Saturday, December 27, 2003

Still stumbling in the dark (The Malay Mail)

SOON it will be the end of yet another year and in retrospect, Malaysian
soccer is still struggling to find its footing, both locally and
For more than a decade, promises have been made to resurrect Malaysian
soccer, and millions of ringgit spent. But there is little to show we are
heading in the right direction.
FAM are certainly not short on resources or ideas but somehow, they
always get shortchanged by players and officials. One of the reasons is
that the national body change courses once too often, coming out with
short-term plans.
Bringing in the best coaches in the world is not going to help Malaysian
soccer because the rot has set in at the grassroots. Until this is
remedied, we are going to face disappointment after disappointment.
And strengthening the grassroots is going to take time, determination,
hardwork and above all, patience.
For four or five years, FAM have been focusing on the same set of
players but nothing good comes out of them. The sad fact is that these
players have been overpaid and overrated and made to believe that they are
the best in the country.
Even FAM's efforts to expose these players to top international matches
have made little difference.
We need a new breed of players with ethics and not just make-believe
professionals. FAM have to go down to players as young as eight years old
to start all over again.
And for FAM to be successful, they have to depend on their affiliates
but the latter often let the national body down. FAM can have the best of
development programmes, but no one will carry out the plans well at
grassroots level.
There has been so much emphasis on the M-League that hardly any work is
done at the lower level. FAM are partly to blame for the current state of
Malaysian soccer because time and again, they keep changing the format of
the domestic league.
A few months into the season, a new format for the 2004 league was
announced this year and this caught many teams by surprise. Now, you have
the Super League and this may set Malaysian soccer back by a few years.
The influx of foreign players is going to deny the already half-baked
local players the exposure. With teams focusing on foreigners as their
backbone, where is the national team going to get their players from?
The last two years saw some quality players coming through mainly
because of the ban on foreign players for three years. If there was a
bright spark, it must be the emergence of club teams - Selangor Public
Bank, who qualified for the Super League while MPPJ emerged as Malaysia
Cup champions.
These two clubs proved that with proper financial backing and
management, results can be obtained.
What do we want from Malaysian soccer? Is it to pack stadiums (with
foreign players as the drawcards) or build a strong national team even if
it means playing to empty stadiums with local players?
In two major assignments this year under coach Allan Harris, Malaysia
finished third behind Iraq and Bahrain in the Pre-Asian Cup and won a
bronze in the Vietnam SEA Games. Certainly not the best of results for a
team who have been preparing for at least four years.
Changing the coach is not going to help much because that is all the
talent we have - a situation that we created.
And with news that FAM want another foreign coach to take charge of the
team for the pre-World Cup tournament (in March next year), Malaysian
soccer looks like heading for more trouble.
And to suggest that even local coaches like Abdul Rahman Ibrahim and
Chow Kwai Lam can take over (if a foreign coach is not found), it is
indeed an irony.
Why have we not been using these coaches? Have they become top notch
coaches overnight or is it a matter of convenience or another short-term
Or is it because technical director Karl Weigang has a soft spot for
these coaches, having worked with them?
It is indeed puzzling to note that FAM are considering this option, just
three months before the competition.
After all, the Asian Football Confederation sit in our own backyard and
if we cannot get first hand information on the game, then something is
drastically wrong.

Monday, December 15, 2003

A hard act to follow

Bull Run Column @ Vietnam Sea Games 2003

AS the 22nd SEA Games in Vietnam came to an end with the torch flickering
out at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi at 9.15pm on Saturday, the
Philippines - who will host the next edition in November 2005 - were the
first to admit that it would be a hard act to follow.
As protocol dictates, it is expected of the successors to make such a
statement but this time around, the admission was genuine, as every other
competing nation will agree.
Vietnam are among the original members of the the South-East Asian
Peninsular Games Federation (now SEAGF), set up in June 1959, but they
were only hosting the Games for the first time, becoming the eighth
country to have done the job.
Only Laos, Cambodia and Timor-Leste, this year's debut nation, have yet
to do so.
Laos have indicated they wanted to host the 2009 Games.
But what an impression Vietnam have made by organising the events in Ho
Chi Minh City and Hanoi, with the latter being the main venue.
Indeed, Vietnam have passed with flying colours, and in the process,
even teaching the more experienced hosts a thing or two.
If there were any shortcomings, Vietnam should not be faulted at all,
certainly not due to the lack of efforts in ensuring everything goes
Of course, Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, Olympic Council of Malaysia secretary,
was the advisor to the hosts, but all his experience would have come to
nought if the Vietnamese had not worked hard to make the Games a huge
Yes, Vietnam emerged overall medal champions for the first time, with
158 golds, 97 silvers and 91 bronzes.
But even before one starts pointing (if it has not been done already),
at Vietnam for having manipulated their status as hosts by winning most of
their medals through sports "alien" to others, let us take a look at
ourselves first.
Malaysia emerged overall medal champions at the last Games in Kuala
Lumpur, with a record haul of 111 golds, 75 silvers and 85 bronzes from a
total of 392 medals at stake.
So did the Malaysians also use underhand tactics to achieve their feat?
For starters, the SEAGF should be taken to task for allowing what has
Having agreed to Vietnam's proposals for the various sports, they have
no reasons to complain now.
Besides, it is always the case that the hosts normally reap the medal
harvest, as seen in the previous 21 editions, where 11 hosts have emerged
medal champions, and in others, finished overall best.
So if this is a trend, what is there to complain?
As for biased judging, it would indeed be grossly unfair to accuse
Vietnam of winning medals "with assistance", especially in combat or
subjective sports.
Two main factors have to be looked at.
Firstly, everyone will agree that the Vietnamese played a huge role in
motivating their athletes to be at their best in every event.
The SEA Games were given a new meaning in terms of support from fans for
every sport contested, as all the venues were filled not only by locals,
but also specially-arranged groups of Vietnamese supporting other
And these "fans" did not just make up the numbers or wave the respective
national flags, but they also "cheered" against the Vietnamese athletes!
Eric R. Buhain, the Philippines Sports Commission chairman who was a
former international swimmer who has travelled extensively during his
sporting days, said he has not seen anything like what he has witnessed in
Vietnam, in terms of the locals' passion.
"What I have experienced in Vietnam is unique. They have taught us what
patriotism is all about. and their passion has taught us how sports can
bring the whole nation together for one cause," said Buhain.
"I wish the Philippines will be able to demonstrate a similar fervour
and patriotism, and we will be trying very hard to do so."
Secondly, the Vietnamese athletes worked hard for their success.
Nguyen Hong Minh, the head of delegation of the Vietnamese contingent,
said their athletes were not only prepared for the Games, but also for the
future of the sports they were competing in.
Of the 750 athletes who competed, a majority of them were in training
for two years, regularly sent overseas for exposure and training, coached
by foreign expertise and competed in many pre-Games events in Vietnam.
"We not only focused on sports where we were medal potential, but also
paid equal attention to developing other sports with long-term goals in
It has not been all rosy for Vietnam either. They have had their fair
share of disappointments where favourites had fallen in the wake of keen
competition, but this they have learnt to accept as part and parcel of the
As the Philippines begin to host their third edition, they will, even
with their experience, indeed be hard-pressed to match the Vietnamese.
But the Philippines have not wasted any time in getting ready, as
attested in Vietnam.
And the Philippines could well add a new dimension with their move to
marry sports and tourism - which is fast being coming a global trend in
the travel industry for many countries.
The Philippines Department of Tourism were in Vietnam in full force with
top officials from the Philippines Olympics Committee and Philippine
Sports Commission for this purpose.
The Philippines even have a theme song, Wow Philippines, to promote the
Games and their country.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Will all hell break loose if Vietnam lose? (The Malay Mail)

Bull Run Column @ Vietnam Sea Games 2003

THE 22nd SEA Games in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City come to a close tomorrow
evening, but as far as the Vietnamese are concerned, it is tonight which
will determine whether it has been a successful sporting event for them or
Vietnam, hosting the Games for the first time, are all set to finish
tops with their current standing of 106 gold, 66 silver and 72 bronze
medals yesterday, when the final events are held tomorrow morning,
followed by the closing ceremony in the evening.
The hosts had predicted they would finish a close second to Thailand,
and only predicted a 100-gold haul, but everything points to Vietnam
surpassing their target to finish tops.
This will come as no surprise as 11 of the 22 hosts of the Seap/SEA
Games have finished on top in the medals tally. Among them are Malaysia,
who were medal champions two years ago with a total haul of 111-75-85.
However, Malaysia may not achieve their target of 50 gold medals in
Vietnam this time.
But for Vietnam, emerging first in the medals tally could mean nothing
if their soccer team fail to beat Thailand in tonight's final.
I have never seen a nation in this region so passionate about the game.
With their women's soccer team having won the gold last night after
edging Myanmar 2-1, the men would not be forgiven if they fail to repeat
their feat.
From what I have witnessed the last 16 days, both in Ho Chi Minh City
and Hanoi, is that in this soccer-crazy nation, the SEA Games are going to
be judged by whether their soccer team are going to win the final.
There have been wild celebrations into the wee hours of the morning by
the Vietnamese after every game their team have played.
What the scene is going to be after tonight's final whistle is beyond my
wildest imagination. Will all the sweet and seemingly harmless women turn
violent if their team lose? I really do not know.
For the sake of Vietnam, I am praying their team will win because all I
can see is a riot breaking tonight if they lose.
And I would hate to be in the Thai team as what they will have to
undergo after tonight's match.
Team manager Thavat-chai Sajakul has made preparations for meals to be
supplied to his players at the National Main Stadium if they have to spend
the night there after winning the title.
That is how confident the Thais are about the match and knowing them,
they fear nothing and just like the Vietnamese, they are also die-hard
Many Vietnamese are telling me not to fear anything because they are
peace-loving people who will not resort to violence.
"We just love soccer so much and want our team to win," said a volunteer
at the Main Press Centre. "We just want a reason to celebrate."
Yeah, but losing the final will certainly not be a reason to celebrate.
All the smiles and sweet faces could see the fans resorting to violence
in their moment of despair.
I hate to think what Hanoi and the other cities in Vietnam are going to
be like tonight.
Be it celebrations because of the win by Vietnam, or all hell breaking
loose if they lose, it is going to be chaos before the Games flame is put
off tomorrow for the next edition in the Philippines in 2005.
I will be at the stadium to report on the third placing match between
Malaysia and Myanmar and staying back for the final because there is no
way I can leave as not only will a 40,000-capacity crowd be expected,
there will also be several thousand fans milling outside.
I can choose to stay in the MPC and cover the game - to be shown live on
TV - as many have decided to do so but I am not going to miss this
momentous occasion.

Monday, December 8, 2003

A tale of two cities and their folk

Bull Run Column @ Vietnam Sea Games 2003
AFTER 10 exciting days in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), I moved base to Hanoi
yesterday afternoon. It was not only the cool weather which greeted me,
but also a rather cold atmosphere in the capital, which is supposed to be
the heart of the Games where 22 sports are being competed.
Maybe I was spoilt by the friendly and helpful volunteers, officials and
people of HCMC.
But my apprehensions were confirmed when I went to the Main Press Centre
(MPC), where I met the "Malaysian media contingent" who confirmed my fears
that life is not going to be as smooth as HCMC.
I had been forewarned by my colleague, Rizal Hashim, who has been in
Hanoi for a week now, that things would be different. After checking out
the MPC and settling in, I found that it was adequately equipped with all
facilities at hand, definitely bigger than the MPC in HCMC but lacking in
I soon realised my stay here is going to be taxing as I asked for
directions to Daewoo Hotel where the Malaysian soccer team are staying.
The volunteer told me that it was nearby, a 10-minute walk away, and at
the same time, enjoy the scene in Hanoi. I was supposed to take the road
down the MPC, make a left turn at the first junction and the hotel would
be there.
That was simple enough, and I decided to walk. Hardly, had I walked 30m,
I realised there was a left turn, but it was a narrow road which led to a
Then I saw another small passage which led to the main street and 200m
away, was the Daewoo Hotel.
I decided to take a cab back after meeting the Malaysian team.
I had asked the volunteer at MPC to write the address in Vietnamese and
boarding a metered taxi from a five-star hotel, I was sure my nightmare
was over. How wrong I was!
The taxi driver, who had nodded that he knew the MPC, lost his way and
guess what ... we came to a dead-end. The driver had to ask for directions
before he finally said I've arrived at my destination. But it did not look
like the MPC because it was the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC)!
I asked one of the electronic journalists from Vietnam for the MPC but
he didn't speak any English. But after pointing on the map, he instructed
me to head for a supermarket as the MPC was nearby. As I headed towards
the supermarket, someone called my name. It was sports commentator Shaukei
Kahar, who was having a cup of coffee.
I was relieved and asked him for directions and he said that I had to
walk around the supermarket. I headed for the MPC, pleased that I have
finally got the right directions.
I took the turn but there was no MPC but a dark alley and with no signs.
I decided to walk back to the supermarket and ask for directions. I got a
promoter to look at the address and she said that this (the supermarket)
was the address on the paper!
I walked out and asked some uniformed men for directions using the map.
One of them pointed back to the alley and told me to walk right to the
end. Sure enough at the end was the back of the MPC.
I'm already missing the city with one million motorcycles that is Ho Chi
Minh City.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

The Hua Sen can be seen in every Vietnamese

Bull Run Column @ Vietnam Sea Games 2003

VIETNAM have no official flower, but the Hua Sen (lotus) is used widely as
the official flower.
Thai Hoa, a third year English student at the Social Science and
Humanology University in Ho Chi Minh City, took the trouble to explain why
Hua Sen was widely used. He works as a part-time waiter at a Hotel to pay
his fees.
Every part of Hua Sen is used for bouquets and decorations. The stems
are used for salads, the roots as food, the seeds as dessert and the
leaves as food wrappers."
Hua Sen can be found in all parts of Vietnam.
"The reason why Hua Sen is so close to the hearts of Vietnamese is the
flower despite growing in dirty water and mud has a very sweet smell,"
said Thai Hoa.
"The flower actually characterises Vietnamese women who are sweet and
"We use the flower for just about everything. It portrays Vietnamese
people in general who stand out in whatever they do and come off smelling
The executive-chef at Equatorial Hotel, Vincent Tan, a Malaysian who has
been in Ho Chi Minh city for the last eight years agreed with Thai Hoa.
"I have been here for eight years and everywhere I go, I see the Hua Sen
being used," said Vincent, who hails from Kangar.
The 42-year-old Vincent who won the Prime Minister's Golden Hand award
as the best chef in Malaysia in 1993 and represented the nation in several
international competitions, said the people of Vietnam are like Hua Sen.
"They are very nice people who are ever friendly and learn things very
"Having worked here for eight years, I can testify that the Vietnamese
people work hard at whatever they do.
"And it is for this reason, I believe they will come out smelling like
the lotus at the end of the Games.
"Many people have expressed their apprehensions when Vietnam were picked
to host the Games for the first time.
"To the people of Vietnam, this Games is an opportunity to show they are
capable of hosting an international event.
"For them, it is a matter of face value. They will apologise profusely
if anything goes wrong and go out of the way to make it right if not
Vincent and Thai Hoa are 100 per cent right about the people of Vietnam.
Just walk down the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and you will be greeted
by smiles from strangers welcoming you to Vietnam.
Some just break into a conversation asking where you are from. They even
recognise Malaysians.
They are honest and friendly people.
Unlike, most cities in Asia where foreigners are taken for a "ride", one
can rest assured it does not happen in Vietnam.
Taxi drivers use meters without being asked to do so. The drivers
automatically click it on when you board and charge accordingly.
They make it a point to find out from other taxi drivers or through
their wireless to your destination before heading off.
And they take the shortest route to your destination.
This speaks volumes of their honesty and if there were fears of them
cheating to win medals, it can be dismissed.
They will not do anything to tarnish their image.
They will want to come out smelling like the Hua Sen at the end of the

The article which
translated to Vietnamese and appeared on 13-12-2003 in the TuoiTre newspaper
Click here for link

Thứ Sáu, 24/07/2009, 16:52

Thứ Bảy, 13/12/2003, 09:35

Hoa sen có nơi mỗi người Việt...

Nữ VĐV Nguyễn Thị Huyền Diệu nhận HCV

TT - Hình ảnh các vận động viên nhận giải thưởng tại SEA Games, ngoài tấm huy chương và chú trâu vàng lưu niệm còn được trao một bó hoa sen, đã làm khá nhiều người ngạc nhiên, nhất là người nước ngoài.

Khi tác nghiệp tại TP.HCM, phóng viên Tony Mariadass cũng nhận ra điểm đặc biệt và thú vị này nên đã tìm hiểu ý nghĩa của hoa sen đối với người Việt để giới thiệu với độc giả Malaysia trên tờ New Straits Times. Tuổi Trẻ xin giới thiệu cái nhìn của một phóng viên nước ngoài về VN.

"Hoa sen được sử dụng rộng rãi ở VN như một bông hoa chính thức. Thái Hòa - một sinh viên khoa Anh năm thứ ba của Đại học Khoa học xã hội và nhân văn TP.HCM, đang làm việc bán thời gian tại một khách sạn để trả học phí - giải thích rằng trước hết toàn bộ cây sen đều có ích. Hoa sen dùng để trang trí, lá để gói bánh, thân sen làm gỏi, hạt sen tốt cho sức khỏe…

Nhưng điều đáng quí hơn ở cây sen mà hết thảy người Việt đều biết là sự thanh cao của nó. Hương hoa sen tinh khiết và “gần bùn mà chẳng hôi tanh mùi bùn”. Đó là lý do tại sao hình ảnh hoa sen được người Việt dùng để ca ngợi đức tính ngay thẳng, lập trường vững vàng và không dao động trước mọi hoàn cảnh - Thái Hòa giải thích.

Bếp trưởng người Malaysia Vincent Tan của khách sạn Equatorial cũng thừa nhận rằng ông đi đâu cũng thấy người ta dùng đến cây sen. Ở TP.HCM tám năm nay, ông Tan rút ra kết luận: người Việt giống như hoa sen. Vì sao? Vì người Việt “rất tốt bụng, thân thiện và học hỏi mọi thứ nhanh lẹ”. Ông Tan nhận thấy người Việt làm điều gì cũng chăm chỉ, hết mình nên theo ông đến hết kỳ SEA Games này người Việt “sẽ tỏa hương thơm như hoa sen”.

Quả vậy, đối với người Việt, đại hội thể thao khu vực là một cơ hội quí giá để chứng tỏ với bạn bè quốc tế rằng người VN có khả năng tổ chức một sự kiện lớn mang tầm quốc tế và thi đấu tốt như thế nào.

Vincent và Thái Hòa nói đúng 100% về người Việt. Chỉ cần đi dạo trên phố phường TP.HCM, bạn sẽ được đón chào bằng những nụ cười của những người lạ chúc mừng bạn tới VN. Họ còn gợi chuyện, hỏi bạn từ đâu đến. Thậm chí họ còn nhận ra bạn là người Malaysia. Họ là những người trung thực và thân thiện.

Không giống ở nhiều thành phố khác, người nước ngoài thường bị cho đi "vòng vòng" khi dùng taxi. Người ta có thể tin điều đó không xảy ra ở VN. Đồng hồ tính tiền được bật lên mà không cần phải yêu cầu. Quãng đường đi là ngắn nhất và tiền được tính đúng với số hiện trên đồng hồ... Điều đó nói về tính trung thực của người Việt, phủ nhận những hoài nghi về sự gian lận để bằng mọi giá có những tấm huy chương vàng. Người Việt không làm bất cứ gì làm nhơ nhuốc hình ảnh chính mình và chắc chắn họ sẽ tỏa hương như hoa sen khi SEA Games kết thúc”.