Friday, February 28, 2014

Arul’s key to excellence

Friday, February 28, 2014 - The Malay Mail
I DON’T know how many of our sportsmen and women have heard cricketer Arul Suppiah’s motivational message on radio station Lite FM, but it has been on air repeatedly for more than a month now.
Each time I listen to Arul’s message in his thick English accent, I wonder how many of our athletes understand what he is saying and whether what he said meant anything to them.
Don’t blame the 30-year-old Arul for speaking with an accent because he has been living in England from a tender age of 12 to realise his dream — to become a fi rst-class cricketer.
In his inspirational message, Arul urges athletes to nurture their talent and pursue their dreams to be top class athletes in their fi eld. He says he had talent and worked at it with determination.
Arul had uprooted himself from the comforts of his home to go abroad on his own in order to pursue his dream.
Many a time, Arul would cry himself to sleep, unable to stand the cold, missing his parents, home-cooked food and, above all, having to compete in a foreign land where he received no favours.
But he was made of sterner stuff and chasing a dream that he knew he could achieve despite the trials and tribulations.
A right-handed batsman and a left-arm orthodox spin bowler, Arul was the youngest player to represent Malaysia at 15 and played at England Under-14, Under-15, Under-16 and Under-18 levels. He also represented England Under-16 at hockey and played badminton for his school.
The Kuala Lumpur boy moved to England to attend Milfi eld School with the support of Sports Excel when he won a scholarship to further his studies and cricket career.
He made his debut for Somerset Second XI in 2000 and played for the fi rst team for the fi rst time in 2002 against West Indies, making his first-class debut. The rest is history as he continued to win accolades for his achievements, including making cricketing history when he set a new world record for the best bowling fi gures in T20 cricket after taking six wickets for fi ve runs against Glamorgan in Cardiff in July, 2011. He has scored 5,156 runs and taken 45 wickets.
Arul was forced to retire early in the middle of the 2013 season after continuing problems with both his knees.
He was appointed the director of cricket at Queen’s College in Taunton in January.
On accepting his new appointment, Arul said: “It has been a pretty varied and hectic year for me what with me being awarded a benefit year by Somerset and then having to retire midway through it, but that is probably why I worked to get my degree when I was younger, which meant I had something to fall back on.
He added: “It’s a new challenge to me in my career and I am really looking forward to it, so can’t wait to get started in January.”
Yes, Arul was granted a ‘benefit year’ by Somerset County Cricket Club for his loyalty. This means he got to host a variety of events to raise funds for charitable organisations and himself.
Arul was in Malaysia last year to organise charity events and will return in April to hand over the funds raised — RM52,000 each for Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation (CARIF) and KL Junior Cricket Development, which had discovered Arul’s talent.
So, how many Malaysians can do what Arul has done? Are our sportsmen and women who recognise their talent prepared to go all the way and make sacrifi ces to live their dreams? How many young footballers have we seen go overseas, only to quickly return home, citing cold weather, diff erent food, homesickness and most of all not being able to blend in with the locals where they were based? Malaysian athletes are generally a pampered lot and unwilling to make sacrifi ces or go the extra mile to become the best.
They are a contented lot and lack ambition.
Here we have Arul who not only excelled in cricket but is giving back to society through charity work. If we had more Aruls, Malaysian sports will indeed be fl ying high.
This is where I wonder if the High Performance Training Centre (HPTC) in Hertfordshire, England, which was proposed in 2006, would have made a difference as young Malaysian athletes would have been placed there to be nurtured. Sadly, the idea was shot down.
I remember how the then director-general of the National Sports Council (NSC) Datuk Dr Ramlan Aziz, who had so much to off er, was ridiculed when he tried to reason for the HPTC programme.
Let it go on record that HPTC was not shelved because of opposition but because of delicate land matters related to redeveloping the Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre (TARRC) in England.
It’s a pity that the idea was not allowed to germinate because TARCC continues to host wedding receptions, Merdeka Day celebrations and parties while a big portion of the building is rotting and a huge piece of the land has been loaned out to farmers for their sheep and cows to graze as it is too expensive to mow the grass.
years of experience in sports
journalism and is passionate
about Malaysian sports. He
can be reached at tmariadass@ Twitter handle: @

Friday, February 21, 2014

Exhilrating inspiration

Friday, February 21, 2014 - The Malay Mail

A LINK sent by a friend titled “Humanity in sports restored. A rare but beautiful thing” prompted me to write my own experience to underline how sports cuts through all barriers and is indeed a beautiful thing.
Make it a point to watch the link at http://ifi tnessstudio. net/humanity-sports-restoredrare-beautiful-thing/ to understand better.
If it does not make you shed a tear, I don’t know what will.
Many of us take sports for granted, especially in Malaysia, where athletes are a pampered lot who demand so many things but in the end, the results are far from satisfactory.
Never mind not winning honours, but the eff ort put in by the athletes is far from their best.
One only has to take a look at the physically challenged athletes to really appreciate all the goodness the able athletes have at their disposal.
It was the 20th Deaflympics in Melbourne in 2005 that changed my entire outlook on life.
I had covered the SEA, Asian and Olympics Games and they all gave me moments to remember and cherish. But it was the Deafl ympics that gave me moments which make me sad whenever I recall them.
When I was given the opportunity to cover the Games, my fellow sports journalists, friends and even a former sports editor who was one of my mentors laughed at me.
“Of all the Games you are going to cover a Deaflympics! What do you hope to achieve from covering it?” they asked.
But when I returned from Melbourne, I had the last laugh. But they still could not understand my joy of having covered the Games. What they did not know was that they had missed a lifetime opportunity to experience something beautiful that would have make them look at life differently.
Armed with a sign language book I arrived in Melbourne with the Malaysian contingent of 13 athletes who were competing in athletics, badminton, swimming and tenpin bowling.
I followed the Malaysian contingent to training that evening. When we boarded the bus, there were already athletes and coaches from various nations on it. The moment the Malaysian athletes entered, everyone started signing and despite the different nationalities, they could all communicate.
I stood in awe and was a little embarrassed as I was left out of the conversation and laughter. But it was a sight to behold as there was no language barrier amongst the athletes.
There was more to come. At the opening ceremony at the Olympic Park Stadium, the celebration kicked off with a colourful parade of over 3,600 athletes from 85 countries.
While I was enjoying the spectacular opening ceremony from the media room, I noticed outside the room, a small group of people seated in pairs at tables, facing each other and holding hands. Curious, I went out f o r a closer look.
They were actually following the opening ceremony, speeches, songs, dances, the parade and all and the smiles on their faces showed they were having the time of their lives.
I moved closer and saw that the group was blind. A lady approached me and asked if she could help. I asked her who were these people were and what was going on.
She replied: “They are not only deaf and blind, but also speech impaired. They are a very special group here. We brought them here to experience the opening ceremony of the Games. And mind you, they are following the proceedings just like you and me.”
How, I asked.
“See the balloons they holding close to their chests? These balloons translate the vibrations from the music played so they can follow the songs. And the persons holding their hands, who are able people, translate the proceedings on the fi eld, the speeches, the songs and atmosphere, through a special method.”
I just stood there for a good half hour watching them and thinking how blessed we able people were and at the same time feeling good that the group could still experience everything despite their disabilities.
The lady I spoke to was a professor at a university in Melbourne who specialised in training volunteers to help these special people.
And when I started to attend the events of the Games, there were more moments that touched me when I saw the grit and determination shown by the deaf athletes who competed as if there was no tomorrow and their life depended on the outcome. And the joy on their faces when they triumphed was something money cannot buy.
If only our able athletes could do the same. It may be too much to ask, but I hope at least those who read this article will make a difference in the future.
TONY MARIADASS has 35 years
of experience in sports journalism
and is passionate about Malaysian
sports. He can be reached at Twitter
handle: @tmariadass

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Racism shown the red card

Racism shown the red card

Pahang to complain to parent body over remarks hurled at Jamaican defender
Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 13:30

COOL UNDER PRESSURE: Stewart (front) stayed composed while under pressure from insults of opposing players — Pic: SHAHIR OMAR
IT has been almost unheard of before but racism is sadly rearing its ugly head in the MLeague amidst claims that a Pahang footballer was taunted by players from an opposing team.
Pahang FA is expected to report to the FA of Malaysia (FAM) today over alleged racist remarks hurled at their Jamaican defender Damion Stewart by Johor Darul Takzim’s Pablo Aimar and Luciano Figueroa in a Super League match at the Darulmakmur Stadium last Saturday.
It is believed this is the first time such a report has been lodged in the history of Malaysian football.
It is understood that Stewart was harassed throughout the match and his Pakistan teammate Zesh Rehman will be the key witness in the report to be submitted today.
The source said it was fortunate Stewart kept his cool and did not react angrily during the match, despite being constantly heckled by both the former Argentinean internationals.
However, after the match, Damion attempted to confront Aimar and Figuero but was restrained by team officials who asked him to head straight for the dressing room instead.
“The good name of the sport lies tarnished with such degrading remarks. Sport is meant to be clean, fair and above all enjoyable,” said the source.
“Pahang FA views the incident seriously and will ensure the ugly episode will not be swept under the carpet. We also hope FAM will view the matter seriously enough to deter a repeat of similar incidents in the future.”
Last July saw the visiting Chelsea FC complain to FAM after their Israeli forward Yossi Benayoun was taunted by fans during a friendly match against the national team at Bukit Jalil.
FAM, had then in a statement, said: "... if such an incident did happen, we apologise to the player and also to Chelsea FC."
Chelsea sportingly responded by saying: "We regard the matter closed".
Benayoun is one of few Israelis to have played here despite the country not having diplomatic relations with the East Mediterranean nation.
FAM's disciplinary code states a player will be suspended for four matches and fined RM2,000 for the first offence and suspended six matches with a RM3,000 fine for a second offence if they are found guilty of physical contact with intent to hurt or using foul, abusive or insulting words — among others — to another.

Incidents of racism involving stars
RACISM in football has hogged the limelight across the globe. Even big stars including the likes of AC Milan's Mario Balotelli, England international Ashley Young and Manchester City's Yaya Toure have been subjected to degrading taunts by fans and fellow players.
Here is a list of recent incidents that have marred the beautiful game.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sports is sacred, don’t blemish

Friday, February 07, 2014 - The Malay Mail

IT is hardly two months into the new year and already the ugly side of a number of Malaysian sports has come into play.
Sports is beautiful and supposed to bring joy, not heartache and disappointments.
But in this country, it is being dragged through the mud, much to the detriment of its development. Millions of ringgit are being channelled into sports yearly, but where are the returns?
Various incidents in the Mleague have given Malaysian sports a bad name: referees blasted by officials and players; officials allegedly assaulted off field; and buses and cars attacked by fans, to name but a few. This is not to mention the poor playing conditions.
And to make matters worse, Kuala Lumpur FA officials have been implicated in match-fixing.
How this episode is going to end is anyone’s guess because there is scant information.
Then we have KLFA president Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz saying his association should not be held responsible for the fiasco, including the engagement of the team sponsor which is implicated in the alleged bribery.
But what takes the cake is Astaman’s statement that the present structure, in which state FAs have to source for their own funding to sustain professional teams, is unworkable.
Surely, he knows professional football does not work on handouts or charity? Maybe it is time KLFA was helmed by someone who knows what professional football is.
Then we had the FA of Malaysia (FAM) keeping everyone guessing on who would be appointed the new national coach, only to announce Ong Kim Swee will take charge of every other national team in the Malaysian football setup.
FAM is courting trouble with its delayed actions and making decisions that don’t make any sense. Its indecisiveness does not augur well for long-term planning and the tournaments ahead.
Earlier, there was controversy over a noble project – the National Development Football Programme. FAM stayed out of it initially. Things have been worked out now, but the project has yet to get off the ground in full scale with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and FAM working together.
Then, there is the badminton saga with the resignation of officials and players. The sport itself has been marred by the mediocre performance of the players, save Lee Chong Wei, who has announced he will be retiring this year.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia has yet to reveal how it is going to address the decline in the standard of the game and other problems.
Of course, the sepak takraw drama has been going on for a while now, with even minnows becoming a threat to the national team.
Meanwhile, hockey coach Paul Revington’s sudden resignation after naming the national squad – the second time he tendered his resignation – certainly shocked the fraternity.
Many believe there is more to it than meets the eye, although Revington has claimed that he is resigning because he cannot handle the pressure.
The latest ugly news in Malaysian sports is that the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) faces the prospect of being suspended for the mismanagement of funds allocated by the government for the development of cycling, especially road racing.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said based on the initial audit report submitted by the audit department of the ministry on Jan 29, there are a number of discrepancies in the way the MNCF is managing the funds.
The Sports Commissioner and the ministry’s auditors will conduct a detailed audit of the accounts to present a clearer picture.
As a result of the MNCF affair, Khairy has instructed to immediately tighten the procedures by which public funds are distributed to sports associations via the ministry.
This should make all the sports associations sit up and pay attention.
They can no longer do whatever takes their fancy.
And the taxpayers can rest assured that there will be better accountability.
Some associations have been getting off scot-free in the name of sports and it is about time they learnt they cannot take everyone for a ride.
At the same time, the sports minister should look at the powers of the National Sports Council (NSC), especially in managing and dispersing funds to national bodies.
NSC certainly cannot be taking over the role of national sports associations and it cannot have sole authority over the funds available for the associations.
The national bodies should be given the responsibility to run and manage their associations with NSC acting as the watchdog.
Certainly, many things in Malaysian sports are not right and the faster these are corrected and set on the right path, the brighter the future.

TONY MARIADASS is sports editor of
The Malay Mail. He can be reached at
Twitter handle: @tmariadass

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Final journey of a legend

Tuesday, February 04, 2014 - The Malay Mail

TRUE FRIEND: Choon Wah's best friend Chin Aun paying his last respect at the crematorium yesterday. In the background Choon Wah's three daughters — (L-R kneeling) Fai Lai, Fai Mei, Fai Siang.

THE sports fraternity came in numbers to pay their last respects to footballer extraordinaire Wong Choon Wah in the last two days when his body laid in wake.
Yesterday, on his final journey before being cremated, they came again, not just footballers, but badminton, hockey and officials of various sports.
Accolades were pouring endlessly as they spoke of the midfield maestro's playing days and what a simple man he was.
Choon Wah, who would have turned 67 on March 31, certainly touched many people.
Among the officials present yesterday were Datuk Peter Velappan, the former Asian Football Confederation secretary and assistant team manager of the 1972 Munich Olympics squad which Choon Wah was a member, and former FA of Selangor treasurer R. Ramalingam.
The other sports personalities present included former hockey internationals Datuk Sri Shanmuganathan, Datuk Poon Fook Loke and K. Balasingam, badminton's Datuk James Selvaraj and a host of ex-footballers such as Khoo Luen Khen, who flew in from Hong Kong.
Others present included Choon Wah's former national team buddies, Datuk Soh Chin Aun, Datuk Santokh Singh, Bahwandi Hiralal, Lim Fong Kee, N. Thanabalan, Vincent Thambirajah, V. Kalimuthu, Wong Hung Nung, N. Thanabalan, Vincent Thambirajah, K. Kanagarajah, and Ho Hon Seong to name a few.
Choon Wah, a former Selangor player, was a member of the illustrious 1972 Munich Olympics team, played professional football in Hong Kong (1972-74) with South China Athletics Association, won a Asian Games bronze medal in Teheran in 1974, collected Malaysia Cup medals with Selangor in 1968, 1969, 1971, 1975 and 1976 and Merdeka tournament victor in 1973 and 1974.
Choon Wah may be gone, but his memories will forever live on.
He leaves wife Lee Nyok Ching, daughters Fai Mei, Fai Mei, Fai Siang, son-in-law Mike and grandchildren Nathaniel and Grabrielle Precious.
PAYING TRIBUTE: Among the sportsmen of yesteryears who came to pay their last respect to Choon Wah — (from left): Narasimha Rao, I. Sundram, Teoh Teck Huat, Thanabalan, Luen Khen, Vincent, Santokh, Chin Aun, Kalimuthu, Fong Kee, Balasingam, Soh Chin Lay, Datuk Yap Nyim Keong and Hon Seong

Monday, February 3, 2014

Farewell Ah Tuck


Football legend Choon Wah leaves memories to be cherished


DESPITE his status as the best midfielder Malaysia has produced thus far, Wong Choon Wah, fondly known to his close friends as Ah Tuck, lived a simple life. And he passed away on Friday, the first day of Chinese New Year, a simple man.
I grew up idolising Choon Wah and never in my wildest dream did I think that he would one day be a good friend of mine.
I bonded with him as a rookie reporter in the late 1970s, when I used to cover the local league in the Klang Valley. I met Choon Wah when he was playing for the Selangor Chinese Recreation Club (SCRC) in the Selangor League.
It was Kuala Lumpur FA treasurer Goh Ah Chai who introduced me to Choon Wah at the SCRC building in Jalan Pudu, where the club played their league matches.
I could not believe I was meeting Choon Wah, a legend and one whom I had admired all those years.
Being the unassuming man he was, he welcomed me warmly and immediately offered me beer. When I told him that I was working and that I did not drink, he said: “My friend, if you want to cover sports and be a journalist, you had better learn to have a few, especially with friends.”
I obliged, and we became friends. It was there too that I met another football well-known, a referee – the late Koh Guan Kit.
Every time I dropped by SCRC, I made sure I paid my respects to Choon Wah. But it was in the last 10 years that I became very close to the man as he was an ambassador for club football and youth development programmes and was actively involved actively with the Ex-Internationals Football Association.
He never missed any event organised by the Ulu Kelang Recreation Club (UKRC), International Football Club (IFC) and Royal Selangor Club where he would join the other ex-internationals to add glamour to the event and inspire the younger players.
At the Ex-Internationals Soccer 9s organised by the association two years ago, Choon Wah, although he did not play, was a hit as almost everyone wanted to take a photograph with him.
He was also involved with IFC – a club for ex-internationals – with former international Ho Hon Seong being among those who keep the club alive and active. It was at IFC that I got to know Choon Wah better as we met regularly.
I last met Choon Wah on Jan 25 at the Sports Flame dinner and appreciation night organised by four former sports journalists (George Das, R. Velu, Fauzi Omar and Lazarus Rokk) to recapture the sports fraternity’s golden moments in the 1970s and 1980s and to show their appreciation for the athletes of that era who have been mostly forgotten.
A smartly dressed Choon Wah walked in during cocktails and I called him over and introduced him to a few who did not know him.
He then left to mingle with the rest. But at the end of the dinner, he came up to me to say that he was leaving. It was only 10pm, and I invited him to have a drink, remembering the time he first offered me one.
Sadly, he turned it down, saying that he had to meet some people elsewhere. Next time then, I told him, but that is not to be.
Accolades are being heaped on Choon Wah, including from the prime minister, who has expressed shock at his demise. But I wish this midfield maestro had been given some recognition when he was still alive.
While many of his teammates and even footballers who came long after him have been honoured with titles from various heads of state, Choon Wah was bestowed none.
He lived a quiet life and probably that’s the way he wanted it to be.
To recap, Choon Wah was the first player to venture into professional football in Hong Kong with South China Athletics Association from 1972 to 1974 before the likes of Lim Fung Kee, Chow Chee Keong and Yip Chee Keong followed suit.
ONE FOR THE MEMORY: The scribe with (from left) Chow Chee Keong ,Choon Wah, Santokh Singh and Yip Chee Keong at a UKRC function.
 He is among the footballers who played in the Olympics – in Munich 1972 – the only time Malaysia played in the Games. He played in all three matches – against West Germany (the tournament’s opening match) the USA and Morocco in group stage.
His teammates included Wong Kam Fook, Fung Kee, Othman Abdullah, Namat Abdullah, M. Chandran, Khoo Huan Khen, Hamzah Hussain, Sharuddin Abdullah, Wan Zawawi, V. Krishnasamy, Ibrahim Salleh, Harun Jusoh, Ali Bakar, Mohamad Bakar, Looi Loon Teik, Rahim Abdullah and Bahwandi Hiraral.

Choon Wah, who would have turned 67 on March 31, made his Malaysia Cup debut in 1968, playing for Selangor. The state never lost a Malaysia Cup final when Choon Wah was in the team, winning in 1968, 1969, 1971, 1975 and 1976. He also turned out for MCIS in the local league and FAM Cup.
Known for his precision, defence-splitting passes and total control of the engine room, Malaysia has not seen another player of his calibre since.
It is somewhat fitting that this great footballer galloped out on the first day of the Year of the Horse.
Rest in peace, my dear Ah Tuck. You will always be remembered and talked about at every football function from now on. You may be gone, but your memories will definitely live on.

Quotes from former players Datuk Santokh Singh
HE was fantastic midfielder. I have lost a good friend. We got together and had a good time whenever there were functions. I will miss that. I only have fond memories of him, especially the bronze he helped us win at the Teheran Asian Games in 1974.
Datuk K. Rajagobal
He was from a legendary era. I was sad when I heard the news. He contributed a lot to the country and I am honoured to have played with him towards the end of his career. He was a midfield maestro that was never afraid to play the ball.
Soh Chin Aun
We were like brothers. I came to KL in 1971 and stayed at his house till 1979. I will miss my big brother. He doesn't like to compare himself with others but he was the best in the business.
N. Thanabalan
He was a great player. I was on the left flank while he was in the middle of the park and was very skillful. He was always very jovial and easy to get along with, both on and off the pitch. My best football memories are the Malaysia Cup final in 1968 for Selangor and several editions of the SEA Games. He was a council member ex State and ex National Footballers Association and we were planning an AGM, which always begun with players from north of Malaysia going against southern counterparts. He was appointed as coach for the south team. I've lost a very good friend.
Ho Hon Seong
We were both working in MCIS in the 1970s. He was very humble person and rarely lost his anger. He was always there to guide us. He treated everyone the same. We used to get togehter often for ex-international meet-ups or meetings and he wished me Happy Chinese New Year the morning he passed away. It's very sad that he went after that. Thought it was a joke when I heard it. We were planning a trip to New York last year but we could not make it and we were hoping it would be this year. We lost a legend, I lost a friend.
Bahwandi Hiralal
To lose a great friend is always a great loss. He was a no nonsense guy and football was everything. Until today there has been no one like him with brains in the middle of the field. He was a midfield general, the best Malaysia had seen. In his company, things were never dull. I will miss him a lot. There are a few of us who remained close over the years, he was one. Practically every month we met. Everyone was equal to him. He had no air about himself.
Datuk M. Karathu
We played in the 1968 Merdeka Tournament, where we were champions. It was fantastic playing alongside him. He was a left footer and with so much of creativity. Only last Saturday I met him, and fellow ex interntonals at a function honouring us. We always met at functions, more recently at Royal Selangor Club tournaments. He was dedicated to football, very quiet but works hard on the field. He also trained very hard to get on the starting line-up.

Datuk Khaidir Buyong
He was very friendly and down to earth. He was very hardworking and the best midfielder by far.

K. Gunalan
We got close during the Sultan Selangor Cup in 2001 where he managed the ex-Selangor side. He was always easy to communicate with. I will miss him dearly