Saturday, July 19, 2008

Datuk Boon Bee, finally

I think we should commend the Negeri Sembilan palace and the State Government for giving due recognition to former double international Ng Boon Bee. He's almost 71, unlike Nicol David who is now a Datuk at the age of 24.

Boon Bee played football, badminton and rugby, sports that until today enjoy mass appeal and surely more difficult to excel in.

Boon Bee was among 22 recipients of the Darjah Dato' Paduka Tuanku Ja'afar (DPTJ) award which carries the title Datuk, in conjunction with Yang di-Pertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan, Tuanku Ja'afar's 86th birthday, today.

Read the following interview conducted in 2006 and you may wonder why Perak did not bother to give him a Datukship.

SUCH was double international Ng Boon Bee's versatility that he was given an ultimatum to focus on one sport by both Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-haj and Tan Sri Khir Johari.

A rare breed who played badminton, football and rugby for Malaysia with equal aplomb, 1968 National Sportsman of the Year Boon Bee chats with Mailsport's RIZAL HASHIM.

Mailsport: You shone as a multi-talented schoolboy in Ipoh. How did it all begin?

Boon Bee: Sports was very much encouraged by our teachers, especially in missionary schools such as my alma mater St Michael's. I began my love match with badminton at the age of 10. My father, Ng Hor Lock, who was a postmaster, was a social badminton player. Like most my age, I grew up during the days of Wong Peng Soon and Eddy Choong. As such I was inspired and driven by their successes. At St Michael's, I was encouraged to play sports and I represented Henry House. Apart from badminton, rugby and football, I ran the 100m and 200m races for the school in inter-school meets.

MS: How were you able to make the national football team and the State rugby team while actively pursuing a career in badminton?

BB: That's hard to answer. I guess because those days, there was not much else to do and I had this burning desire to excel in sports. My first success came in 1955 when I became Perak schoolboy champ in the singles and doubles. A year later, I won the Perak junior and mixed doubles titles schoolboys' doubles champion. Around the same time, I was already creating an impression on the football pitch as well. I picked up the game at the age of 15 and made the Perak Combined Schools team in 1956. I was drafted into the Perak Chinese team for the MCFA Cup. I don't like to blow my own trumpet but after hammering in six of the Federation Combined Schools' 10 goals in 1958, I earned a call-up to take part in the Merdeka Tournament.

MS: How did it feel being part of the Merdeka Tournament, once described as Asia's premier football competition?

BB: As a young lad, it was a big honour to be part of the proceedings. The team coach was Choo Seng Quee, who was known as a taskmaster. I was an inside-left, with Robert Choe in the centre and Ghani Minhat on inside right. Completing the first-choice five-man strikeforce were Rahim Omar and V. Govindarajoo. The skipper was Chan Tuck Choy. We won the tournament beating South Vietnam in the final. The following year, we beat Hong Kong for the title. In 1960, we were declared joint champions with South Korea. For good measure, I found the net a few times to help the nation win the tournament in 1958, for which I was presented with a gold watch by the then Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman. In 1959, I was chosen for the inaugural Asian Youth Championship and among my teammates were Abdullah Nordin, Robert and Roslan Buang. We lost to South Korea in the final.

Boon Bee (sitting on the ground (right) with the 1958 team. Beside him is Robert Choe. Sitting behind the two are of course Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-haj, Abdul Ghani Minhat, Sexton Lourdes and M. Govindasamy.

MS: So for all your exploits in football, why did you finally opt for badminton?

BB: I was particularly fond of football but to be realistic, I knew I would never get beyond Asian standards. It was some time in 1961 that I decided to opt for badminton. Before that, I had a dinner with the then BA of Malaysia (BAM) president Tan Sri Khir Johari who wanted me to concentrate on badminton. Prior to that, FA of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Abdul Rahman had also hinted to me to pick football ahead of badminton. But having travelled around Asia, I wanted to grab the opportunity to see other parts of the world. I had competed in all regional tournaments I wanted to. I had this ambition of winning the All-England and I knew it was within my reach if I put all my efforts into badminton. I even made a promise to Khir that we would bring back the Thomas Cup one day.

MS: And you were virtually unbeatable as a doubles pair alongside your former schoolmate, Tan Yee Khan?

BB: It was a golden era for us. Our partnership grew from strength to strength since our victory in the Perak Open in 1960. We quickly established ourselves as the top pair and after two unsuccessful attempts at the Thomas Cup, Yee Khan and I were selected for the All-England in 1965. We had to raise half the costs of our trip while BAM provided the other half. We thrashed all our opponents and in the final, beat the scratch pair of Erland Kops and Oon Chong Jin. A year later, we retained our title, beating Danish pair Finn Kobero and Hammergaard Hansen. Those were the good old days. It was the happiest time of my life - beating those people and winning the titles. I represented the country about 30 times from 1960 to 1969. Most of it was when I partnered Yee Khan. The Danish Open, Glasgow, Germany and Indonesia - we won everything, including the Thomas Cup. The Jakarta mission was best remembered for the final which was abandoned when we were leading 4-3. Yee Khan and I were leading 15-2, 10-2 against Muljadi and Susanto until the crowd
disturbance. Rattled, we lost 13-18 but then English referee Herbert Scheele decided the match should continue behind closed doors. Indonesia refused. We were given a 6-3margin.

MS: You drifted on to a new partner, Punch Gunalan, after the split with Yee Khan in 1969?

BB: Yee Khan suffered an injury during the SEAP Games in Rangoon. I went on to win the 1971 All-England doubles title with Punch.

MS: So how do you occupy your time these days?

BB: I spend most of the time coaching youngsters six to 15, and manage my Pro Shop at the Ipoh Swimming Club. This is what I have been doing for over 20 years. I had a
short stint in tennis where I won the Perak Closed doubles title in 1978. And then I quit and started coaching tennis for seven years at the club. Now it's only coaching badminton and this Pro Shop. Twice a week, I still play tennis with friends and in my free time, gardening. I'm happy with my life now. My two children are grown up, the eldest Gillian is a chief stewardess with Singapore Airlines and Thomas, named after the Thomas Cup, is a lawyer.

Ng Boon Bee
Date of birth: Dec 17, 1937
Family: Third among four brothers and one sister. Married to Tong Yee
Cheng, daughter Gillian, son Thomas
1958-1961 - Represented Malaya in the Merdeka Tournament
1960-1973 - A member of the Malaysian badminton team
1962 - Asian Games men's doubles gold medal
1963 - SEAP Games men's doubles gold medal
1965 - All-England doubles title, SEAP Games men's doubles gold medal
1966 - All-England title, Asian Games men's doubles gold medal
1967 - Member of the Thomas Cup-winning side, SEA Games men's doubles
gold medal
1971 - All-England title


Arnaz M. Khairul said...

Off the subject a bit, but just a note.
Thankfully you've refrained from calling people 'morons' or 'terds'. Leave that to the little kids with big mouths.. hehehe...
Let's keep it civilised.

Bung Karno said...

He deserved it. Much earlier.

I was young then watching him in court, but he was a big little man who did the nation proud by winning the All-England.

May the nation have more sporting heroes. In football, esp.

HeadLiner said...


He deserved it much earlier..

Hey Rizal,
How are you, man ?