Thursday, April 30, 2015

Malaysia got talent


 Level Field  

Instead of finding fault with each other for Malaysia’s current dismal football standing, all the parties concerned - schools, colleges, universities, clubs, state FAs, FA of Malaysia and the Ministry of Youth and Sports - should work towards a common goal.
Harmiles Daramin, the principal assistant of the Education Ministry’s Sports Division, has come out to say that the failure of the national team cannot be blamed on development (or the lack thereof) at school level. He said one should look at what happens to the players after they leave school at 17 until they make it to the senior teams.
He defended the schools, saying he believes an evolving system is in place that sees continuous improvement, so much so that the teams in the Under-14 and Under-17 Education Ministry leagues play almost like professionals.
He also commented on the launch of the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) last year, a collaboration between the Education and Youth and Sports ministry that will see every age group participating in competitive leagues. And when NFDP is fully operational, there will be programmes and competitions for children aged between 7 and 17 nationwide.
But the fact remains that these are all recent programmes and need time to mature and bear fruit. The Ministry League was introduced in 2008 while the NFDP was launched last year and is not expected to be fully operational until 2017.
Also, the national league only caters for the top schools and a limited number of players.
Truth be told, the authorities have neglected school sports for years now with minimum time dedicated to it.
Sports schools are not the answer to the problem. We need mass participation, which means children playing inter-class and inter-house football before the better players are absorbed by the school team.

And the school team should play in the inter-district league for a period of time, not on a carnival basis over the weekend or a day or two.
These days, with the sports schools with the cream of the crop competing in the inter-district tournaments, the ordinary schools are reluctant to compete for fear of getting thrashed. This does not augur well for development at all.
Maybe, if the better players return to their schools of origin and play for them, the playing field will be level, so to speak.
The best from the inter-district competition can then move on to the national school championship, by which time these players would have played at least six months of football.
According to Harmiles, these players do return to their schools of origin in some states and the state teams acquire them for age-group competitions and Sukma.
And with the universities, which were at one time considered the 'graveyards of sports', now actively involved in the inter-university games and leagues in several sports, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education Ministry should work closely to ensure these players move from one stage to another.
Both ministries should also seek the cooperation of the state FAs so that these players are not lost in transit.
Appointing C licence qualified coaches to the schools is a good start but if we want to produce quality players, shouldn't the best coaches be involved at grassroots level?
Ex-international players or even state players are a good option for schools to engage. But strict education policies on the involvement of ‘outsiders’ make it hard for such coaches to penetrate the schools.
There are clubs and state associations that want to work with the schools but they are prevented from doing so by the policies.
Amid stories of sports facilities in the rural areas being under-utilised and falling into disrepair, the Education Ministry's Sports Division has admitted a lack in many schools.
Harmiles said there will be improvements under the 11th Malaysia Plan, including the upgrading of school fields. According to him, 103 school fields nationwide are being upgraded with drainage systems that cost RM850,000 per field and 27 schools will benefit this year.
Granted, 103 is a big number, which only underlines the shabby state of school fields in this country.
It is just hoped that the huge amount allocated for the upgrades is money well spent, through proper supervision and the desired end-result. The last thing we want to see is the fields going back to their deplorable state soon after the upgrading because of a shoddy job by unqualified contractors.
We have seen this happen time and again, even at state level. The National Stadium in Bukit Jalil comes to mind.
Harmiles said the Education Ministry is doing its best to develop sports but that sometimes it has its own problems.
The bottom line is that there needs to be better coordination and cooperation among all the parties involved. If everyone wants to do things their way, there is going to be a lot of wastage and the common objective will remain a distant goal.
We hear of joint working committees involving the ministries of Education and Youth and Sports, but how effective are they when it comes to the implementation of policies on the ground?
Mere words are not enough. We need action-oriented plans that everyone understands in order to give their full cooperation. Red tape must be shredded in the name of sports.
More often than not, the best programmes are launched but when it comes to implementation, they run smack into a brick wall.
Crucially, we need dedicated teachers and officials who are passionate about sports. How many times have we heard of teachers and officials shortchanging athletes just to make a few bucks for themselves? Then, we have teachers with huge egos who threaten to pull out their teams for the smallest reasons.
There is no doubt that this country has an abundance of talent on the ground waiting to be discovered and nurtured. But do we have talent scouts who take the trouble to go to the remote or rural areas to spot them? Sabah and Sarawak, which have many talented athletes, have been overlooked simply because they are far from the peninsula.
If sports in Malaysia is to go forward, the whole country must be combed for talent, who must then be given equal opportunity to make the cut.

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​

So, what's new?

 Level Field  

 Recently, there has been a lot of noise about the exorbitant salaries earned by M-League players that did not quite gel with Malaysia’s sliding Fifa world ranking. So, what else is new on our football scene?
It has been an open secret for some time now that Malaysian football is plumbing new depths. But clearly, the authorities, ardent fans and critics are hoping for a miracle.
The blame for the current sorry state of Malaysian football falls squarely on the state FAs and clubs. You may ask, what about the FA of Malaysia (FAM)? Yes, FAM has to accept part of the blame but as the national body, they can only do so much.
This column has stressed time and again that the state FAs are the limbs of FAM. The national body can implement the best programmes in the world, but if they are not properly executed by the state FAs, they will come to naught. After all, the state associations are the ones that touch base with the grassroots.
If my memory serves me right, when the Semi-Pro league was introduced in 1989, FAM placed a cap of RM5,000 on players' salary and the state FAs had to declare what they paid their players.
But then, the associations declared one figure to FAM and paid the players another to entice them to represent their states. Local players were already earning between RM15,000 and RM20,000 at the time.
Then came the hiring of mediocre foreign players who came for trials without even a pair of boots but commanded between US$3,000 and US$10,000 plus accommodation and a car, not to mention bonuses! There was also the sign-on fee.
State FAs were already getting subsidies from FAM and what started at RM400,000 a year quickly passed the RM1 million mark. But money that was meant for development, the referees and coaching courses was used up for the M-League team. And even back then, the state FAs were running at a deficit.
Initially, the teams were managed at RM700,000 to RM1 million but this scaled up to about RM30 million to RM40 million and is now probably double that amount.
The players became more demanding when they realised that the state FAs were willing to pay them well. And with all the states competing for a small pool of good players, the wages skyrocketed.
Then the players began to offer their services in packs of three or four and the states had to secure all of them or none at all. Thus began the era of very high wages for very average players.
Needless to say, the players got accustomed to the finer things in life and lost their focus on the game. Representing the nation was no longer their priority as they were sitting pretty at state and club-level competition. Indeed, there seems no end to the vicious circle.
With the state FAs not paying any attention to development, talented young players became a rarity.
At the national level, we continued to hope for overnight success and thought changing the coaches was the answer to our prayers. 
The media, football officials and the layman became experts in the game and started campaigning for players to be included in the national team.
Gone are the days when finding a place in the national team was like winning the lottery. Today, anyone can be a national player and the turnover is high.
Those days, national players could keep their places for seven to ten years and some players, though talented, had to warm the bench and wait for their turn to make the grade. These days, all we have are highly paid footballers who dish out ... nothing.
The foreigners playing here are hardly used for development programmes. They just collect their hefty wages and more often than not, create problems on and off the field.
If there is a way for Malaysian football to rise again, it has to be through a proper development programme that runs for eight to ten years. We have to be patient, start at the grassroots, especially the schools, and wait for the players to mature.
If we continue to look for shortcuts, we will only face disappointment over and over again.
Our programmes have to be transparent, equitable and cover the whole country. We need the best coaches to handle the programmes and the state FAs to be well administered.
It is going to be a long process and the sooner we come to terms with our current status and address it the right way, the sooner we can rise. Otherwise, it will just be big bucks down the drain and more humiliation.
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​

Keep them eyes wide open

 Level Field  

The Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Stadium Board and National Sports Council should inventory the nation's sports facilities and the condition they are in before any new facilities or programmes are launched.
At the same time, the Ministry of Education should tot up the number of schools that have fields, their size and condition.
These figures will determine whether we are really striving to be a sporting nation or just paying lip service.
Recent random checks revealed that many existing sports facilities are in deplorable condition and poorly managed.
The stadiums at quite a few sports complexes are an eyesore while many of the multipurpose courts built for parliamentary constituencies four years ago are the worse for wear.
Among the complexes highlighted by the Malay Mail that beg for refurbishment are the Bertam Sports Complex in Kapal Batas, the Kuala Kubu Baru Sports Complex, the Padamaran Sports Complex and the Petaling Jaya Sports Complex.
The artificial turf at many places are worn out and only recently was an effort made to spruce up the Pantai hockey stadium and the Jalan Duta hockey stadium.
The fields at the National Football Development Programme centre in Gambang were neglected because of a supposed delay in the renewal of the field maintenance contractor's contract but they have since been restored.
Many of the stadiums or complexes built when the states host the Malaysia (Sukma) Games are also in bad shape. A swimming pool built in the middle of a padi field in Kedah now has water from the padi field seeping into it, the Batu Kawan stadium has cracks, is leaking and is hardly used while parts of the stadium in Terengganu have collapsed.
It could be the same sad story in the other states and the main reason for it all is that no budgets were made for maintenance when the facilities were built. Of course, there is also the shoddy workmanship.
The officers in charge of the complexes or facilities too are responsible for the poor conditions because of bad management or cost-cutting.

Then we have officers hold posts associations but do little to help or even execute with urgency approved plans.
In the case of Kuala Lumpur Rugby (KLR), permission was granted by the higher-ups in City Hall to make the Padang Merbok the official ground for city rugby and upgrading work, including the building of facilities such as a changing room, office space, a pavilion with seating and others to ensure international rugby tournaments can be hosted there, was supposed to have started but nothing has happened so far.
What we have is officials who are stifling the growth of sports or giving it a bad name because of their inadequacies.
Then we have public playing fields that are in equally appalling state while programmes are being launched for the rakyat to keep fit in gyms. For those who cannot afford the gym, the fields are the best solution to keep fit but if these are in a lousy state, where will they go for exercise?
Worse still, well-managed fields are being taken away in the name of development or for some ulterior motive. The Ulu Klang Recreation Club (UKRC) is one good example where the authorities have taken over its field, although UKRC is still fighting to keep what belongs to it. Since the coup, what used to be one of the best-kept club fields in the city has deteriorated because of lack of maintenance.
A public field that is just a stone’s throw from UKRC is neglected and poses a danger to its users, yet the authorities deemed it fit to acquire the UKRC field. 
On a positive note, early this year, the Ministry of Youth and Sports decided to set up community recreational and sports clubs in every parliamentary constituency in an effort to activate sports activity at grassroots level. 
This is in the final stage of being established and hopefully these clubs will be a healthy gathering place for youngsters and be fully utilised by them and well maintained. 
In the final analysis, we have to ensure whatever sports facilities we have in this nation are kept in good condition and do not fall into disrepair and become white elephants while we continue to harp on the lack of facilities.

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​

It's been a long and winding road for Karathu


Datuk M. Karathu is the oldest coach in the M-League but in training and on the field, he has his players at his mercy.
The Bagan Serai-born Karathu who turned 72 on February 23 has done it all in football – a national player, coach from junior to senior level, coach educator, technical study member and football pundit.
The next oldest coach in the league is Terengganu’s Abdul Rahman Ibrahim, who is 69.
Karathu the much travelled coach has dedicated his whole life to football from years when he started to play for his alma mater – King Edward VII School Taiping – in 1961 and went on to play for the Perak State school and also the Perak State Burnley Cup team.
From 1962 to 1971 he represented the Perak State team and also donned national colours from 1964 to 1969 playing in the Merdeka tournament and was the captain for the 1968 tournament (1964-68), Sea Games (1965 & 1967), Asian Games (1966), Vietnam Independent tournament (1964-1968), Asian Cup championship (1965) and played against English 1st Division team Southampton and against Asian All-Stars in 1966.

“It has been a long road of involvement in football but till today my passion for the game remains,” said Karathu who helped Perak win their first ever Malaysia Cup in 1967 beating Singapore 2-1 after making is first Malaya Cup final in 1964.
“I am still thirsty for football knowledge because the game is always changing and coaching methods have been changing and improving to keep up with the changes in the game.
“I had no hesitation when Perak invited me to coach the team in the M-League this season. Besides, it was homecoming,” said Karathu who last coached Kelantan in the M-League in 2011.
Karathu was involved in grassroots development with Royal Selangor Club Junior football development programme in Kuala Lumpur as their technical director for two years from 2013 and used to travel every weekend from Ipoh.
“It was a fresh challenge and I cherished the thought about with a young team. Although by the time I took charge of the team this year, the selection was already done, I was glad that the team comprised many young talent.
“I have worked the players hard and they have responded well and our target is to finish among the top five in the league and qualify for the Malaysia Cup. It is our hope to do well in the Malaysia Cup and if we can reach the last four it will be an achievement,” said Karathu who is a highly qualified coach.

Besides his FA of Malaysia A Licence, he has a FIFA coaching licence from the FIFA Coaching School for Asia in 1972, FA England Preliminary badge and attachment stints with Derby County, Westham United and Coventry City in 1974, first Asian Football Confederation coaching certificate in 1987, AFC Senior coach education instructor and diploma from UEFA trainers’ association in 1994.
At the grassroots level, Karathu under the one school, one coach programme had produced 1,050 coaches when he was in charge from 2004-2008.
Karathu was also a member of the panel of national coaches from 1974-1978, for the national youth and national teams and first director of FAM Football Academy from 1991-1992.
His coaching stints included overseas duties as chief head coach of Sri Lanka Football Association (1999-2000), technical director of Tajikistan Football Association (2001-2001) and chief coach of Woodland Wellington FC in Singapore from 2002 to 2003.
At home he has coached Perak in 1989 and 1990 and from 2001 to 2009 also doubling up as technical director. He has also coached other state teams which include Negri Sembilan from 1994-98 and Kelantan 1993 and 2011.
He also made his mark with Kinta Indian Association where he was the coach from 1980 to 1988 where he had help win several honours which include the Ipoh League title and FAM Cup.
He has also scored many first besides winning the Malaysia Cup and they include coaching the Razak Cup team to victory in 1972, KIA being the first club team from Perak to play in the FAM Cup final in 1988, Perak winning the FA Cup for the first time in 1990 and first Malaysian coach to coach in foreign land (Sri Lanka).

He also had the honour of being in the technical study group of Euro 1992 in Sweden, technical analysis group of World Cup 1994 by European Trainers’ Association in Porto and technical delegate for Asian Cup 2000.
Karathu, not known to many expect his close family members also goes by the name of Rajendran.
He explained with a laugh: “That is the name I am called by my family members. Karathu is actually my grandfather’s name and my family members gave me another home name.”
Karathu, father of three children (two girls and a boy) all grown up and are professionals, is also a grandfather to five grandchildren.
But instead of spending time with his grandchildren, he still prefers to be on the field.
“Of course I spend time with my grandchildren, but I want to do what I love too – football,” said Karathu.
“I can still divide my time for everything I need to do, just like what I have done all my life,” said Karathu who worked with Central Electricity Board (CEB) for 25 years as an examiner before he opted for retirement when he was 50.
“Managing time is every important if one wants to achieve goals. There will be distractions or overloaded with activities, but there is always way to remain focussed.”
And it was one area Karathu felt that present players fail to manage well.
“Professional football is like doing a degree in a university. One has to be dedicated, work hard and be disciplined. Many of our players lack character and the passion for the game. This is what I try very hard to instil in players whom I coach. It is an educational process.
“For example, former national captain Datuk M. Chandran stayed on top for a long time and was a good player because he gives nothing less than his best be it in training or game.
“Today we have many talented players, but lack the heart and knowledge for the game. They lack character and the mental strength for today’s game.
“We also have problems of interference from quarters who do not have a clue of the game and political clout is used and the game suffers.”
Karathu said that Malaysian football needs a high-level committee to address these ills to make Malaysian football better.
“Only then we can see better quality players’ rise.
“Policy matters too has to be better addressed for instance the foreign players ruling which see all teams hire foreign strikers and we have a dearth of local strikers for the national team.”
Karathu said he has no regrets in his football career.
“I have always worked hard to achieve my goals and the fact that I am still standing and involved in football is testimony that my passion for the game that has brought me this far.”
Asked if retirement plans was no his mind, he simply replied: “ I will continue to be involved in football in whatever capacity I can as long as I am healthy and can come to the field,” said the natural left winger who used to terrorise his opponents with his speed and skills.

Devoted, Dedicated, Darshan


By Tony Mariadass

Tan Sri Darshan Singh Gill is a living of example of where passion can take one to great heights.
As a young man, it was by chance that Darshan got involved with cycling.
“Close to my home in Silibin Road, cycling races were held and I used to go and watch. I got interested and volunteered to help in the organisation of the race. This was in the early days of 1970s before I left for London to do my law,” recalled the 67 year-old Darshan.
“At school (Anglo Chinese School –ACS) was active in sports but only represented by class and house in sports.
“But it was cycling which fascinated me and soon I become a member of the Perak Cycling Association,” said he only road the normal bicycle and never was a racing cyclist.
“I was in London from 1971 to 1975 and graduated from the University of London, King’s College with a degree in law and also completed my bar at Lincoln’s Inn at the age of 28. When I returned home, I was asked to become the president of Perak Cycling Association in 1976,” recalled Darshan who is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK).

“I had to thank my elder brother, Gurbax Singh for paving the way for me to do law. My father, a temple priest, could only afford to send one of us to further our studies and my brother decided that it was I that should go.”
Darshan on assuming the president’s post started to revamp the association with his enthusiasm to put the association on the right path to progress.
He started organising numerous events and championships and the cycling quality of Perak cyclists improved.
But his most significant contribution was the building of the cycling velodrome called the Rakyat Velodrome in 1989.
“I virtually went begging door to door for funds to build the velodrome and must thank the many generous people. The late Sultan of Perak, Raja Azlan Shah played a key role and was instrumental in seeing the project become a reality.
“It was a tall order to see the project through when it was mooted in the 80s and the foundation stone was laid in December 1986 before it became a reality. We organised numerous fund raising events and the support from the raykat was tremendous. That is why we fitting decided to call it the Raykat’s Velodrome.”
The timber 250 metre track Velodrome was built at a cost of RM3.25 million was officially declared open by Sultan Azlan Shah who was the King at that time.
Darshan had brought the best to plan the Velodrome when he had brought in German architect Ralph Schumann to assist.
In 1989, the SEA Games was held in Malaysia and the track events were held in Ipoh where the national cyclists won four gold medals.
Sadly the velodrome which was the second in Asia then, has now deteriorated and begs to be repaired.
Darshan who was already a Council member Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) rom 1978, became president in1989 when he surprisingly defeated incumbent and popular Tan Sri Elyas Omar.
Darshan was president from 1989 to 1990 before for his services was named the Life president of MNCF.
As the Asian level, was in the executive board of the Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC) in 1990 and in 1993 he elected as the secretary general. In 1996 before assuming the president’s post in 2001 – the body which regulates cycling in 40 countries in Asia - and held the post for nine years.
He was also the first Malaysian Member of the Board of the International Cycling Union International Cycling Union (UCI). 
The inaugural Tour Langkawi was also held in 1996 and Darshan played a led role.
He has brought numerous top level cycling events to Malaysia which include World Cycling championship B in1997, Asian Cycling Championship in 1993, Track World Cup in 2000 and 2001 and the Sultan Azlan Shah Track Asia Cup in 2006, 2007 and 2009.
Darshan was also involved in athletics and was the vice president of the then Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union for a term in the 80s.
In 2010, for all the contributions Darshan had given sports, he was inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame.
Darshan’s last involvement in cycling was when he relinquished the president’s post of the Perak Cycling Federation after 38 years in 2013 but still left behind a legacy when his son, Datuk Amarjit Singh has taken over the post.
Amarjit, a lawyer too, just like his father in both profession and contribution to sports, holds post as a Member of the Complaints and Anti-Doping Commission, International Skateboarding Federation (ISF), Vice President, Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) and Doping Control Officer, Cycling Anti Doping Foundation (CADF) 
Darshan’s other son, Malaysia’s Bhangra ambassador and Goldkartz singer Sukhjit Singh Gill is also a lawyer, becoming the fifth member of his family to turn lawyer in the very same courtroom of the Ipoh High Court.
His other son, Sukhjit’s fellow Goldkartz singer and his brother Manjit and only daughter Ranjit Kaur Gill are also lawyers.
Darshan’s wife, Puan Sri Suveeder Kaur is a housewife.
Darshan being the ever active person he is, he is now involved with extreme sports and is the vice-president of Asian Extreme Sports Federation (AXF), which is the governing body in Asia and also the vice-president of International Skateboarding Federation.
“I wanted to take a rest, but sports is in my blood and when members of the extreme sports who were cycling officials before approached me, I decided to assist,” said Darshan who was roped into the Malaysian Extreme Sports Association (MESA) ten years ago.
Asked if he had any disappointments in association with sports, he simply said: “Each came with its challenges, but I have managed to overcome them to make pleasant memories.
“The toughest challenge was the building of the velodrome and seeing it become a reality was the biggest satisfaction, especially so when it was the people who put it up.
“Having come this far from just being a volunteer for cycling is indeed been a journey I will always cherish.
“And I will continue to contribute to sports as long as my services are required and am physically able to do so.”

Darshan also holds numerous positions in the society and one of which is as the president of Malaysia National Sikhs Movement (GERAKSIKH) which is the national body which organises various public service activities.

James born to be badminton ambassador


All of Datuk James Selvaraj’s life, from the time he was born till now, nothing has been his greater love than badminton.
His love for badminton was deep that he decided to skip his honeymoon and answer national duties when he left for New Zealand for the Thomas Cup qualifiers two days after his wedding to Veronica Anne on 4th July 1981.
“I had planned my wedding earlier and the qualifiers dates clashed. I could not change my wedding dates. I decided to postpone my honeymoon and leave my wife behind and answer national duties,” recalled James.
James who turns 65 on Nov 21, was born and bred at the Selangor Badminton Association (SBA) in Kampong Attap, where his late Muthiah Joseph, was the caretaker of the hall for 45 years.
Although badminton was Selvaraj’s passion having seen thousands of badminton players play in SBA including top international players, he was only allowed to play in the hall when he was seven.
“For some reason my father never allowed me to play in the hall. I started to play at the age of four but made my badminton racquet with a wooden stick and hammered a cardboard to it and were hitting outside the hall. I still remember it made so much noise each time we hit,” said James with a laugh.

“I got my first racquet from F.A.L. Gonzaga, the Selangor Badminton Association secretary, who was also a good cricketer. The brand of the racquet was Eagle. It was then I was played in the hall whenever there was no bookings or teams playing were short of players.
“My father was my mentor who was always there to guide and advise me.”
James had two older brothers who were also involved in badminton. The eldest brother, J.S. Peter was the Malaysian Indian champion when he beat Sri Lanka’s national champion in an international Indians tournament held in Malaysia. Another brother, Franics Selvanayagam was a Thomas Cup trainee for the 1967 squad.
But it was James who carved a name for himself both locally and internationally.
However, James revealed that he was interested in hockey but knocks and bruises saw his father discourage him. He was also very active as cross country runner. And it was his love for running which saw him run every Saturday afternoon from his home in Kampong Attap to Jalan Ipoh in hot afternoon sun which covered about 12 kilometres.
“Those runs served me, well as I was fit.” 
James prowess in the game started showing when he was a nine-year-old primary school student of St John’s Institution and won the Under-12 title. He went on to be the Under-15 and Under-18 Selangor schools champion and was the Under-18 schools national champion.
He also brought St John’s Institution honours when he helped them win the national schools’ champions title for the King’s Cup in 1965 when he had played against the likes of Tan Yee Khan and Ng Boon Bee.

James had his first taste of coaching when he returned to St John’s Institution to coach Moo Foot Lian and Bernard Lee for the King’s Cup. Foot Lian became his national doubles teammate.
In 1968 James won the novices, junior and senior tournament in the same year.
From there he went on to represent Selangor state in the Inter-state Foong Seong Cup tournament,
followed by the Khir Johari trophy. He represented Selangor from 1968 to 1982. During this time he represented the country in various international tournaments including three Thomas Cup Series 1975/76, 1978/79 and 1981/82.
In the 1975/76 Thomas Cup series he was a member of the team who were
runner-up to Indonesia. The other members were Phua Ah Hua, Saw Swee Leong, Dominic Soong, Cheah Hong Chong and Foot Lian.
The young inexperienced Malaysian team upset favourites Denmark 5-4 in the semifinals before the team who were called “Punch’s babes” were beaten 9-0 in the final. The Danish had the liked of Svend Pri, Flemming Delfs and Steen Skovgaard
James recalled how earlier in the qualifiers against Singapore, the tie had to be postponed by three weeks because he and Ah Hua were involved in a car accident two weeks before the tie in Singapore.
“It happened in front of the National Mosque when suddenly bees got into our car and I who was driving the car was frantically driving to ward of the bees taking my hands off the steering wheel. Next thing we know we had crashed against a lamp-post,” recalled Selvaraj.
“We had to be warded since we did not have stand-by players and the tie was postponed. I injured my knee and had bruises and cuts and my face, while Ah Hua had facial injuries. I recovered to play but Ah Hua did.
“We were already rated as no hopers before the qualifiers and to have reached the final was indeed a feat.”
James other notable achievements include being National Badminton Champion from 1974 – 1976, World Invitation Badminton Tournament 1975 – semi-finalist, Sea Games - bronze medallist 1977 and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist 1978.
James retired after his third Thomas Cup appearance in 1981, but as a contended man.
“I may not have played in the Asian Games and badminton was not in the Olympics when I was playing, but I am still a contended person.
“It was my passion to play international badminton and be known and I achieved my dream. I certainly have no regrets.
“Even after retiring, I was still involved in badminton as a coach and high performance director with the Badminton Association of Malaysia” said James who was the national badminton coach from 1982 to 1985 and High Performance Director from 2010 to 2012.
As coach, James had coached Razif Sidek and Ong Beng Teong to the Commonwealth Games gold medal in Brisbane on 1982.
James also has the distinction of being the chef-de-mission for the Asian Beach Games in Oman in 2011 and was the deputy chef de mission of the Malaysian contingent to the XX Commonwealth Games in Scotland last year.
 “Even at work with Bata, whom I joined in 1980, I work closely with badminton having conducted coaching clinics and involved in Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) work.
“I am indeed grateful to my employers, Bata, who have been very supportive when I was playing, coaching and working with BAM as a director of coaching. Even when I retired six years ago, I was still retained by Bata to be with their corporate communications division as their senior manager for advertising, promotions and sponsorship,” said James joined Bata as a sports division supervisor progressed from Power brand manager to Power brand regional manager for eastern Asia and then a four-year stint as merchandising manager before assuming his current position
James’s standing in the sporting arena only continues to grow as Bata brand is by his side, sponsoring the Malaysian contingent at the Commonwealth Games with Power shoes and Bata men’s and women’s shoes.
In 2005, James was fitting inducted to the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame.
On current badminton status, James it is about time that BAM start going out to look for players in the outskirts and not wait for players to come to them.
“I am glad that BAM’s technical director Morten Frost has said that he is going to emphasis on development and look for new players throughout the country.
James said his only regret was as High Performance Director he did not get the opportunity look for players in the outskirts.
“There are talented players out there waiting to be spotted and groomed. After all where did Ah Hua come from? Backok in Kelantan. And where did the Sidek brother come from? Banting. Lee Chong Wei from Penang,” pointed out James.
“And we need to have the inter-state and inter-club championships revived. The ‘Purple League’ is a good thing which has kick started the search for new talent.”

James passion for badminton is certainly burning till today and he should be aptly accorded the Badminton Ambassador title for Malaysia.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Rajamani is still running her race

By Tony Mariadass

DECORATED athlete Datuk M. Rajamani has more bitter memories of her short but impressive athletics career and that has seen her continuously fight for the welfare of athletes.
The former teacher, Olympian and twice voted as the National Sportswoman of the Year, experienced further disappointment when her son who was an athlete and grandson who was a badminton player, were overlooked despite their talent and prowess.
“Do not get me wrong. Yes, I am disillusioned with what I had to endure during my athletics career, but personally I am delighted what I had achieved despite all the setbacks and the way I was treated,” said Rajamani in revealing several incidents during their athletics tenure from 1962 to 1968.
Rajamani said coming from a poor Ceylonese family who lost her mother when she was five years-old, she had to thank her late father - (V.Mailvaganam) – a JKR storekeeper, who was responsible for athletics career.
“My first spikes given by my father was with long nails and when it wore off we took it to the cobbler to have new nails inserted,” recalled Rajamani.
“It was my coach R. Suppiah who bought me my first tracksuit when I went for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

“The 1968 incident when I preparing for my second Olympics (in Mexico City) when I was struck by lightning with two others – P. N. Govindan and Cheryl Dorral (former New Straits Times Sports Editor) at the Police Depot field shattered me.”
Govindan had died on the spot.
Rajamani was unconscious for 18 hours and had lost her memory.
But it was what she found out when she was discharged that further inflicted pain in her.
She had laid on a trolley in the third class ward for almost three days because no beds were available and was moved to first class when news came that the then prime minister, late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj was visiting her. Tunku did not come because of other commitments but she received a bouquet of flowers.
Her husband, M. Rajalingam (then not married), had to get a guarantee letter from his employers for stay in first class.
The bigger shock was she had to pay for the bill when she was discharged when she had to pay for the bill and despite sending the claim to the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU), she was never reimbursed.
“I also did not receive a single sen from the two Sportswoman awarded to me where RM5,000 was paid. The money then was paid through the national association to maintain the amateur status of the athletes,” said Rajamani who won the 1966 award together with Tan Sri M. Jegathesan which was the inaugural national sports award.
“It was only after the 12th awards that the money was paid to the athletes themselves.
“I had a written a letter to MAAU in 1991 enquiring about the money. Not that I wanted it, but just to find out how it was spend and it was for development, I would have been the happiest. But not only did I not get a reply, but was blacklisted by MAAU.”
Rajamani had more bitter experiences when she had opted out from her teaching profession in 1992 and joined the National Sports Council (NSC) as their physical trainer and involved with the victorious 1992 and runner-up 1994 Malaysian Thomas Cup squad.
“I was so ill-treated all because some personnel who hoping for a post in the department. I was not interested in any post but just wanted do my work, but I could believe the way they ill-treated me.
“And when I thought I had seen the worst, it all came back when my son Vishnu was actively involved in athletics was subject to some unfair treatment in selection, while my grandson who was junior badminton player was subject to the same.
“It is sad what happens to athletes and the pain they suffer sometimes get intolerable.”
Rajamani, a member of the National Athlete Welfare Foundation (Yakeb) since it was formed in 2008, works hard to fight for respect and the welfare of athletes.
Yakeb was formed to safeguard the interest and to look into the welfare of current and former athletes who have competed at the SEA Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games and several selected top-notch Asian meets.
Rajamani commended Yakeb’s constant effort to look into the welfare of athletes.
There are close to 2,000 athletes registered with Yakeb, including more than 300 current athletes.

Rajamani has even spoken to the prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to look into increasing the subsidy given to Yakeb, so that the past athletes, many of whom are not doing well, will be able to benefit.