Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hanifah a man for all seasons


Pictures by: Abdul Razak Ghazali and courtesy of Hanifah

Hanifah Yoong Yin Fah is not an Olympian, but his achievement in several sports, his contribution to sports, his role as a father of champions and his continued involvement in sports, certainly makes him one of kind.
The 68-year-old whose parents are from China, is indeed a success story of another kid on the block to a well-known figure not only in world of sports, but as an entrepreneur who has virtually had a finger in almost everything and did well.
Hanifah’s father, Yoong Wan Hoi, now 97, came to Malaya in 1933 as a 15-year-old and worked as a labourer before becoming a bicycle shop helper.
Hanifah definitely got the ‘go get it attitude’ and businessman genes from his father who through sheer hard work and determination to succeed became a steel contractor before becoming a cinema seater supplier.
 Hanifah has touched base with so many areas in his colourful rise to prominence and each is a success story.
However, Hanifah remains humble, down-to-earth and is still full of heart for sports.
While the younger generation probably know Hanifah as the father of ex-Formula 1 racer Alex Yoong and waterski star Aaliyah, he himself is a star by all counts.
Starting from his schooldays, Hanifah has had an interesting lifestyle which include being a hippie when we went to study in England.
As a youngster he was a hyper kid and was uncontrollable.
“My late mother (Lau Lan Fong) had to tie me up to keep me out of trouble. I used to swim in the mining pool when I was only four. I was driving my father’s came at the age 14.”
But Hanifah said that it was his school life which shaped him to be what he is today.
“It was school life and my friends in school that has played a key role in what I am done and achieved,” said was a student of Methodist Boys’s School in Kuala Lumpur before joining the premier residential college in Malaysia – the Royal Military College (RMC).
“It was his close friend Ganalingam (Tan Sri G. Ganalingam, the prominent businessman now) and the late Captain Mohan Chandran (who was killed fighting the communist and role model for Officers of the Ranger Corps) who gave me the first break when they encouraged me to join RMC because I was good in sports namely football, cycling and athletics,” said Hanifah who was the fifth in a family of six.
Hanifah was equally a good student scoring 5As for his Lower Certificate Examination and 7As for his Cambridge Certificate.
“I was a risk taken even then. When I did not know answers I would guess or write what I thought was write. I was lucky and got away with it,” said the modest Hanifah.
Hanifah was a national athlete in the late 60s representing in the 400m hurdles and at state level for both the 400m and 400m hurdles.
He was then rubbing shoulders with the likes of M. Jegathesan, Ishtiaq Muburak, A.S. Nathan, Zambrose Abdul Rahman and Cherly Dorall to name a few.
“Jega shaped my mentality of a champion. He thought me about discipline, working hard to achieve anything and exposing me to the real world,” said Hanifah.
During his school days, he was also active in rugby, football, hockey and swimming.
His life in England for three years from 1969 when he attended the Regent Street Polytechnic saw him stray away which included being a hippie and but finally returned with an engineering diploma.
He worked as an engineering and construction project manager and director from 1972 to 1985.
Married to Joanna Bean in 1975, saw Alex and Philipa born.
Hanifah was getting restless and in 1978 decided to try his hand at motor racing for the fun of it and started off by buying a Volkswagen Golf to race.
It turned out to be his next vocation and before he knew Joanna, Alex, Philipa and he were all racing as a family.
Hanifah himself was involved in motor rally for eight years (1981 to 1988), was the Malaysian Super Saga champion in 1991, has 18 wins in Production Car races from 1979 to 1994 and competed in the Macau GP in 1987 and 1988.
While working hard to realise Alex’s and Malaysia’s dream seeing a first Malaysian F1 driver make history, his involvement in the motor racing sports was no less insignificant as he motor racing in the country a lifeline.
Among them include managing the Batu Tiga (Shah Alam Racing Circuit) with his family as venue managers and leaseholders of the venue.
He secured the circuit in 1988 for RM12,000 to redevelop the circuit into a world championship circuit. The contract ended in 1998.
But more significant was the moving of illegal racing to a circuit and his implementation of the ‘Saturday Night Fever races’ was an instant success.
Hanifah’s ties with motor racing is countless but to name a few include event director of the FIM World Motorcycle Grand-Prix from 1991 to 1995, promoter and rights owner of the 1991 FIM World Motorcycle Grand Prix and organiser from 1992 to 1997, organiser and clerk of course of the Rally of Malaysia from 1984 to 1989, event director for FIM World Superbike championship  for two years (1990-91) and the formation South East Asia’s first ever single seater series in 1994 to 1996.
Hanifah had also tried his hand in promotion of events like the Walt Disney’s World on Ice Extravaganza from 1993 to 1995, promotion of the Royal London Circus nine months tour of Malaysia in 1991 and was organisation support for the Sarah Brightman, Alica Keys, Blue, Hoobastank and Andy Lau concerts from 2003 to 2005.
His sports portfolios include advisor to Malaysian Motorsports Organisers and Competition Association - MMOCA (2001 to present), honorary secretary of Malaysian Motor Sport Club (1982 to 1990), president of MMOCA president (1996-2003), Executive Board member of International Water Ski Federation - IWWF (1993-1998), vice-president of Malaysian Water Ski Federation (1999-2003), current head coach of the national water ski team and IWWF World Cup Event director.
“My engineering and construction experience of handling a professional and skilled work force of more than a thousand personnel brought me invaluable organisational experience which I applied to major sporting and entertainment events,” said Hanifah of his multi-talented ability.
Waterski is not new to Hanifah, for as early as 1988 he was already operating a water ski outlet at Taman Desa till 1995, which was managed by Alex and Philippa.
Both Alex and Philippa were also national water skiers.
Hanifah, a scholar of religion, born a Buddhist converted to Islam in 1996 on his free will.
He married his second wife, Norzeela Sulaiman, more popularly known as Nozie in 2002.
Nozie never waterskied and could not swim until she married Hanifah. Now, she can ski, can drive a boat, and can coach her two young boys (Aiden nine and Adam seven — using tips she's picked up from the 12-year-old star of the family – Aaliyah
It is Hanifah’s ambition to mould another champion in Aaliyah.

“Whether she becomes a world champion is left to be seen. But I will do whatever it takes to give her the platform to achieve it,” said a proud Hanifah.
Adam made his Southeast Asian Games debut in Singapore last month together his two older brothers — the 38-year Alex and Aiden.
Aaliyah is an old hand, having won her first Southeast Asian Games gold medal in waterskiing at the age of eight in 2011. She's ranked No. 1 in the world for her age, and No. 5 among all women's waterskiers in the Under-17 category.

 Hanifah, Nozie and Aaliyah are survivors of the 2004 Tsunami when they were holiday in Phuket.
“That experience was a nightmare and it is a miracle we are alive. We have all been given a second chance to live,” said Hanifah of the dreadful experience where he was separated from Nozie and Aaliyah for almost 24 hours.
“Life is so fragile and I am thankful that I have been given a second chance and that it why I have dedicated my life to my family.
“It is through water ski that we are always together.
“My life has been one roller coaster journey and I fear death. That is why wealth is not important to me. Whatever little I have, I have written it all for my family.
“We earn money through our water-ski business, but we also channel it back to the sports for development,” said Hanfiah who manages to promote water ski at the Putra Jaya lake with an arrangement with the Putrajaya Corporation under his company Waterski & wakeboard World Cup Sdn Bhd.
Hanifah was responsible for bringing the World Cup to Malaysia in 2008 and also responsible for the revival of water skiing in Malaysia as a viable sports from 1990 to 1997.
“In different phases of life, my friends from RMC have played a key role in assisting me and I am forever indebted to them.
“Looking back, through one family I saw them excel in motor racing. With my current family I want to see them excel in water ski.
“My life has been blessed be it in success or tribulations. If given another chance to live my life again, I will not ask it to be any different.”
Indeed the Hanifah family has given many proud moments to Malaysian sports thanks to Hanifah and his passion for sports and taking it to excellence level.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Wasted days and years


Level Field

Is Malaysian sports so desperate to attain world standing again that we are falling back on past proven coaches?
Morten Frost has returned as technical director of the Badminton Association of Malaysia after his stint here as national coaching director 16 years ago (1997-1999).
Now, there is news that former hockey technical director Terry Walsh (1990-1993 and a three-month stint for the 1998 KL Commonwealth Games) may be coming back after 22 years.
Damien Kelly, training programme director for the 2006 Doha Asian Games, is also tipped to return to be a part of the National Sports Institute/National Sports Council Podium programme.
Let’s get one thing right – all of the above are reputable figures who served Malaysia well, and there are no qualms about them coming back.
But why were they made to leave in the first place?
Generally, not only these three but many other top foreign coaches who came to Malaysia left in a huff, basically unable to work freely and professionally. Some of them were ousted by the players themselves or they had differences with top officials who wanted these coaches out for reasons known only to them.
It is great that Frost is back and Walsh and Damien may be coming too. But the truth be told, we have probably wasted all the progress these coaches had made earlier. Think of what we could have achieved if they had stayed on all these years. What a waste!
Now, we are back to square one, not to mention the money we would have to spend on bringing these coaches back after such a long period.
Yes, some of the coaches left because they had better offers but if they were good for local sports, why was there no earnest effort to retain them?
If we can bring them back now, why were they allowed to leave earlier?
Some may argue that these coaches return with more knowledge and experience but others would say it would have been wiser to not let a good thing slip away.
Top coaches who have come and gone because they couldn’t handle the Malaysian sports culture include Li Mau, Han Jian, Yang Fang Xiang, Park Joo Bon and Rexy Mainaky in badminton; Trevor Harley, Dr Josef Venglos, Claude le Roy and Allan Harris in football; and Daniel St Hilaire, Wang Lin and Ume Freimuth in athletics. There were also many in gymnastics, who left in not the best of circumstances.
Bowling coach Sid Allen was ousted by the players after a 10-year stint, although the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) managed to continue the good methods that Sid had put in place.
I am not advocating foreign coaches but if a particular sports cannot find a calibre local coach to reach the next level or international standing, why not?
But these foreign coaches should not be for short-term programmes or achievements but they must be hired for long periods so that they can start programmes, plan the development of the game, groom local coaches to succeed them and scout for players to ensure there is a ready pool of young talent to tap.
It has been three years since the London Olympics and the Rio Olympics is next year. Have we done anything concrete since we returned from the former? We were struggling for supremacy even at the Singapore Sea Games.
In February, Minister of Youth and Sports 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 of Malaysia. This came in the wake of our below-target performance at the Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games and the Incheon 17th Asian Games.
Goals have been set for the next four years: to be in the top 10 at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games, and winning 50% of the medals in all the events in which we will compete at the 29th SEA Games, which will be hosted by us, in 2017.

Excellent on paper but whether the programme, which is expected to go into full swing in September, has enough time to mature is left to be seen.

In realistic terms, a two Olympic cycle – eight years – is the minimum period for any programme to achieve the desired results.

But let us give the plans being put in place a chance and hopefully we will not face disappointment again, only to come with more short-term plans.

What Malaysian sports needs at this stage is a total overhaul, from top to bottom at the national, state and grass-root levels. But of course that is wishful thinking.

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​

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ariffin a speedster star among stars

Story and pictures Tony Mariadass

Mohd Ariffin Ahmat etched a name for himself as a sprinter in an era when there were so many good athletes all trying to establish themselves.
No doubt M. Jegathesan (now Tan Sri Dr Jegathesan) was the top athlete then, there were the likes of Gunaratnam Rajalingam, Thamboo Krishnan and Ooi Hock Lim for Ariffin to compete against to stand out.

“Those days the competition was keen as there were several athletes all clocking below 11 seconds. We had to work hard and were bent in beating each other,” recalled the grey-haired Ariffin who turned 69 on May 11.
“We used to beat each other very often and the only person I could not beat was Jegathesan. He was simply good and a cut and class above us.”
Ariffin said every time he improved his time, someone else will do better.
“We had to continuously improve our timings to stay relevant,” who had a personal best of 10.6 for the century event.
Ariffin a 100m and 200m athlete, gave up the latter to concentrate on the sprint to do well and earn a place in the national relay team.
“With Jegathesan dominating the sprint event, we were left to find a place in the relay team. Even then, we had to fight for a place,” said Ariffin who was the first to qualify for the 1968 Mexico Olympics 4 X 100 team.
But at the Games, he was only a reserve as five runners qualified and made the trip.
“I was the first runner of the team and Ooi was doing better than me then and he ran in my place with Krishnan the second runner, Rajalingam as the third and Jega the anchor.
“But I had no regrets not being able to run. It would have been great if I had run, but to have qualified to the team and being at the Olympics was an achievement I am proud of,” said Ariffin who is married to his neighbourhood sweetheart in Gombak, Hasmah Hamzah and has four children – two girls and two boys (Azwan Hadzree, Aida Yufani, Amila Yasmin and Azril Hamzah).
The quartet qualified for the semi-finals and clocked 40.89 after having clocked 40.68 in the qualifier.
Ariffin recalled that each athlete was given US$60 for the trip to Mexico and when he landed back at Subang Airport, he had fifty Hong Kong cents in his pocket.
“Our last transit was in Hong Kong and we had a meal at the airport and all I left was fifty cents. If my wife had not come to the airport, I probably had to walk home to Gombak,” laughed Ariffin the former Police officer who retired in 1999 as the OCPD for Sungei Petani with the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP).

Ariffin, a Klang-born, had his early education in Sekolah Kebangsaan Klang, before moving to High School Klang and then to La Salle Klang, took up athletics as a Form Three student.
“I used to play rugby but when I broke my arm, I decided to try out athletics. I did well and decided that I will take it up seriously. I trained on my own and used the old airport Klang at Pandamaran as my training ground and ran on the runway. I used run with a middle distance runner Vairavan to build my stamina.
“What was supposed to have been a climax of my schools athletics when I was selected to run for Selangor turned out in disappointment. We travelled by bus from Klang and after arriving at the Klang bus station in Kuala Lumpur, we walked to Victoria Institution where the meet was held. But through some oversight by the teacher in charge, when we arrived at VI, the race had already been run.
“After school I was working for Port Klang authority as which came under the Malayan Railways and I was running with them before representing Selangor.
“I then switched jobs to join Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka  and it was here that my athletics career really took off as I joined the Jets Athletics Club.
“Indonesia coach Stanley Geow (national coach and later became fitness coach and team manager of Indonesia national team) who was with Jets assisted me a great deal and he was a coach who understood the athletes individually had personalised programmes.
“For instance, because of work and transportation problems I sometime cannot attend the trainings in Kampong Pandan or Lake Gardens, but had programmes for me to do when I got home.
“So I used to train on the clay road on the row of my houses under the streetlights placing starter block and markers and my neighbours that I was mad.
“It was only when my name appeared in the newspapers they realised the “mad boy” was actually a national athlete.
“Our trainings included time trials every weekend and at the end of the month competed in inter-club championships in the various state including Singapore,” said Ariffin whose athletics career spanned from 1960 to 1969.
He said it was when he was competing in the Selangor state meet at Merdeka Stadium when a gentleman by the name of Lim (the father of late hurdler Lim Heng Suan) called out to him and gave him the best piece of advice when made him improve by leaps and bounds.
“This gentleman called out to me after my race from the stand and when I approached him he said: there is nothing wrong with you. You can go far. But only one thing. You laugh and everyday laughs. But when everyone talks, you do not talk. Open up and let out. You need to relax and your body will be more supple and you will do well.
“It was from that day that I discarded my introvert personality and mixed freely and I realised I was much more relaxed and my performance improved,” said Ariffin who joined the Police Force in 1968.
“I was supposed to have join the Force earlier, but my father objected and only managed to persuade him later when I explained that it will be good for both my career and athletics.”
In 1963 he represented Malaya in the Malaya Games where Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak competed.
He went on to represented in two Sea Games (1965 in Kuala Lumpur and 1967 Bangkok) winning the 4 X 100m gold medal, 1967 Bangkok Asian Games winning the relay gold and in a Games record time of 40.6, in 1967 winning another gold in the Indonesia Open and the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
Ariffin said that the Asian Games gold medal was his most memorable moment as they were favourites to win and lived up to expectations.
“I was the first runner and as I was preparing my starting block I heard a voice from the stand saying “bikin semangat (roughly translated show spirit)”. I was curious whose voice it was when I turned I saw our American
coach Bill Miller. That really inspired me and I ran my race of life,” said Ariffin.
“Having clocked the best time in heats, we were on lane three and by the time I passed the baton to Krishan, the two runner behind me were still trailing, while I had pulled level with runners ahead of me. I was relieved that I had done my job and did not drop the baton. When Krishnan too off, I knew we had won the race as he was already in the lead. The rest was history,” said Ariffin who is known as the best curve runner.
Ariffin has a natural tendency of running close to the lines of the next track to gain maximum advantage, which earned him the best curve runner acknowledgement.
“It was a Games record and what made even more memorable was that our names together with all gold medalists of the Games etched on the walls of the Stadium even before we left Bangkok.”
Malaysia won a total of haul of seven gold, five silver and six bronze at the Games.
Athletics won five gold - Jegathesan - 100m and 200m; M. Rajamani – 400m; Nashatar Singh – javelin and 4 X 100m team, three silvers - R. Subramaniam – 800m and 1,500m; and 4 X 400m team Andyappan Nathan, Rengan Pakkri, T. Krishnan and Victor Asirvatham) and three bronze (T. Krishnan – 200m;  Ishtiaq Mubarak – 110m hurdles; Andyappan Nathan – 400m hurdles and 4 X 100m (Cheryl Dorall, Jacqueline Kleinman, Mary Rajamani and Rajemah Sheikh Ahmad).
Ariffin and his relay mates were inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame in 2004,
Ariffin, a grandfather of six, has also coached in Taiping and Seremban and once held the post of vice-president with the Negri Sembilan AAA.
His thoughts about the current state of athletics is that the athletes are not coached properly and they themselves lack the passion and desire to excel.
But his Hari Raya wish is that athletics in the country will prosper again and he believes it has the potential.
“While I wish the athletics fraternity and sports fraternity at large “Selamat Hari Raya dan Maaf Zahir Batin”, I look forward to the day soon to see the glorious days of Malaysian sports.”

Malaysia truly Malaysian


Level Field


Zul and his family

Nowhere in the world is Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Eid ul Fitr celebrated like in Malaysia. The whole country rejoices, no matter what race or religion one is.  
1Malaysia may been coined recently, but the nation has been together through thick and thin from the time our fathers and grandfathers fought for independence.
If sports bridges all differences to unite a nation, so do festivities in our nation. With a bit of understanding, tolerance and appreciation for each other, our nation will prosper and grow.
Every time Hari Raya comes around, I remember two things that touch me greatly.
First, my late brother, Jeyaprakash, would fast during Ramadan. From his schooldays in St John’s Institution, most of his friends were Malays and he used to fast throughout the month because they did.
He would say, “How can I eat when all my Muslim friends are fasting? I will fast with them. Besides, I will lose weight!”

My late mother would even get up to prepare him sahur and have a meal prepared for him when he returned home to break fast.
Even my sister and mother would fast with him because they could not stand him fasting alone.
When Hari Raya came, he would ride off on his bike to his friend’s house in the kampung armed with his Baju Melayu and songkok to spend a few days with him.

For the record, Jay Jay, as he was affectionately called by his friends, was not a Muslim, but my two other brothers, Jesu Adam and Johan Jothi, are converts. Our family accepted their conversion whole-heartedly.

Jay Jay passed away in 1993 and last year after 21 years of his passing, his good friend, Zulkefli Manaf, got in touch with me through email.
And Zul's message was indeed touching.
Zul referred to my late father and mother as amah and appa and spoke of the times they treated him like a son each time he came to our home and of Jay Jay whom he described as a brother.
Such moments certainly bring out the Malaysian in me.
The other thing that is imbedded in my mind is my good friend and former colleague Rosmanizan Abdullah, now an editor with Utusan Malaysia.
Rosmnizam’s full name is Rosmanizam Abdullah @ Ang Teck Lee @ K.T. Rajah.

This 55-year-old, father of seven (from two marriages) is living proof of a true Malaysian. I have known Rosmanizam since he joined Berita Harian in 1979 as a news reporter before covering sports from 1980 to 1985 and then back to news until 1991 before moving to Utusan.
A veteran journalist, an avid cricketer and sports administrator (secretary-general of the Malaysian Malays Cricket Association since 1992 and former Olympic Council of Malaysia assistant treasurer) has a touching story behind his three names.
Ros, as he is fondly known, was born on May 25, 1960, to a Malayalee father, K.T. Gopih and a Chinese mother, Ang Mek Choo, in Tanah Merah, Kelantan.
K. T. Gopih @ K. T. Gopal, who hailed from Thrissur, Kerala, India, and of the Karanjery clan, is well remembered for his kind deeds to the villagers of Belimbing, Tanah Merah, Kelantan.
For a week after Ros was born, he was unnamed because his parents could not decide on a name for him until they decided that he be named K. T. Rajah.
Soon after that, Ros fell ill and it was then that his mother believed that a Chinese name will make him well. She then asked her brother, Ang Kok Soon, to adopt him and give him a Chinese name. That was when the second name - Ang Teck Lee - was added to his K. T. Rajah.
When it was time to go to school, Ros' father wanted him to learn Jawi.
For his secondary education, his father sent him to Melaka to study at St David's High School.
Ros stayed at the hostel in Bukit China and continued to learn Jawi.
Ros speaks fluent Hokkien but not Malayalam because his parents spoke in Hokkien or Malay.
When he was 17 and in Form Five, he decided that he wanted to embrace Islam.
He converted at the Masjid Tua in Johol, Negri Sembilan, where a schoolmate and his father assisted him. That was when his third name, Rosmanizam Abdullah, was added to Ang Teck Lee and K. T. Rajah.
No one influenced him or forced him to embrace Islam. It was something he wanted to do after having studied Agama.
Nobody knew that he was going to embrace Islam, including his parents. It was only one year later, when he returned home to Kota Baru for holidays and was praying that his father realised he had converted.
His father respected his decision and allowed him to practise Islam. There were no issues. A year before Ros' father passed away in 1985 at the age of 65, he made a trip to Kerala to trace his roots.
Ros mother passed away five years ago at the age of 85 and his whole family attended the Buddhist funeral.
Ros has this to say: “We are Muslims, but my mother was Chinese. We respected each other’s beliefs. There are no issues. That is the beauty of Malaysia.
"We still return to Kota Baru for Chinese New Year. While in the past, food was cooked at home with my mother around, these days I cater the food."
And to ensure that his children know his roots, he has named them with a Chinese name too, from his mother's or his name, except for one.
Their names are Faris Almas-Lee, Faizshal Niaz-Lyn, Kim Zuharin, Fadzrin Kate-Lee, Shahin Choo-Liyana, Shaznira Lee-Ann and Niz Afdlin Ahmad.
Now, how Malaysian is that!
For the record, Ros is a true sportsman and was the recipient of the National Sports Leadership Award 2004. He has contributed immensely to cricket and continues to do so. And his three sons, Faris, Faizshal and Fadzrin, are all national cricketers.
And as I wish all our Muslim readers Selamat Hari Raya, let us celebrate this year’s festivity with an open mind and continue our efforts to put Malaysia on the map. Sports can play a vital role in making this a reality.

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​

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Datuk Peter Velappan's BFM radio interview


Datuk Peter Velappan, Former General Secretary, Asian Football Confederation (AFC)
15-Jul-15 16:00

As the Asian Football Confederation's General Secretary from 1978 - 2007, Datuk Peter Velappan is not stranger to fans of football in Malaysia. He joins us to give his take on the FIFA crisis and on the issue of football development in Malaysia.
Dan Lain-lain
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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Tony is all sports at heart


By Tony Mariadass

Tony Francis pursuing a journalistic career came naturally, as he came from a family of journalists.
But what was supposed to be career path turned out to be his passion and it has been a life time job since he started as a rookie at the age of 20 till now, when he will turn 68 on May 22.
Tony’s elder brothers Jeffery (migrated to Australia) and Jerry (former NST Ipoh bureau chief, retired but still involved in media work) were both working with New Straits Times and he joined them in 1967, as a cadet reporter with the news desk.
“Yes, although I was hoping to join the sports desk, I was placed in the news desk where I remained for three months,” recalled Tony.

“After three months, I was asked to join the sports as the desk was beefing up. It was the best thing that happened to me and I was overjoyed.”
Tony said that besides his brothers being journalists which influenced him in his career, it was legendary sports writer Norman Sibel, who inspired him.
“I used to read his columns as a schoolboy and was mesmerised by the way he wrote.
“He was a colourful writer, objective, nailed it to the head and called a spade, a spade.
“Imagine my joy when I was asked to join the sports desk and Norman was the sports editor. I was going to work under the every person whom I had admired and hero worshiped,” said Tony who joined the late Mansoor Rahman and Ian Pereira at the desk.
Tony recalled a day when he asked Norman if he could hitch a ride to a Razak Cup hockey match, he was going to cover.
“I just wanted to follow Norman to see first-hand how he did his interviews and what kind of angles he would be looking for.
“To my surprise Norman agreed and when we arrived at the Mindef Stadium, I saw a senior hockey official spot Norman and despite several VVIPS present, he immediately rose and rushed towards Norman to greet him and ordered his personnel to get a table and chair for him and pampered over him.
Tony in his younger days (middle)
“I was impressed at the respect he was given and told myself that one day I wanted to be like him.”
Asked Tony if he achieved the status, with another laugh he says: “Norman was a legend. Nobody can attain the standards he had set. I had not even achieved ankle deep of what he had achieved,” said Tony who has been to two Olympics (Korea 1988 and Barcelona 1992) and three World Cups (1974 Germany, 2006 Berlin and 2010 South Africa).
Tony rose from a cadet reporter to become Assistant Sports Editor, Sports editor, Chief News Editor and Associate Editor before he retired from NST in 2002 – after 35 years with the organisation.
But it was his days with sports that Tony loved and enjoyed for 33 years.
Tony was the assistant sports editor with New Straits Times before he become sports editor of The Malay Mail in 2002, before he returned to NST sports desk.
Upon retiring, he was the Editor of Golf Digest with Blu Inc before joining Malay Mail under its new management as the editor-in-chief. He now works as a consultant with motoring magazine Top Gear.
“In the world of journalism there is no such thing as retiring. If we journalists do not continue working in some capacity, we might die,” said Tony laughing.

On working in the news desk despite his love and passion for sports, he had this to say: “Working on the news desk was good. The perks were good. You get to travel to places you never dreamt you would ever go. You get to meet the prime minister and other VIPs and be part of the development process. But it's a restricted environment.
Sports took me on a high like a drug. You get involved emotionally when the country wins or loses. You get so much joy in telling a happy story to your readers or sad when you have to tell them what happened in defeat.
“But one event that I will always remember was when the 40,000 fans of all races in the Merdeka Stadium stood up and sang the NegaraKu when the King arrived for the kickoff of a final between Malaysia and another team I cannot remember. (The Sultan of Pahang was the King then). I don't know why, but that was a high I will always remember.”
Tony said his phase with the Malay Mail sports desk and then back with the sports desk in NST holds fond memories.
“I had an excellent team in Malay Mail and I managed change the style of sports writing with commentaries, personality highlights and inside and behind the scene stories. I managed to continue with that when I moved back to NST and it was very satisfying.
“We made inroads in sports reporting and charted paths for sports in the country.”
Tony also recalled is early days in journalism which moulded him to become what he is.
“Besides Norman, I had people like late Tan Sri Lee Siew Yee who took so much interest in sports, late Francis Emmanuel whose contacts was simply amazing, sub-editor Alex Soars who made a difference to our copies and sports editor Chuah Huck Seng to thank for in guiding me.”
Tony recalled an incident in 1969, still as a rookie reporter which shook him up but only made him stronger and be prepared for all sorts of challenges.
“It was May 13 and I went to cover a Selangor football league match at the TPCA Stadium (now Jalan Raja Muda Stadium). I was there with Francis who hitched a ride with me on my Honda Sports 90 motorcycle,” recalled Tony.
“The match had hardly began when we heard explosions and then smoke billowing. The crowd at the stands rushed to the top of the stands to see what was happening and in a split second were retreating and running helter skelter. The match was still going as the referee refused to stop the match despite people running all over the field.
“I too run up to the top of the stands and what I saw shocked me – cars were on fire and people running in all directions. I ran down and told Francis what was happening and we immediately made our way to the main building. The officials immediately locked the main gate ordered us to remain inside the building. We remained there overnight!
“But being a reporter, I found a public phone to call back the office to report the situation, give a five para story to the news desk and then called the sports desk and give the abandoned football match report.
“It was only the next day after a few phones calls, that Francis and I were sent back in army truck.”
Tony said that on May 22 on his birthday, when curfew was lifted he had returned to pick his motorcycle at TPCA and all he saw when he arrived was the shell of the motorcycle which set on fire.
“I made a police report and reported to the office too. To my surprise I was told by the office to get a new motorcycle the next day which the company paid for.”
Tony also recalled personalities whom he had met in his course of job which were just dreams before that.
Indonesia’s badminton star Rudy Hartono became a close friend to him after he ghost wrote his columns as run-ups to the Thomas Cup, Francis and he got up close and personal Mohamad Ali during the Ali-Bugner world heavyweight fight in Kuala Lumpur when the duo would be there for the former’s morning runs at the horse racing course as early as 5am and Kevin Keegan whom he managed to secure to write a column when he was in Malaysia in 1982 to name a few.
Tony also revealed that he loved horse racing and one day when Tan Sri Lee who was among the tipsters with NST was on leave, he was asked to give his forecast.
“I had six hits and two second in the card of eight races. And the next day, Tan Sri Lee came by the sports desk and asked who had given the forecast. When Mansoor, the then sports editor pointed to me, he said: “Never in my life have I predicted six winners and today I was getting calls congratulating me.”
Asked if would ask change his life if he had a chance to relive his life again, he replied: “I would want everything to be the same, except that I want to finish my career in sports. Sports is my passion.”
But Tony said that wished that he did not have to lose his loved one, his wife and former journalist, Goh Keng Lee, so early in his life (1994).
“Losing a loved one is a very difficult especially when I had to be a single parent to my two children and to juggle as a newspaper man was indeed difficult. My in-laws too had passed away and it was elder sister, Angela, who helped out, but she had her own family too.”
But Tony did well and his son Mark, 30 and daughter Kylie, 28, have graduated from Iowa and Harvard respectively and are working as professionals in Malaysia.
Tony not only made a name for himself as sports journalist and as an editorial man, but has been a mentor for many young reporters including the scribe.

He was a taskmaster who demanded the best, but it was his passion for sports journalism which rubbed off many of us and saw us strive to emulate him.