Thursday, July 31, 2014

Life beyond dreams

Published on Saturday 26 July - The Malay Mail (ICONS FROM THE PAST)


DATUK Peter Velappan is living proof that one's path in life need not just be a dream. Who would have thought that a Tamil-educated estate boy would one day be dining with prime ministers, presidents, top football officials and big-name players and be a celebrity himself.
Peter, reflecting on his 50 years as a football administrator, is amazed by the journey the game has given him.
Early days
After an early Tamil education in a rubber plantation in Siliau, Negri Sembilan, Peter was lucky enough to attend an English school (Anglo-Chinese School) in Seremban.
Many can look upon his achievements with envy and wonder how did it happen.
From the early days, he went to Brinsford, England to attend his teacher’s training from 1955 to 1958. He returned to teach in ACS before becoming a powerful man in world football.
He has achieved so numerous honours in so many fields, that many wonder if this man is for real.
Peter reading a copy of his book Beyond Dreams, which traces his life from the estate to the pinnacle of world football.
Keen sportsman
Many may not know, but Peter was a keen sportsman from young, excelling in football, hockey and athletics.
Peter, who turns 79 on Oct 1, represented his school in those three sports. He went on to don state colours, too, in all the sports when he returned to teach.
Before long, he returned to his studies at Loughborough University, doing a degree course in physical education sports.
Man for all seasons
It was then that he moved into another area in sports – coaching – as he attended stints with Arsenal and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Upon his return, he became assistant secretary to the late Datuk Kwok Kin Keng with the FA of Malaysia.
While as assistant secretary, Peter assumed another position – coach of the national youth and senior teams for several years.
He was also assistant manager to the late Datuk Harun Idris and was with the national team who played in the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Peter’s other appointments included deputy director of sports in the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports, personnel director of Lever Brothers before taking up appointment as secretary of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 1978, a position he held for 30 years before stepping down in 2007.
“I keep wondering how this journey of life was bestowed on me. I certainly did not dream or choose this life," said Peter, who has just returned from the recent World Cup in Brazil.
“Yes, it was my 13th World Cup. My first was in England in 1966 when I went as one of FAM's delegates."
A young Velappan (second row, left) represented his school in football.
“Definitely the most memorable World Cup was when I was tasked to coordinate the Korea-Japan World Cup. It was memorable because it was a diffi cult task and that it turned out to be a success.
“I am glad that I was able to get teams like South Korea and North Korea and Iraq and Kuwait to play the game on the same field.
“I am happy that I managed to implement many youth programmes, introduce new tournaments both for men and women and portray Asia as the future of football.”
“Looking back, I really cannot find any regrets. It has been one journey of experience. “Probably, I was a little sad that former AFC president Mohammed Hammam had come aboard with so much of promise for the game in Asia, but in the end turned out to be a different man.
“Generally, it has been a rollercoaster ride.
But I had no time to think of regrets, only to move forward and make it better.”
Special Olympics
After all these years of involvement in football, one would think Peter,, who has been there and done that, would want to take his long overdue holiday.
On the contrary, there is no let-up as Peter is now involved with Special Olympics Malaysia.
He was largely instrumental in getting the International Special Olympics Committee to give Malaysia the nod to host the Special Olympics World Cup in November after Brazil had pulled out at the eleventh hour.
Peter recently launched his book ‘Beyond Dreams’ – a book not be missed by any Malaysian who is passionate about the game.
In writing the book, Peter said: “It is my wish that this story of my life will be an inspiration to young children born to families in poverty. It is education and education alone that can open opportunities to a new world.
However, this must be accompanied by hard work, discipline and assistance of families and friends.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

No time to waste

A Chinese boy carries a bag of footballs as he heads for training at the Evergrande International Football School. The 167-acre campus is the brainchild of property tycoon Xu Jiayin, whose ambition is to train a generation of young athletes to establish China as a football powerhouse. — Picture by Getty

OFFICIALS from the National Sports Associations (NSA) have to start thinking outside the box to take their sports to the next level.
Just conducting traditional development programmes with minimal supervision is no longer good enough.
Even the recently launched National Football Development Programme (NFDP) that aims to see more than 52,000 players trained by 2020, is no guarantee Malaysia’s dream of playing in the World Cup will be a reality.
But at least a concerted eff ort is being made to elevate football’s standard. Malaysia had in 1999 targeted qualifying for this year’s World Cup, but fell in the second stage of preliminary qualifying to Singapore.
At the recent World Cup, Australia, at No 62, were the lowest ranked country among the 32 teams. That should give us a clear picture of our chances — we share No. 151 place with India in Fifa’s rankings. In Asia, we are ranked 27th among the Asian Football Confederation’s 46 members.
Not surprisingly, Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said this week reviews are underway and Olympic status may not be enough for sports to continue enjoying government funding.
The National Sports Council (NSC) has 19 core sports, but it has to conduct a stock taking and kick out associations who don’t perform.
We have to be cruel to be kind. NSAs have to be more independent and source their own funds. Talent scouting has to be done in rural areas with centralised training centres in places where talent is available, not just in Kuala Lumpur. Take China. They are ranked No. 103 in football and are working to qualify for the World Cup. If you think Malaysia’s football plan is good, then China’s is great.
BBC recently aired a programme on the Evergrande Football School, situated about an hour from the southern city of Guangzhou, that is meant to change China’s football fortunes.
In terms of facilities, the school boasts an Olympic-size swimming pool, tennis courts and 42 full-sized football pitches! With places for 2,300 students, the boarding school off ers normal academic lessons and football sessions — at least an hour a day — conducted by a team of Real Madrid-trained coaches.
The centre was built in less than a year at a cost of almost US$200 million (RM634.4 million) and is the brainchild of the billionaire owner of one of China’s biggest football clubs, Guangzhou Evergrande.
The school claims high-level political support too. Chinese President Xi Jinping has three wishes — to qualify for, to host and to win the World Cup.
But even a grand plan like that has its faults. Only those who can aff ord it can join the school, will China’s best players be represented? What about all the talent among the poor?
Other countries have their own sports programme to achieve excellence and bring honour to their country. It is a battle out there and Malaysia are minnows in the pond.
We need to get it right from now.

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 handle: @tmariadass

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fans getting a raw deal

Chow Chee Keong is a rare breed among Malaysian sportsmen, but there is not much record of his career. Last week, in an exclusive interview with Tony Mariadass, he revealed many things not known about him.

IN this second part of the interview, the 64-year-old Chee Keong, who rarely speaks to the media, talks about local players, football administration andl fans.
IT was an era when goalkeepers were many and extremely talented, but Chow Chee Keong still emerged as the top custodian.
There was Lim Fung Kee, Wong Kam Fook, the late R. Arumugam and Ong Yu Tiang and Rashid Hassan who came to the scene a little later, but Chee Keong remains the best goalkeeper ever to grace the national jersey.
Not only was he voted Best Goalkeeper from 1966 to 1968 by the Asian Football Confederation, he was also sought by top Brazilian club Cruzerio FC. The great Pele, whom Chee Keong played against on numerous occasions while plying his professional trade in Hong Kong, became his good friend and had, not surprisingly, had many kind words about the Malaysian’s performances.
Other Malaysians followed suit
Chee Keong was instrumental in paving the way for many other Malaysians to play professionally in Hong Kong. These included Fung Kee, Kam Fook, the late Wong Choon Wah and Yip Chee Keong.
“These players approached me to help them find clubs in Hong Kong and I did. But sadly, many of them blamed me when they ran into diffi culties, coping with the conditions in Hong Kong,” said Chee Keong.
“Naturally, the local players were not happy with Malaysians playing in Hong Kong. They made it difficult for us, and we became their target in matches. It was no diff erent for me when I first went to Hong Kong, where I had to use my martial arts skills in goalkeeping to prevent myself from getting injured.
“I also had to be mentally strong and was determined to make a name for myself.”
Chee Keong said some of the Malaysian players who came to Hong Kong were not mentally strong and soon became depressed and wanted out.
“(Namesake) Yip Chee Keong was an exception. He adapted himself well and was a hit with South China FC.”
Chee Keong said Malaysian players should strive to play overseas because all over the world, the better players play in leagues outside their home country.
“That is the only way to improve one’s game and all the challenges they are faced with will only make them better players.
Chee Keong defies gravity during the Merdeka tournament in his heyday
Malaysian players
“It is sad that many Malaysian players who have had the opportunity to go overseas decided to return, citing weather conditions, food, language, homesickness and not being able to adapt to the tough training or blending with the team.
“As long as this continues, Malaysian players are not going to improve and reach high standards just by playing in the leagues at home,” he said.
He also took a dig at present day athletes who take things for granted, are pampered and who do not know what sacrifice is all about.
“I cannot believe that present day sportsmen and women lack the ambition to improve themselves and reach for the highest level of performance.
“They are so easily contented in the comfort zone. They do not push themselves and shun hard work.”
Naturally, he said sports in Malaysia must be administered by former sportsmen and women rather than politicians and people who do not have a clue about the sport.
“It is sad that many sports associations are run by people who do not have a clue of the sport or are not sportingly orientated,” said Chee Keong.
“Many helm the associations for their own personal gain or just to be popular and enjoy the benefits.
“We need officials who are passionate about sports and want to take sports to the highest level possible.
“Malaysia is very lucky to have loyal fans who pack the stadium week in and week out despite the poor quality of football dished out,” said Chee Keong.
“It is about time that something is done for the fans so that they get their money’s worth.
“Right now, they are being cheated as the football is of poor quality.
“The governing body, the coaches and players have an obligation to treat the fans to better quality games.
“These people have to remember that the day the fans decide to walk out on them, they will be playing to empty stadiums and the football will fall flat in country. I hope they do not take the fans for granted.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

‘Don’t quote me, please!’

FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014 - The Malay Mail

 needs to be a major shake-up in the majority of our sports organisations if we want to move forward.
If we continue the way we are, there are bound to be more heartaches, disappointments and failures.
Despite sports generally having been elevated to professional level, the results have not been encouraging. There is plenty of money available for sports and ultra-modern facilities are in abundance, yet, we find our athletes struggling to match past performances.
A major hindrance to the achievement of excellence is the administration of sports, which leaves much to be desired. Many associations are plagued by presidents and top officials who will not lift a finger to keep their associations on an even keel or aid their athletes who participate in championships abroad — but they will be the first to line up for overseas assignments.
Then, we have officials who will not say anything against their organisations even if they strongly feel that something is wrong. They do not want to ruffle any feathers and put their position in jeopardy.
But when you talk to them, they will tell you all the ills of the association and how it can be better managed. At the end of the conversation, they will come up with this famous line: “Don’t quote me, please.”
They want the dirty work to be done by someone else.
And when the article appears, those who had given the information will be the first to bring it to the attention of the presidents or higher-ups. Why? Because they want to be in the good books of their superiors to safeguard their position.
How can we expect any change when the officials play the ‘two-timing’ game?
Maybe, it is time the athletes revolted and demanded that the right people manage them. But then again, most of the athletes can hardly take care of themselves.
Still, the current situation needs to be addressed immediately. Will those who are sincere, passionate, have fresh ideas and act professionally please stand up and save Malaysian sports?
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 handle: @tmariadass

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The 'Steel Gate' keeper


Saturday, July 13, 2014 - The Malay Mail

CHOW CHEE KEONG (pic) is arguably the best goalkeeper Malaysia has ever produced, but today, instead of football, he is teaching golf in the Klang Valley.
A former student of St. John Institution, he had the rare distinction of playing for the national Under-20 youth team at the tender age of 13 and made his national debut as a 15-year-old! He played in five Merdeka tournaments (1965 to 1969) and was in the Malaysian team who won the title in 1968. He then turned professional in Hong Kong in 1970, where he played for a decade.

Early days

“I was very lucky to have played with some of the greats of Malaysian football like Abdul Ghani Minhat, Robert and Richard Choe, Dali Omar, Ibrahim Mydin, Abdullah Nordin, Syed Ahmad to name a few. Being only 15, I was treated like a son and they taught me many things which made me a better player,” said Chee Keong.
Chee Keong makes a save from the great Pele.

Stint in England

“I did my A Levels in King's College, England and went on to pursue a physical education course from 1966 to 1969. While I was there, I wanted to stay in touch with the game and Peter Velappan helped me get in touch with then West Ham manager Ron Greenwood to ask if I could train with their junior team," said Chee Keong, who will turn 65 on November 26. “I was given a chance to train with the juniors and whenever they needed a goalkeeper to play in the lower league games, they would call me. I would play at least one match a month. It was a great experience.”
Asked why he did not opt for a permanent stint in England, Chee Keong said it was difficult to break into the system in England and he was already fortunate to have had those temporary stints.

Turning pro in Hong Kong

“Many think I am the first Malaysian to turn professional. But I am not. The first was Perak’s Wong Kong Leong, who played in Australia for a short spell,” said Chee Keong.
“It was by chance that I turned pro. At the end of my three years in England, I decided to go for a holiday in Hong Kong with another college mate. I also wanted to meet my sifu, from whom I had learnt martial arts in Malaysia,” said Chee Keong, who is an exponent in karate, taekwondo and kung fu.
“While at my sifu’s home, I met the team doctor of Jardines FC, who asked if I could play for his club, who had to get three points from their remaining three matches to avoid relegation. I agreed and helped the team draw all three games and avoid relegation.
“That was when I was offered a contract for the new season. However, Jardine folded after a season and I moved on to South China AAA before ending my stint with Hong Kong Rangers FC.”


But despite an illustrious career which included being named Best Goalkeeper from 1966 to 1969 by the Asian Football Confederation, Chee Keong has regrets and it is because of that he is now involved in golf.
“I had a golden opportunity to play football in Brazil when I was in Hong Kong. Cruzerio FC came for a friendly match and they had Emerson Leao, one of the all-time best Brazilian goalkeepers. The local newspapers started to compare me with him, but in the end he did not play. It was after the game that I was approached to join the team,” said Chee Keong, who earned the nickname "Asian Stainless Steel Gate” and "Crazy Sword". “But I didn't take it seriously and that was the end of the story.
“The next year, when I was back in Malaysia, Cruzerio toured Malaysia and I was asked to play for the national team. And after the game, the offer to play in Brazil was made again. The condition was that I had to take up Brazilian citizenship.
“This time, I was serious about taking my career to the next level and decided to take up the offer. But I wanted to return to Malaysia after my stint in Brazil and had approached the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, then president of FA of Malaysia, and officials to assist me to get back my Malaysian citizenship . But I was turned down. With that went my hope of playing in Brazil.
“Till today, I regret I was denied an opportunity to taste professional football in the land of football.”
Chee Keong said his other regret was the way he was treated when he turned professional.
“Many called me a traitor to the nation, but nobody asked why I left to become a professional.
Firstly, for any footballer to improve, he has to play in a foreign league. Secondly, I did not come from a rich family. I needed money and it was a career. But I still returned to play for Malaysia when required in invitational tournaments.
“And when I returned from my pro stint, I remember writing a four-part series in a local newspaper, underlining the ills of Malaysian football, the way to go forward with a professional setup and management. My main contention was that for a professional league, it had to be run by professionals from a different entity and not FAM. It did not go down well with FAM and I was heavily criticised, such as what gave me the right to speak of professional football after playing in Hong Kong for a few years.
“That’s when I decided that I had enough with football. I turned to golf, not to just play but make it my career. I was a two-handicapper at one stage, but I was more interested in attending golf coaching and management courses and eventually started coaching in Hong Kong and China for 10 years be fore returning to coach here."
Married to Christina Kwok, the daughter of former FAM secretary, the late Datuk Kwok Kin Keng (1951-1980), Chee Keong has a 30-year-old son, who is a national ice-hockey goalkeeper and avid paint-ball player.
“Despite some disappointments in life, I am still a very happy and contented person doing what I love with a happy family.”\

Teong Kim has hand in World Cup Final

Published on Saturday 12 July
Saturday, July 13, 2014 - The Malay Mail

WHEN Germany face Argentina in tomorrow’s World Cup football final in Rio de Janeiro, a Malaysian can look on with satisfaction that three of the German players were once his proteges.
That man is Lim Teong Kim, a former international who’s now technical director of the National Football Development Programme (NFDP).
Teong Kim

Teong Kim, who returned to Malaysia earlier this year after coaching Bayern Munich’s junior team from 2001 to 2012, had a 12-year-old Thomas Mueller under his wing at the Bayern academy.
Mueller, now 24 , has scored 10 World Cup goals so far since making his debut for Germany at the 2010 finals in South Africa.
In the current fi nals, the Bayern forward has bagged five so far, including a hattrick in the 4-0 rout over Portugal in their opening World Cup Group G match. Two other players in the current German team coached by Teong Kim are Toni Kroos and Mats Hummels.
“Midfielder Kroos, a target of Real Madrid after interest from Manchester United waned, scored two goals in the 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil in the semifinal on Tuesday.
Hummels, who currently plays for Borussia Dortmund, came through the Bayern Munich youth programme. It was Teong Kim who suggested to Hummels’ father, coach of the Under-15 team, that his son switch from being an attacking midfielder to central defence, a role he currently plays for Dortmund and Germany.
“Thomas was talent scouted and handed to me when he joined Bayern Munich. He was a great player to work with and we became very close. In fact, our families are close,” said Teong Kim, who is married to a German and has three children — son aged 20 and two daughters aged 17 and 18.
At the 2010 World Cup, Mueller scored five goals in six appearances as Germany fi nished third in the tournament. He was named the Best Young Player of the tournament and won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer.
In a post-tournament interview, Mueller credited Teong Kim for moulding him and the European media were frantically trying to fi gure out who was Teong Kim.
“Yes, I heard about the interview. It was indeed flattering that Thomas acknowledged me in his moment of glory,” said Teong Kim, who played with Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin in 1987.
The Malacca-born Teong Kim has the FA of Malaysia Advanced Coaching Certificate and German FA (DFB) Master Coaching Licence.
“It feels good to see players whom you have trained reach the highest level of the game.
The best part of youth coaching is to see the fruits of your labour. It is tireless job with no guarantee of success, but when it happens, you feel so accomplished.”
Teong Kim said what he is doing with the NFDP is no different to what he had done at the Bayern Munich academy.
“Hopefully, it will bear fruit with top players emerging one day,” he said.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Athletics in the doldrums

Friday, July 11, 2014 - The Malay Mail


THAT one of the oldest sports associations in the country — the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) which has undergone numerous name changes – is struggling to find its footing after a glorious past is indeed shameful.
The governing body was formed as the Athletic Association in Perak in 1906. In 1920, at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, a decision was made to introduce inter-state championships.
The championships were organised by the then Amateur Athletic Association of British Malaya, which was renamed the Amateur Athletic Association of Malaya in 1931.
This association was dissolved in 1952 and a new body, called the Federation of Malaya Amateur Athletic Union (FMAAU), was formed.
With the formation of Malaysia, the FMAAU was disbanded to make way for the Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union (MAAU), which in turn became MAF.
Whatever the name of the association, it is an understatement to say Malaysian athletics has slumped to its lowest ebb.
The recent 91st Malaysian Open in Perlis was a non-affair.
One wonders if any planning was put into organising this year’s meet, which was held two weeks after Perlis hosted the Malaysia Games (Sukma). This means athletes had to peak twice within two weeks, on top of that, it was examination time for schools.
Not surprisingly, the meet was held to a near-empty Tuanku Syed Putra Stadium in Kangar. To add insult to injury, MAF president Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad (below) blamed it on the lack of a local superstar.
Whose fault is that? What has the MAF done to rectify the situation? Look at Thailand. The secretary-general of its athletics association, Surapong Ariyamongkul, and his brother Supanut have been involved for more than 30 years and have kept it flying high through dedication and hard work.
Zainal also complained about little support from sponsors and government. He has been singing the same tune since he assumed the president’s post two years ago.
I remember when the government services, inter-bank and state meets used to attract much attention and publicity. Their organisers did not moan and groan about lack of sponsors or government aid.
If sports in the country is to be totally dependent on the government, why do we need the national bodies?
The National Sports Council (NSC) is an arm of the Ministry of Sports that assists national associations wherever possible, especially in mass programmes, but it cannot be held responsible for the management of all sports in the country.
The NSC seems to have taken over the running of many sports over the years, but this is because the inept national associations allowed it to happen.
What has MAF done to deserve sponsors? When sports like basketball, badminton, squash, hockey, football and tenpin bowling,to name but a few, have managed to get corporate sponsors, why hasn’t athletics when it is a highly marketable sport? Has enough effort been put in to reach out to the sponsors?
MAF’s website has listed the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the NSC, the National Institute of Sports, the International Association of Athletics Federations and the Asian Athletics Association as its sponsors. Its only two real sponsors are Milo and Mizuno.
The MAF wants Malaysia to regain its status as an athletics powerhouse at regional level and eventually at international level.
How does it propose to do so when it will not lift a finger to bring in the funds? Maybe it is time to bring back more of the past athletes to serve. If younger past athletes helm MAF, their fresh ideas will surely move the sport forward.
In the 1997 SEA Games, Malaysia won 17 gold medals. But in the 27th SEA Games in Myanmar last year, Malaysia only managed four gold, six silver and three bronze medals – its worst SEA games showing in history.
The MAF’s appointment of Australian Robert Ballard as technical director of coaching alone is not enough to lift Malaysian athletics out of the pits.
The MAF has to wake up from its slumber and get its act together.

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

Captain of the shadows

Saturday, July 05, 2014 - Malay Mail

R. RAMA KRISHNAN etched his name as a prolific player in Malaysian hockey, but many do not even remember him.because he has always kept a low profile.
Yet his contributions to the nation would put to shame some of the players from the current generation.
Rama, who skippered the national team at the 1978 World Cup, has always shunned publicity. When he turned 61 on June 18, he can look back with pride at his hockey career, having played in two Olympics (1972 and 1976), three World Cups (1973, 1975, 1978), two Asian Games (1974 and 1978) and four Seap/Sea Games besides a host of international tournaments.
Rama (left) in action in the Razak Cup tournament in 1970
A righthalf who could play in any midfield position, he came from an era when there was a big pool of talented players andcompetition for the national team was keen. That he was a first XI player throughout was no mean feat.
Rama hails from Teluk Anson (now Teluk Intan) in Perak, which produced several hockey greats like C. Paramalingam, A. Francis, Thor Chang Meng and, from the later generation, R. Shanker and Prabaharan Nair He started playing hockey as a schoolboy on the well-known Speedy Field. A student of St. Anthony’s School, he was not short of company on the field in the evenings when the town’s hockey enthusiasts converged.
Rama represented Perak in the Razak Cup tournament as a 17-year-old while still in school in 1970, and made his national debut in a Test series against Singapore the same year.
He moved to Selangor in 1974 before turning out for Kuala Lumpur from 1981 to 1983. He retired in 1984 after a short coaching stint with KL and as assistant national coach to the late Sidek Othman.
“I enjoyed every moment of my playing days, but had always kept a low profile since my schooldays,” said Rama, who has a daughter Ganeshree Devi, 29, who got married recently, and son Shri Ganesh, 27.
Rama, now 61, looks at his scrapbook beside the medals and trophies won during his hockey career.
“I have always preferred to stay out of the limelight and instead spend time by myself. “I gave the media a wide berth after having heard from seniors of how they had been misquoted, which landed them in trouble."
One of the unforgettable moments in his illustrious hockey career came when Malaysia defeated Holland 2-1 to qualify for the semifinals of the 1975 World Cup.
Malaysia had finished second last in his debut World Cup in 1973 and naturally, the feeling of having qualified for the semifinal was overwhelming.
The 1975 team were inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame in 2004.
Rama started his career with Central Electricity Board (now TNB) in 1973 before he joined Rubber Research Institute as research assistant in 1974. In 1983, he joined KL City Hall as a health inspector.
In 1992, he decided to read law at Buckingham University and after three years, returned to be a legal adviser and company secretary with a private firm till he retired recently.
Rama Krishnan (seated, seventh from right) with the national hockey squad at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Asked why he hadn't got involved at the grassroots despite his wide experience, he said the administration was not ready to accept players in their set-up.
“Somehow, ex-players are not welcomed to share their experience and contribute at the administrative level of the game," said Rama.
“Besides, I married to my wife, Kusala Kumari, after I retired and I just concentrated on building my family and career." But with free time on his hands now, he hoped to help with hockey development if the opportunity arose.
“I don't want to get into the mainstream. I'd happy to share my experience with schoolchildren or hockey academies," said Rama, who was asked to join a team set up by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation to review the national team’s pathetic World Cup performance in The Hague.
“It's not going to be a fault-finding mission but merely how we can move forward and improve Malaysian hockey.”
Rama said what's lacking in hockey today is the passion and love for the game.“No doubt the game and sports in general have moved into the a professional era, but that's all the more reason to play with your heart."

Friday, July 4, 2014

Still in the dark ages

Friday, July 04, 2014 - Malay Mail


ARE Malaysian sports facilities any better for all the money pumped into them over the years? I don’t think so.
On the surface, facilities seem to have improved by leaps and bounds, but there are many areas that have not kept up with the times.
I had not covered football matches for some time, but the last three months took me to a number of stadiums in the country that I used to frequent on my beat as a football writer.
While some of the stadiums have seen vast improvement in appearance with the quality of their pitches raised to international standard, there still remain the same old problems. I could not believe I was encountering them after a good 30 years of covering Malaysian football.
My bone of contention is the media facilities at most of the stadiums.
I remember the days when we used to cover matches from the sidelines of the pitches, seated on a few metal chairs placed under the blazing sun and running for cover when it rained.
There was one stadium where the media had to sit between the fans in the main stand.
They literally blew air down our necks.
We had special light stands on the table which we used to switch on when the lights in the main stand were switched off the moment the match began.
In other stadiums, we just had to find a place among the fans.
In the few stadiums that had media rooms, there were few or broken chairs most of the time with a layer of dust covering the tables and the glass windows, which we had to wipe clean to see the pitch outside. There were no phone lines, so we had to rush to public phones to read our stories to the desk back in the newsroom.
I thought I had seen the last of those days, but I felt I was in a time tunnel at the Perak Stadium last week.
It was the same old inadequate media room from the past. The only difference was that we had to share it with group of ladies, who, I later found out, were there to count the day’s ticket collection.
The room had no Internet service, but we had our mobile phones. Unfortunately, the stadium was in an area that was not served by any mobile service provider. Talk about being in the 21st century!
So I had no choice but to read my story over a land line at halftime and at the end of the game. It brought back memories of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
And to add insult to injury, a start-list was not available. When we went down to the secretariat to ask for the list, we drew a blank — they did not know what a start-list was.
Finally, we managed to get a copy that we had to share. Also, there was no media officer around as stipulated by FAM requirements.
Didn’t FAM instruct the state FAs to provide proper facilities for the media at all football venues? Maybe the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM) should take it upon itself to visit all the venues before a season starts to ensure adequately equipped media facilities are available.
Anyway, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It is indeed embarrassing that Malaysian football, after four years of semi-professionalism from 1989 and full professionalism from 1994 — that’s two decades — still cannot overcome such basic issues.
Where does all the money allocated annually for upgrading work and hosting the Malaysia Games go?
The problem with our sporting facilities is the funds are for building and upgrading, not maintenance, which is so crucial for the upkeep of the stadiums.
It is time to remedy the situation, especially with sports in the country aiming for par excellence. If we cannot get the basics right, let’s not waste any more money or time on setting Malaysian sports on the right course.

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
handle: @tmariadass