: Ali Albannai Abdulwahab (Kuwait)
Asia (AFC)
·          Iraq (replaces  Malaysia)
·          Kuwait
·          Syria (replaces  Iran)

Olympics 1980 Qual.       Group 2 - Group Stage results
Malaysia      3-0      South Korea                       
Malaysia      3-1      Brunei
Malaysia      1-1      Japan
Malaysia      6-1      Indonesia
Malaysia      8-0      Philippines
Group 2 - Group Stage (Malaysia and South Korea advanced to final)

Apr 6, 1980 Malaysia      2-1      South Korea

 Bakar was spot on

The Moscow Olympics qualifying football squad team manager, the late Datuk Bakar Daud, had wished then he had access to the prime minister Tun Hussein Onn to change his stance on the boycott to the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Malay Mail Johor correspondent, Dan Guen Chin, as a sports reporter who was covering the national team than, was told of Bakar’s wishes.
“Datuk Bakar was devastated when told of the boycott. He told me then he had tried to see the prime minister to personally make plea to have a change of heart in the name and sake of sports,” Dan revealed.
“He said that he did not have the access and it was his biggest regret. He felt for the players who played their hearts out.
“Above all he said then that Malaysia football not going to Moscow is going to affect the future of Malaysian football. He said that playing in Moscow would have left behind a legacy and served as an inspiration for the younger generation to keep the tradition. He also said that following from the Malaysian population if Malaysia had gone to Moscow itself who have stirred a following.”

Indeed Bakar was spot on, as Malaysia’s football performance took a slide since then and has not recovered. Malaysia was ranked in the 70 bracket while the current ranking is 171.