Friday, May 25, 2018



By Tony Mariadass

UNLIKE the general belief that the life of sports journalists is a bed of roses, it is in fact filled with thorns.
And having been a sports journalist from a rookie at the age of 19 and clocked in 40 years of sports writing, I have had a fair share of unpleasant moments.
But I have no regrets of making sports journalism my profession and would not have traded it for any other.
Obstacles and a few unpleasant moments are part of the job and we have been warned by our superiors from day one.
My first shock was as early as a stringer for the Malay Mail in the late 70s when former and late veteran sports writer Francis Emmanuel, had asked me to follow up on a story he was doing.
I was asked to go to the PJ Club and get information about the suspension of a senior committee member of the club and also to get a photograph of the suspension notice pinned on the club’s notice board.
Being a rookie I was naturally excited with the assignment and armed with a camera, I went to the club and walked in to look for the notice board and duly found the suspension notice.
Immediately I took out my small camera and started to take pictures of the notice. Before I knew, a gentleman tapped on my shoulders and asked me what I was doing.
When I told him that I was a sports journalist and was asked to get details of the suspension of the committee member, this gentlemen went berserk.
“Who do you think you are? Walking into a private club and taking pictures without acquiring any permission? This is a private matter and you have no business here,” blasted the gentleman.
And he demanded I handed my camera to him and by which time I was shivering and wondering what Francis had got me into.
The gentle took the camera, pulled out the film and told me to get out of the club before he calls the police.
I left immediately and rode my ‘kapchai’ back to the office to be greeted by Francis who demanded if I had the pictures and information from my assessment.
When I related what had happened, he burst out laughing.
“You thought you can walk into the club and just walk out with the pictures. This is show you there many obstacles in our job and you have to work around it,” he said.
Next day, Francis still had the story see print. Then on, I was very careful when getting stories and made sure I made sure I adhered to procedures and rules or get a story without getting ‘caught’.
Francis also had another peculiar way of bringing down rookie reporters to have their feet firm on the ground.
Francis would never give you the byeline you requested.
For my first story as a stringer – a story on former international footballer who plying his trade in Hong Kong, he gave me T. Mariadass.
Other byelines which followed included Anthony Mariadass, Tony Mariasoosai! Before he finally gave me my requested byline – Tony Mariadass.
Then we have to deal with officials and athletes who seek you for publicity but if you write any negative or expose any of their shortcomings, blunders or your views which did not go down well, they will blow their top, avoid you in future, bar you from covering their events, write letters to your editor accusing you of being biased or influenced by other officials or parties. You get screamed at, asked to get out of their offices, barred from training grounds and stadium, have people hackle you and in some instances even threaten you.
I have been asked to leave training ground at Penampang Stadium in Sabah and not allowed to enter the Likas Stadium with my Press accreditation and had to buy a ticket to gain entry. Then not allowed to use the Media Room facilities which included even standing outside the Media Room and told and lead by security officials to the seat which indicated in the ticket I had bought to gain entry to the stadium.
I had to go through all this because a top official of the Sabah FA was upset with an article I had written.
Of course over time all is forgotten and we friends again. Incidentally, the official is a Minister today.
Then we have officials who are supposed to be guardians of their sports but act otherwise.
A prominent official (now deceased) in the FA of Malaysia – not an elected office bearer but head of an important sub-committee – approached the Ulu Klan g Recreational Club (UKRC), asking them to surrender their field and clubhouse in return for a smaller pot of land which is Government property and already had a community building n it.
The official, who is a businessman and developer, had told UKRC president Andrew Gopal that the “UKRC ground” was suitable for a condominium project.
URKV had rejected the offer but the developer’s company working through the village’s (Hulu Kelang) security and development committee tried to acquire the land.
It was astonishing that while the number of playing fields in the Klang Valley are dwindling, that someone from FAM was ‘betraying’ the sport.
While this news was reported in the The Malay Mail On Nov 20th 2002, what was not reported was that Andrew was offered by the official at a meeting at the latter’s office, two condominiums, if had agreed to let go for his club grounds.
Andrew who is battling to regain the UKRC ground till today confirmed the offer.
“I flat refused the offer by the prominent official. I was applauded at the offer of the official and walked out of his room,” said Andrew when contacted recently.
“We are still homeless without a ground of our own and continue to host our annual veteran’s tournament at rented fields, but we have not given up on getting the field which rightly belong to us.
“The FAM official has passed away and his plans did not materialise, but others have similar plans and agendas and we have still not got back the field which was seized from us MPAJ.
“It has no different with Barisan Nasional or the Opposition who all promised us justice, but in the end have their own agendas and denied us the rightly ownership of the field.”
The battle continues.
While some officials have brought shame to sports, there are others who through their office made a difference to the sports they were involved in.
But sports being what it is, there is no room for good officials.
AS 1996 drew to an end, it was a year remembered in football where
three godfathers of the game had their curtains drawn on them in their
respective States.
Two have been unceremoniously booted out of their
associations while the other suffered the same fate soon after that.
The three were former Kuala Lumpur FA president Tan Sri Elyas Omar,
former Johor FA deputy president late Datuk Suleiman Mohamed Noor and Kedah FA deputy president late Datuk Ahmad Basri Mohamad Akil.
Without doubt, all three have done a great deal for their State FAs and
the rise of soccer in their respective States.
It is through their time, dedication, vision and love for the game that
their respective States have hogged the limelight in Malaysian soccer.
But sadly, all three were dumped after they lost their
influence as they no longer held Government posts.
What they had done over the years, was fast forgotten and they were made
scapegoats for the decline in recent years and the associations' poor
financial standings.

The three ‘Godfathers of football” became victims of the winds of change and politicking within the associations.
While sports officials were part and parcel of our sports writings, wives of officials too have played a key role in making a sports journalist’s life miserable in their line of duty.
Experiences of being told off or phones slammed by wives of officials when negatives articles are written on their husbands or even the associations they helm was normal.
But officials like Tan Sri Elyas, made us forget such matters when he would profusely apologises on behalf of his wife when I had unfortunate brushes with her. Elyas was magnanimous.
Then we had a wife of a FA President (Datuk Mohamad Aini Taib) who acted like the team manager of the state team.
It was a common sight to see her walking into the dressing room before, at halftime and end of game, to talk to players and give her two sen worth of advice and not to mention scolding the players too.
It has indeed been a journey for me, but despite the occasional bad experiences, the great memories have superseded the unpleasant encounters to make an unforgettable experience I will cherish forever.
But like we say in journalistic jargon, we are only as good as our last byeline!

No comments: