DEVELOPMENT is a long word and it is equally long to get recognition working in this area, especially for sports journalists.
Sometimes, one’s work just goes unnoticed while athletes go on through diff erent coaches and gain honour.
Articles on school-level and development tournaments especially do not get much attention from newspaper readers except maybe from those who are directly involved.
Most sports journalists covet awards and strive hard to collect as many as possible.
However, no award can be bigger than being thanked by some retired athlete or offi cial for stories written about them eons ago.
I have had a few surprises like that. Out of the blue I would get an email, a phone call or even a Facebook message from athletes I had covered when they were schoolboys or teenagers, asking if I remembered them some twenty or thirty years later.
Having written on many budding athletes or highlighted their performances or plights, naturally I can’t remember them all.
On Tuesday, I had a request on Facebook to friend one Khaw Hock Seang who said he was a former hockey player.
Hock Seang in his heyday.
I did not recognise the name, but since he was a former sportsman, I accepted.
The next day I get a message from him asking how I was, where I was and if I remembered him.
Embarrassed at not remembering his name, I said I was getting old and he needed to refresh my memory.
Immediately he sent me an article I had written on him when he was playing in the Tun Hussein Onn Cup for Selangor, who won the title in the late 1980s.
Hock Seang was a Junior World Cup goalkeeper of the era.
It was indeed humbling to be remembered by a sportsman whom I had covered more than 25 years ago thanking me for the support.
Hock Seang is now a bank relationship manager with RHB in Klang.
Indeed, such recognition is far more satisfying than any award given by one’s peers.
Don’t get me wrong. Every journalist treasures these awards and I myself have one from the 1990s. But a case like Hock Seang’s warms the cockles of your heart.
I had a similar experience a few years ago. I had an email from a reader who said he had got my email address from the newspapers and was surprised that I was still writing after all these years.
“You will not know my name, but I am the 12-year-old boy in a picture that appeared on the front page of the Malay Mail in the 1980s when you highlighted the plight of a group of boys in Bangsar who had to play football in the middle of a roundabout.”
My memory flashed back to the rainy day I had spotted the boys playing on the roundabout as I was coming back from an assignment.
The article which Hock Seang has kept.
As I had a cameraman with me, we stopped and took pictures of the boys and I spoke to them.
Now in his 30s, the boy who sent me the email said he still had the newspaper cutting.
He said he was the talk of his school when that article came out.
“I really appreciate what Malay Mail did to highlight our plight and it meant a great deal to us. When some of those who played on the roundabout meet once in a while, we still talk about the article.”
Another time, while I was waiting in my car for a friend at the LCCT, a Malay gentleman came around, looking at my number plate and at the Press sticker on my car for 15 minutes.
I got nervous and locked my door and then this man fi nally knocked on my window. Opening it halfway, I asked him what he wanted.
“Awak wartawan dari Malay Mail kan? (You are a journalist from Malay Mail right?)”
I nodded and he immediately started a conversation on how he used to read my articles in the 1980s and 1990s and that he had even met me at the Selangor training ground.
“I recognised your car number plate. But I did not know if it was the right person in the car,” he said.
I got out of the car and for 20 minutes we talked about sports in the country and after my friend arrived, he shook hands with me and parted by saying he was really happy to have seen me after all those years.
I did not know him at all but he certainly made all my years in sports journalism worth their while.
There have been many other instances like these.
What I am trying to say is that for all those who work away from the limelight, especially the development coaches, your day of recognition will come. All your sacrifi ces, hard work and passion will be thanked in one way or another.
So keep up the good work because you are the ones who are moulding the future of Malaysian sports.