Sunday, January 31, 2016

Waiting to bloom

By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by Azneal Ishak

The Openg children of two girls and a boy are among the many raw talent in the Falcon Athletic Club in Seremban.
The children of an excavator operator Muhd Arif Openg from Sarawak – Muhd Sharul (eight years-old), Nur Shafilia (eleven) and Nur Shaida (12) – have been part of the Falcon athletics programme for the last two years.
All in the family - from left Nur Shafilia (11 years old) Muhd Sharul Muhd Arif Openg (8) and Nur
Shaida( 12)
Pint-sized Nur Shafilia is seen as the brightest spark among the three with her agility, speed and well-structured body for athletics.
“Nur Shafilia maybe a little small and short for her age, but she has tremendous potential to be a sprinter,” said P. Tamilselve who supervises her training.
“The other two siblings too have a natural ability to be athletes, but Nur Shafilia seems to standout,” said Tamilselve a former Penang athlete who has moved to Seremban since her marriage.
Pint sized 11 year-old Nur Shafilia shows her agility and potential to become a top athlete in trainingNur Shaida has already competed at the Negri schools athletics meet last year where she won silver medals in the 100m and 200m.
“I missed to represent the state at the national schools meet and hope to achieve it this year,” said Nur Shaida who is under the development programme with the club.
Nur Shafilia and Muhd Sharul get special attention from coach P. Tamilselve before they do their routineNur Shaida and Muhd Sharul are under the grassroots development programme together with 12 other athletes.
Their mother Maznah Sidar diligently brings her three children for training every Sunday at St Paul’s Institution and to their school training at SR Bukit Mewar every day.
The mother of six who met her husband when he was working during the building of the KLIA project in Sepang, said Nur Shaida showed interest in athletics from young as she loved to run.
“Soon Nur Shafilia and Muhd Arif followed her footsteps too. I hope to see them represent the state one day and if they can represent the nation in time, I will be very proud,” said Maznah who was at the training centre with her four-and-half month old baby – Nur Shafira and older daughter Nur Shamin (14) who is not inclined towards athletics. Her oldest son, Muhd Shafiq (17) plays football.
Another budding athlete in the programme is 15-year-old Pavitraa Kuichalan who is a shot putter.
Shot Putt thrower Pavitra Kuichalan trains with Sabapathy watching

“Pavitraa is well-built for a 15-year-old and I decided to try her out for shot putt and she was an instant hit,” said S. Sabapathy.
Pavitraa, who is under the development programme has already won the gold medal at the Seremban Schools district meet.
Pavitraa has another younger brother, Maahsisah training under the grassroots programme.
Another 15-year-old of Indian and Indonesian parentage, Subahtra Sahtiya Murthi is another potential athlete who can go far.
Subahtra has represented her school – SM Bukit Mewar – in the Seremban district meet last year and won the bronze in the 100m and 200m.
Like many parents who bring their children for the programme, her Indonesian mother brings her to the programme on a motorcycle and waits for her to finish her training before taking her home.
Parental care...Subhatra Sahtiya gets a ride home from her mother after training
Other potential athletes under the development programme include S. Kothanayagi (cross country), Nayli Tukijan (100m/200m), B. Ranitha (100m/200m – silver medallist Seremban district meet), G Kishen (800m/1,500m), M. Paveen Raj (100m/200m), R. Nancy (100m/200m), R. Theveen Prakash (100m/200m/400m – Seremban district bronze medallist), R, Sashiv Prasath (triple jump), R. Rubirdraan (400m), S. Rooba (100m/200m), S. Turgashini (100m/200m - Port Dickson district Under-15 champion) , M. Paveen  Raj (100m/200m/relay), M. Jayaprakash (100m/200m) and P. Nathakumar (high jump)
Others potential athletes in grassroots programme are R. Rushaan Pradev, C. Vishnu, R. Darvindran, M. Lohendra, S. Harshamathi, C. Devishree, S. Kartheesan, S. Manishaa and P. Pathmanathan training under multi-lateral programme.
“The number of athletes joining the programme has been steadily been increasing over the years and we target to have at least 50 athletes training with us by the end of the year,” said Sabapathy.
The hot  morning sun is not a deterrent to these young athletes who train hard.
President: Sabapathy Sinnayah
Vice-president: Sity Faridzan Anuar
Secretary: Tamilselve Periasamy
Treasurer: S. Vasu
Committee members: Mohan Rajoo, Muraleedaran Packeri and Segamani Suppiah

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sabapathy soaring like a falcon

 Under the watchful eyes of Sabapathy

By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by: Azneal Ishak

In an age where hardly anyone does anything for free, especially in the field of sports, Olympian Sabapathy Sinnayah, has tirelessly with a few fellow coaches out of sheer passion been coaching about 30 athletes for free in Seremban for the last six years.
Sabapathy, who turned 68 on November 30, represented Malaysia in the 1972 Munich Olympics as a member of the 4 X 100m and 4 X400m relay team, started his athletics training programme on Sundays at the Tamil School in Lobak and has since moved to his alma mater St Paul’s Institution has the programme gained popularity.
Together with coaches R. Mogan (former national walker), P. Tamilselve (former Penang athlete) and S. Segamani, they diligently train about 30 athletes for two hours starting from 8am every Sunday. On week days many of the athletes are part of the State schools programme at SMK Bukit Mewah where Mogan is coach under NS Negri Sports Council.
Setting it for training...from left coaches walks coach R. Mogan, S. Segamani and Sabapathy sets up equipment before training.
“I started this programme as I wanted to give something back to the sport. Although I am late starter at athletics, it has grown to be my passion,” said Sabapathy.
Sabapathy’s desire to give back something to the sport probably stems from the fact that he was introduced to the sport by man who took him under his wings – Mubarak Ahmad - a senior police officer in the 50s and a former Malayan sprinter and president of FMAAU (predecessor of MAAU and now MAF).
Mubarak was the father of late Olympian hurdler Ishtiaq Mubarak.
Sabapathy lost his mother, Letchumy, not even knowing her as a one-year-old. It was then Sabapathy was brought up by Ishtiaq’s parents, with whom the former’s father was working for as a caretaker at their home.
“I owe my athletics career to Ishtiaq’s father Mubarak. I was brought up by their family until the age of eight in Seremban before he was transferred to Selangor. Only then did I went to live with my father in Lobak.
“Although I grew up with Ishtiaq, I was not good at athletics. I left school after Form Five in 1965 and was looking for a job. After two years in search for a job in vain, I decided to contact Mubarak to assist me to get a job in Selangor.
“Mubarak asked me to come to Selangor and I stayed in his house again and used to follow Isthiaq for his athletics training at the Police Depot. It was then that Mubarak asked me to train with Isthiaq and started to take a liking for the sport. I joined the Jets Athletics Club and that was the beginning of athletics career.
“With the assistance of Mubarak, I also managed to get a job with Tenaga Nasional (then Lembaga Letrik Negara – LLN) where I worked for 12 years. I started to represent Selangor in the 200m, 400m and relay team before going on to represent the nation.”
Sabapathy said the coaches in his programme all come on a voluntary basis for the love of athletics.
“I am indeed grateful to them for having managed this programme for the last six years.
“We source for donations and sponsors to get equipment for training and also running shoes and attire for the athletes.
“Among the sponsors who have been kind to us include Datuk James Selvaraj (Bata), Datuk Malek Noor (UFL), SPI who let us use the field for training for free IR N. Ramamurthi who assisted to get some funding from the Education Welfare Research Foundation(EWRF) and a few personal friends. But we certainly could do with more assistance.”
The children bring their own drinks and certainly a drink sponsor and even some nutrition sponsorship will assist them in a long way.
Nestle hearing about the plight of the club is already looking into assisting them with their nutritional drinks during their training sessions.
Sabapathy said only late last year they have registered themselves as an athletics club – Falcon Athletic Club – with the Sports Commissioner’s office.
Asked why he choose the name Falcon for the club, he simply replied: “Falcons are the fasted moving creature in the face of earth.
Falcons have thin, tapered wings, which enable them to fly at high speed and to change direction rapidly and have been recorded diving at speeds of 200 miles per hour (320 km/h).
“We hope as a registered club now, we will get some assistance especially from sponsors,” said Sabapathy the president of the newly formed club.
“There are many talented athletes in the programme who have the potential to make a name for themselves. I have athletes coming from as far as Port Dickson. Some athletes I had personally gone to schools nearby to ask them to come and join the programme, while many have come on their own after hearing about the programme.
“Parents have taken a keen interest in the programme, especially mothers who bring their children for the programme and wait here before taking them home,” said the father of three daughters and two grandchildren.
The programme has several senior boys who have competed in the Malaysia Games and among them are R. Eswaran (20Km walk), R. Thevan (long distance runner) and R. Premkumar (walks).
But it is the development programme which has attracted many athletes many of them who are already representing their respective schools and at the district level.
Sabapathy also has a programme for grassroots development of athletes from the age of seven to ten, many of whom who have tremendous potential to make the grade soon.
Indeed, Sabapathy has got something good going and if only more ex-athletes are passionate like him and assist in the development of sports, many more athletes will be discovered.
Sabapathy made his debut for the nation at the 1970 Bangkok Asian Games as member of the 4 X 400m relay squad, but although the team won the bronze, he did not run as he was relegated to a reserve. Then in the Kuala Lumpur 1971 Seap Games he had the misfortune of pulling a muscle in the 100m race and had to withdraw from the relay squad.
It was only at the 1973 Singapore Seap Games that Sabapathy finally tasted glory when the 4 X 400m quartet comprising P.L.B. S. Payadesa, Harun Rashid, Hassan Omar and himself won the gold medal in 3:15.4.
Sabapathy also won a silver in the 200m clocking 22.3 to finish behind Thailand’s A. Ratanpol (21.6).
At the 1975 Bangkok Seap, Sabapathy won two bronzes medals - in the 4 X 200m running with Peyadesa, Ramli Ahmad and Zainuddin Wahab in a time of 1:26.5 and the 4 X 400m (Marariah Naidu, Peyadesa, Muthiah Dattaya and Sabapathy). The 4 X 200m was won by Thai quartet of Boontud Somsakdi, Suchart Jaesuraparp, Ratanapol and Paratanavong Sayun in 1:25.0 while Singapore’s quartet of C. Kunalan, Quah Kim Tiong and Yeo Kian Chye won silver (1.25.9). In the 4 X 400m it was Singapore who won the gold.
For the 1972 Munich Olympics, Sabapathy trained in US and Germany with his relay mates Peyadesa, Hassan and T. Krishnan who had a finally ranking of sixth for the time of 3:13.51.
After his athletic career, Sabapathy was the Federal Territory coach from 1985-1996, Selangor Sports Council development coach from 1997 to 2006 and Federal Territory chief coach for a year with the Sukan Teras programme.
Sabapathy was an executive with Ex-National Athlete Foundation (YAKEB) from 2009 till two months ago.
Although currently without a job, Sabapathy has not shirked on his passion to continue to assist the athletics community in Seremban.
Sabapathy is indeed a rare gem in the athletics community.

Reminiscing Malaysian football's Olympic miss

By Tony Mariadass

 Datuk Santokh Singh was happy that a local fictionalised movie on the 1980 Moscow Olympics squad – Ola Bola – was made and opened in cinemas on Thursday.
However, the 63-year defender who featured in the Moscow squad, was a little perturbed that the younger generation who were not aware of the facts of the qualification, may take the movie’s story line as the truth.
While he praised the movie for bringing out the unity among the players in the multi-racial team, the team spirit, the passion, the struggles portrayed, sacrifices made, family values and the love for the game, he said he is bound to make some facts known.
Santokh in an exclusive interview with TONY MARIADASS, tells the story as it was with the 1980 Moscow Olympics squad, their qualification and the disappointment of not making it to the Olympics because Malaysia went to boycott the Games due to the American-led political boycott to protest the late 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. A total of 65 nations boycotted the Games.

“For starters, it must be said that the team only knew that we will not going to Moscow after we had qualified for the Games beating Korea 2-1 in the qualifying Group 2 final at the Merdeka Stadium.
In the movie it was portrayed that it was already known that we are not going to Moscow when we played in the final.
It was a good plot for the movie, but I want to put the facts right for the younger generation.
We trained for a month for the qualifiers under German coach Karl Weigang and had a two week stint in Fraser’s Hill before we returned to the city. We trained at the Victoria Institution and the former Selangor Indian Association (SIA) ground – next to the old Istana Negara.
We were billeted at the FAM House at Birch Road and it was dormitory accommodation.
It was this kind accommodation which made the players bond and become close. We could not do anything without the rest knowing.
These days, players are all put up in rooms and there is hardly any comradeship except when they come for their meals or go for training.
For me, it was the best assembled team during my international career (1972-1983) but we started the Moscow Olympic qualifier as underdogs.
We had for company in our group – South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Brunei and Philippines.
We defeated Korea 3-0 in the opening game, then Brunei 3-1 before we were held to a 1-1 draw by Japan. But wins over Indonesia (6-1) and Philippines (8-0) to top the one round league round and play Korea, who finished runner-up, in the final.
It was tough match which saw Korea equalise in the second half after Bakri Ibni had given us the lead for halftime. It was James Wong’s goal give minutes from time which gave the victory and ticket to the Moscow Olympics.
The feeling we had was being top of the world. Except for our captain Soh Chin Aun who had played in the 1972 Munich Olympics, for the rest of us it was making a debut.
Olympics was like the ultimatum for any footballer and having qualified, we were all looking for better things for Malaysian football.
For me personally, up to then winning the Asian Games bronze medal in Tehran was the highlight of career then. But qualifying for the Olympics saw me imagining the feel of competing against the world’s best, staying in the Games Village and missing with athletes from all over the world.
However, shortly after we had begun training for the Moscow Olympics, we were told that we were not going to Moscow because of the government decision to boycott the Games.
The whole world came crushing down on us and many of were in tears when told of the decision.
We could not reason with the decision.
A majority of us felt that sports and politics should not be mixed.
But the decision was final.
The only consolation was the FA of Malaysia decided to reward us for qualifying for the Moscow Olympics by going for a World playing tour instead of heading to Moscow.
It was great to go on the world tour, but it could never compensate for the disappointment of not going to the Olympics.
I continued to play for the nation until the 19983 Sea Games in Singapore and ended my career with Selangor two years later.
It was a rollercoaster career for me starting off a player playing in my village (Hot Spring in Setapak) for my club Hotspurs. I was born in Setapak and it was in my neighbourhood that I natured my love for the game.
Being a defender, my idol was naturally M. Chandran, whom I had the honour to play alongside for a year when I made my debut with Selangor in 1972.
Later it was Chin Aun who was my motivator as we played together for a long period.
I started off by playing for Selangor in the Burnely Cup (Under-20 national tournament) in 1971 at the age of 17. I also played for a club in the Selangor league – MICO (Malays, Indians, Chinese and others).
It was the late Datuk Harun Idris, the Selangor Menteri Besar, whom I went to see for a job who sent me to PKNS where I started work the very next day and was with them for 19 years.
Those years, football was a career path for us youngsters. We did not earn much and started my job with a salary of RM180.
Training with Selangor we were paid RM5 per training session and a match allowance of RM30.
When Selangor won the Charity Shield, League Cup and Malaysia Cup in 1984, we were paid a bonus of RM14,000 and a trip to the Los Angeles Olympics.
Today a player gets paid RM40,000 a month and still wants to move to another team.
I never earned an annual income of RM40,000 during my playing days.
But I know I cannot compare my era and the present era when the game has gone professional.
But what I cannot understand is why the standard has not improved with the high wages paid and the game gone professional.
If I was to pin down on why, it is simple. Players these days do not have the discipline, passion and commitment to win. They don’t love the game. They love the money.
I went to collect almost 170 international caps. These days’ players come and go because they do not have the quality and the will to stay on top of the game for a long period.
I have Sea Games gold medals (1977 and 1979), Asian Gams bronze medal (1977), champions in Merdeka tournament (1973/74/76) and numerous titles with Selangor.
I am proud of what I have achieved, but still regret that I missed the Moscow Olympics. How many times I wished that it was all a bad dream and when I wake up I will be at the Moscow Olympics. It is not be and I just have to live with it.”

Heroes who would have been Olympians:
The 1980 Moscow Olympics qualifying team:

Goalkeepers: R. Arumugam, Peter Rajah, Ong Yu Tiang
Defenders: Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, Jamal Nasir, Kamaruddin Abdullah, D. Davendran, Wan Jamak Hassan
Midfielders: Bakri Ibni, Shukor Salleh, Khalid Ali, Abdah Alif, S. Pushpanathan
Strikers: James Wong, Hassan Sani, Tukamin Bahari, Ramli Junit, Zulkifli Hamzah, Abdullah Ali
Team manager: Datuk Mohd Bakar Daud
Assistant manager: R. Ramalingam
Coach: Karl Weigang
Assistant coach: Mohamad Bakar
Team Doctor: Dr Raja Abdul Malek

Round 1


6 April 1980

2 – 1
Bakri Ibni Goal 12'
Wong Goal 
Kim Goal 58'

Merdeka Stadium, Kuala Lumpur
Attendance: 50,000
Referee: Ali Albannai Abdulwahab (Kuwait)
Asia (AFC)
·          Iraq (replaces  Malaysia)
·          Kuwait
·          Syria (replaces  Iran)

Olympics 1980 Qual.       Group 2 - Group Stage results
Malaysia      3-0      South Korea                       
Malaysia      3-1      Brunei
Malaysia      1-1      Japan
Malaysia      6-1      Indonesia
Malaysia      8-0      Philippines
Group 2 - Group Stage (Malaysia and South Korea advanced to final)

Apr 6, 1980 Malaysia      2-1      South Korea

 Bakar was spot on

The Moscow Olympics qualifying football squad team manager, the late Datuk Bakar Daud, had wished then he had access to the prime minister Tun Hussein Onn to change his stance on the boycott to the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Malay Mail Johor correspondent, Dan Guen Chin, as a sports reporter who was covering the national team than, was told of Bakar’s wishes.
“Datuk Bakar was devastated when told of the boycott. He told me then he had tried to see the prime minister to personally make plea to have a change of heart in the name and sake of sports,” Dan revealed.
“He said that he did not have the access and it was his biggest regret. He felt for the players who played their hearts out.
“Above all he said then that Malaysia football not going to Moscow is going to affect the future of Malaysian football. He said that playing in Moscow would have left behind a legacy and served as an inspiration for the younger generation to keep the tradition. He also said that following from the Malaysian population if Malaysia had gone to Moscow itself who have stirred a following.”

Indeed Bakar was spot on, as Malaysia’s football performance took a slide since then and has not recovered. Malaysia was ranked in the 70 bracket while the current ranking is 171.