Friday, September 30, 2005

Professionals must earn their keep (30/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 30/09/2005
Headline : Professionals must earn their keep

TWO capacity-crowd stadiums in as many weeks is ample proof that
Malaysian soccer is alive and kicking.
The FA Cup final between Selangor and Perak last Saturday saw Shah Alam
Stadium almost filled to the brim with 72,000 fans paying RM1.2 million
in gate collection.
The Malaysia Cup final between Selangor and Perlis at National Stadium
in Bukit Jalil tomorrow night is not expected to be any different.
Though Perlis are a small State, they have shed their minnows tag since
winning the Malaysia Cup last year, and this year's Super League title.
And with Selangor being the Premier League champions, a battle royale
is on the cards.
The Cup finals in the last few years have never enjoyed the support as
it has this year. In addition, stadiums in the country have also seen an
increase in fans turning out to support their respective teams.
There surely must be some good developments in local soccer for the
crowds to be flocking back to the stadiums. And State FAs should do
everything possible to keep them coming back for more.
The fact is there is a bigger following for English and European soccer
in this country - no thanks to the neverending and countless number of
matches televised - than local soccer.
But we have been able to fill stadiums, which even even the top English
Premiership clubs cannot boast of. This bears testimony to the fact that
local fans will back their teams, provided they have something decent to
Of course, there is no denying the "foreign factor" in the Malaysian
teams, especially Selangor, whose "Indonesian connection" of Bambang
Pamungkas and Elie Aiboy has lured Indonesians in the Klang Valley to add
to their fan-base.
The quality of performances by the top teams has also been
entertaining, as was evident in the FA Cup final, which Selangor won 4-2.
Perak's never-say-die attitude, which saw them fight till the final
whistle and even scoring a goal two minutes from regulation time when
they were 1-4 down only underscored the entertainment value.
But that goal by Mohd Nor Ismail for me, not only demonstrated Perak's
fighting qualities and offered a fitting end to an exciting match, but
was more of a face-saving goal for Malaysian soccer.
Yes, Mohd Nor's goal was the only one of the six scored that night by a
local player!
And this is where the relevant authorities have to decide what they
want from local soccer.
Fine, the crowds are coming back. Is that all Malaysian soccer wants?
Isn't the local league supposed to be the breeding ground for future
national players?
Fine, there were a few new talents unearthed this season, but
Malaysia's perennial problem at international level has been scoring
goals, or rather the lack of it.
If all the teams in the M-League are going to opt for foreign strikers,
who are dominating the League, where are we going to find our local
Yes, we have Khalid Jamlus, Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Liew Kit Kong, K.
Rajan, Fadzli Saari, Mohd Nizaruddin Yusof and Rudie Ramli to shout
about, but they are all playing second fiddle to the foreign strikers.
With the rising local strikers and new finds not getting the exposure
because of the 'foreign legion', how are they going to improve and excel
at international level?
The fact that the foreigners are not utilised to the maximum in
boosting the game in the country, such as conducting clinics at schools
in their respective States, especially with them being paid high wages,
is disheartening, and the fault of their employers who are only keen on
the silverware and the glory the State will get.
Malaysian soccer is not just about winning the FA, League and Malaysia
We have to think beyond that and, for starters, start conquering the
region, maybe kicking off at the Asian club level and then, seeing our
national teams win matches at South-East Asian level before venturing out
into Asia.
It is even sadder State FAs do not demand the maximum from their
so-called local "professionals" who earn between RM4,000 and as much as
RM15,000 per month.
But all these players do is train two hours a day - four or five times
a week - play a match or two a week and even get paid bonuses for winning
This is nothing compared to professionals overseas who are required to
put in at least six to eight hours' work daily.
They are also involved in coaching clinics, working with their junior
players and doing charity projects.
If there is anybody to be blamed for the current state of the game, it
is the State FAs for not demanding what is required of professional
Coaches and managers are also responsible for not professionally
executing their duties. And then there are the management who are only
interested in seeing their sides do well in the local scene but are not
keen on the overall development of the game and progress of the national
State FAs should also immediately demand their professionals, be them
locals or foreigners, deliver what is expected of them, which is to help
the game improve in the country.
FAM alone cannot raise the standards of the game in the country. They
need the help of State FAs and clubs, who are considered the arms and
legs of the national body.
And if FAM or State FAs have any fears there will be empty stadiums if
they work with more local players, this should be dispelled because the
local fans will always be there to support a good cause.
After all, the stadiums used to be packed in the past, when we only had
the locals playing.
And our national team then were also doing much better, even qualifying
for the Olympics, and were rated among the best in Asia.

Friday, September 23, 2005

WALKING THE TALK (23/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 23/09/2005

IT'S about time to walk the talk in Malaysian sports.
Otherwise, accept the fact that Malaysians may have the knowledge about
the ills befalling sports in the country with the solutions in hand. But
it's a big flop on the implementation aspect.
Having attended two seminars in a week, with both related to sports
culture, development and improving the standards of Malaysian sports, I
have come to the conclusion we are not short of ideas on this issue.
The first seminar was organised by the Olympic Council of Malaysia
(OCM) and the other by the Malaysian Association for Physical Education,
Sports Science and Fitness.
Having discussed the first seminar in last week's column, and sharing
my disappointment on how the right people were absent, the second was no
different with the "right people" (policy- and decision-makers) also
shying away.
That the seminar on the National Sports Policy did not attract the
"right people" only bore testimony to the fact that the majority are not
interested in raising the standard, but only want to be involved in
sports for their own personal agenda.
It was the seventh seminar on the policy held since 1994, and I left
the half-day seminar, feeling that like the other six - it did not serve
any purpose in changing the course of Malaysian sports.
Do not get me wrong. It was an excellent seminar with Datuk Dr Ahamad
Sipon, director-general of Education, who spoke on "High-quality
physical education and schools sports in Malaysia, the way forward",
hitting the nail on development of sports in the country.
And what Ahamad mentioned was virtually a fool-proof way to get
Malaysian sports soaring to great heights.
He pointed out that Education Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein was
dead-serious on meeting his department's programme's target of 95 per
cent participation by students from ages five to 18 in high quality
physical education and schools sports by 2010.
But whether this becomes a reality, or just plain planning, is left to
be seen.
To achieve the goal, the Education Ministry are supposed to focus on
two key areas - Sports for All (SALL) and Sports for High Performance
For SALL, they are looking at improving school facilities, increasing
the pupil participation rate and involving more teachers in PE (physical
education) and sports.
For SHIP, they are to focus on co-organising competitions and the
development of the two sports schools (Bukit Jalil and Bandar Penawar).
The strategies for success based on the two concepts included under
SALL are:
* PROFESSIONAL development of PE teachers;
* IMPROVING school programmes for PE and sports;
* IMPROVING curriculum for PE and sports;
* INCREASE participation of pupils in PE and sports;
* SCHOOLS as part of the local community; and
* IMPROVING initial teacher training in relation to PE and sports.
And under SHIP, the strategies for success are:
* SHARING of best practices and developing research in PE and sports;
* ENGAGING the services of sports specialists.
As for the combination of SALL and SHIP, they are:
* IMPROVING facilities for PE and sports; and,
* LEADERSHIP in PE and School Sports with the focus on developing the
eight core sports (badminton, football, hockey, bowling, gymnastics,
squash, athletics and aquatics).
While Ahamad must be commended for his lecture, it was sad that those
present were not State Education Department directors, school headmasters
and all those responsible for implementing all the aforementioned points.
Directives probably have been issued to these officials, but whether
they are going to be implemented effectively is left to seen.
And to make matters worse, Ahamad had to leave immediately after his
address to attend to urgent matters.
As such, he could not listen to the responses from Dr Ramlan Aziz
(director-general of National Sports Council), Associate Prof Dr Teoh
Heng Teong (director, Sports Centre, Universiti Malaya) and Sheikh
Kamaruddin Sheikh Hassan, (senior physical/health education lecturer)
from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
Teoh and Sheikh Kamaruddin, in particular, reiterated that as long as
implementation of programmes does not take place, everything will be back
to square one. And the duo cited many such examples.
Though Dr Zuber Hassan, a deputy director at the Ministry of Education,
was present, whether he got the right message conveyed by the respondents
to the director-general, is not known.
That the hall was packed with students, with a majority of them
chit-chatting away and not showing any interest in the discussion, made
it even more sad.
That the national sports associations were not present to absorb the
ideas being offered and ensure they do their part to see them implemented
by the schools, further underscored the apathy towards development of
sports in the country.
I hope I will be proven wrong that what ever plans revealed will not
just remain on paper. This is because I believe if they do come to
fruition, they will be the long-awaited answer to reviving Malaysian
It may take more than the five years targeted by the Ministry, but if
it is effectively executed by all concerned,we are bound to reap rewards.
Whether this becomes a reality, or merely talk, only time will tell.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Doctor With The Midas Touch

A LATE starter in bowling, Datuk Dr P. S. Nathan, has gone on to create a
number of firsts both as a player and official locally and
internationally. He has the distinction of having bowled the sports into
world recognition.
Son of a clerk, a consultant dermatologist by profession, Nathan, a
product of St Paul's and Victoria Institution who hails from Seremban. He
speaks to Mailsport's TONY MARIADASS.
MS: Datuk, you were stung by the bowling bug at the age of 35. How did
that happen?
PSN: Age is only a chronological number. What is important is the
biological age. I was very fit those days having played games all the
time during school and then during my doctorhood. I was pretty serious in
badminton and played very regularly. As to how I got into bowling, it was
my wife. She had been going bowling for some time with our American lady
neighbour in a morning tea league and she impishly suggested I try this
new game in town.
I did it to satisfy her and found that it was challenging but I had a
knack for it.
My very first game was 127 which I was told was not bad considering it
was a house ball. And the rest is history.
MS: What were your highlights as a player and then as an official?
PSN: As a player I was the first National Masters champion in 1974. It
was also the year I founded the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC).
When I took up bowling seriously in 1972, I found there was no national
body. As I wanted to compete, I got a few bowling die-hards and we formed
the MTBC.
As a player, my fulfilling moments were winning the national finals
three times in a row in 1975-77. (My wife won the ladies event the same
three years, thus creating a record of sorts) to represent Malaysia in
the AMF World Cup.
The singles gold at the SEAP Games in 75 (the first gold for Malaysia
in bowling in the SEA Games) and then the Asian Games team gold in 1978
(again the first gold for Malaysia in the Asian Games in bowling) were
memorable moments. The singles gold was a record that stood for more than
20 years.
I hung up my bowling shoes in 1981 after winning the national finals to
represent Malaysia in the first World Games. This was particularly
memorable as once again, my wife won the ladies finals with me.
As an official, I was the president of the Asian Bowling Federation
from 1984-1987. Then from 1987-2003 I was the president of the WTBA for
three terms of four years each. As the first Malaysian and the first
Asian to be the president of a world governing body of a sport it was
very challenging.
MS: How much has changed since your playing days and where is the game
heading these days?
PSN: A massive amount. In my playing games until 1981 we were only
allowed one bowling ball and they were all either rubber or plastic.
Since 1981, a urethane group of bowling balls have surfaced. Bowlers are
allowed any number of balls during competition. In golf, the number of
equipment is limited to 14 but in ours, there is no limit. The pins have
also changed. Lane maintenance has become very scientific leading to more
uniform playing condition. The net result is that score worldwide has
gone astronomical.
The number of perfect games used to be a rarity in my days. But these
days, every tournament sees at least one perfect game bowled a day.
Everyone would agree, by this I mean all those in the government body of
sports that the technical specifications should be tidied up.
Unfortunately, this is being resisted by the ball manufacturers. When I
became president first in 1987, that was my focus to try and bring back
credibility to the sport by tidying up the technical specification, to
create a more level playing field particularly for the smaller and newer
I managed to limit it to six balls and until powers that be bring down
this number to two or maximum three, the developing nations will always
be at a disadvantage in tenpin bowling.
MS: Do you think there should be more leaders who have been involved in
their respective sports and why?
PSN: Yes, indeed if they have the time and inclination. Why?
Principally to be guardians of the rules and regulations of their sport.
The present climate and culture in international sport federation is for
leaders to try and manipulate the rules to get, what I called unfair
advantage for their country or their region. Additionally, it will put
Malaysia on the world sports map.
MS: What's your advice for athletes to succeed in both sports and
PSN: If an academic has a talent in a certain sport, he would by nature
be inclined to get competitively involved. As to whether he would take it
to international level, is a function of his passion for the sport. To do
this of course, time management comes into play. There is no question
that one cannot excel in the library and in the field. In my case, I took
up competitive sport after graduating. This placed an even greater
emphasis on time management.
MS: You are also active in social work?
PSN: I have been the secretary of the KL Home Nursing Service
Association since 1974 when I was a Rotarian. This charity organisation
was founded by Rotary Club of KL and as a medical man, they asked me to
take over. My social work involves fund raising and I do this by bringing
in world renowned Indian classical musicians. Since 1991, I have raised
more than a RM1 million for this society.
MS: What is your hope for bowling in general?
PSN: My hope for bowling in Malaysia is we continue to go forward by
maintaining our position as a team to beat at Asian or world level. For
this, we must continue to have and implement our development programmes.
This requires funding and human resources. The human resource has to be
of world calibre as far as coaches are concerned.
We have a bunch of excellent councillors in MTBC and in general an
excellent group of bowlers in our elite programme. I do hope that the
council, the coaches and the bowlers work as a team to focus on winning
At the world level, I hope the new administration that has taken over
since my resignation will be apolitical and also non parochial. In the
last congress that I attended, politics was rampant and everyone was
scrambling like in musical chairs for name and fame. This does not bode
well for the future of international bowling.
MS: What message do you have for the present Malaysian athletes?
PSN: My message would be "go for it". Go for the red carpet that our
Minister of Sports Datuk Azlina Othman Said has laid out for the elite
athletes. All your needs will be taken care of including your education
and your future. This has the potential to take you to fame and fortune.
There are millions of PhDs but few millionaires and household names. In
sports, there be few millionaires, but those who have excelled are
legends and icons for life.
Profile: Datuk P. S. Nathan
Born: 3rd Nov 1933
Family: wife Datin S. Malathy and two children - son Ruben and daughter
Current Position: Consultant dermatologist, President MTBC.
Playing career:
1974 Malaysian National Masters champion
1975 SEA Games singles gold Medallist (Bangkok)
1977 K.L. SEA Games silver medallist in doubles; five-men team silver
1978 Bangkok Asian Games five-men team gold medallist
1974-1987 Captain of Malaysian National Tenpin Bowling Team
1975-1977 Malaysian AMF World Cup National Champion
1977 9th in AMF World Cup Championship in London
1981 World Games Malaysian National Champion
1981 9th in World Games, Santa Clara, USA
1974 Founder President of the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress - now
(31 years).
1977-1988 Member of Presidium of the Asian Bowling Federation - 11 years
1978-1983 Vice President of Asian Bowling Federation - 5 years
1984-1988 President of Asian Bowling Federation - 4 years
Since 1978 Executive Committee Member of Presidium of World Tenpin
Bowling Association - 27 years
1987-1995; 1999-2003 President of World Tenpin Bowling Association - 12
years(1st Asian to become President of a World Sports Organization.)
Since 2003 Life President WTBA
1991 Awarded the Golden Pin by the World Governing Body of Bowling
Other sporting activities:
1979-1980 President of World Bowling Writers Association
Since 1975 Member of Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) - 30 years
1991 Member of the 1998 Commonwealth Games Bid Committee
1991 Chef-de-Mission to the Manila SEA Games
1993-1998 Director of SUKOM - 6 years
1996-2000 Vice President of OCM - 6 years
Other societies:
Since 1975 Honorary Secretary of KL Home Nursing Service Association -
30 years
1975-1987 Member of Rotary Club - 12 years

Friday, September 16, 2005

EXERCISE IN FUTILITY (16/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 16/09/2005

IT was a noble effort by Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM)
vice-president, Low Beng Choo, to keep the international two-way exchange
programme on youth management alive, but how much was benefited from the
exercise, is a big question mark.
The programme, with the visit of five sports leaders from Iowa this
week, funded by the Bureau of Culture and educational Affairs of the US
Department of State, was introduced in 2003, with Iowa Amateur Athletic
Union (Iowa AAU) and the OCM as principal partner organisations with the
assistance from various sports organisation and agencies.
The purpose was to share information on how youth sport are managed in
both Malaysia and the US, especially by NGO's, clubs, schools and local
authorities at grassroots level.
The seminar was to show how various bodies in youth sports can be
coordinated and integrated, so that the educational, behavioural and
economic benefits of grassroots participation in sports is maximised.
While the turnout for the seminar on Tuesday at the National Sports
Council was encouraging with about 60 people from various sports
associations, agencies, schools, universities, departments and sports
councils were present, the question that needs to be answered is whether
the right people were present.
While some sports associations like bowling, cricket, shooting,
bodybuilding, snooker and billiard, table-tennis, volleyball and
basketball were represented by their senior officials. They were also
many junior officials present, who had no say in their respective
Above all, policy-makers were not present and whatever was imparted by
the delegation, really had little bearing because nothing was going to
This was clear when some of the participants decided to skip the
remaining sessions after the first hour. And they were from the Education
The aim of the seminar was to study how the sports programme, as it
exists in the US, involves the whole community - schools, parents, clubs,
sports organisations, local councils, parks departments etc - and how
they fit into an overall programme.
It was also to gather ideas on how Malaysians can get the whole
community moving as efforts are being made to develop a national sports
The delegation, with the husband and wife combination of Teresa and
Neil Parmenter (President Greater Des Moines Sport Authority and
chairperson Iowa AAU, and past President Iowa AAU and currently national
chairman for AAU - baseball, respectively), Troy Dannen (executive
director, Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union), Steve Duncan (director
of athletics, Valley High School) and Vicki Comegys (director of sales,
Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau), took pain to explain
their system to the best of their ability.
They focussed on actual examples of club, school, local authorities and
community programmes and how they developed, implemented, managed and
But from the start, it was a lost battle, because their concept is
based on voluntarism, self funding, family commitment, support of local
councils, developing facilities and fund raising.
Malaysians generally want to be spoon-fed, want monetary rewards, have
no time for family recreation, do not have the support from local
councils, want hand-outs and are not prepared to go the extra-mile.
And above all, the basic facilities - field and arenas - are not in
place and that instantly cripples the growth of sports.
There were a lot of good ideas which surfaced from the seminar, but
whether it is applicable, is left to be seen.
The seriousness of the American community towards community sports and
grassroots development is underlined from the fact that less than two per
cent of these programmes succeed.
But they still continue with their programmes and continue to expand,
because it has far more benefits than just attaining excellence standards
as its benefits include shaping the lifestyles of their youth, a healthy
mind and body, a productive society and character building, to name a few.
In all fairness to Malaysians, there are some communities like the one
in Subang Jaya, who organise the Subang Jaya Community Youth Football
League, which is a purely community effort, who are a independent lot
with great vision.
The delegation were in Penang yesterday to conduct a similar
seminar/workshop hosted by the Penang State Sports Council for the sports
fraternity in Penang and neighbouring States and it is hoped they will
use the ideas presented.
Changing the Malaysian mind-set towards sports development is going to
be tough task, but the efforts of OCM in collaboration with NSC should be
applauded, because without an effort, nothing can be achieved.

Friday, September 9, 2005

UKRC SHOW THE WAY (09/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 09/09/2005

IT is good to know that volunteerism, camaraderie and community values
still exist in today's punishing rat race.
And it is even more heartening to note there are sports clubs who
practise these values and they have proven that they can manage their
activities better than some of the more established institutions.
Ulu Klang Recreation Club (UKRC) are one such prime example.
Last weekend, the club - which have stood test and time to keep the
field from being acquired in the name of development - organised their
5th International Soccer 9s.
The tournament saw 12 teams competing. Two sides were from Singapore,
of which one - Garden FC - won the inaugural title.
It was not just about some veterans still trying to play football, when
their legs would certainly have been begging otherwise.
It was the manner UKRC orga nised the tournament, which had an air of
togetherness, friendship and warmth as well the spirit of competition,
all in the name of sports.
The fact the club - under the able leadership of Andrew Gopal - managed
to raise RM60,000 from the tournament and even secured a coup (by getting
Astro to be the title sponsors) speaks volumes of the efforts that went
towards the organising aspect.
What made it more remarkable was UKRC only spent RM20,000 to organise
the event.
The club did not engage any PR firm to publicise their event, nor any
management company were hired to raise funds and run the tournament.
The members of the club and residents of Ulu Klang all had a hand in
ensuring the tournament's success.
It was a common sight during the tournament to see club officials in
their distinctive attire, scampering the premises carrying out their
tasks - from filling drink containers, setting out chairs and tables,
decorating the VIP tent and keeping the area spick and span, ensuring
everything looked its best for the guest teams.
Instead of holding the welcoming dinner for the teams at a fancy hotel,
UKRC just arranged the tables on their field with light supplied through
oil-lamps placed in strategic points.
Only about RM7,000 was spent on the dinner for about 300 guests,
including community residents who used the club facilities.
And the food was fit for royalty.
The highlight of the event was a 10-minute-long fireworks display,
which saw the guests giving a standing ovation to the club for a splendid
show, one they least expected of such an insignificant tournament.
And no, before anyone starts accusing the club of "burning their money"
on the fireworks, it did not cost the club a single sen as it came
courtesy of the residents. They only spent RM1,000 - a 50 per cent
discount - to purchase the fireworks from a dealer-friend.
The club even had a hi-tea party at the end of the tournament on
Sunday, again with tables laid out on the field for about 100 guests.
All - winners and losers, spectators, supporters and visitors - left
UKRC with a heavy heart as they knew they would be missing the club's
warmth and hospitality.
For a club who only collect a monthly membership fee of RM20 from those
who play soccer in order to cover field maintenance costs, they certainly
have a lot to show.
It is free for others who join UKRC but they have to pay minimal fees
to use their other facilities, including a community hall and a
basketball court.
Over the years, UKRC have done renovations at minimal cost. And most
times, the members buy equipment on their own for the renovations, hire
part-time workers and they themselves also help out in areas whenever and
wherever possible.
For instance, a recent addition to the club premises are the rock
garden terraces, which the members built for only RM4,000 instead of the
normal fee of RM10,000.
Among the other club projects included the upgrading of the changing
room and store-room, tiling of the hall, regular upkeep of the field,
installing lights for basketball courts, clearing up surrounding areas of
the field, renovating the caretaker's house.
Apart from soccer, the other activities offered by UKRC are basketball,
a junior soccer development programme, karaoke sessions, Indian classical
dancing, line dancing and yoga lessons as well as quarterly medical camps.
Rest assured that when the same 9s tournament is held next year, there
will be further improvements to the club facilities from the funds raised
this year.
What a small community club can do, many sports associations with
better means and bigger budgets have failed to equal, all because there
are many with personal agendas.
The fact the UKRC land, approved for recreational use in 1958 but yet
to be gazetted to be under the club's control even though they have done
so much, should see the matter resolved once and for all by the
authorities concerned, so that such a strong community presence is not
The spirit at UKRC is similar to the one I experienced at the Maxis-NPC
Merdeka Rally for Humanity, where 66 cars and 25 bikers turned up to
support the cause.
Though the participants did not expect anything in return, they gave
their time and support to bring cheer - through gifts and donations - to
some 100 orphans from five homes.
The bikers, especially, braved the heavy rain to not only complete the
seven-hour rally, but also risked their lives to act as marshals in
guiding the cars.
It is such spirit and UKRC's, which offer hope to the sporting culture
to strive again, and hopefully, this will ignite the spark to seek
excellence in the field of sports in the near future.
But for as long as many still practice politicking in the world of
sports, have personal agendas, undermine one another, back-bite, are
selfish and are always looking for opportunities to manipulate situations
for their own gains, sports will continue to suffer and be dragged
through mud and slime time and again.

Friday, September 2, 2005

GLORIOUS PAST OF MERDEKA STADIUM (02/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 02/09/2005

THE nation was born on sporting grounds at the stroke of midnight on Aug
31, 1957, at the Selangor Padang (now known as Dataran Merdeka) and at
Merdeka Stadium, where the proclamation of independence was held the next
Such is the rich history of sports in this country and as we celebrated
our 48th year of independence on Wednesday, one could not help but look
back at yesteryears, when sports enjoyed more glory and accorded higher
After all, soccer and a few other sports were part of the legacies left
behind by the British and have been part of Malaysian culture since the
It was Tunku Abdul Rahman Al-haj's vision which saw Merdeka Stadium
built in record time and officially declared open on Aug 30, 1957, in
time for the Merdeka celebrations the following morning, where more than
10,000 attended the parade.
And it was Tunku's vision which saw the birth of the Merdeka soccer
tournament that soon became a prestigious event in Asia. The Asian Youth
tournament two years later was also the Tunku's brainchild.
Malaya became champions of the Merdeka tournament in 1958 and several
times thereafter.
And it was not only in soccer that Malaysia excelled in, but also in
badminton where Wong Peng Soon and Eddy Choong dominated the All-England
badminton championships from 1950 to 1957, following which Tan Aik Huang
won it again in 1966.
Malaysia then had athletes like Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan and Isthiaq
Mubarak reaching great heights in the Olympics, and the hockey team that
reached the World Cup semi-finals in 1975 at Merdeka Stadium.
While the nation have grown by leaps and bounds in all other areas, it
is sad that in sports, despite all the modern facilities, technology,
funds and rewards that are readily available, has deteriorated.
So what has gone wrong with Malaysian sports which started off on such
a strong note, but failed to grow in parallel with the nation, but
instead has faltered?
Other nations who played second fiddle to us and feared us in the past,
are now giants and have attained world-class level.
The biggest problem with Malaysian sports is there is not one weakness
or flaw that can be identified which could be rectified.
The ills befalling Malaysian sports have become widespread over the
years, and it is really hard to pinpoint the cause in order to provide
the antidote.
But probably, the fact that Merdeka Stadium, a historic landmark, was
almost reduced to ashes in 2001, should give Malaysians an idea of how
much they treasure the memories to emulate those who toil and sweat for
their achievements.
And it comes as no surprise that Malaysian sportsmen and women do not
display the same passion, spirit, determination, discipline and
dedication to strive in the sporting arena.
For me, my association with Merdeka Stadium started without my
knowledge when I was only a year old in 1959.
My parents actually held my first birthday tea-party at the restaurant
in the stadium!
No, my parents were not rich, but caretakers of a guest-house, but
having been married six months before Merdeka and being part of the
celebrations, they probably treasured those moments and wanted me to
share the joy and happiness by throwing a party for me there.
I may not have known it then, but that association 46 years ago has
virtually "married" me to the stadium.
I only realised the tea-party was at Merdeka Stadium, as I grew older
and recognised those black-and-white photographs taken then.
Then as a schoolboy, I ran along the Merdeka Stadium bitumen tracks at
my school's (St John's Institution) sports day.
And how can I forget the 1975 World Cup semi-finals which I watched as
a schoolboy?
And from the early 80s, Merdeka Stadium became my regular haunt as a
cub reporter covering Razak Cup, Asian Schools, Malaysia Cup and Merdeka
tournament soccer matches, in addition to the countless athletics meets,
not to mention watching live concerts there, including Eric Clapton's
Millions of other Malaysians will have similar tales to relate, and
which will be told for many years to come.
And to think of the disrespect and disregard for the Grand Old Lady,
that has been accorded Merdeka Stadium, is indeed scary, not to mention
our Father of Independence.
Thanks to Permodalan Nasional Berhad, who had taken over from previous
owners United Engineers Malaysia Berhad, and their chairman, Tan Sri
Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, a concerted effort has been made to conserve and
preserve the stadium.
It is disconcerting that Malaysians have gradually been ignoring the
value of sports.
Efforts are being made to instil the sporting culture in Malaysians
once again, but it is not something which will take place overnight
because they must feel the sporting spirit first.
Some may think it is far-fetched to associate Merdeka Stadium with the
ills of sports in the country today, but it was where it began for the
nation and sports. And if Malaysians do not value those moments and try
to relive them, let alone better them, a part of our history would
already have been erased.
Merdeka Stadium is the soul and character of Malaysia and their
sporting achievements.
For as long as Merdeka Stadium still exists, it will bear testimony to
Malaysia's glorious sporting past.
Maybe, that was why they wanted to reduce the Grand Old Lady to ashes
and build skyscrapers instead!