Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's take on sports and takes it from talking about Tunku Abdul Rahman - our beloved first Prime Minister:
Tunku Abdul Rahman established our leadership in the Islamic world
by coming up with the idea of the OIC and making it happen.
Under his leadership Malaysia led the way in taking up the
anti-apartheid cause in the Commonwealth and in the United
Nations, resulting in South Africa’s expulsion from these
Here was a man at ease with himself, made it a policy goal
that Malaysia be “a happy country”. He loved sport and
encouraged sporting achievement among Malaysians. He was
owner of many a fine race horse.
He called a press conference and had a beer with his stewards
when his horse won at the Melbourne Cup. He had nothing to
hide because his great integrity in service was clear to all.
Now we have religious and moral hypocrites who cheat, lie
and steal in office but never have a drink, who propagate an
ideologically shackled education system for all Malaysians
while they send their own kids to elite academies in the West.
Speaking of football. You’re too young to have experienced
the Merdeka Cup, which Tunku started. We had a respectable
side in the sixties and seventies. Teams from across Asia
would come to play in Kuala Lumpur. Teams such as South
Korea and Japan, whom we defeated routinely. We were one
of the better sides in Asia. We won the Bronze medal at the
Asian games in 1974 and qualified for the Moscow Olympics in
1980. Today our FIFA ranking is 157 out of 203 countries.
That puts us in the lowest quartile, below Maldives
(149), the smallest country in Asia, with just 400,000
people living about 1.5 metres above sea level who have
to worry that their country may soon be swallowed up by
climate change. Here in ASEAN we are behind Indonesia,
Thailand, Singapore, whom we used to dominate, and
our one spot above basketball - playing Philippines.
The captain of our illustrious 1970’s side was Soh Chin
Aun. Arumugam, Isa Bakar, Santokh Singh, James Wong
and Mokhtar Dahari were heroes whose names rolled off
the tongues of our school children as they copied them
on the school field. It wasn’t about being the best in the
world, but about being passionate and united and
devoted to the game.
It was the same in Badminton, except at one time we were
the best in the world. I remember Wong Peng Soon, the first
Asian to win the All-England Championship, and then just
dominated it throughout the 1950. Back home every kid who
played badminton in every little kampong wanted to call
himself Wong Peng Soon. There was no tinge of anybody
identifying themselves exclusively as Chinese, Malays, Indian.
Peng Soon was a Malaysian hero. Just like each of our football
heroes. Now we do not have an iota of that feeling. Where
has it all gone?
I don’t think it’s mere nostalgia that makes us think there was
a time when the sun shone more brightly upon Malaysia. I
bring up sport because it has been a mirror of our more
general performance as nation. When we were at ease with
who we were and didn’t need slogans to do our best
together, we did well. When race and money entered our
game, we declined. The same applies to our political and