Friday, May 25, 2018



By Tony Mariadass

UNLIKE the general belief that the life of sports journalists is a bed of roses, it is in fact filled with thorns.
And having been a sports journalist from a rookie at the age of 19 and clocked in 40 years of sports writing, I have had a fair share of unpleasant moments.
But I have no regrets of making sports journalism my profession and would not have traded it for any other.
Obstacles and a few unpleasant moments are part of the job and we have been warned by our superiors from day one.
My first shock was as early as a stringer for the Malay Mail in the late 70s when former and late veteran sports writer Francis Emmanuel, had asked me to follow up on a story he was doing.
I was asked to go to the PJ Club and get information about the suspension of a senior committee member of the club and also to get a photograph of the suspension notice pinned on the club’s notice board.
Being a rookie I was naturally excited with the assignment and armed with a camera, I went to the club and walked in to look for the notice board and duly found the suspension notice.
Immediately I took out my small camera and started to take pictures of the notice. Before I knew, a gentleman tapped on my shoulders and asked me what I was doing.
When I told him that I was a sports journalist and was asked to get details of the suspension of the committee member, this gentlemen went berserk.
“Who do you think you are? Walking into a private club and taking pictures without acquiring any permission? This is a private matter and you have no business here,” blasted the gentleman.
And he demanded I handed my camera to him and by which time I was shivering and wondering what Francis had got me into.
The gentle took the camera, pulled out the film and told me to get out of the club before he calls the police.
I left immediately and rode my ‘kapchai’ back to the office to be greeted by Francis who demanded if I had the pictures and information from my assessment.
When I related what had happened, he burst out laughing.
“You thought you can walk into the club and just walk out with the pictures. This is show you there many obstacles in our job and you have to work around it,” he said.
Next day, Francis still had the story see print. Then on, I was very careful when getting stories and made sure I made sure I adhered to procedures and rules or get a story without getting ‘caught’.
Francis also had another peculiar way of bringing down rookie reporters to have their feet firm on the ground.
Francis would never give you the byeline you requested.
For my first story as a stringer – a story on former international footballer who plying his trade in Hong Kong, he gave me T. Mariadass.
Other byelines which followed included Anthony Mariadass, Tony Mariasoosai! Before he finally gave me my requested byline – Tony Mariadass.
Then we have to deal with officials and athletes who seek you for publicity but if you write any negative or expose any of their shortcomings, blunders or your views which did not go down well, they will blow their top, avoid you in future, bar you from covering their events, write letters to your editor accusing you of being biased or influenced by other officials or parties. You get screamed at, asked to get out of their offices, barred from training grounds and stadium, have people hackle you and in some instances even threaten you.
I have been asked to leave training ground at Penampang Stadium in Sabah and not allowed to enter the Likas Stadium with my Press accreditation and had to buy a ticket to gain entry. Then not allowed to use the Media Room facilities which included even standing outside the Media Room and told and lead by security officials to the seat which indicated in the ticket I had bought to gain entry to the stadium.
I had to go through all this because a top official of the Sabah FA was upset with an article I had written.
Of course over time all is forgotten and we friends again. Incidentally, the official is a Minister today.
Then we have officials who are supposed to be guardians of their sports but act otherwise.
A prominent official (now deceased) in the FA of Malaysia – not an elected office bearer but head of an important sub-committee – approached the Ulu Klan g Recreational Club (UKRC), asking them to surrender their field and clubhouse in return for a smaller pot of land which is Government property and already had a community building n it.
The official, who is a businessman and developer, had told UKRC president Andrew Gopal that the “UKRC ground” was suitable for a condominium project.
URKV had rejected the offer but the developer’s company working through the village’s (Hulu Kelang) security and development committee tried to acquire the land.
It was astonishing that while the number of playing fields in the Klang Valley are dwindling, that someone from FAM was ‘betraying’ the sport.
While this news was reported in the The Malay Mail On Nov 20th 2002, what was not reported was that Andrew was offered by the official at a meeting at the latter’s office, two condominiums, if had agreed to let go for his club grounds.
Andrew who is battling to regain the UKRC ground till today confirmed the offer.
“I flat refused the offer by the prominent official. I was applauded at the offer of the official and walked out of his room,” said Andrew when contacted recently.
“We are still homeless without a ground of our own and continue to host our annual veteran’s tournament at rented fields, but we have not given up on getting the field which rightly belong to us.
“The FAM official has passed away and his plans did not materialise, but others have similar plans and agendas and we have still not got back the field which was seized from us MPAJ.
“It has no different with Barisan Nasional or the Opposition who all promised us justice, but in the end have their own agendas and denied us the rightly ownership of the field.”
The battle continues.
While some officials have brought shame to sports, there are others who through their office made a difference to the sports they were involved in.
But sports being what it is, there is no room for good officials.
AS 1996 drew to an end, it was a year remembered in football where
three godfathers of the game had their curtains drawn on them in their
respective States.
Two have been unceremoniously booted out of their
associations while the other suffered the same fate soon after that.
The three were former Kuala Lumpur FA president Tan Sri Elyas Omar,
former Johor FA deputy president late Datuk Suleiman Mohamed Noor and Kedah FA deputy president late Datuk Ahmad Basri Mohamad Akil.
Without doubt, all three have done a great deal for their State FAs and
the rise of soccer in their respective States.
It is through their time, dedication, vision and love for the game that
their respective States have hogged the limelight in Malaysian soccer.
But sadly, all three were dumped after they lost their
influence as they no longer held Government posts.
What they had done over the years, was fast forgotten and they were made
scapegoats for the decline in recent years and the associations' poor
financial standings.

The three ‘Godfathers of football” became victims of the winds of change and politicking within the associations.
While sports officials were part and parcel of our sports writings, wives of officials too have played a key role in making a sports journalist’s life miserable in their line of duty.
Experiences of being told off or phones slammed by wives of officials when negatives articles are written on their husbands or even the associations they helm was normal.
But officials like Tan Sri Elyas, made us forget such matters when he would profusely apologises on behalf of his wife when I had unfortunate brushes with her. Elyas was magnanimous.
Then we had a wife of a FA President (Datuk Mohamad Aini Taib) who acted like the team manager of the state team.
It was a common sight to see her walking into the dressing room before, at halftime and end of game, to talk to players and give her two sen worth of advice and not to mention scolding the players too.
It has indeed been a journey for me, but despite the occasional bad experiences, the great memories have superseded the unpleasant encounters to make an unforgettable experience I will cherish forever.
But like we say in journalistic jargon, we are only as good as our last byeline!

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Do we need organised sports programmes to promote healthy lifestyle or sports for all?
In Malaysia many organised events have been held in the name of promoting sports and healthy lifestyle and thousands and even millions of ringgit spent.
Some of these events are just held over weekends or even over a day.
And how much it benefits the mass in the end is a million ringgit question.
I was recently in Phnom Penh and I was amazed at the enthusiasm shown by young and old when it came to exercising and staying healthy.
And it was not organised events they were involved in but just thousands of people either walking, running, cycling, on skateboards or exercising daily in the morning and evening.

 On weekends and public holidays it was bumper crowd and sometime no place to move freely.
And this is was happening on large and long boardwalks along the Tonle Sap River, Independence Monument and many walk paths and gardens around the many temples.

That the government had foresight to build so many boardwalks around the city at their iconic monuments and sightseeing areas is indeed visionary.
Another sight which caught my eye was that sepak tarkraw was a hit among Cambodians. All along the boardwalks the young boys and men playing the game.

It is no surprise that the Cambodians have already won a gold medal in Chinlone (part of the Sepak Takraw events) at the 2015 Sea Games in Singapore and probably it is a matter time before the Cambodians will be a threat to the Malaysians and Thais in the sepak takraw game proper.
Another game played along the boardwalks is the tradional game of 'chapteh' especially among the older men and women. And they are indeed very good at it where the game requires great dexterity and balanced in keeping the feathered shuttlecock in the air for the longest time. They have also modified the game to play like a sepak takraw game.

Indeed we don't need multi million ringgit sports stadium or facilities to promote sports and healthy living among the mass.

Even the state of art sports complexes we have are not readily available to the public or have to pay exorbitant charges to book them. 
Just have parks, open areas, tracks and pathways and boardwalks for children, youth, men and women, old folks and families to come to and they will come in doves.
In Malaysia too we have thousands who flock to the limited number of parks and open spaces in the country and sometimes these places are packed to the brim.
We certainly could do with more 'green areas'. parks boardwalks, garden for the citizens to come and spend some quality time with their families, friends or even individually to keep themselves healthy.
There will definitely be no shortage of people to utilise these facilities as we have a strong sporting population.
Just take a look at the many runs organised every weekend all over the country where participants pay entry fees to participate in thousands for every run.
Maybe we need to look at Cambodia and learn a few things from them.    

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Wrote this article when Tan Sri Elyas Omae consented to be the Advisor to The Bowling Mag  which I was the publisher in 2011. The magazine has stop publishing three years ago.

It's briefly sums up his contribution to sports.


By TonyMariadass

If there a man for all seasons in sports, it has to be Tan Sri Elyas Omar.

Man with the Touch of Midas, the Godfather of Malaysian sports, Malaysian sports Savior, the Sports Icon of Malaysia, the Gift to Sports, Man wearing many Caps, Sports Sheriff, White Knight, are few names Elyas is known by.

While his name is synonymous with sports, he is equally, if not better known in the administrative field, where his visionary ideas have had groundbreaking impacts.

Elyas started his career in 1960 in Malayan Civil Service as the Assistant Secretary of the Public Service Commission. He held various official positions in the Government of Malaysia from 1960 to 1992. In his early years in the Civil services, in the 1960’s he played a key role in implementing the Malayanisation Policy of the Malayan Public Service (1960-1964) and later in initiating and implementing a number of management improvements and administrative reform  programmes in the Malaysian Government machinery under the direction of the then Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak. He was the Founder Director of National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN), Malaysia from 1973 to 1978. Thereafter, he was appointed as Deputy Director General of Public Service Department from 1978 to 1981. He also served as the Secretary General of the Ministry of Federal Territory Malaysia from 1981 to 1987.

Even then, Elyas was not known to many. It when he was the 3rd Lord Mayor of Kuala Lumpur from 1981 to 1992, that Elyas’ popularity grew immensely, especially among the city folks, who enjoyed a “new city” under him.

His contributions for a better Kuala Lumpur were not just confined to the city, but a national contribution.

As Mayor of Kuala Lumpur he introduced numerous changes to management, beautification and development of the city which included the concept of privatizing several projects and activities of the City Hall.

Among the projects undertaken under Elyas leadership include new townships through the redevelopment of squatter areas, transportation system (the light rapid transit rail and monorail), development of sports township (Bandar Tun Razak) where international standard soccer Stadium, cycling velodrome and a badminton hall were built and planned and developed a sports-cum-technology town which became the venue for the 1998 Commonwealth Games (Bukit Jailil).
Others include Urban Planning, Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) with the Petronas Twin Tower was conceptualised by Elyas, infrastructure facilities and the Merdeka Square including the tallest flag pole in the World to name a few

It was only a matter of time before when the sports fraternity sat up and noticed him.

But the sport of bowling was among the first to recognise the vision and ability of Elyas when the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress appointed him as their patron way back in the early 80s.

The 74 year-old Elyas was a much sought after man in the sports fraternity soon he was involved in soccer, badminton and cycling.

Among his early notable achievements in sports include a professional soccer set-up with the Kuala Lumpur football team by engaging a professional world renowned coach in Dr Josef Venglos and professional players. Together with a firm development programme in place Kuala Lumpur went to become Malaysia Cup champions for three consecutive years from 1987 to 1989.

At the national level as President of Badminton Association of Malaysia from 1986 until 1994 he was largely instrumental in regaining the sports lost glory when Malaysia won the Thomas Cup in 1992.

Cycling too enjoyed a steady growth and success when Elyas was heading the national body from 1984-1988.

Elyas was also the Vice-President of the Football Association from 1984-1998 where he was also tasked to manage the National Youth Squad from 1994-1997 for the 1997 Youth World Cup in Malaysia.

Other sports positions he held include being member of the Management Board of the National Sports Council (1980-1993), Chairman of the Federal Territory Sports Council (1981-1983 & 1989-1992), Member of the National Stadium Board, member of Commonwealth Games Bid Committee (1990-1992), President of the Asian Badminton Confederation (1991-1993) and Vice-President of Selangor (2004).

More recently, Elyas vast experience in the various field even saw foreign nations seeking him and was the Advisor to the President and the Government of Republic of Senegal from 1 January 2004 until April 2005.

On 15 January 2005, Tan Sri Elyas was appointed as the Sports Commissioner of Malaysia until 15 April 2008.

He is currently Non-Executive Independent Director and Chairman of several companies.

Elyas has also been inducted into the Olympic Council of Malaysia’s Hall of Fame in 2007 for all his contributions to sports. Among other sporting awards accorded to him include the Man of the Year Award from New Straits Times/Sports Toto in 1988, National Sports Leadership Award in 1990 and the Man of the Year Award for Sports Leadership by Sports Writers Association of Malaysia in 1992.

Elyas is still a much sought our person for his advice and guidance.

Recently, Elyas consented to be the Advisor to The Bowling Mag and his guidance is indeed invaluable.

Asked about his vast contribution to sports he said: “I have one regret. I should have assisted to build a bowling centre. I have been closely associated with the sports and am the patron of MTBC, but having setup a national bowling centre, could have been a legacy I leave behind for the sports.”

Whatever said, there is no doubt that Elyas has contributed immensely to sports and will forever be remembered for his passion, commitment and love for sports.