Saturday, April 19, 2014

Grandfather still a swinger

 Malay Mail, 18th April, 2014

 By Tony Mariadass

V. NELLAN has been playing golf for more than half a decade and is still going strong.
The former national golfer who turns 65 on Sept 30 is the professional at the Saujana Golf and Country Club in Subang, their coach and ambassador, and gives courses besides playing rounds of golf.
Nellan, who has the distinction of having played in two World Cups in 1976 (Palm Springs partnering Zainal Abidin and finishing 32nd) and 1977 (the Philippines partnering Bobby Lim) where he also recorded Malaysia’s best finish in the championship to date – 11th.
Walk into Saujana and you will not miss this bubbly person who is ever-ready to strike up a conversation with you and talk about golf for hours.
He certainly must be the longest living person to have been involved in the game in Malaysia – he started playing as a caddy at the age of 13 at the Royal Selangor Golf Club (RSGC).
Nellan eats, breathes and sleeps golf because his parents were the ground maintenance staff at RSGC and lived in the staff quarters on the fringes of the 18th hole.
He started caddying when he was seven to earn pocket money for school when he was paid 50 cents. He dropped out of school at 15 just to play golf.
At 13 (the minimum age required), he registered with the caddy club at RSGC and played golf every Sunday afternoon when the club dedicated the afternoon to the caddies to play their rounds for free.
“Golf has been my whole life and it still is. I played in my first Malaysian Open in 1969 and the last in 1989, but I have not missed watching a Malaysian Open since the first in 1962 when it was held in RSGC and I was the scorekeeper. Even when it moved to other venues, I have made it a point to be there to witness the event,” said Nellan, who will at the Maybank Malaysian Open at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club this week too.
Nellan, who recorded his first win in a championship when he won the caddies championship in 1967 and defended it the next year, has indeed had an illustrious career playing in tournaments all over the world on the finest golf courses some can only dream of and playing with golfers like Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Bernard Langer, to name a few.
“But it did not come easy. It was my love for the game and sacrifices I was willing to make that kept me in the game,” said Nellan, whose best finish in the Malaysian Open was in 1974 in Ipoh when the tournament was first held outside the Klang Valley. He finished 32nd.
“I saved RM336 to travel to Ipoh to play in the Malaysian Open and bunked at Bobby’s house. Luckily, I won RM775 to have money to come back home,” laughed Neelan.
He last represented the nation in 2004, but since then he has been coaching, giving courses and being resident pro in several golf courses, both in Malaysia and Singapore. He still plays competitive golf and took part in the CIMB Classics qualifiers in the last two years.
He has won the PGA championship in 1987 and also Masters Senior Classic in 2001.
Even major surgery to remove a growth in the colon in 2006, which left him out in the cold for almost four years, did not stop him from getting back into the action.
One day, while still recovering from his surgery, he told his son he wanted to play in the Singapore Open and drove to play the next day.
“I nearly killed myself doing that although I completed the competition. But that is how much I love golf. I recovered and I am back on the course again,” said Neelan, minus his famous moustache.
“Life has been good to me. I have been given extra time to live and I want to give back to golf what it has given me,” he said.
Neelan also survived the Dec 18, 1983, crash of flight MH684 from Singapore. The plane landed 2km short of the runway at the Subang airport.
Neelan his wife and daughter, and a few more golfers, including M. Ramayah, were returning from a tournament when the Airbus 300-B4 in heavy rain clipped some trees on its descent before the landing gear struck the ground. There were no fatalities, but the plane was damaged beyond repair.
Thinking about the crash, Neelan said he prays and hopes every day that the passengers of MH370 will miraculously return home safely.
On the current Malaysian golf scene, Nellan has much to say, but said that it has to be heard and implemented.

“For starters, where are the public courses? Even the caddies these days do not have a chance to play. We need to make the game public and make the game available to all if we want to see good golfers emerging,” said Nellan passionately.
“We need to have a resident school just for golf with a golf course so that school children interested in the game can take it up from young.
“Our players need to play in many tournaments and be based overseas if they are to progress to the next level. At home we need to have tougher courses here for our players to improve.
“The Japanese and Koreans are here in huge numbers and plant their children here for training because it is more affordable in Malaysia than in Japan. But for us, it is still a rich man’s game.”
Neelan is still very much in demand and if everything works out, he could be hired to do some development programme in the US or Tanzania.
A loss to Malaysia indeed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Community programmes a wholesome way to success

 Friday, April 18, 2014 - The Malay Mail

THE most detailed development blueprints produced for Malaysian football was unveiled and launched last week by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Gambang, Pahang.
Through two phases and five strategic core areas, the first phase of the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) will run from 2014-2020, while the second phase will run up to 2030.
Everything looks plain and simple on paper and the hope is that it will bear fruit, remaining a continued programme, instead of being disbanded the moment we get a new sports minister. This has happened in the past.
Development is an alien word in Malaysian sports. It is given low priority or when given attention, does not last. State FAs have been guilty of not having proper development programmes.
But with the Mokhtar Dahari Academy in Gambang, to house 35 Under-12 players from the MyKids Soccer programme and eventually house 500 of the best junior talent in the country by 2020, it is hoped something will be etched finally.
There will also be training at five national sports schools, 14 state sports schools, 150 district training centres and Tunas Academies (for below 12) by 2020.
It sounds excellent but execution and sustainability will be the difference between success and failure.
With the Sports Ministry being instrumental in setting up this programme in collaboration with the FA of Malaysia, it is about time the State FAs do their part in development too.
With NFDP already set-up, the State FAs can act as the feeder to the programme.
State FAs should look into community development where it deals with the masses and does not just confine itself to football, but also career development for the young.
I am in Liverpool and took the opportunity to visit Everton — known for the best football development and community programme in Europe, if not the world.
I met with Chris Clarke, the Community and Business Development manager, who gave me a brief explaination of their community programme.

Everton in the community Medicash powered wheelchair team.
It is a grand programme, and if each State FA can do something similar, even at a smaller scale, it will do Malaysian football a world of good.
The ‘Everton in the Community’ programme has 13,000 participants from young children to adults and involves close to 75 paid staff and 180 volunteers.
“Our programme works in partnership with many individuals and organisations on a local, national and international level,” explained Clarke.
“We not only work through football, but other sports too. Our mission is through the positive promotion of sport, physical activity and the Everton brand.
“We have various programme and at the same time serve as a scouting ground for coaches from Finch Farm (Everton’s stateof-art development football Academy).
“Through fundraising, we deliver the vital programmes to improve the lives of vulnerable and underprivileged people across Merseyside.
“We have to raise about £1.7 million (RM63.76m) to £2.5 million (RM13.62m) annually for our programmes. And for this year we secured close to £4.5 million (RM24.52m) worth of government and business investment.”
Everton in the Community’s work is vast and includes providing routes into education, training and employment, steering young people away from crime and anti-social behaviour and engaging children and adults, regardless of ability, in physical activity. In addition to helping individuals, ‘Everton in the Community’ helps other charitable groups improve the lives of the locals.
The Blues’ official charity is proud of its impressive achievements which include:
• Supporting 1,500 local charities a year
• Contributing to a 55 per cent reduction in anti-social behaviour and a 79 per cent reduction in crime in challenging areas across Merseyside
• 100 per cent success rate on all education programmes
• Assisting 50 per cent of participants on the employment programme to return to work
• 26 disability teams
The charity as a whole, was in 2011, named ‘Best Community Scheme in Europe’ at the Stadium Business Awards held at Nou Camp in Barcelona and also ‘Best Grassroots Club Programme’ at the inaugural Northern Sports Awards in Manchester.
It may be asking too much of the State FAs to emulate Everton’s comprehensive programme but if they can make an effort to start along those lines, it could be the best thing Malaysian football.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

High-flying Shah

Published on Saturday 12th April
Monday, April 14, 2014 - Malay Mail
FOR many, Major General (rtd) Datuk Shahrudin Mohd Ali’s name may not ring a bell, but the air force man was a high-flying athlete in the early 1960s.
What he achieved in athletics is something many athletes can only dream of – he competed in two Olympics (Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964) as a teenager, in the first Seap Games in Bangkok in 1959, winning the 100m and 200m, and in the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta.
He was also flag-bearer for the Malaysian contingent at the 1964 Olympics. In the 1962 Asian Games, he was commissioned to return from duty to represent the nation at the 11th hour.
Now going on 73 but still looking fit, Shahrudin had a short athletics career because he was required by the nation to form the pioneer Malayan Air Force, comprising 26 officers, in 1960.
Shahrudin as a young pilot with the RMAF.

He retired in 1989 after 29 years of service as the deputy chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
Shahrudin was active in rugby when he was with the air force, being instrumental in forming the RMAF Blackhawks and leading the team for 25 years.
“I believe that for sportsmen and women to excel, they must go through hardship and must know what sacrifice means,” said Shahrudin.
“I was born during World War II to a poor family in Beranang, Selangor.”
He received his primary school education at the Malay School in Beranang and secondary school education at High School Malacca.
“As a kampung boy, I had a strong build and was lucky to be drafted into the Boys Wing at the Royal Military College (RMC) in Port Dickson, which gave me a strong foundation for my future,” said Shahrudin, who completed his Cambridge School Certificate in 1958 and Higher School Certificate in 1959.
“I and three others were selected to attend an aptitude test in Singapore and I was the only one who passed and joined the RMAF.”
When he was inducted into the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame in 2012, Shahrudin said he did not deserve the accolade as his athletics career was short.
“Sport then was not professional.
It was left to the individual, parents, teachers and well-wishers,” said the father of seven. “At RMC, I was introduced to tough training both as a cadet and athlete. And we competed in many sports,” said Shahrudin, who also played hockey and boxed.

“I was lucky to have good trainers in teachers like warrant officer Mr Stavely and physics teacher Mr Nichols, canteen operator Mr Lim, who took a liking to me and gave me extra food so I would be in a better shape, and of course my own will to excel.”
“Today, sport is a career and I cannot understand why after 50 years, we have not done as well as we should have. Athletes today are pampered – they get everything from education, equipment, accommodation, allowance, rewards, coaches, facilities, you name it, they have it.
“When I competed in Rome (1960), I went with a pair of spikes made by my college cobbler and designed by Mr Nichols. It was the same pair in which I clocked 10.6 seconds on grass. But just before I left, I was given a ‘real’ pair of spikes by Adidas,” said Shahrudin, whose 21.6s record in the 200m still stands in the Armed Forces athletics annals.
“We may be able to compete well in sports that are not physically challenging, like archery, tenpin bowling, badminton and diving.
“This is where the government has to start specialising in selected sports to excel. I strongly believe that our future lies in athletes from Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan and Terengganu, who are better built.
“There has to be a focused approach to developing sports in the country instead of wasting money in areas that will not bring any benefit," said Shahrudin, who clocked more than 3,000 flying hours as an air force pilot.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Public funds should not be misused

Friday, April 11, 2014 - Malay Mail
Too much money was wasted on the 15th Malaysia Games in Kuantan. — Picture by Bernama


PUBLIC funding has been taken for granted by the sports fraternity for far too long and there are always unscrupulous people waiting to make a quick buck.
We often hear of overspending, ‘shady deals’, unaccounted or missing funds, and athletes complaining about being short-changed from district right up to Olympic levels.
The latest is the Auditor-General’s Report for Pahang which says there are glaring differences in the prices of equipment acquired for the 15th Malaysia Games (Sukma).
The report also says up to 1,211 assets worth RM93,150 have gone missing due to theft, accidents, natural disaster, depreciation, fraud and the negligence.
It notes that up to 24 items bought for RM120,688 had not been used as of the day of auditing. With the 17th Malaysia Games just round the corner, it won’t be surprising if similar reports emerge.
Perlis Menteri Besar Azlan Man has said some RM150 million has been spent on preparations for the Games, including upgrading existing facilities and constructing new venues.
Perlis will host the Games for the first time and while one of the aims is to see the host state acquire top sports facilities, more often than not, this is taken as an opportunity by individuals and companies to make profit.
Azlan has said the new sports facilities will not become white elephants as the state will set up a committee to ensure the venues are used and maintained.
It is indeed the hope that there is proper management after the Games and accountability tops the priority list.
Another sports event that attracts profit-seekers every year is football. The M-League to be exact.
The green light to sign foreign players is seen by many as a money-making venture while teams waste money on exorbitant fees for average or even injured players.
Just look at the number of foreign players expected to be replaced before the transfer window closes next week.
Now, the teams will have to settle previous contracts and sign on new players, but are they even batting an eye? After all, it is not their money, but that of sponsors, well-wishers and gate collections from fans.
The sad part is that all this comes at the expense of the national team whose top players do not get exposure to their own league because of the presence of the foreigners.
While the FA of Malaysia and the state FAs cite reasons like drawing the crowd to the stadiums and raising the standard of the game for bringing in foreign players, there are fans who think otherwise. Last week, I was in Kuala Terengganu to witness the match between T-Team and Pahang and the stadium was nearly full.
The next morning, on the way to the airport to catch my flight back to Kuala Lumpur, I started a conversation with the taxi driver, who had also watched the match. Obviously, Wan Amran Wan Sulong supported T-Team.
“It does not matter if the state team or T-Team play, I am there to support the team faithfully. Of course, when the state team play, the stadium is full,” he said.
“When foreign players were barred, we still had bumper crowds.
“While we are happy to see foreign players, we are sad our national team are suffering. We are sad that some of the top state players have to warm the bench because of the foreigners,”
Asked if his opinion was in the minority, he stressed the people of Terengganu would be proud to do well with their own players and that most of his friends felt the same way.
The time has come to listen to the grassroots about prudent spending and not allowing hard-earned taxpayers’ money to go into the pockets of profit-seekers.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports journalist
with more than three decades of experience
and is passionate about local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter handle: @tmariadass

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Treating players like his sons

 England’s 60s football star Ken plants himself in Malaysia

By Tony Mariadass

KEN Shellito uprooted his English ties to become a Malaysian and love every minute of his new life here in Sabah.
The one factor that brought this English football star of the 60s to the Malaysian shores was none other than the game itself.
Turning 74 on April 18, Shellito continues his contribution to the game which he began as a 14-year-old when he signed up for Chelsea FC on April 18 too.
With 60 years of professional soccer background, Shellito who resides in Kota Kinabalu with his wife, Jeany Dison and their 14-month daughter, Kenya, he runs the Chelsea Football Club Sabah in Penampang.
He launched it last year and recruited several former Sabah state players who include Yap Wai Loon, Harun Laban, Ahman Omar Khan, Shariman Abdullah, Azah Ezrin and Suharmin Yusof to run the academy.
Shellito has been in Malaysia for 22 years now, after having spent 10 years of 25 years with Chelsea FC as a regular first team player and playing several hundred matches consisting of league, Cup, European and international matches until he was forced to retire in 1967 because of serious knee injury.
It was during the forced break to mend his knee that Shellito studied techniques of football in preparation for a career in football coaching.
He was first appointed as Youth Coach to Chelsea FC in 1967 and was responsible for the setting up the Academy to discover and develop potential young players. He was there for ten years before he was appointed team manager and coach for Chelsea Football Club for two full seasons finishing mid-table in the first division and reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
“It was the silliest decision I ever took and regret it till today. I was not cut out for a managerial job. I am always be a development coach, where the players are treated like my sons and am a father to them,” said Shellito recalling his days as a manager.
“I had to take hard decisions in leaving out players, being harsh with them and scolding them. This was totally different from development work. But after two seasons, I asked out.”
Shellito then left for the United States to help set up Football Academies there before he was coaxed by his good friend and former manager Tommy Docherty, to return home to coach and be assistant manager with Queen Parks Rangers in 1980. QPR finished third in the second division that season.
After a season, he moved to coach the Youth Crystal Palace team before having a brief stints as coach and assistant manager with Preston North End FC in 1983 and in 1987 as coach and assistant manager of Crystal Palace.
In was in 1989 that he ventured to Asia and came to Singapore as Coventry City FC’s representative to discover and coach school boys between ages 12 to 16 to prepare for a professional football.
In 1992, he was lured by the FA of Malaysia for a director of coaching job but as it did not materialise. Selangor FA picked him up to appoint him the director of coaching.
After a season he moved to coach Kuala Lumpur for four seasons, followed by a season with Perak before heading to Sabah in 1997 as director of coaching.
He returned to the Klang Valley to work with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as a match analyst before he coached MPPJ Selangor for a season to win the Malaysia Cup in 2003 before he was involved with the Malaysian Indian Football Association as their director of coaching for two years.
But having become a Permanent Resident of Malaysia he had already established his base in Kota Kinabalu where he acquired a piece of land near the hills and built his own home ten years ago.
“Ever since I stepped my foot onto Sabah, I fell in love with the State. The people are so friendly and the place is so beautiful. And it is a haven for with football work too.
 “I had always wanted to set up an academy in Sabah and to enlist past players to be involved in the setup,” said Shellito who is passionate of development work.
“Football is my life. And I am glad that I am still at it at my ripe age. The game has certainly given me a great deal and it is only fair that I continue to give the game back as long as I can.”
Shellito has the proud record of not having been cautioned (yellow card) in his entire playing career!
Asked how as a defender he managed this incredible feat, he said: “My father told me when I was starting out my career that if I had to foul a player to stop him, I was only telling him that he was a better player than me.
“He told me to work hard to stop the opposing forwards and find ways, but never foul them. I stuck with his advice and have this proud record.”
As a parting shot, Shellito said he was sad that Chelsea was not in the running for the title.
“The best they can finish I think is third. They made many silly mistakes in many of their games which they should have won and are paying the price. They were inconsistent.
“As for the Champions League. I really do not know. It is going to be difficult.”