Saturday, October 3, 2015

Amazing gift of Father James

Malaysia loss is Indonesia’s gain.
Reverend Father Irudayam Singarayar Sebastian James was in Malaysia in the early 60s for a year and was attached with St Francis Xavier Church in Petaling Jaya and was serving the Indian community of St Joseph, Sentul, Fatima Church, Brickfields and Assumption Church, Petaling Jaya.
Father James had applied for a visa to continue working in Malaysia, but he was denied and he returned to India.
He then went to continue with his studies in theology in Java. He was there for two years and was getting bored until he met a man from Medan and suggested that he go to Medan for a holiday where there were many Indian Catholics.
He did that in 1968 and that was the beginning for his love for Medan where he has become an icon not only to the Catholic community but the people of Medan for putting the city onto the world map with the building of the Our Lady of Good Health Church, Medan (Graha Marai Annai Velangkanni) also known as Our Lady of Vailankanni (and in Tamil - Ārōkkiya mātā). This saint knows its origin with an apparition in the 17th century in Velankanni Town, Tamil Nadu, India. Graha in Sanskrit means home, sanctuary or shrine.
The temple is an imposing building, of two storeys and a small tower of seven storeys in Indonesian style that attracts attention from the main road (it is situated in the small road Jl. Sakura III besides Jl. Simatupang).
Such is the impression on visiting this beautiful Marian Shrine, christened as Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni.
It has become important pilgrimage site in Asia for all walk of life, culture, religion and race and iconic symbol for Medan which is also a tourist attraction.
The magnificent shrine is the first in Indonesia and the second in the world as pilgrimage centre besides the original at Vailankanni in India.
The architecture of this shrine is totally different from the norm. Several religious symbols adorn the building, but these are in harmony with the structure of the shrine and form a beautiful unity. Aesthetic and religious values blend in to express the loftiness and the great mystery of the divine majesty.
Father James, an Indian Jesuit missionary in Indonesia, for the past 45 years became an Indonesia in 1989 and was asked to take an Indonesian name and thus became James Bharataputra Sebastian James.

“It was as though a dream that had come true and a miracle that had taken place, because with only a strong faith and conviction in the Providence of God as my initial capital, that I ventured into such a monumental work that was eventually to cost more than four billion Rupiah (equivalent to US$ 500,000) at a time when the Indonesian national economy was very unstable,” said Father James when met in Medan recently.
“Certainly it seems illogical and uncommon for many, but not for a man of faith. Moreover, with no building committee for fund raising, no qualified designer and architect, no professional contractor and no real artist to do the paintings and relief works, except a highly qualified Catholic engineer, Johannes Tarigan, who offered his services free to work out the structure and supervise the construction of the building, it seems madness to venture into such a huge project.
“But as it turned out, the fact that God was behind all these efforts to create such a beautiful church and community hall is plain for us to see.
“The whole concept and format of the shrine were inspired by God in my constant prayer of contemplation on the Mystery of the Incarnation, as given in the spiritual exercises, a book of jottings of spiritual experiences of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order and a great spiritual Master who led the seekers of God into God-experience through retreat. Following exactly the points of that contemplation as suggested by St. Ignatius, I deigned the whole building as the construction went on.”
Father James came to Medan to serve at St Anthony’s Church in the 70s before he wanted to build the church.
During his work with the Indian community in the church he had purchased a land at Tanjung Selamat (Bay of Salvation) to relocate the Indian community from a slump area.
But they did want to leave the original area.
Father James then wanted to build a church and approached the Archbishop A. G. Pilus Datubara who gave his blessings.
He used the land he had purchased earlier as the site for his project.
“Having been relieved of all the parish commitments, I had concentrated only on this project during the four years of the shrine construction ( from September 2001 to September 2005), through planning, playing the roles of an architect by designing of a contractor by employing ordinary workers on daily wages and supervising the construction day in and day out. But God has been inspiring me all the time, providing the funds all the means needed in so many mysterious ways.
“I am a dreamer by nature and I dream dreams. I dreamt of the shrine to be an evangelizing edifice to tell the story of salvation history of mankind, based on the bible and the teachings of the church. Through its format, symbolisms, ornaments sculpture and paintings. Attempting on enculturation I chose Indo-Mogul architectural combination by which to explain that this shrine is the place where heaven and earth meet and a place where the divine and the human embrace each other and it is here where God wants to meet His People irrespective of race, creed, and language.
“All the credit and glory goes to God because he had the plan to be realised and used mostly amateur hands to achieve this marvel. At times God’s inspirations came to me during my dreams and at times I wake up from my dream and jotted down some of the details of my dream lest I forget them. I do not know how to describe this extraordinary spiritual experience by which I felt that it was God who had been dictating his plan in detail as I was proceeding with the construction. Mary Annai Velangkanni seemed to look after my health all the time, although I had had some health problems before I started on this job. “Twice I had serious motor cycle accidents and came out unscathed thanks to the protection of Mary. At no time did I feel worried about funds for the work because the Lord was providing my weekly needs through the generosity of hundreds and hundreds of Marian devotees who had been sending donations through my bank, mostly in anonymity. Hardly, ever did I feel tired or exhausted in my work at an age of 68 then,” said Father James who is 73 now.
Father James said the main aim in putting up this Marian shrine here in Tanjung Selamat Medan is not because some extraordinary and miraculous thing had happened or some apparitions of Mary had occurred to warrant a shrine here.

“But on the contrary. I wanted miracles to happen here in Medan as was at Velangkanni in India for more than three centuries drawing people from all walks of life and status. As every shrine of pilgrimages is a place of welcome and encounter of God with His People and on the same token people with people who come together as children of God respecting one another and loving one another as brothers and sisters of the same Father in Heaven, irrespective of one’s race, tribe, tongue or belief.”
And it did happen. The first was the arrival of the statue of life-size Our Lady which was Father James ordered from India but was delayed. But arrived two hours before official laying of foundation stone for the shrine on Sept 8, 2001, the birthday of Our Lady.
The second a year later when Father James rented room in town was gutted by fire brining it down to ashes.
But when he was rampaging through the room, he found a packet with 10 million rupiah (donations for the building) two bibles and a hymn book intact untouched by the fire and safe in its entirety
The third happened on the same day a year after the official opening of the church (Oct 1, 2005 – by then acting Governor Dr Rudolf Pardede of North Sumatra Province) when mysterious waster was coming out of the feet of Our Lady. A vision told Father James to dig under the feet and a fountain of water gushed out. It is pure clean water which is drinkable and the fountain today is the source holy water from the shrine.
Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni is certainly a dual phenomenon, admired by everyone who has visited this Marian Shrine. It is like a mind of grace and blessings comparable to a spiritual treasure that needs to be hunted and above all, it is a mystery to be explored.
Apart from the unique blend of Indo-Mogul architecture, apart from the importance of its religious symbols and its biblical content, and apart from its awesome majestic look, Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni is also ‘a beauty that will be a joy forever’ with the harmony of its rainbow colours.
Through its seven rainbow colours, Graha Maria proclaims the message of the Gospel.
As turned out, it is only at the end of 2011, almost seven years after the original painting of this colourful Graha Maria discovered a profound meaning of the colours that are used on the building by Father James.
Initially the main purpose of painting Graha Maria in multi colours was to attract the attention of the passers-by. But amazingly enough it seems that it is God, the real architect of Graham Maria who seemed to have chosen the seven colours of the rainbow which is a sign of hope and had so arranged them in an ascending order as to reveal his grand plan of salvation of the human race. Everyone who comes to visit this Marian shrine, irrespective of race, language, religion, and socio-economic status will certainly discover the significance of its colours.
The amazing thing about the colours of Graha Maria is that it took seven years to discover their significance intended by God, the original architect who seems to have arranged them in an ascending order -black-grey-white-red-green-blue and yellow.
The interior of the church that is fully studded with relief, paintings and ornaments is a feast for the eyes. The altar with its background is another unique feature.
The feast of Graha Marai Annai Velangkanni is celebrated starting on Thursday and culminating on Oct 3.
While the feast will be an event not to be missed, but a visit to this stunning church is a must when visiting Medan.

Thoroughbred cricketer and medical guru

ICON: Datuk Prof. Emeritus Dr. Alex. E. Delilkan

By Tony Mariadass
Datuk Prof. Emeritus Dr. Alex. E. Delilkan is a name that will live forever in Malaysian cricket and the medical profession.
Cricketers remember him as the greatest all-rounder ever exceling in every department of the game he took part in, while in the field of medicine a, professor emeritus of anaesthesiology and critical care, Alex, is a mentor in critical care teaching and medical ethics.

At 81, Alex is still lecturing pre-medical graduates at five universities – University Technology Mara (UiTM), International Medical University, Taylor’s College, Mahsa University and University Malaya.

Alex has a standard answer for all when asked of his age: “I was born on 12th Feb 1934. Making me a ripe 81. I am 81 years YOUNG! Age is a number, how old you are is not relevant, it is how much you are functional and what legacy you leave. Today I am still fully functional, still teaching and guiding the young medical minds.” 

This year is his 50th year since he joined Universiti Malaya in 1967. He retired at 55 in 1989 but was rehired the very next day and served them for another 12 years before he decided he wanted to leave them.

Alex a national cricketer from 1955 to 1972 and the national captain from 1959 to 1972, first played for his school – St Joseph Institution, Singapore – at the age of 11 and continued until he joined University Malaya in the Republic eight years later in 1954 as a pre-medical student. He quit playing in 1974.

He made his debut in 1955 playing for Malaya’s South team against the North at the Selangor Club.

Probably Dr V. V. Nathan, then senior vice-president of Malaysian Cricket Association best described Alex’s prowess when he said: “As a gully and slip-fielder, Alex had no peers. As a batsman, he was fearless and exciting. As a bowler, his feats, particularly against touring teams were consistently spectacular. As a captain, he was ruthless and consequently, controversial.”

Alex whenever he speaks with revelations, frankness, wit and humour.
“People do not like me, because I speak the truth and with holds barred,” said Alex whose passion for cricket is unmatched.

The fourth in a family of four boys and two girls, he was born into a family with a ‘cricket-mania’ atmosphere.

“My father (hailed from Sri Lanka) as a cricket lover and carried his interest of the game to an extreme. My three older brothers were infused, as I was, by the intense cricket fanaticism that pervaded very nook and corner in our home.

“As far as I can remember my memory is filled with cricket talking, listening to cricket on the radio and watching games. My father even had his own team called – Colonial Cricket Club – playing in the Singapore Division One league.

“With this type of family background – it is understandable that cricket still flows in my blood.”

Alex said he and his brothers (Leo Clifford, Joseph Rienzie and Joseph Ignatius) started ‘playing’ cricket at the backyard at home.

“On a fair-sized concrete, fat area, we used a marble as the ‘ball’, a piece of wood as the ‘bat’, with slabs of sponge tied to our legs as ‘pads’ and the dustbin as the ‘wicket’,” said Alex laughing.

“The ‘ball’ used to travel at lighting speed, and this, perhaps, helped us develop quick reflexes – as we moved fast to avoid injuries.

“When it rained, we played indoors (in the bedroom) using table-tennis balls for the ‘ball’.

“As we grew up, my father bought us a complete cricket set and the four of us could be seen in the evenings, during weekdays, indulging in fiercely-fought ‘games’. The weekends, were solely devoted to watching our heroes’ in action.”

Alex was so opposed with the sport that he would lock himself in his room alone, padded, gloved and capped, with bat in hand, before a mirror practicing all the strokes he had seen before.

“I used to assume the identity of various ’state cricketers’ and I have a game between two sides keeping a very persona score-book to record the various brilliant performances and dismal failures,” said Alex who also used to play hockey, football and badminton.

Thus it was no surprise at the feats he achieved in cricket and some outstanding performances against foreign teams include scoring 80 runs in 90 minutes against the English Marylebone Cricket Club in 1961 and takin 19 wickets in four games against E.W.Swanton’s Commonwealth XI in 1964. His victims included

Seymour Nurse, Nawab of Pautaudi and Gary Sobers – 1st ball.

Other outstanding achievements included 7 for 79 runs against Ron Roberts Commonwealth side in 1962, playing for all “All Malaya’ and his victims included

Rohan Kanhal, Roy Marshall, Basil D’Oliveira and 8 for 63 against Joe Lister’s English side and his victim included Tom Graveney.

Alex was also the first and only Malaysian invited to play for the International Cavaliers in England in 1967.


Recalling his famous feat against Sobers on March 28, 1966 at the Selangor Club, he said 10,000 had gathered to watch the game and especially Sobers.

“When I bowled out Sobers, there was absolute silence for at least five second before I had claps. This was followed by boos as the crowd had come to see Sobers perform,” recalled Alex.


“At lunch break Swanton had told Sobers that the crowd was disappointed that he was out and had to do something to please the crowd. Sobers promised to take three wickets when he was batting.

“Swanton took five – Steve Hutton, Mohd Sidek, Mike Shepherdson, John Martin and Gurcharan Singh – after first batter Ranjit Singh.

“Then, I was next to bat, but it was West Indies’ Ramadhin who turn was to bowl. The crowd started chanting for Sobers to bowl to take revenge against me for putting him out. The crowd started chanting “ Kill Alex. Kill Alex.


“Sobers came out and took the ball from Ramadhin and sized the pitch for the throw, I thought that was the end of me. But Sobers after all the run-up to bowl, gave the ball back to Ramadhin and went and sat down to my relief!”


Sobers married to Penangite, Prabha Senan, whom he met in Singapore at the University where she was doing her degree in education, has four children – three girls(Anne, Sharu, Melanie) and a boy (Rienzie) and had five grandchildren.


Alex in sharing his knowledge in both cricket and the medical field has written books. His two cricket books dedicated to Malaysian schools cricket are entitled – Keriket – Malaysian Way and Cricket, a Malaysian Experience.


On Malaysian sports, Alex said that everyone has to accept that Malaysian society is polarised.


"Until and when we can come to terms that Malaysian society is polarised, we cannot change our standards of sports in the country,” he said.

"Back then, we never thought of us being different as we all considered ourselves as one, playing for the love of sports and nation. Sports was 1 Malaya then.
But today, polarisation starts in the schools!"

Asked can this situation can be overcomed, he simply replied: "Go back to the schools. Emphasise sports in schools. Change the system and sports is the unifying factor. Be serious about it. But let me tell you, it is culture you have to change and that is going to take time. 50 years maybe! That is the truth, believe it or not.
“And the club system must exists. If we think we can correct the present ills by just focusing on schools sports alone, you are grossly mistaken, Schools athletes can become national athletes overnight. They have to go through a system too. “But even before the schools, parents play a great role. They have to encourage their children to take up the sports culture.
Sports cannot be forced down on anyone and hope to see them become champions. Sports must naturally. Besides talent, the individual must love sports.
“Athletes will also face many obstacles where teachers or lecturers will play a stumbling block to the advancement of their sports career. They have to overcome all these.
“Basically sports culture starts from the home to schools, schools to club competition, from club competition to State level and then to national level.
“When we start specialising at the pinnacle when things are not right at the grassroots level, we are only heading for disaster."
Alex also touched on meritocracy.

“Selectors and coaches must be former national athletes and not the president who does not have a clue of the game or which side to hold a racquet. Yes politicians, people who have clout are necessary for the image of the association and financial standings. But they should refrain from being involved in the actually management of the sports.

“I also do not believe that we should hire foreign coaches. Out coaches knows best, especially when it comes to people management and local situations.

“And I do not like to call them coaches. Coaches are for schools. At the highest level, they should be managers, who manage the athletes, give advice, motivate them and bring the best out of them. If we need foreign assistance, it should be for specific areas which we need to strengthen. The overall running of Malaysian teams should be by local ex-national athletes of the respective sports” said Alex was inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Hall of Fame in 2009.

Alex views may hit a few nerves, but when the truth is spoken, more often than not it hurts.

At least we still have the likes of Alex, so rich in experience, who speaks his mind only because he is passionate of Malaysian sports and wants to see changes.

Another Games, same old script


The Rio 2016 Summer Olympics is eleven months away; it will be held from Aug 5 to 21. The question is, will Malaysia’s wait for the elusive gold medal end at it? 
There was a big hue and cry following the below-target performance of the Malaysian contingents at the London Olympics, Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games and the Incheon 17th Asian Games.
In February this year, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced the Podium Programme, which was formulated by a team of experts from the Western Australian Institute of Sports after a three-month intensive study of sports development in Malaysia.
Khairy also announced the formation of a taskforce to come up with a blueprint of the overall new 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.

He also announced goals for the next four years: to be among the top 10 nations at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games, and to win 50% of the medals in all the events Malaysia competes in at the 29th SEA Games, which will be hosted by us in 2017.

The Podium Programme was supposed to have been launched last month but has been postponed to a later late because of lack of funds.

Recall that in 2012, the then sports minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek identified 11 events - aquatics, weightlifting, cycling, badminton, gymnastics, men's hockey, fencing, archery, shooting, athletics and sailing - for the RM50 million 'Road to Rio 2016' programme.

He was hopeful that the programme would see Malaysia win its first Olympic gold medal.

The government had allocated almost RM20 million for the 'Road to London 2012' programme for the same purpose.

The Podium Programme, which aims to prepare the nation's best athletes for the Olympic Games 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, is an extension to the Road to Rio project.

The focused, tailor-made and scientifically prepared programme was launched for a selected group of athletes to give them the edge in fighting for medals at the Commonwealth, Asian and Olympic Games.
One of the drastic changes in the new model is the restructuring and redefinition of the roles of the National Sports Council (NSC) and National Sports Institute (NSI).
A clear direction has now been set for the NSC and NSI to work with all the national sports associations (NSAs) and state sports councils (SSCs) at every level.
In the past, the NSC and NSI had worked independently, creating duplication and problems between the two sports administrative giants.
Khairy said the NSI, under the leadership of CEO Datuk Dr Ramlan Aziz, will now be responsible for improving the elite athletes’ performance under the Podium Programme.
The NSC, with new director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail at its helm, will revert to its original role as the coordinator of all the other sports stakeholders to facilitate development programmes in order to create a wider base of talent at grassroots level.
Australian Damien Kelly was to return to the Malaysian sports scene to spearhead an exclusive group of athletes under the Podium Programme but he has yet to arrive.
In May, Keith Power was appointed as the national high-performance sporting director to look into the coordination of sports development programmes in Malaysia but nothing much has been heard about him since.
This lack of clarity raises the question of whether we are actually on the road to winning that elusive Olympic gold medal or still groping in the dark and hoping for some miracle to happen.
With Lee Chong Wei clearly not at his best, should he continue to be Malaysia’s hope for that gold medal?
Yes, we have London Olympics bronze medallist Pandelela Rinong and her fellow divers Ng Yan Yee, Nur Dhabitah Sabri and Ooi Tze Liang but to hope for a gold medal from one of them is wishful thinking.
Hockey has missed the cut and the other medal prospects - archery and cycling - are unlikely to fetch a gold either.
Tan Sri Mohamed Al Amin Abdul Majid has already been appointed Chef de Mission for the Olympics 2016 contingent but unless the programmes are up and running at full steam, there is nothing much he can do.
All indications are that it will be another Games of disappointment and a repeat of the same old story until another Games comes around.
It all boils down to putting a long-term programme in place and diligently working at it. But all we do is talk and talk about it Games after Games.
We will probably shift our focus to the 2017 SEA Games but hopefully it will be a harbinger of better things for Malaysian sports instead of just being a regional power.
 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: @tmariadass​​

Sunday, September 27, 2015

400m wonder

By Tony Mariadass

Pictures by Azneal Ishak

Oik Cum, the 400m wonder

Saik Oik Cum had short but sweet stint as a national athlete leaving behind an everlasting impression which many athletes may find it hard to emulate.
The Penangite donned national colours from 1977 to 1982, but in the five years she took the Malaysian athletics scene by storm and left leaving a trail of results which is much talked about even today.
Oik Cum who turned 55 last month was dubbed the ‘400m wonder’ for her feats.
Oik Cum, may have been at the  helm of Malaysian athletics for a short time, but her involvement in the sports goes as far back as her primary school days at the Methodist Girls School.
When she was only 12-years old, her school teacher Mrs Looi spotted her natural abilities despite her frail looking self, before Koay Kok Chiang, a journalist, coached her and athletes from the school.
Before she knew, she was winning medals at her schools and state meet. Her first major race was in 1975 representing Penang in the relay events at the national schools championship where her team won the gold medal.
It was then, coach C. Ramanathan who took charge to coach Oik Cum at the state level and it was his dedication that saw Penang athletics flourish.
“It was coach Ramanathan who asked me to compete in the sprints including the 400m, besides also trying my hand at long jump too,” recalled Oik Cum presently a RHB divisional manager at the headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
“I really enjoyed my days in athletics especially at the national level because we were like a family.
“We were so close to each other that we motivated each other in training and competition. We worked hard for each other and it was a team effort. We had an excellent coach in Ramanathan and I indeed cherish those moments,” said Oik Cum who was the seventh in a family of eight.
“With Zaiton and Angamah and myself all coming from Penang, the island served a great base with Ramanathan based there too. Together with the other athletes, training was a joy.
“Even though we had to train on highways, climb hills and do cross country as part of training and not matter rain or shine, we enjoyed every minute of it.
“We were willing to make sacrifices and our passion for the sports was unquestionable.”
As a schoolgirl she made her first international debut at the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games in 1977 where she won the bronze medal in the 400m in 57.72 while V. Angamah won the silver (56.89). The race was won by Burma’s Than Than (56.29).
At the Asean Schools meet in 1978 in Kuala Lumpur Oik Cum set a new national record in the 200m with her gold medal winning time of 24.7.
But her moment of glory was at the 1978 Asian Games on Bangkok on Dec 17 when the little known bespectacled Oik Cum stunned the athletics fraternity at the Bangkok National Stadium.
Oik Cum blazed through the 400m track as an 18-year-old lass to win the gold medal in her debut Asian Games.
She not only won the gold medal but went to set a new Games record with her timing of 55.09s. Japan’s Keiko Nagasaw finished second in 55.74 while China’s Kao Yenching won the bronze in 56.23.
It was also athletics only gold medal in Malaysia’s three medal haul. Walkers V. Subramaniam and Khoo Chong Beng won the silver and bronze in the 20 km walk.
Oik Cum was named the Sports Girl of the year for her outstanding performance in Bangkok.
The following year saw Oik Cum together with Marina Chin, V. Angamah, Zaiton Othman and Mumtaz Jaafar become then ‘Golden Girls’ of athletics.
At the 1979 Jakarta Sea Games Oik Cum besides winning the silver medal in the 400m, won another silver running together with Marina, Angamah and Mumtaz in the 4 X 100 and to win the gold in the 4 X 400m with Zaiton coming in place of Mumtaz in the relay team.

The same year at the Asian Track and Field in Tokyo the quartet won the silver medal in the 4 X 400m.

1981 was indeed a golden year for Oik Cum and her relay members as they went to bag a double in Manila Sea Games, with victory in both the 4 x 100m and 4 X 400m relay and in national record time (3.43.3) in the latter event which stood for eight years.
The athletics squad had a three-month stint in Perth prior to the Manila Sea Games.
Oik Cum capped it with a bronze medal at the Asian Track and Field championship the same year finishing behind Japan’s Junko Yoshida and Philippines Lydia de Vega and a golden finish in the 4 X 400m.
Oik Cum was also selected to represent the Asian zone for two World Cup in 1979 in Montreal and 1981 in Rome.
Injury and work commitment forced her premature retirement from the national team although she continued to run for her employers – UMBC – in the Inter-Bank meets till 1986.
“I have no regrets of my short athletics career at the national level because I achieved a fair amount of achievement in a short time,” said Oik Cum who is still not married.
“I also had to think of my career and decided that it was good while it lasted in the athletics arena,” said Oik Cum who was posted to Kuala Lumpur for the last seven years.
Although her athletic career and fame were short-lived, she certainly made a name for herself on the tracks which is still remembered till today.
Fittingly she was inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame in in 2006.
But sadly, she was not present to receive the award personally as there was a miscommunication in informing of the event.
“But the award was delivered to me and I am really honoured.”
Asked why she did not get into coaching after her athletics career, she said it was her job commitment.
“I don’t really keep in touch with the sports too because there is not so much athletics coverage in the newspapers. It is all football. But whenever there is any occasional articles I read with interest,” said Oik Cum who looks very much like she used to during her running days.
“But I am sad that with some much given to athletes these days besides all the modern facilities including sports science, top coaches and overseas stints, athletes are not performing to the level they should.”
Maybe Oik Cum will serve as an inspiration to young athletes to emulate her as she has proved that even in a short spell, top level achievements are attainable with the right attitude, discipline and passion.

Friday, September 25, 2015

No to 'floating' foreign coaches


The last thing Malaysian football needs is another short gap measure trying to resurrect the ailing state of the game.
FA of Malaysia’s call for applicants for the senior national coach following the resignation of Dollah Salleh recently following the 10-0 drubbing by the United Arab Emirates in the World Cup qualifier, certainly needs to be reviewed.
Ong Kim Swee has been named interim coach of the national team and his contract ends at the end of the year.
The call for applicants for the national coach post has seen several foreign coaches who have been floating in Malaysia and the Asean region submit their applications.
Do we need to consider these coaches who have either left their previous teams, especially in the M-League, for various reasons? If they are not good enough for the State teams, how can they even been considered for the national coach post.
Robert Alberts one of the coaches who has applied, was once the technical director of FA of Malaysia. He has coached Kedah and Sarawak in the M-League besides having stints in Singapore, Indonesia and Korea.
Others who have applied include Bojan Hodak and George Boateng who have all had stints with Malaysian state teams and have been asked to leave.
Then, we have former Singapore national coach Radojko Avramovic, currently playing his trade in Cambodia. This is not the first time he has applied for the national job.
Question is if these coaches are all that good, why are they plying their trade here in Asia and not in Europe or the big leagues elsewhere?
Malaysia certainly does not need second rated coached or coaches have been in the region for some time.
Then there are also former Cardiff City manager Dave Jones and Ashley Westwood of Bengalaru FC (India) who have applied.
In fact, Malaysia does not need a foreign coach for another short spell – one or two years with an option for renewal.
We have had enough of all these short stints where coaches come and to safeguard their reputation will call up the experienced players – normally the older player – win a few matches or minor tournaments – and when they leave, we are left back at square one – no new or young players to carry on and have to start all over again.
What Malaysian football needs is a football supremo who will be charge of Malaysian football teams as a technical advisor, as Malaysian coaches helm the various national teams.
Coaches like Ong Kim Swee should continue to be part of the FAM coaches set up and probably with the likes of Pahang’s Zainal Abidin Hassan and Kedah’s Tan Cheong Hoe (former national team assistant to K. Rajagobal).
Maybe if FA of Malaysia are serious and want to turn Malaysian football around, maybe they should even consider their two previous national coaches Rajagobal and B. Sathianathan, who both possess a diploma in football coaching from overseas.
This football supremo will not only be responsible for working with the local coaches and guiding them, but will put in place a two-prong attack plan where he will also chart the development of the game and coach education.
Above all this supremo should be hired for a minimum of five-years.
More importantly, this supremo cannot be an ‘anybody’ who is available or comes cheap, but one who is a reputable in the football world and who has a proven track record especially in the development of the game and forte is long term planning.
In fact, FA of Malaysia need not even look far because they can utilise their current technical director, Fritz Schmid.
Schmid has been here for one-and half years but has certainly been underutilised or not at all!
He certainly is qualified, for the 54-year-old Swiss has a UEFA Pro Licence. Currently he is on a three-year contract to assist in the development of football and oversee the progress of the national and project teams.
Schmid, who also holds the highest coaching license of the Italian Football Federation, graduated from ETH Zurich in Sports Sciences and studied English, German and journalism at the University of Zurich. His professional experience extends from teaching to public relations. He also spent five years of his life as a sports journalist
As a coach he has more than 30 years of expertise- in amateur, elite youth and professional football. In his career, he has worked for Tottenham Hotspur as well as Grasshopper Club Zurich, FC Aarau, SC Kriens, FC Zurich. In 2001 Schmid joined FC Basel as assistant coach, where he made a major contribution to the clubs biggest success in their history.
Before coming to Malaysia he has worked as a consultant related to management, coaching and training - among which the position of assistant coach to the National Team of the Austria.
 In the area of coaching education he has worked as a coaching instructor for Swiss Football Association, UEFA and FIFA for 28 years.
Maybe FA of Malaysia should just use Schmid, save a lot money which can be challenged to development programmes.
A right decision needs to be made for the sake of Malaysian football and not a favourite decision just to please some officials.
Will that happen, just like it is always in Malaysian sports, it is a million ringgit question!

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: @tmariadass​​

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It's hard to be Yoges


By Tony Mariadasss

Pictures by: Azneal Ishak
Sports keeps Yoges alive

The best thing that happened to former hockey Olympian, Datuk R. Yogeswaran, was his love for sports which not only made him an icon, but saved his life not once but thrice.
“If not for sports, I probably will not be alive to tell this story,” said Yoges, as he is affectionately known in the sports circle.
Yoges survived being struck by lightning in 1991 while playing golf at the Sentul Golf Club and two weeks later a severe heart attack and another in 1983 when he was managing three Malaysian veterans’ hockey teams competing in the Pacific Rim tournament.
“If not for my sports background which made me a fighter besides being in reasonably good physical shape, I would have succumb to the mishaps,” said the 75-year-old Yoges.
“The first attack after just recovering from the lighting strike, was serious and my heart had stopped several times. I must thank Tan Sri M. Jegathesan who was then the deputy-director of the Health Ministry, who had arranged for some of the best doctors to attend to me.
“But even they had given up hope on me and it was a miraculous recovery and I certainly owe it to my fighting spirit from sports. Dr Jega told me that I was a 20th century miracle,” said Yoges laughing.
Yoges said that besides sports, he owed his teaching vocation to building his character and he had turned out to be.
Yoges did his teachers’ training at Malayan Teachers College in Penang in 1961 for two years together with his good friend the late Datuk Ho Koh Chye and in 1965 did a one year course in Specialist Teachers’ Training Institute in Cheras.
 “Sports and the teaching background was my foundation to my life. It is little wonder that I dedicated my life to sports and enjoyed every minute of it,” said the Sungkai born Yoges who had his sports background embedded in him in Tapah.
And it no surprise that Yoges rose to the ranks in sports because Tapah was a hub for Olympians and in particular the Government English School (presently known as Buyong Aidil Secondary School).
While Yoges played in the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico Olympics and managed the team for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, others from Tapah who became Olympians include hockey players Hamzah Shamsuddin and Aminullah Karim (both 1956 Melbourne), Datuk Poon Fook Loke (1976 Montreal and 1984 Los Angeles) and athlete Datuk M. Rajamani (1964).
And Yoges paid tribute to the late Abdul Hamid Arrop, the father of Tan Sri Datuk Seri Ahmad Sarji, who was instrumental in shaping his and many other players of their hockey  career from that era.
“Abdul Hamid, a civil servant, was an all-rounder representing Perak and the nation in hockey, cricket and state in football and he voluntarily coached our school team. He made a difference in all of us,” recalled Yoges.
It was cricket which Yoges first picked up before hockey. He was also an all-rounder playing football and being an athlete.
 “The field was my second home. I lost my father when I was 13 and that’s when we moved to Tapah. While mother was trying to make ends meet and bring all of us up, I found my joy in the playing field,” said Yoges who was the fourth in a family 13.
But the biggest impact on Yoges to aim for highest in hockey was when he captained the Government English School to win the inaugural national Inter-School hockey championship in 1957 defeating many bigger and renowned schools throughout the country.
What was even more special to Yoges was that the tournament was inaugurated to commemorate Malaya’s achievement of independence.
“The communist insurgency was at its height then and public transport was not what it is now. The players travelled by bus from Tapah and at least on one occasion, by lorry to the other towns,” recalled Yoges.
“The players had to lug their bags and gear from bus stations and walked to their venues. ‘Beds’ were created by joining desks in classroom.”
But the best was yet to come for Yoges and his teammates comprising Ahmad Shah Amin Shah, Mohd Sidek Mandeh Shah, Harmon Singh, Abdul Malek Shamsuddin, David Chow Kee Cheok, Khairuddin Abdullah, V. Michael, K. Kumarakuru, Sarjit Singh, Farouk Karim, Poonciraman, Roseli Mohamed Noor, Chow Choo Leng and Mohd Ramli Nordin.

“For winning the title, our reward was to witness the historic event, the declaration of independence by Tunku Abdul Rahman at the brand new Merdeka Stadium on the morning of Aug 31, 1957.
“I still remember we were seated on Block J (near where the Stadium Negara was located) to witness the event. We awed by the occasion,” said Yoges with tears welling from his eyes.
“It was a very nostalgic event for me and every time I speak about it my hair stands, I choke and tears well in my eyes.”

Yoges has been to the Merdeka Stadium many times including when he made his national debut in 1959 against South Korea, but it was the 1975 World Cup semifinals, when he was the assistant coach to the Malaysian team coached by Koh Chye, that was like returning to the mecca of Malaysian sports and memories of his historic moment came flooding back to him.
Malaysia lost 3-2 after extratime to India in the semi-finals and finished fourth losing to Germany – the best ever finish in the World Cup.
“The Merdeka Stadium is another part which had a big influence in my sporting life,” said Yoges whose wife Datin June Manohara  Shanta who has been an equally strong pillar in supporting his sporting endeavours.
Besides playing in two Olympics, Yoges played in two Asian Games – Jakarta 1962 (won the bronze medal) and 1966 Bangkok and named in the Asian XI in 1966.
As a coach, besides being assistant Kok Chye at the 1975 World Cup, he has coached the Junior World Cup team in France 1979 to fourth placing, the 1982 Bombay World Cup team, 1985 Barcelona Inter-Continental Cup and 1988 Inter-Continental qualifier. Yoges has coached at all levels – schools, state, national juniors, national and also the women’s team.
He has managed teams from 1998 to 2002 in tournaments like the Sea Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Champions Challenge, Olympics and World Cup.
He has served in various boards like the coaching and selection in then Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF).
“My whole life has been dedicated to hockey and I have no regrets because I loved what I was doing,” said Yoges.
“Besides my playing career, the joy of having coached so many players, especially the juniors who went on to make their mark as national players, is joy money cannot buy.”
Among the cream of players of the Junior World Cup players of 1979 who made a mark in Malaysian hockey included the likes of Kevin Nunis, Ahmad Fadzil, Foo Keat Seong, Updesh Singh, William Lazaroo, Wallace Tan, Razak Leman, Chin Boon Gee, Derek Fedelis, Surya Prakash, James Murthy and Colin Sta Maria to name few.
“I only wished at the 2000 Olympics when I was manager, we missed the semifinals by a mere 37 seconds when Pakistan levelled to make it 2-2. Instead of semifinals berth, we were relegated to classification matches.”
Yoges indeed is a man of vast experience and a much wanted man by many sectors.
After teaching in St Michael’s and Anglo Chinese School in Ipoh from 1963 to 1973, he was seconded to the Ministry of Sports as a sports officer from 1974 to 1983 including a stint with National Sports Council before quitting government services at 43-years-old to join the bank  - RHB -  as the head of administration.
“It was a tough decision, but my daughters we studying and I needed to take care of their education expenses. In the end, I ended up not getting my pension as there was a delay in the optional retirement age of 40.
“But it still worked out well, as I enjoyed my new working environment and my employers still allowed me to be involved in hockey.”
Yoges philosophy for sports was simple: “Respect and honour the game.
“But it is a wholesome philosophy because besides respecting the rules of the game, one has to respect the opponents, respect the officials, honour your teammates and honour yourself.
“With that in place, it will be a joy to be involved in any sport.”
While Yoges now only observes the game of hockey from the sidelines and gives advice when needed, his passion for the game lives on.
He spends more time now looking after his two daughters – Shirnita and Shirlena – children these days with his wife.

Yoges has certainly left behind a mark in hockey which will always be remembered and cherished.