Friday, January 30, 2015

Time for city football to rise

KUALA LUMPUR may be the baby of Malaysian football, but they have gone through a complete cycle.

Kuala Lumpur Football Association (KLFA) was formed in 1974 as Federal Territory FA (FTFA). It was a breakaway from the FA of Selangor (FAS) and was led by former FAS secretary Datuk K. Rasalingam and his team comprised Goh Ah Chai, the late Hamzah Muhammad, M.J. Vincent, the late Mohd Shariff Mustafa, Jeswant Singh and T. Manickarajah.

The late Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah was the association’s first president and after he became the FA of Malaysia’s president in 1977, FTFA deputy president Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail took the helm. That year FTFA organised its first league with 30 clubs.

The city team entered the Malaysian league in 1979 as Federal Territory and was renamed Kuala Lumpur in 1987.

The city team started as minnows but rose to dizzying heights in the late 1980s before coming back to earth with a thud.

They were crowned league champions in 1986 and 1988 and won the Malaysia Cup from 1987 to 1989. They continued to enjoy success in the 1990s, winning the FA Cup in 1993, 1994 and 1999. The Charity Shield was theirs in 1988, 1995 and 2000.

The man who must be credited for the city team morphing into a powerhouse is former KL mayor, Tan Sri Elyas Omar. He replaced Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen as president in 1984 and held the position until 1996.

When professionalism was an alien word to Malaysian football, Elyas recruited players from other states and Singapore and hired top class coach Dr Josef Venglos.

As a mayor he was dedicated to making the city a sports hub and had various stadiums built in Bandar Tun Razak, including the KLFA Stadium, the KLBA badminton hall and a cycling velodrome.

Following their FA Cup victory in 1999, KL were relegated from the then Premier 1 in 2002. It took them seven years to return to top flight, finishing fourth in the Super League in 2009.

But they were relegated in 2012 and suffered the embarrassment of dropping to the FAM League the following year.

But after a season at the club level and third tier of Malaysian football, KL clawed their way back into the Premier League after finishing runners-up in the FAM League under coach Tang Siew Seng, a member of the victorious team of the 1980s.

There was a change in the top management last November with the chief secretary of Federal Territories Ministry Datuk Seri Adnan Md Ikshan elected president. Former president Datuk Astaman Abduk Aziz demoted himself to deputy president. Another former KL player from the 1980s, Ramlan Askolani, is the secretary.

However, it is sad Siew Seng has been replaced by Portuguese coach Ricardo Formosinho, who has been hired to get KL back to the Super League.

With Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor as the patron and KL mayor Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib and Putrajaya Corporation president Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat as advisers, the association has enough financial clout.

KLFA, recently besieged by a matchfixing scandal and financial problems, has allocated RM10 million for the Premier League and age-group competitions. It also gets income from outdoor advertising.

KL will also return to their real home – the Merdeka Stadium – as the KLFA Stadium is undergoing major renovations.

While everything points to better days ahead, it is hoped a tight rein is kept on the administration and management of the team, which has been one of the reasons for KL’s fall from grace.

The new officials will have to stay away from politics and put KL back where they rightly belong.

It won’t be quick – nothing happens overnight – so patience and continued support for KLFA and its team come into play.

A fortnight ago, KLFA held a gettogether for its clubs, past officials and coaches and introduced the players and officials for this season.

When I met Elyas Omar on Tuesday, he said he hoped this was the beginning of better times for the city team.

“It was really nice of them to invite me. I wish them all the best and hope they will see the glorious days of the 1980s again.

It is not going to come easy and they will require a good team, on and off the field, for the professional management of the association and the team,” he commented.

Indeed, the future is looking bright for KLFA but they must not start dancing or they will never see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Barren field of dreams

Barren field of dreams

KUANTAN — Still a year short after its ambitious launch, the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) inaugurated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in Gambang, Pahang, last April has seen pitches at the Mokhtar Dahari Academy reach a deplorable condition.

A visit to the academy on Sunday was greeted by dry pitches, hard ground, overgrown grass and barren areas.

There are five football pitches and only the one being maintained by the Pahang FA for their academy boys seemed to be in a good condition.

The other four have not been maintained for the last two months.

A check with coaches at the Pahang Sports School revealed the pitches have not been maintained because the contract of the previous contractor was not renewed.

“The pitches used to be in excellent condition when they were maintained by the previous contractor, who stationed five groundsmen at the academy,” echoed the coaches on condition of anonymity.

“They used to water the pitches via sprinklers daily, besides doing maintenance work to keep the pitches in excellent playing condition.

“But over the last two months, the pitches have been unattended and are deteriorating day by day.”

The lack of maintenance appears to mirror the behind-the-scenes problems of the much vaunted programme.

The brainchild of Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, it is headed by project director Lim Teong Kim, a former international with 12 years of youth coaching experience with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Under the NFDP, which began in 2013, more than 52,000 players are expected to be trained by 2020 from centres throughout the nation.

But all does not seem to be going well and news that several — as many as six — senior and key coaches have resigned throws doubt on its progress.

It is sad to hear that what was supposed to be a programme to lift Malaysian football from its doldrums has faced such problems at an early stage.

There are plans to add another seven pitches in the near future to complete the academy.

The pitches are currently used by the NFDP Under-13 team and four teams (Under-17, Under-16, Under-15 and Under-14) from the Education Ministry in collaboration with the FA of Malaysia.

The players and coaches are housed at the adjacent Pahang Sports School, which has excellent hostel and training facilities for five sports, namely football, netball, gymnastics, archery and athletics.

A seminar for all coaches involved in the NFDP will be held today in the city over two days, where Khairy will be giving the opening address.

Khairy will want to get to the bottom of the issues plaguing the NFDP and resolve them immediately, for the last thing he would want is to see a good programme be derailed by poor governance.

The revelation has stark echoes of the horrendous state of the pitch at Bukit Jalil Stadium, highlighted in the Mailsport report ‘We messed up’ on Nov 5.

The Malaysian Stadium Corporation admitted the stadium was refurbished but the relaid grass, at a cost of RM1.5 million, was not given enough time to bed.

The result was huge swathes of grass being carved up during the Malaysia Cup final on Nov 1.


Former football greats and sports officials told Malay Mail it was disgraceful that the Mokhtar Dahari (Malaysia’s legendary striker) Academy in Gambang, Kuantan and launched by the prime minister last April - was besieged with problems in its infancy.
They said it also showed grassroots development in the worst possible light.
A visit to the academy on Sunday showed dried-up pitches, hard grounds, overgrown grass and barren areas. Four fields had apparently not been maintained over the last two months while the pitch under the care of Pahang FA for their academy boys seemed to be in a good state.
The academy despite its launch last April has not had a team under the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) training there.
There are NDFP centres elsewhere in Pahang.
The Under-13 NFDP squad only reported to the Pahang Sports School on January 12.
However, they have yet to begin training as their coach from NFDP, Khan Hung Meng, had not arrived. He has since resigned and his assistant Raja Azlan Shah, former Perak and Kuala Lumpur player, is expected to report this week and take charge of the team.
However, the fields at the academy have been used by teams from the Pahang Sports School (Under-17, Under-16, Under-15, Under-14 and Under13) under the Ministry of Education and FA of Malaysia programme
The pitches used to be immaculate condition when maintained by a contractor who had placed five groundsmen at the academy which included watering the pitches with sprinklers daily to keep the fields in fine playing condition.
However, the contract of the contractor has not been renewed after it ended two months ago leaving the pitches unattended.
The Mokhtar Dahari Academy under a major plan to make it the hub for football development was to have been equipped with more fields, a hostels, swimming pool and other training facilities including artificial turf.
However, there has been no new constructions yet expect for a main building and the five field.
Former international and 1972 Munich Olympics squad member, Bhwandi Hiral said it was a clear case of poor monitoring.
“Monitoring is an important element in any form of project, and it is obvious someone has slacked to lapse on the field maintenance contract,” said Bhwandi.
“Facilities maybe great, but it must be always be maintained at the best, because we are talking about facilities for excellence training. We cannot compromise on the facilities.
“If we want top quality players, we need to offer them excellent facilities and there cannot be any compromise.”
Another veteran sports official and athletic coach, Leo Leslie Armstrong, said it is normal for programmes to face hiccups but it must be addressed immediately.
“Programmes can be the best programmes but there will be hitches because of poor management or execution,” said Armstrong a former national athletics coach.
“It is the same for all sports. We always launch excellent programmes but it gets derailed because of shortcomings along the way.
“It is good that problems are identified earlier and immediate measures taken to rectify and ensure that it does not happen.
“It is pointless in getting upset when flaws in programmes are highlighted.”
Another coach who was involved in the programme said there are several issues which need to be addressed immediately to ensure that the programme proceeds smoothly.
“I just hope the coaches involved in the NFDP who are attending a two-day seminar will bring out their grouses and any problems faces,” said the coach who spoke in anonymity.
“Many are afraid to talk because of being penalised. But for the good of the programme they must speak out.
“Several coaches have left the programme because they cannot communicate with the higher ups and poor people management by them.
 “A true picture has to be presented as soon as possible before things get worse. It is a great programme but needs fine tuning and proper management.” 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bleak start to the year

THE year has started badly for Malaysian sports.

The first month of the year has yet to end and already there have been several incidents and controversies. One wonders if it will ever change for the better.

The majority of sports are professional, a great deal of money has been pumped in by the government, sponsorships have grown by leaps and bounds, sports facilities are of international standards and readily available.

So, what’s wrong? If you ask me, the officials are to blame.

While there are some who have done well, the majority are struggling to get their act together.

To recap, the year began with Malaysian Athletic Federation (MAF) vice president Datuk Noorul Ariffin Abdul Majid being shot at by an unidentified man at his home in Bandar Rahman Putra, Sungai Buloh.

Two bullets hit him in one of his legs.

It was reported the victim had received a threatening letter about a month ago.

Then we had a controversy in the BA of Malaysia (BAM). Its coaches were unhappy their contracts were extended for only three months.

The reason? BAM was waiting for technical director Morten Frost to start work and make his recommendations.

Whether this matter could have been handled better is anybody’s guess.

Next came the matter at the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), whose top officials did not get its blessing to announce the Malaysia International Marathon (MIM).

Athough the OCM executive board, at a meeting last week, decided to change the name of the run to avoid any conflict with the MAF — which must sanction such international runs — OCM vice-president Rear Admiral (rtd) Datuk Danyal Balagopal is insisting the run can go ahead as MIM.

A tiff among officials at the highest level of office and blatant disregard for rules is not going to help sports. What kind of example are they setting for their affiliates?

Even if the intentions are noble, rules must be adhered to.

Which brings us to our professional footballers who claim ignorance of basic laws regarding contracts.
This, after the game went professional in this country 21 years ago! Some are openly defying the rules and challenging the authorities.

They want a fat pay cheque but don’t want to act professionally.

And here is a new trend in Malaysian sports — the entrance to the FA of Selangor’s (FAS) office was splashed with red and yellow paint, allegedly by a group of disgruntled supporters.

In October last year, fans confronted team officials and players during a training session in Shah Alam and demanded a change in top management after Selangor were booted out of the Malaysia Cup.

It is fine for fans to be passionate, but there are proper channels to voice their complaints instead of acting like hooligans.

As it is, our footballs fans are already setting off flares and throwing smoke bombs during matches, causing the FAs and FAM much embarrassment and money in fines.

There have been Injuries too and attacks on visiting international fans have cast Malaysia football in bad light.

Some senior officials have to be respected for keeping their associations afloat in bad times. Some even loan large sums when the need arises.

The internal squabbles in FAS are not helping the game one bit and a simple plea by fans for season passes has been ignored.

So, why has the FAS rejected an opportunity to secure sure sales? Is there a hidden agenda?

But all is not gloom and doom for Malaysian football as FAM will officially seal a partnership today with media fi rm MP & Silva and stakeholders (state FAs and clubs) under a new set-up — Football Malaysia Ltd Liability Partnership.

This will secure a lucrative sponsorship deal to run the M-League and also benefit FAM and state FAs and clubs.

The international media rights company has promised to raise revenue through broadcast and commercial rights worth RM1.26 billion over 15 years.

This works out to RM84 million a year compared with a deal offered by a consortium of four companies (Telekom Malaysia, Astro, Media Prima and Fox) of RM60 million and by Zenith (a local company who tied up with IMG and had FAM as its equity partner) of about RM75 million.

It has been said 40 per cent of the returns will go to FAM’s coffers, 30 per cent to the clubs and state FAs, 20 per cent to run the league and 10 per cent to the referees and development.

The question is, has FAM or rather the officials who accepted the last-minute deal from MP & Silva understood it and the fine print and weighed all the options?

Also, this deal only takes effect from 2016 unlike the other offers, which start this year.

There are veterans on the committee that okayed the deal, but also some who may have been blinded by the big figures and did not understand its concept but gave their nod for fear of being thought ignorant.

Others may have just wanted to please the top officials.

Note that a committee was set up to study the privatisation of the League, which worked hard on it, including vetting all the bidders.

But their recommendations were shelved and an independent company was given the task to evaluate the League and bids.

For the sake of the game, we hope the right decision has been made and another fiasco does not emerge down the line.

Malaysian sports deserves better and hopefully, all the controversies and black marks will give way to a brighter future.

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: @tmariadass

Educate the professionals, please

NOW that the Professional Footballers Association Malaysia (PFAM) is fi nally proactive, it should start educating its members on how to be professional.

The game in Malaysia went semi-professional in 1989 and fully professional in 1994. But after 21 years, the players are still behaving like amateurs.

The new M-League season starts with the Charity Shield on Jan 31 but the FA of Malaysia (FAM) Players’ Status Committee, headed by Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan has its hands full with cases of players having signed up for multiple teams.

Today, the Players’ Status Committee decides on former Harimau Muda A (Under-23) and national midfielder Gary Steven Robbat, who is wanted by three teams.

Gary, who was born in Kulim, Kedah, started his career with Harimau Muda and is wanted by his home state, Pahang and Johor Darul Takzim (JDT).

Gary and D. Saarvindran reportedly confirmed they will join Pahang.

While Saarvindran has kept his word, Gary has created a mess as Pahang FA has produced pictures of him signing for the Malaysia Cup champions.

But, he is training with JDT and is reported to have followed them on a playing tour to Australia.

Kedah FA is claiming according to FAM regulations, players who represented Harimau Muda must return to their state before being allowed to sign for other teams.

Another case to be heard today is that of Mohd Faizol Hussin, who has signed for JDT II despite still having a year left on his Pahang contract.

PFAM president and Armed Forces captain Hairuddin Omar recently came out strongly in support of Perlis players whose salaries were outstanding.

It is hoped he takes the same strong stand on players who sign for new teams without any regard for agreements or existing contracts.

If the Players’ Status Committee finds these players guilty of violating contractual terms, it should teach them a lesson so this does not happen again.

The committee should ban errant players for a season or two and not let them off the hook with just a fine. Fines are not a deterrent as the players can afford to pay them. Sometimes, their new clubs settle the fines on their behalf.

Teams who knowingly sign such players should also be hauled up as they have the means to check the players’ status with FAM, the state FAs or clubs concerned.

Players take to task the state FAs or clubs when their contracts are violated, but it should work both ways. They should not play the clubs against each other in their bid for higher wages.

Players are also known to present “package deals” to their prospective employers — a few of them band together to be signed on. This is a dangerous trend as it gives players the opportunity to hold their employers to ransom during the season and even perform poorly in matches.

The state FAs, clubs or coaches are to be blamed sometimes as they fall for such scams.

It is for this reason senior and experienced officials should be involved in hiring players. Otherwise, the players are more than capable of taking the “green” officials for a ride.

What baffles me is why contractual disputes arise at all. Every year, FAM briefs the teams and officials on the rules and regulations and after 21 years of being professional, surely, we can do without such problems?

The best answer is to impose stiff sentences on the offenders and once and for all eradicate such problems. Then, we can concentrate on the more important things — like how to improve the standard of M-League.

The guilty ones deserve no sympathy, otherwise we will only be compromising the reputation of the league.

Edwin the track master

Edwin's 80th birthday party attended by his former athletes

Anthony Edwin Abraham was just a state athlete but his passion for athletics was overwhelming.
Edwin, who turns 81 on May 25, was a track and field athlete representing Negeri Sembilan from 1954-1962 in the 120 yards hurdles and high jump winning medals at the National Athletic Championship.

Stumbling block

Not being able to break into the national scene Edwin decided to do the next best thing to be still actively involved in athletics – he decided to try his hand at teaching Physical Education and attended the Special Teachers’ Training Institute (STTI) in 1962.
Upon his graduation he was posted to teach in various districts in Negri Sembilan where he coached the school athletes.
But Edwin wanted to do more and wanted to be involved with the Negri Sembilan Amateur Athletics Association (NSAAA). However, he was shunned away by officials in the association.
Not to be easily discouraged, Edwin vowed to make it good in coaching and setup the Harimau Sports Club together with another teacher, Sidney Anantha in 1963.
While Sidney handled the administration, Edwin was involved in coaching and had athletes coming from Port Dickson, Lenggeng, Tampin, Rembau, Tampin and any other districts attend his coaching sessions.

STTI was the foundation

“Attending the STTI was the best decision I made because I learnt a great deal especially in coaching athletics,” said Edwin who has aged but the sparkle in his eyes when talking about athletics was bright as ever.
“We managed to train many athletes and competed in road races in Malaysia and Singapore. And soon our club – Harimau – who were instantly recognised by the black T-shirt we wore with the Tiger head, and were among the top athletics clubs in the country. The others being Lights, Jets, Panthers, Pelando, Comets and Kancil.
“But because of financial constraints we could not sustain the club after seven years and thankfully Negri Sembilan Chinese Recreation Club (NSCRC) and their secretary Tan Chin Beng, adopted the entire Harimau athletes in 1971.”
NSCRC went rule athletics for another eleven years, before financial problems, finally saw the demise of this athletics club.
Among the athletes who were developed during this period include J. V. Jayan (decathlon), A. Ramasamy (1,500m,5000m &10,000), Harginder Singh (marathon), Zambrose Abdul Rahman (400 hurdles), C. Sathasivam (5000m) C. Cinathamby (5000m), late K. Nadarajah (400m), late K. Maruthia, V. Gaasamy, Datuk Zainal Abdin Ahmad (400m) and Syed Omar Syed Ahmad (400m,800m) to name a few.
Edwin was also known to help athletes secure jobs in the civil service so that they could continue their athletics career.
He also frequently paid out of his own pocket to help poor students who showed promise.
Athletes who have trained under him only have accolades for him and believe that coaches like him are hard to come by these days.
“Athletics in Negri Sembilan is in the doldrums because of lack calibre coaches like Edwin who had the passion, drive and dedication to bring honour for the state and country unconditionally,” said former athlete Sathasivam.

Coaching at national level

In 1973, Edwin wanting to pursue his coaching further and applied to join the Ministry of Youth and Sports and this was where he had the opportunity to coach national athletes.
It was with the Ministry too he opportunity to undergo a six months advanced course in Organisation, Administration and Management of Sports in Moscow.
Soon Edwin was a regular figure at the Kampong Pandan Sports Complex every evening after work, coaching national athletes.
Edwin coached several athletes in the SEAP Games contingent for 1965, 1967, 1971 and Sea Games contingent for 1975, 1977 and 1979. He was also involved in training and preparing athletes for the Asian Games in 1966, 1970 and 1974 and the 1968 Mexico, 1972 Munich and 1976 Montreal Olympics.
One of Edwin athlete was three time Olympian 110m hurdler the late Isthiaq Mubarak and Datuk Marina Chin  whom he coached for the 1977 SEA Games who was awarded the Sports Women of the Year in 1977 and 1979.
Edwin had played a key role in the comeback of Isthiaq after his misfortune of a near-fatal road accident on October 13, 1970, which saw him spend the rest of the nine months fighting his way back to fitness.
It was Edwin who went to Isthiaq’s home in Temiang in Seremban and brought him out to slowly but surely working his way to recovery.
“The surgeon had told Ishtiaq he would never hurdle again, but Isthiaq was a determined and disciplined athlete who fought all odds to return to the scene,” said Edwin with tears welling from his eyes.
“I am blessed to have worked with him.”
Most memorable success
“I have been lucky that I had a great set of athletes who came under me. I just fine tuned them and it was their hard work, determination and believe in themselves which saw them achieve success,” said the modest Edwin.
Edwin said his most memorable moment in coaching was coaching hurdlers to win five gold medals in five hurdles event at the 1977 Sea Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia won gold medals in the men’s 110 hurdles (Isthiaq) and 400m hurdles (Sumit Bolkiah) and women’s 100m and 200 hurdles (Marina) and 400m hurdles (Jessica Lau).
“It was great feeling to have assisted Malaysia to five gold medals in all hurdles events. The drama that surrounded in winning the fifth gold medal, made it even more special.
“Going for the fifth gold medal in the women’s 400m, Marina was going for her third gold. I was confident that she will win it, but I want her to do one better – to better the Asian record,” recalled Edwin.
“She promised to do her best and as the race began, she shot off to the lead and was doing well. Then, on the seventh hurdle, Marina tripped and fell and lay on the ground.
“There was no one attending to her and the late MAAU president Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie and I jumped across the railing and run to her aid amidst protests from technical officials as coaches and officials were not allowed onto the track.
“We did not see who won the race, but soon found out that Malaysia had won then fifth gold after all through Jessica and we were elated.”
Edwin revealed that Rahim Razali (RTM sports commentator now Datuk) and had called him to request for Marina to put in car he was sending and sent to RTM for an interview.
Edwin instead bundled Jessica in the car and sent her instead of Marina.
“Yes Marina had missed her third gold, but it was Jessica who won.”
Edwin revealed that Jessica was very angry with him for not being there when she crossed the tape and instead was attending to Marina.
“It was after a few years before Jessica actually spoke to me. It was at a meet in Jakarta that Jessica opted to stay back in the camp and wanted to talk to me instead of going for a walk with the other athletes.
“She asked me why I was not there when she won the gold medal. I explained that I had an injured athlete on the track and it was my duty to attend to her.
“I also told her that I was very proud of her to have gone on to win the fifth gold medal and also that I had sent her for the interview with Razali despite him requesting for Marina, because she was the deserving winner who needed to highlighted.
“We buried the hatchets and became friends again.”


Edwin for his coaching exploits was also rewarded in representing Malaysia in the World Athletic Congress at Patiala, India in 1977 and the Asia Track and Field Congress at Tokyo in 1979.
In 2001 Edwin was awarded by the Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union (now Malaysian Athletic Federation) as the best athletics coach in Malaysia.
Edwin married to Doris D’Silva, a former headmistress from Rahang Convent, now spends most of his time with daily routine by doing some brisk walking with some gym workout to keep fit a the Royal Sungai Ujong Club in Seremban.
The father of three – Andrey, 48, Adrian 50 and Auria 45 – did not see any of his children involved in athletics, but Andrey played cricket for the national team for six years.
For all the dedication and passion Edwin had poured out to athletic, he was fittingly bestowed the Darjah Setia Bakti Negri Sembilan (DBNS) which carries the title Datuk, in conjunction with the 67th birthday of the Yang di-Pertuan Besar Negri Sembilan Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir on Wednesday.
Congratulations Datuk Edwin Abraham.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Passport to Olympic dream

Athletics and football’s loss is hockey gain and centre-half Wong Choon Hin is glad that he made the right decision.
As a ten-year-old in 1960 at St Francis Institution in Malacca, Choon Hin first excelled in athletics before he ventured into cricket, table tennis, badminton, football and hockey.
Choon Hin was the school champion in 100 metres, 200m, 400 and 800m and athletics was his first love.

Switch to football and hockey
“It was my sports teacher K. Macap who saw my prowess in athletics and decided that I will be an asset in the football and hockey team,” recalled the Choon Hin who will be turning 65 on March 19.
“Then there was a football clinic conducted by the famous Choo Seng Quee at St David’s High School. I was spotted by uncle Choo who wanted me to pursue football.
“But I was carrying an ankle injury then and after much thought I decided that I wanted to take up a sport which had the opportunity to play in the Olympic and World Cup as opposed to football which was then Asian standard.
“I certainly made the right decision and have no regrets that I forgo football as I went to play in two Olympics (1972 and 1974), two World Cups (1973 and 1975) and two Asian Games 1970 and 1974.”
At the 6th Asian Games in Bangkok in 1970 Malaysia finished fourth and at the 7th in Tehran, Malaysia won the bronze medal. At both the Olympics, 1972 in Munich and 1974 Montreal Malaysia finished eighth.
The highlight of Choon Hin’s career was when Malaysia finished fourth in the 1975 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur after earlier in the 1973 World Cup in Holland where Malaysia had finished fourth.
Choon Hin went on to captain the Malaysian team for two years from 1976 taking over from Datuk Sri Shanmugathan.
Having collected more than 80 international caps, Choon Hin was the first choice centrehalf for a span of seven years from 1970.
In 1976 he was named the Selangor Sportsman of the Year pipping the late Mokhtar Dahari by a couple of votes.

Principles of success

Choon Hin owed his stronghold in the game to Pakistan coach Ghafur Khan.
“I attended a coaching clinic conducted by him as a teenager in Kuala Lumpur. Just like uncle Choo, he called me after the session and said that he liked the way I played my centrehalf position and saw potential in me,” related Choon Hin.
“He told me that he seldom shared his secret of staying on top of the game as a centrehalf, but said that he saw something special and believed that I will do even better if I followed his principles.
“I followed it to the dot and I was surprise as the way I was playing and that I could keep my first XI position for seven years.”
Choon Hin shared Ghafur’s principle:
1.     As a centrehalf  you only supporting role
2.     Zone of play is left inside and right inside and left and right side penalty push out
3.     W  formation – support and defend
4.     As a centrehalf you are the mother of five forwards to feed to them as quickly as possible
5.     Release the ball early, when in trouble release the ball to left or right and support
6.     Access the opponent – if the opponent is strong, limit yourself to a more defensive play ad do not cross the half line. If the opponents are weak, you may move up to the opponents 35 yards
7.     Don’t just rely on attacks from moves on the ground. Use the overhead flick to get the opponents back pedalling.
8.     The less mistakes you make, the more intelligent you look on the field.

Architect on and off the field

“I strictly adhered to his principles and it made my game so easy and enjoyable,” said Choon Hin.
Indeed, Choon Chin was the heart and soul of the engine room in the national team.
And it is no surprise from being the key builder of the team, he had chosen a career in the construction industry.
Choon Hin has been a senior supervisor, project manager and construction manager with several companies including IJM Construction Sdn Bhd. His work included the construction of the Podium Block of The Garden Hotel, semi-detached houses in Penang, construction of underground water tank, oil tank and sub-station at the Tuanku Jaafar Power station in Port Dickson, construction of condominiums in Cheras, Megamall Mid Valley City Development Development Phase 1 and the construction of the Colmar Village Hotel in Bukit Tinggi among others.
He is still involved in the industry as a project manager with A & M Realty Berhad.

Malacca a roost for hockey players

Choon Hin is also proud that he comes from Malacca a state which has a long history for hockey players, especially Chinese players.
Among the Chinese players from Malacca who have done the nation proud include the likes of Koh Hock Seng, Yang Siow Meng, Robin Goh, Leong Whye Piew, Tam Chiew Seng, Tam Kam Seng, Wallace Tan, Chin Boon Ngee, the late Chua Boon Huat, Michael Chiew, Lim Chiow Chuan and even a women’s hockey player in Mary Lim.
Other players from Malacca who had donned national colours include Yusop Mydin, Sulaiman Saibot, K. Embaraj, K. Dharmaraj, Sayed Samat , Glenn Sinappa and MP Haridas to name a few.
Indeed Malacca has a proud tradition for producing hockey players but the trend somewhat seems to have slowed downed in recent years.

Hall of Fame

Choon Hin’s icing to his illustrious hockey contribution must surely being him inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame a member of the 1975 World Cup team in 2004.
“It has been almost 40 years since I donned national colours, but it is an honour to be still remembered and honoured,” said Choon Hin a father of two daughters, Liang Jin and Liang Fang.
Another fond memory Choon Hin has about the 1975 World Cup is that it was then that he met his wife – Sia Eng.
“Sia Eng was the flag bearer of the Indian team and my teammates teased me to get to know her,” said Choon Hin with a smile.
“Three years down the road after our meeting at the World Cup, we got married!”
Choon Hin is still active with the game as a member of the Malaysian Hockey Confederation management sub-committee for the last two years.
His love for the game is undying and makes it a point to attend all hockey functions and international matches played here.
His wish for Malaysian hockey: “To see Malaysia become the top playing hockey nation. It is a tall order but not an impossible one. If there is will, there is always a way. But nothing can be achieved by just talking about it. We have to work very hard and have a proper system place with long term goals.”

Wise words indeed from a master tactician. Can the present generation of hockey players fulfil this Malaysian hockey dream?

Local coaches show your mettle

MALAYSIAN coaches want recognition and priority over foreigners but not all have been successful.

The question local coaches have to ask themselves is, are they ready for the hot seat? Do they want the job because they are ex-internationals?

Or is it for the money?

Yes, we have produced a number of Asian and world-class athletes, many of whom hold international coaching certificates. Yet, local coaches have been overlooked in favour of foreigners or when hired, given raw deals.

Many of the foreigners who have coached here were not the best choice in their respective sport, even in their own country. In fact, some of them earned their stripes by coaching in Malaysia.

At the same time, we have local coaches who are over-ambitious and bite off more than they can chew. When they fail, the topic of foreign coaches crops up again.

That is why it is important for local coaches who are appointed to achieve creditable results.

They should keep abreast of the latest developments in coaching.

They should be all-rounders, rely on the specifics and not depend on others to assist them.

Coaches these days have to be knowledgeable about sports science. Although we have specialists in sports science and nutrition assisting the teams, the coaches must also be in the know and learn how to interpret the relevant data and apply it to their teams.

The national sports associations (NSAs) should also send their coaches for overseas training or attach budding coaches to the various junior and national teams.

There is no doubt that local coaches have done well in most sports, be it football, hockey, badminton, squash, athletics, tenpin bowling, lawn bowl and yachting.

We have a long list of names, ranging from the late Choo Seng Quee to Jalil Che Din, Datuk M. Chandran, Chow Kwai Lam, Mohamad Bakar, Datuk K. Rajagobal, B. Sathianathan, Ong Kim Swee (all football), the late Datuk Punch Gunalan, Datuk Misbun Sidek, Rashid Sidek, Tey Seu Bock (badminton), the late Datuk Ho Koh Chye, Datuk R. Yogeswaran, Mohd Sidek Othman, Randhir Singh, C. Thavanayagam, C. Paramalingam, Datuk Sri Shanmuganathan, Stephen van Huizen, Wallace Tan, Sarjit Singh, Tai Beng Hai (hockey) Major S. Maniam, Raymond Arnold (squash), C. Ramanathan, S. Tripadi, J.V. Jayan, S. Jeyabalan, Tan Choo Mong, Leslie Tan, S. Arulnandy, Hanapiah Nasir, Leslie Armstrong, Lionel Rajamoney, the late K. Thirumal, V. Subramaniam, Khoo Chong Beng, the late Isthiaq Mubarak, Rennie Martin, Hanapiah Nasir (athletics), Holloway Cheah, Fong Tat Meng, Ben Heng (bowling), Lawrence Yeow, Malik Sulaiman (yachting), A. Razak Hitam, Choo Yie Hwa, Mohamad Arifin Ghani, Mohd Aziz Maswadi and Zuraidi Puteh (lawn bowl).

But to do well, local coaches must be given a reasonable tenure to work with their teams. Short-term contracts will not produce results.

Foreigners are better as consultants or technical advisers but it is crucial they know their stuff and have vast experience in their fields.

This was not the case on most occasions.

Another option is to bring in specialist coaches on short contracts to work with the national teams and get the local coaches to learn from them. These experts could also conduct clinics for coaches at all levels.

But the bottom line is that everything must be handled professionally.

No politics can be involved in the decision-making process. Personal sentiments must go out the window.

There must be accountability in all the appointments and the coaches must be allowed to do their job without any interference.

It may take a long time to get things right because we still have many officials who have their own agendas. This is why it is important for each sports association to have a strong president who can weed out the bad hats and ensure all decisions are made professionally.

Whether the NSAs place their confidence in the local coaches and if the latter deliver boils down to how committed both parties are to their sports.

So local coaches, stand up and be counted.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

From rubber sheet rolling to Iron Lady

In the Malay Mail Icon column today



Datuk Zaiton Othman maybe frail looking, but her achievements in both athletics and academia speaks volumes of her dedication.
Her strength lies with her childhood when she used to help her late rubber planter father, Othman Hj Che’Meh, roll the rubber sheets processor.
Her athletic prowess was discovered by her school teacher Mr Chin of St George’s Girls School in Penang during a strength testing exercise.
“The teacher asked me to throw the discus and I throw it into the drain. He immediately called me and asked me where I got the strength despite being a frail looking person. He asked to see my hand and noticed that I had muscles on both my arms,” said Zaiton adding the muscles were due to helping her father at Paya Keladi, Kepala Batas home.
“He asked me how I developed the muscles and I told him that it was from helping my father roll the rubber sheets. I was then asked to compete in all the throw events,” said Zaiton.

Early days and the rise
Zaiton Othman currently the Director of the Organizational Development and Athletes’ Affairs Department at the National Sports Council of Malaysia, in heydays as an athlete is best remembered for her prowess in the heptathlon (a track and field combined events contest made up of seven events namely 200 metres, 800 metres, 100 metres hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot putt and javelin throw).
But success did not come instantly.
“I was in Form One in 1973 and competed in the 800 metres Open event at the state schools championship. I had finished in a photo-finish with another athlete, Betty Chee and had set a record too. But when the announcement was made, the record I set was not mentioned but only Betty’s. Only the top athlete qualified for the national schools championship and I was very disappointed,” recalled Zaiton.
“But I continued to train on own and the schools athletics coach who was also a starter at competitions, Lionel Rajamoney, saw me training and saw my potential and encouraged me to keep up my good work and said that I would be national material in two years.
“I trained hard and was determined to make the national schools championship in 1974 which I did and next donned national colours too.”
She has brought glory to Malaysia by winning multiple medals and setting several national records, in numerous competitions in track and field, namely, the South East Asia (SEA) Games and the Asian Games. She has also competed in many Asian Track & Field Championships and also a Pre-Olympic Games known as Spartakiade, Moscow in 1979.
Her best performance was in the SEA Games XI, Manila in 1981 where she won three gold medals in the heptathlon, 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m relay creating new national records in all the three events and also setting an all-time Asian best in the 4 x 400m relay. The heptathlon record set in 1981 at the Manila Sea Games is currently the longest standing record and is still yet to be broken in Malaysian Track & Field.

The record stands at 5175 points from her effort in 14.70s (100 m hurdles), 1.67 m (high jump), 9.39 m (shot put), 25.96 (200 m) 5.58 m (long jump), 40.80 m (javelin) and 2:23.26 (800 m).
Zaiton first made her mark at the national level when she competed at the 10th Sea Games in Jakarta in 1979 in the 4 X 400m relay where they won the gold medal with a new record and also won the silver medal in the javelin throw.
She went on to win the silver medal with the 4 X 400 with a new national record at the Asian Track and Field championship in Tokyo.
Her athletic career started representing her school at state level from 1973 to 1977, before representing Penang at the national schools level from 1974 to 1976.
She went on to represent her state at the national championships from 1974 to 1989 while she represented the nation from 1974 to 1989.

Track queens from left V. Angamah, Mumtaz Jaafar, Saik Oik Cum and Zaiton with coaches (right) C. Ramanathan and Tamin Merican (left) at training camp at the Western Australian Sports Institute in Perth preparing for the 1981 Manila Sea Games.
From left: Angamah, Mumtaz, Zaiton and Oik Kum in training in Perth in 1981
Zaiton who turns 56 on May 3, is also an example to budding athletes that there is a career after sports.
“It is all about time management, the desire to excel and dedication,” said Zaiton a mother of eleven-year-old daughter.
Zaiton started off as a clerk with the National Electricity Board during her early years in athletics for a year from 1978.
She then served the Ministry of Education as a teacher for two years from 1981 before pursuing her studies at University Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) where she majored in physical education and minor in health science in 1987.
Graduation day Zaiton with her late parents Fatimah Sanawi and Othman Hj Che'meh
She then re-joined the Union High School in Penang as a teacher and taught physical education, health science, civics and Bahasa Malaysia from 1987 to 1989.
In September 1989, Zaiton joined the National Sports Council as a sports officer.
In 1992, she attained a Masters in Physical Education (Applied Sports Psychology) from the San Diego State University, California, USA in 1992 and served as a graduate teaching assistant at the same University.
She was back at NSC in 2000 and rose to her present rank.
As a student Zaiton was also bright winning several awards which included recipient of the UPM chancellor's gold medal award for being the overall best student for the graduation year 1987, awarded the Teoh Teck Lee’s Gold medal by the Physical Education Association of Malaysia for being the best PE student for the graduation year of 1987 and overall best student at the Specialist Teachers’ Training College Graduation Year 1980.
She has also presented numerous seminar papers and presentations both locally and at international level on topics ranging from sports psychology, women in sports, promotion of women sports and the athlete, coach and association relationship, motivation.

For her outstanding achievements in athletics, she was voted as Malaysian Sportswoman of the year 1982.

She was also Sportswoman for Penang State in 1981, 1982, 1983 and 1989.
Zaiton was awarded the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) certificate of merit for contribution in the development of track and field in 1988.
After her retirement from competition, she continued to be active as a coach and administrator at national level in athletics. She was appointed the Chef de Mission of the Malaysian contingent to the 4th World Women Islamic Games Tehran in 2005 and the Deputy Chef de Mission to the South East Asian Games – Bangkok Thailand in 2007.
She currently serves as a committee member of the Women & Sports Committee of the Olympic Council of Malaysia.
She is also the winner of the OCM Women & Sport Award 2009 in recognition of her significant efforts and contribution in promoting and developing Women & Sport in Malaysia, IOC Achievement Diploma in 2010 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Women & Sport Award for Asia for the year 2012.
She was also inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame in 2012.
Zaiton being an all-rounder in athletics, also showed her prowess in other sports like hockey, netball, softball and volleyball where she had represented state, national and university level.
Indeed, Zaiton has completed the full cycle as a complete athlete to a sports officials with all the awards to add icing to her illustrious athletics career.

Future of women athletes
Women athletes have come a long way since over the years and it is only a matter of time before a woman wins Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medal.
When Malaysia first made their appearance in the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956 – a year before the Independence Day, there was only one rose among the thorns in the 33-member squad – Annie Choong in athletics.
But over the last 57 years, Malaysian women have blossomed into a respected force in local and international sport and are major medal winners at Games.
 “Malaysian women athletes are making waves in international stage. We already have several stars in our ranks and will not be surprised if the first Malaysian Olympic gold medallist is a woman,” said Zaiton
“The good news is that there is so much room for women to improve as far as sports is concerned. Their true potential has not been tapped yet,” said Zaiton.
Zaiton however, hoped that women would continue to scale greater heights.