Sunday, April 13, 2008
Malaysia's 50 most influential sports personalities
When Malaysia turned 50 last year, I came up with a list.
Weekend Mail on Sept 1, 2007 carried the nation's 50 most influential personalities, from my perspective. I was the only sports journalist to do so. The rest did not bother.
TO celebrate Malaysia turning 50 on Aug 31, Mailsport's RIZAL HASHIM pays tribute to 50 of the most influential personalities who helped shape the country's sporting fortunes over the last five decades.
TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN SULTAN ABDUL HAMID
The nation's first Prime Minister initiated the continent's oldest football competition, the Merdeka Tournament. His unique, single-minded, diplomatic and visionary leadership took Malaysian and Asian football to a rarefied level.
TUN ABDUL RAZAK HUSSEIN
A keen sportsman from his childhood days, Tun Razak was an advocate of sports as a common denominator and a powerful unifying tool. Presided over OCM and MHF.
TAN SRI HAMZAH ABU SAMAH
An outstanding sports personality who helped establish the National Sports Council in 1971, Hamzah (pic) remains the only Malaysian to have been a member of the exclusive club of IOC and FIFA.
SULTAN AHMAD SHAH
A sports-loving royalty who brought a seismic change to the football industry by launching the semi-pro league in 1989 and later oversaw Asia's first FIFA World Cup as the AFC president.
DATUK HO KOH CHYE
A top-rate player who evolved into a respected coach and manager in hockey and later, an administrator and policy-maker with NSC.
DATUK EDDY CHOONG
Dubbed the 'Mighty Midget' for his bundle of acrobatics on the court, this son of a foremost millionaire family in Penang is a legend in badminton.
DATUK HARUN IDRIS
A charismatic political figure who was equally inspirational as an FA of Malaysia bigwig and team manager on various assignments, including the 1972 Munich Olympics.
DATUK M. CHANDRAN
A Perak-born fitness freak who saw it all as a player, skipper and coach throughout his glittering career. Skippered Malaysia to the Munich Olympics in 1972.
WONG PENG SOON
A maestro who was way ahead of his time, Peng Soon was an artist with refined strokes, beautiful footwork and courtcraft, combining balletic grace with a winner's mentality.
Born in Johor but made his name in Singapore, Peng Soon was the first Asian to lift the All England title in 1950, and subsequent victories in 1951, 1952 and 1955 (at the age of 38) earned him the sobriquet the `Great Wong'.
DATUK POON FOOK LOKE
His unique Penan-like hairstyle was legendary, as were his intelligent approach play and blistering pace in helping Malaysia to a fourth place finish in the 1975 World Cup.
NG JOO NGAN
The 1970 Asian Games road race gold medallist spawned a few generations of cyclists that won medals at various levels.
ISHTIAQ AHMAD MOBARAK
Largely due to a supportive parent and a multi-lateral training, Ishtiaq remains arguably the nation's most celebrated hurdler, highlighted by his semi-final appearance in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
The century dash shot this kampung boy from a rubber tapping family in Merlimau into Malaysia's sporting hall of fame plus the once-in-a-lifetime experience of running alongside track legend Carl Lewis.
DATUK DR M. JEGATHESAN
A pathologist, civil servant and 1995 National Science Award winner who happened to scale the heights as `Asia's Fastest Man' in 1966. His athletic exploits tend to overshadow his real contributions to society - in the medical field, where he was responsible for more than
120 scientific papers and had a bacteria named after him.
TAN SRI KHIR JOHARI
An affable gentleman famed for his wisecracking jokes, Pak Khir contributed his energy towards developing OCM, badminton and sepak takraw.
TAN SRI P ALAGENDRA
Despite going against his father's wishes, he went on to wield the stick in more ways than one - as a crimebuster and hockey player. The Kajang-born former top cop played in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, and served MHF, football and athletics in various capacities.
Hurdler, placard-bearer, beauty pageant winner, Passola ad lady, TV commentator and immortalised by Lat in his cartoons, Marina was the nation's pin-up girl in the 1970s and is now the principal of the Bukit Jalil Sports School.
DATUK NASHATAR SINGH
The court interpreter- turned-crime-buster who dabbled in rugby and athletics during his heyday, and later helped organise a memorable Commonwealth Games in 1998.
DATUK ABDUL GHANI MINHAT
The Negri Sembilan-born football wizard who weaved his magic with Selangor was rightfully bestowed the title Raja Bola in 1959.
TUN GHAZALI SHAFIE
King Ghaz presided over the Malaysian AAU during its golden years, before passing the baton over to Datuk Khalid Yunus in 1989.
DATUK SOH CHIN AUN
Chin Aun, or Chin Ann, according to his birth certificate, does not understand how his name was misspelt, but the name is recognised as one that belongs to one of the best defenders in Asia in the 1970s.
DATUK MOKHTAR DAHARI
A legendary figure who shot to stardom as a footballer of power and pace but above all, genuine humility. Earned the distinction of scoring against numerous touring sides, including Arsenal in 1975 and England B in 1978.
DATUK SIEH KOK CHI
An engineer by profession, he began his sporting journey as a water polo player but will end his career as the OCM secretary.
TAN AIK HUANG
A formidable stroke player who clinched the prestigious All-England title and two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica in 1966.
N. SRI SHANMUGANATHAN
Sri Shan captained the 1975 World Cup squad to fourth place in Kuala Lumpur and is often described as someone ahead of his time who lives by the principle that diplomacy and performance do not mix.
The Sri Lankan-born gentleman was not only a champion quartermiler and the first secretary of FMOC, the forerunner of OCM, but also produced offsprings Harichandra, Balakrishnan and Jegathesan, who went on to represent the country with distinction.
DATUK RAHIM AHMAD
The Negri Sembilan native became the first Malaysian to break the 50 second barrier in the 440 yards and the country's first medal winner at an international sportsfest with a bronze in the Tokyo Asian Games in 1958.
SIDIQUE ALI MERICAN
From champion sprinter and athletics' golden boy to administrator, Sidique was the first Malayan to break the 10s barrier in the 100 yards in 1949, which happened to be his maiden appearance outside Kelantan and his first race wearing a pair of spikes. He went on to become director of sports in the Sports Ministry and assistant secretary of OCM.
DATUK WIRA MAZLAN AHMAD
The longest-serving director-general of the National Sports Council, Mazlan's appointment as the head of the Government agency coincided with the Government's policy to invest heavily into sports, hence his role as the strategic thinker behind the Jaya'98 programme that accelerated Malaysia's medal-winning performance in multi-sports festivals.
TAN SRI ELYAS OMAR
Elyas lorded over the BA of Malaysia, the Malaysian National Cycling Federation and the Kuala Lumpur FA during a very successful period. His TUO project bore fruit in 1992 with the Thomas Cup victory.
DATUK P. VELAPPAN
Better known all over the world as Peter, the Port Dickson native rose through the ranks as a player, coach and administrator to become the face of Asian football.
DATUK PADUKA AHMAD BASRI MOHD AKIL
Widely acknowledged as the architect behind Kedah's emergence as the domestic football powerhouse in the late 1980s.
DATUK PAUL MONY SAMUEL
Mony's journey from Kuala Ketil to the top job in AFC bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Velappan.
NICOL ANN DAVID
The nation's poster girl who has reached the summit of world squash. She is also the first Asian woman to win both World and British Opens.
THONG POH NYEN
Installed into office in September 1961, Poh Nyen was the secretary of OCM for a record 31 years.
NURUL HUDA ABDULLAH
Her route to stardom for Malaysia in the SEA Games series began with a seven gold splash in Bangkok '85, seven in Jakarta '87 and eight in Kuala Lumpur '89.
The only Malaysian-born Test cricketer whose fame rested on his brilliant fielding.
NG BOON BEE
A rare breed who played badminton, football and rugby for Malaysia with equal aplomb, the 1968 National Sportsman of the Year conquered All-England and Asia with his racquet.
DATUK KWOK KIN KENG
Former goalkeeper who became the longest-serving secretary of the FA of Malaysia, giving 22 years of his life serving three presidents - Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah.
DATUK PUNCH GUNALAN
A man acknowledged in his time as one of the world's finest players in both singles and doubles, Punch's background in mechanical engineering, marketing and the technical aspects of the game provides him the know-how to solve problems with mechanical precision, foresight and power play.
DATUK TAN YEE KHAN
A dominant force alongside Ng Boon Bee in the world of badminton, Yee Khan ventured into golf as well, before coaching the national badminton team.
DATUK SIDEK ABDULLAH KAMAR
The progenitor of arguably the world's best known badminton family, without whom the nation would not have been able to garner medals from two Olympics and of course, regain the Thomas Cup.
DATUK M. RAJAMANI
Once dubbed the 'Fastest Woman in Asia', Rajamani was twice voted the National Sportswoman of the Year, survived a lightning strike and struck gold in the 400m in the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok.
This Penang-born hurdled, dashed, leapt and heaved her way into the nation's heart with her gazelle-like performance as the region's top heptathlete in the 1980s.
WONG CHOON WAH
Widely acknowledged as one of the nation's most illustrious midfield schemers, this son of a coffee shop owner shared the pitch with Germans Uli Hoeness and Ottmar Hitzfeld in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and spent a season as a professional alongside Chow Chee Keong in Hong Kong.
The nation's bowling queen and arguably the most successful kegler.
CHOW CHEE KEONG
Chee Keong blazed the pro trail by landing a contract with South China in Hong Kong.
The lack of titles should not take away the fact that Misbun added colour, flamboyance, audacity and style as Malaysian badminton ushered in a new era in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
ZAINAL ABIDIN HASSAN
Of Sudanese-Malaysian heritage, Zainal was perhaps the only footballer to fit the bill as an idol of the 1980s.
TUNKU IMRAN TUANKU JA'AFAR
An influential figure in squash and cricket, Pete is only the second Malaysian after Hamzah to be elected as an IOC member (2006).