Saturday, October 10, 2015

Rahim, golden voice of sport


By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by: Azneal Ishak

Datuk Abduk Rahim Mohamed Razali has become a name and a voice familiar to millions in Malaysia.
For close to six decades his rich voice, which mellowed over years, was an integral part of sports reporting and coverage.
He has come across strongly with his shrewd judgement of characters and ready humour.
However, it was by chance that Rahim had his first taste of radio sports commentary in 1959 and he was natural from the first instance.
But radio broadcasting was not even his first love. It was acting and film directing.
Yet, Rahim Razali as he is popularly known in the sports circle, became even more famous that any Malaysian sportsperson who has graced the sporting arena.
Fifty-six years later, Rahim who is 76, is still looked upon as the ‘guru’ in sports commentary.
Although he hardly commentates now, he is still active with his own sports programme with Astro Arena where he hosts the Arena Sukan programme which features icons from the past.
Rahim had a same named sports magazine programme when he was with Radio Television Malaysia (RTM).
Recalling his first baptism of fire to sports commentary, he said it was at the 1959 Malaysian Amatuer Athletics Union (MAAU) meet at Merdeka Stadium.
“I was fresh out of school from Ipoh and came to Kuala Lumpur and while waiting for a government scholarship, I applied for a temporary job with Radio Malaya. I got a job  as a temporary broadcasting assistant Grade 3 in the Malay service,” related Rahim.
“I loved sports from my schooling days at Sekolah Melayu Kg. Tembok and Anderson School in Ipoh, said Rahim who eight in a family of 12.
He lost his mother when he was nine and father when he was 13 and was brought up by his grandmother.
“While I played football, rugby and my favourite sports hockey, I was not national material. But I had a fascination of sports rules of all sports and read books about the rules.
“Then one day while with Radio Malaya, I had dropped by at the Merdeka Stadium to watch the MAAU athletics meet. I was watching from the broadcasting box when suddenly the commentator, Tadza Zaaba, waved at me and gestured for me to come him. He just handed the mike to me and his voice which hardly could be heard, asked me to continue.
“Tadza had  pharyngitis and could not continue. I started commentating referring to some notes and facts Tadza had on the table. It was live coverage and I was nervous. But I got by.
“When from then now, Tadza said I will be doing sports commentary,” said Rahim who mainly does his commentary in Bahasa Malaysia.
“Before I can even settle down, I was asked to cover the 1959 Seap Games in Bangkok for my international debut. I had no formal training in broadcasting and it was through experience of learning while on the job over the years that I have managed.”
In 1960, Rahim Razali was offered a Colombo Plan Scholarship to study Chartered Accountancy in Melbourne, Australia. 
In Australia he continued his love for sports by taking cricket and tennis.
He returned in 1965 and it not work as an accountant but in advertising and public relations. He has worked as a creative director, deputy managing director of an advertising company before becoming a managing director of a communications company before finally forming his company – ASA-XX Film Productions in 1984.
“Radio broadcasting has always been partime for me, as my career was in advertising and public relations, while my passion was acting and film directing.
“Asked how he managed to divide his time between the three ‘jobs’, he simply replied: “I was young and energetic.”
But as an afterthought, with a tinge of sadness he said: “I actually regret that as I was so occupied with doing what I loved and neglected by family.
“It was wife (Salmiah Momin) who brought up the children and I missed them growing up.”
Rahim has a son, Rizal and two daughters Nadiah and Kartina Nurina and seven grandchildren.
“I wished I could turn back the clock to have spend our time with my family.”
Rahim’s achievements in both sports commentary and him as a producer, writer, director and actor is indeed exemplary.

In sports his career as a radio and television sports commentator he has covered five Olympic Games, six Asian Games, four Commonwealth Games,
numerous SEA Games from his first in 1959, five World Cup Football Finals, four World Cup Hockey finals, numerous Thomas Cup finals (beginning 1967), Davis Cup, Merdeka football tournaments, Malaysia Cup, and various other championships involving a variety of sports, including the live commentary for the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship between Muhamad Ali and Joe Bugner in Kuala Lumpur in 1975.
And it was the boxing fight which brings fond memories to Rahim.
“It was a memorable coverage because I got up close and personal with Muhamad Ali during my coverage of the event,” said Rahim.
“And on the day of the fight I was seated at the ringside commentary box and Ali before the fight and doing his “rope a dope” came to his corner and looked down at me. After a while he wiped his sweat and splashed it on me. My whole face was covered with Ali’s sweat,” laughed Rahim.
He said his other memorable moment was when he covered the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
“Marina Chin had just retired and we had roped her in to co-host the live commentary with me. While I thought her the ropes of broadcasting, she thought me what athletics was all about. It was a great learning curve.
“Also at the Games I covered the battle between Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis and the triumph of Flo Jo. That was indeed memorable.”
He is also remembered of being an anchor for live coverage of the 1977 Kuala Lumpur Sea Games where he was on air for a goo 30 continuous hours.
He then spoke of his most frightening moment in sports commentary.
“It was the 1967 Thomas Cup final in Indonesia. Malaysia went to win its fourth title beating Indonesia but not before play was suspended with Malaysia leading 4-3 in a best of nine series because of unruly crowd.
“The Press Box was in the middle of the fans and I was threatened by the fans and asked to shut up or get out. It was really frightening and we had to be escorted out together with the Malaysian team by police.”
On current sports commentators, Razali said that most of them do not know their job.
“As a commentator one is to bring the game to the audience and give facts and figures to help them enjoy the broadcast be it radio or television.
“But these days commentators have become analyst with very little knowledge of the game or the qualification to comment.
“And the rule journalism is to avoid saying “I” but use “we’. But these days every is an expert.”
However, Rahim said that it was more challenging for commentators because the listens are more knowledgeable and have easy access to facts and figures. These days commentators cannot afford to make mistakes. And they will get calls or letters from the audience if they err.”
While he always remembered as the golden voice of sports commentary, Rahim is even more popular as an actor where he has won several distinguished awards both locally and international,  has written and directed nine feature films since 1981, acted in 15 feature films, written and directed more than 50 drams for television, plays and series since 1985, acted in lead roles in more tha 100 television dramas (since 1967) and written and directed plays and played lead roles in English and Malay since 1967.
Indeed, Rahim is multi-talented personality who had excelled in all fields with distinction.
He is indeed a rare finding and will be forever be remembered as one-of-kind in the broadcasting industry.

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