Friday, February 19, 2016

Recognise the unsung heroes

It is great that past sports personalities are honoured with state or federal awards on the birthdays of the various royalty. 
However, one cannot help but wonder why so many other deserving and iconic candidates out there have been left out or ignored. 
Certainly, the royalty cannot be blamed for this because they cannot be expected to go through the list of recipients. After all, it is the state, national and regional sports bodies as well as individuals who make the recommendations for the awards. They are the ones who should be taken to task.
Those in the royal houses who are responsible for finalising the awards list should not just accept recommendations at face value. They should make stringent checks to ensure that those recommended are truly deserving of the awards.
Many candidates are recommended because they are in the good books of the various sports bodies or have friends among the officials or influential individuals. Some of the candidates even ask to be recommended.
I personally know of a sports doctor who was so obsessed with getting a title in front of his name that who went around begging to be recommended. After a few futile attempts, he has proudly added the title ‘Datuk’ to his name.
The prerogative of giving the awards lies with the royal houses but when sports personalities who have done hardly anything for their respective fields are awarded, I find the situation hard to stomach.
Even current athletes are being honoured. Again, it is fine to recognise their contribution and achievements but wouldn't it be better to reward them after they have retired?
Maybe, the parents of these athletes should be recognised for their sacrifices and contribution to producing national heros and heroines.
As for the posthumous awards, they seem so meaningless. The personalities concerned would have greatly appreciated recognition when they were alive, I am sure.
We also have officials getting awards but their contribution to sports cannot hold a candle to that of some more deserving but overlooked individuals - I can rattle off a few names here - who have done this nation proud.
This is not a campaign for the ignored sports personalities but merely an effort to point out that there are some candidates who have been shunted sideways for reasons best known to the associations that know their contributions. For starters, the states should recognise their very own sports personalities.
But awards must not be given for the sake of giving. There must be strict vetting and only sports personalities who have attained the highest level of performance or have competed on the highest platform of their sports should be conferred any award.
This brings to mind the legendary double international cricketer and hockey player, Michael Francis Shepherdson, 85, who passed away on Saturday night and was laid to rest yesterday.
That he was overlooked while he was alive is indeed sad. Giving him a posthumous award would be fine but it would be sad that his contribution was recognised only after he was gone.
There are several others who deserve posthumous awards but I would rather suggest the names of those who are alive and are deserving of recognition.
For starters, there is former national and Selangor football legend, Thanabalan Nadarajah, or better known as N. Thanabalan. He earned 107 international caps from playing for the country from 1960 as a youth international until he retired as a senior player in 1971. 
Thanbalan still holds the record for scoring four goals in Selangor’s 8-1 victory over Penang in the 1968 Malaysia Cup final!
And then, there are members of the 1972 Munich Olympics football team who have not been given any titles. Neither have players from the Moscow 1980 Olympics squad who boycotted the Games.
Five players helped Malaysia qualify for the historical Olympics debut but were not in the final team: goalkeeper Wong Hee Kok, defender Chan Kok Leong, midfielder M. Kalimuthu and strikers Yap Eng Hock and Syed Ahmad certainly warrant some recognition. Datuk Dell Akbar Khan was the sixth player who did not make it to Munich.
Syed Ahmad is best remembered for scoring five goals for Malaysia in the 1971 Olympics qualification matches against Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, which helped Malaysia qualify for the 1972 Munich Olympics. The goals include a hat-trick against Japan and one each against South Korea and Taiwan.
Then, we have other members of the squad, like goalkeepers Wong Kam Fook and Lim Fung Kee, defenders Othman Abdullah and Bahwandi Hiralal and midfielders Zawawi Youssef, Hamzah Hussein and Ibrahim Salleh.
From the Moscow squad, we have Bakri Ibni, Kamaruddin Abdullah, Wan Jamak Hassan, S. Pushpanathan, James Wong, Hassan Sani, Ramli Junit, Zulkifli Hamzah and Abdullah Ali.
Also worthy of mention and an award are 1982 New Delhi Asian Games 100m gold medallist, Rabuan Pit; walker V. Subramaniam; hockey players M. Mahendran, K. Balasingam, Franco D’Cruz, A. Francis, C. Paramalingam and Lawrence van Huizen; golf’s M. Ramayah; cycling’s Shaharuddin Jaffar; cricket’s Rosminizam Abdullah, badminton’s Slyvia Ng; swimming’s Nurul Huda Abdullah; bowling’s Holloway Cheah, Allan Hooi, J.B. Koo, Edward Lim; and the list goes on.

It is a crying shame that so many of these icons are left to remain unsung heroes and heroines.

TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​​​


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