Saturday, April 29, 2006

Goodbye Malay Mail, and thank you! (28/04/2006 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 28/04/2006
Headline : Goodbye Malay Mail, and thank you!

AFTER 29 years of working for NSTP, it is with mixed feelings that I end
my ties with The Malay Mail.
Having spent most of my adult life at The Malay Mail, this place had
been a second home.
It was my late uncle John Pillai who introduced me to the newspaper
industry back in 1977, when I was doing my Higher School Certificate
(HSC). He invited me to join the New Straits Times Press as a temporary
library clerk.
My uncle was then the education writer for NST, and also the chairman
of the NSTP Sports Club. As I had played soccer for my alma mater (St
John's Institution), which won the Selangor Schools title in 1975, he
encouraged me to play for the NSTP team in the Inter-Company Games
against Singapore Straits Times.
Soccer being my first love, I jumped at the opportunity and the rest is
history. But I did not neglect my studies and completed my HSC as a
further education class student - going for classes after work!
Not long after joining the NST library, I got hooked on sports writing,
which was not surprising really. I was in charge of the sports section in
the library, which meant constant interaction with the sportswriters of
those years - the late Mansoor Rahman, Syed Nazri, Tony Francis, Ian
Pereira, George Das, R. Velu, R. Nadeswaran, Terence Netto, Fauzi Omar,
James Ritchie, Cheryl Dorall, P'ng Hong Kwang, S.C. Sekaran, Gabriel Lim
and Peter Martinez.
By 1979, I was already stringing for The Malay Mail and two years
later, was transferred to the paper full-time.
I must express my gratitude to Terence, for encouraging me to give
sports journalism a shot, to the late Francis Emmanuel (deputy sports
editor then), a legendary figure in the sports circle, and to Tony
Francis, the sports editor during my early years as a cub reporter. They
played a key role in my choosing sports journalism as a career.
Terence taught me how to cover football matches, while Francis and
Tony, who as editors were a reporter's nightmare, groomed me into what I
am today. Certainly, I learnt from the best.
I stuck to The Malay Mail, for better or for worse, rising from cub
reporter to sports editor.
And the secret of my staying power, although I was overlooked numerous
times for a pay increase or promotion? A passion for sports, particularly
Malaysian sports.
I even decided to practise what I preached by coaching and managing the
NST soccer team (later known as the Malay Mail FC) for 15 years.
It was the then CEO of NSTP, Datuk Nik Ibrahim Kamil (above), who asked
me to manage the team. Later, with the support of previous Malay Mail
editors, Datuk Fauzi Omar and Ahirudin Attan, this KL League soccer team
rose to be the first Klang Valley club side to play in the Premier League
of the professional M-League for three seasons from 2000.
Still, in all those years of excitement and frustration, I never
imagined that I would leave the paper before my retirement.
There had been other voluntary separation schemes at NSTP but it never
occurred to me to leave Malay Mail. Even with the most recent one, it was
only on the last day of exercising the option that I submitted my
Having been passionate about Malaysian sports all my life, I could not
come to terms with the fact that local sports, especially at schools
level, the future of the nation, was not going to be given priority in
the new-look Malay Mail.
I would have been a hypocrite to stay on and not do what I love the
most - support local sports.
Sports journalism has taken me to places other people might only dream
about, and introduced me to personalities so interesting and amazing, all
of which are experiences I treasure and which, I believe, have built my
character over the years.
Truly, in whatever way one is involved in sports - be it as an athlete,
a coach, an official, an administrator, a volunteer, a fan or a
sportswriter - there are great values to be learnt from it.
Sports is certainly an integral part of nation building.
I have loved every second of my association with sports, and have no
Thankfully, my son Alwin, who is doing his A-levels, is a sports lover,
having "covered" soccer matches with me from the tender age of four. I
hope he will touch base with Malaysian sports one day in his own way and
make a difference.
Yes, the time has come for me to move on, but rest assured that I am
not going too far from sports.
I am indeed honoured and grateful that the new editor of The Malay
Mail, M. Zul, has asked me to continue with this column. The column will
ensure I don't become just a memory - in journalism, you are only as
good as your last byline.
However, whether I continue with the column, is left to seen.
I am going to miss the old Malay Mail, but I wish everyone who is
staying on to launch the new newspaper the very best.
The Malay Mail turns 110 this year and it should live on for another
100 years or more.
If I had my way, The Malay Mail would revert to being an afternoon
paper, which was its forte. But all things said and done, I believe the
spirit of The Malay Mail will live on.
I take this opportunity to thank all The Malay Mail readers for their
support and criticisms, but above all for believing in its sports section.

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