Friday, October 31, 2008

Mak's passing, 14 years on

Location - HKL. Date - Oct 31, 1994.

"Riz, can you pass me the apple, please?"

"Of course." I picked a green apple from the fruit basket, one of many given to Mak since she was admitted about two weeks earlier. But after two or three bites, Mak had breathing difficulties. She was gasping for air. Right before my eyes, with Ayah and family friend Mr Ng at her bedside. I panicked. The nurses were quickly summoned!

The three of us were immediately told to leave the room. Ayah was bracing for the worst. I did not know whether or not he was prepared for this moment. As for me, I did not know what to think, what to do. My mind went blank.

Later Mak was transferred to the ICU. Relatives and friends were informed. They came in droves but only a few were allowed to see her. Mak was in a state of comatose, being kept alive by the life-support machine. Makcik Pah, Mak's cousin and a staff at HKL, facilitated things. Some whispered to me "the signs are not good", telling me to prepare myself for the shattering news.

Ayah, Kak Lin, Aishah and I were in a state of shock. Atok almost collapsed upon reaching the hospital. Then Mak was transferred to the CCU. Man was the only member of the immediate family not present as Ayah waited for him to finish his classes at IIUM. Man arrived around Maghrib and quickly recited the first few verses of Surah Yaasin, with tears flowing down his cheeks. Moments later Mak was pronounced dead. It was as if Mak was waiting for her youngest son to bid farewell. Our beloved Mak was gone. She was only 51.

Ayah must have known something about Mak's illness but he kept it away from us. Mak was hospitalised for 13 days but the doctors, both Dr Christopher Lee and Dr Zainuddin Abdul Wahab, were evasive each time they saw me. I failed to realise the true extent of Mak's sickness. It dawned on me later that she could have been suffering from lung cancer.

Atok was devastated. Three of his loved ones - her husband, her eldest daughter and now her only surviving child were all gone. Atok Antan passed away at the age of 67 in 1983 due to stroke, while Mak Long Ramlah died at the age of 28 in 1969, a year before I was born. Mak had two younger brothers who died shortly after they were born.

My colleagues at Berita Harian, including my superiors Hishamuddin Aun (current GEIC of New Straits Times), Badrulhisham Othman and Abdul Ghafar Ismail (Editor of Harian Metro), paid their last respects later that night.

Mak was laid to rest the following day, after Zohor prayers. A few of Ayah and Mak's friends, including two present Cabinet members and their wives, paid their last respects as well. One Parliamentary secretary who is now a Minister even faithfully accompanied Mak's remains to the burial ground.
The year Eric Cantona was born, Mak and Ayah got married, with Pak Tunggal (Jamil Sulong, left) and Mak Nani as the guests of honour

Mak and Man at seven months

Volkswagen was Ayah's first car, while Mak listens attentively to Razak Abdul Hamid, who survived the Hiroshima bombing. Read here

Mak (standing, left) represented Malacca in badminton

I think Mak (standing, second from right) was a half-back in this hockey team

Mak was a member of class of 1956, the pioneering batch at Sekolah Menengah Perempuan Melayu, Melaka, the forerunner of Sekolah Tun Fatimah. Among her fellow pioneers include Aminah Ahmad Badawi, Zubaidah Abdul Rahman, better known through her Sri Siantan column in Berita Harian and Badariah Mimbar, whose son here is my fellow Johannian and a spitting image of his father. As fate had it, Badariah, a real garang teacher, taught Man and me at St John's. Read Najmuddin Najib's Mum for a brief history of STF

El Diego or El Loco?

Very few great football players become great managers or coaches. Exceptions to the rule - Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff and to a lesser extent, Michel Platini.

Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano may have been two purveyors of the beautiful game but once they swapped their jerseys with the tracksuit, they knew they were not cut out for the job. Pele was smart. He stayed away from the bench so that he could dish out criticisms at people and consistently come up with wrong predictions!

For flawed genius Diego Armando Maradona, cynics are suggesting he would not last long as the Argentina coach.

But I agree with my ex-boss El Loco. Read also Seba and John's take and Maradona's birthday story. Anyway Maradona's autobiography El Diego is a must read for footy fans. Pity there was no mention of Boca Juniors' visit to Kuala Lumpur in 1982, when Maradona had little time to entertain requests for interviews nor autograph signings!

Supermokh (left) and El Diego exchanging pennants, with George Joseph (right), the community leader for Bangsar, looks on. Three years earlier George refereed the FIFA World Youth Cup quarterfinal clash in Tokyo between Argentina and Algeria. Maradona opened the scoring in a match they won 5-0!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tennis and I

Much to my regret, I never took up tennis. In retrospect, there were plenty of opportunities for me to play the game as my late Ayah was a social player. He never left home without his Wilson tennis bag. He was a member of the Sultan Sulaiman Club (KSS) at Kampung Baru.

Ayah not only had a good forehand but he once refereed a football match where former Asian Football Confederation (AFC) supremo Datuk Peter Velappan was playing.

Instead of picking up tennis, I grew up playing football, what else. By the age of 10, I was a member of Darjah Empat Merah that became inter-class champions of St John's Primary (1). I even enjoyed the distinction of scoring with my left foot, a thunderous shot that shaved the bar before crossing the line (there was no net then). While I went on stage to pick up the prize during Awards Day, Adik Man showed a glimpse of his early potential by bagging the English award, I think. It was therefore not a surprise that he became the winner of the Lembaga Tabung Haji Award and the Tan Sri Kadir Award, as best student for Bachelor of Laws and best student for Bachelor of Laws (Syariah) of the IIUM, as reported by the New Straits Times in November 1997. Man's convocation was held 26 days before Ayah passed away peacefully in his sleep in Johor.

Man and the cute-looking soon to be loose cannon with our respective prizes. Even at the age of seven he was almost my size

Despite my love for football, Ayah must have tried to subtly persuade me to try tennis as well because when I was 14, Ayah gave me my first pair of sneakers. It was a pair of Diadora trainers with Bjorn Borg's name to it! Ayah bought them in Singapore during the days when everything across the Causeway was cheaper. Although I was a keen follower of the game and an avid fan of Ivan Lendl and Gabriela Sabatini, I never picked up the racquet. I guess it's too late now.

On Nov 18, Borg will be coming for the Showdown of Champions 2008. How I wish I could take Ayah to the game. I'm sure Adlin M Zabri (below right) as the organiser can provide me tickets!

BEAUTY and THE BEAST...Edleen Ismail of ESPN Sportscenter (left) is not to be mistaken for Adlin M Zabri, former NST and BT journo and press secretary of Anwar Ibrahim
But the showdown of champions (read the official website) must not be mistaken for the Kings of Tennis here. Whatever it is, tennis fans in Malaysia will be in for a treat. Many moons ago I covered Michael Chang when he came for the Salem Open. This time, Putra Stadium will be graced by legends - Federer, Blake, McEnroe and Borg, champions from two different eras. Penangites will get to meet the likes of Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg and Marcelo Rios in the flesh!

A reunion for SAAS products

My phone rang a few minutes before midnight while I was surfing the net recently. "Eh, where are you? We are at Haji Zaki's place, he's asking you to come over," said 2006 Asian Games 400m hurdles bronze medallist, Noraseela Mohd Khalid.

Zaki, the former director of development of the National Sports Council (NSC), was to host his son Shahnaz's wedding the following day but Noraseela, like the rest of her former school mates at the SM Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah (SAAS) in Kajang, was told of a reunion of sorts at Zaki's residence.

So there I was, getting re-acquainted with some of the most talented athletes to emerge from SAAS, which was made the centre of excellence for track and field when Zaki was in charge of development at NSC.

Zaki, who retired in 2002, remains a father figure to them all. After more than seven years of intensive training, SAAS were proud to unveil hurdlers Mohd Robani Hassan, Seela, Moh Siew Wei, sprinter Nazmizan Muhamad, decathlete Muhamad Malik Ahmad Tobias, and pole vaulter Roslinda Samsu to name a few, as the No 1 in the country in their respective events, with Seela, Siew Wei, Malik and Roslinda becoming national record holders.

Haji Zaki Abdul Rahman holds court
Former decathlete Muhammad Malik Ahmad Tobias (left), former pole vaulters Yeap Lai Hin and Teh Weng Chang paying attention to the guru
Seela perhaps whispering to the boyfriend, with former quartermiler Masfuzah Abdullah eavesdropping

There was almost 40 ex-athletes, all products of SAAS

Zaki told them to make it a point to meet as often as possible and to keep the sense of camaraderie alive. The SAAS programme was a pilot project that has produced among others Seela (1999 and 2003 SEA Games gold medallist, 2006 Asian Games bronze medallist), Malik (1999 Asian Junior bronze medallist, 1999 and 2003 SEA Games gold medallist), Nazmizan (first athlete to bag the SEA Games sprints double since G. Rajalingam in 1967) and Roslinda (2006 Asian Games silver medallist).

When a new set of office-bearers took over the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) shortly after the track and field team bagged 14 gold medals in the 1993 Singapore SEA Games, they were quick to dump three Russian coaches - Dr Edwin Ozolin, Dr Sergei Sidorenko and Oleg Dmitrousenko - for reasons best known to themselves but it gave NSC the opportunity to tap their brains. So the NSC pioneered the SAAS centre, putting Ozolin, a former sprinter and Sidorenko in charge, while Dmitrousenko was tasked to guide hammer thrower Wong Tee Kue. Ozolin is the man behind Seela and Moh's emergence as hurdlers of Asian calibre while Sidorenko moulded Malik into a fine decathlete. "Malik is a fine specimen indeed," Sidorenko once told me.
Malik, sadly, has quit the scene at a relatively young age (he's only 27), bitter for a variety of reasons. Some like former pole vaulter Tajuddin Abdullah and horizontal jumper Ahmad Faizal Salim have been roped into the system as teachers or officials.
"This is the best opportunity for you to share with others what you have learnt throughout your career and your experience at SAAS. Seela for example must be given the necessary assistance so that eventually she can become a good coach. This was one of the conditions imposed on her by the NSC when she was sent to Germany," said Zaki.
Zaki however was skeptical if the Education Ministry could handle the development and training programme of elite athletes at school level.
"I'm sorry to say this but sports is not the Ministry's core business. Although my ex boss (Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad) is the Education Ministry's adviser on sports, he alone cannot be fighting the system. The Treasury will never be generous in their financial disbursement to the Ministry because sports is not their reason for being. They have other priorities to think of. Handing over the development aspects of sports to the schools is not going to help. We deliberated on these issues in numerous seminars and conventions when I was still with the Sports Ministry in the 1970s and later the NSC."

P/S: Teh Weng Chang, who competed in the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, told me: "I read your posting on our wedding, I like the heading, Single no Moh...hahahaha. His wife Moh was apologetic for not inviting me to the wedding. "The place was limited lah...". Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Datuk Sieh Kok Chi often referred to Moh as my girlfriend because I used to cover her and even fought for her inclusion to the Manchester Games.

Sathia's housewarming party

The man who missed the penalty in the Merdeka Tournament final against Vietnam is seen here with the wife and Berita Harian's Fadzrie Hazis (right). In the background, FAM general secretary Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad is being interviewed by the RTM crew

The host B. Sathianathan entertains a group of people who are die-hard supporters of the national team, with loose cannon's family in the foreground

Also seen here is Mr Amir (proudly wearing Malaysia's away jersey), the driving force behind the National Team Supporters Club

Sathianathan's assistant Ismail Ibrahim and his family

FAM assistant general secretary Haji Saifuddin Abu Bakar tucking away

Zamani hopes to redeem himself in the AFF Suzuki Cup

The FAM general secretary helps himself to the food

B. Sathianathan's Deepavali do doubled as a housewarming party but the Press were not in a mood to party as discussions centred on Malaysia's prospects in December's AFF Suzuki Cup following the penalty shootout defeat to the Vietnam Under-23 side in the Merdeka Tournament.
So the subject of Sathianathan's contract which ends next month was raised but FAM general secretary Lt Jen (R) Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad was non-committal.
Let's wait for the AFF Cup. After all it was announced earlier that the AFF Cup is the key performance indicator for Sathianathan and team manager, YB Khairy Jamaluddin.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

New media officer for FAM

Zaid Jamaludin

The FA of Malaysia (FAM) will have a new media officer next month. Saudara Zaid Jamaludin will report for duty at the hallowed halls of FAM at Kelana Jaya on Nov 22.

He was the Concorde Shah Alam Marketing Communications Manager.

Armed with a degree in mass communications, Zaid has had a career in Marketing Communications which has taken him from Guoman Resort Port Dickson, Bukit Tinggi Resort Berhad, the Star and ntv7.

The first media officer to be employed officially by FAM was Berita Harian's Ahmad Khawari Isa who has since returned to the paper, followed by former Harian Metro sportswriter and TV3 presenter, Dahlan Maamor (now host of Hello Malaysia at Bernama TV) and my former colleague at the Malay Mail, Satwant Singh Dhaliwal. Preceding Khawari was Christopher Raj, who was employed by ProSports but based at FAM to help out on matters pertaining to the Press. Christopher is now a reporter at the New Straits Times after a brief stint as a stringer at the Malay Mail.

Best of luck, Zaid.

A letter to the editor

An old staff of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) wrote this letter here. It can also be accessed here

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Diwali

Mak and her adopted grandchild (Kanthan's son)

The Maniams tucking away into Mak's raya dish

As usual, political discussion rules the day, whether or not Kanthan wears the Chelsea kit

To Malaysian sports fans, officials, coaches and athletes, plus of course my Hindu friends and colleagues, Happy Diwali.
As for my in-laws in Kulim who are flanked by the Maniams (pictured above Maniam health, not in picture Maniam cikgu (teacher), they will no doubt conduct their reciprocal visits.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

TM new MHF president

Tengku Mahkota Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, is the newly installed Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) chief after getting the lion's share of the nominations as the deadline came to a close in the afternoon.

Incumbent Tan Sri Anwar Mohd Nor was nominated by Armed Forces but later withdrew from the race.

Tengku Abdullah who obtained 13 nominations, thus becomes the ninth president of MHF since the Malayan Hockey Council, the forerunner of MHF, was formed exactly 60 years ago.

The former FA of Malaysia deputy president follows in the footsteps of Sir George Oehlers, E.B. David, Herman de Souza, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Tun Hussein Onn, Sultan Azlan Shah, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah and Anwar.

Interestingly, former national team manager Nur Azmi Ahmad from Malacca who is eyeing the deputy presidency, obtained six nominations as opposed to five for incumbent deputy president, Tengku Abdul Majid Idris Sultan Iskandar and one each for Dr S.S Cheema and Ken Pereira. Cheema is likely to withdraw from the race and focus his energy at retaining his vice-presidency.
Eleven individuals will vie for the four vice-presidency slots, with the incumbents TNB chief Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohd Noh obtaining 12 nominations, Cheema (seven), Datuk Rahim Ariff (10) and M. Gobinathan (five).

Secretary Hashim Mohd Yusoff was returned unopposed.

In his text message to this blogger shortly after attending the national level open house for Eidul Fitr in Kuantan, where 17 cows were slaughtered for the feast, Tengku Abdullah said: "I know you don't like the idea...will try my best."

The open house must have been a form of celebration on a personal scale for Tengku Abdullah, who was told of the news shortly after. He is 49.

Funny thing is, Tengku Abdullah only garnered 13 out of the maximum 16 nominations. It is learnt Johor HA did not nominate him. Hmm I wonder why...

By the way, Tengku Majid is the brother of Tengku Abdullah's wife, Tengku Puan Azizah Maimunah Iskandariah. Tengku Puan's mother was Josephine Trevorrow while Tengku Majid is Tengku Zanariah's son.

To Tuanku, best of luck.

Friday, October 24, 2008

MHF require a major transplant

The group of 102 ex-hockey internationals said the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) require a major transplant, with structural changes in three areas, namely affiliates, office-bearers and strategic planning. Read the proposal by group of 102. The proposal is said to be comprehensive, even better than the Wawasan Hoki Negara prepared by Ken Pereira. Now will MHF, whoever the next president is, accept the proposal in toto?

R.I.P Harbans

This report was carried by
the New Straits Times earlier this month
Ex-national weightlifter killed in accident
By Devinder Singh
FORMER national weightlifter Harbans Singh, who won three gold medals at the 1975 Seap Games in Bangkok, died in a road accident in Petaling Jaya
on Monday. He was 73.
Harbans was the first Malaysian to win three gold medals in
weightlifting at a multi-event sports meet which was all the more
impressive given that he was 40 at the time.
The feat was unmatched until Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim bagged three gold
medals at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.
Harbans, a retired Tenaga Nasional employee, competed in six Seap Games
from 1965 to 1975, compiling a personal tally of four gold and three
silver medals.
Besides the three gold medals in the heavyweight category in 1975,
India-born Harbans also took the overall gold in the same category on
home ground at the 1971 Kuala Lumpur Seap Games.
His first medal, a silver, came at the 1967 Games in Bangkok before
adding two more silver in 1969 in Rangoon and 1973 in Singapore.
"Harbans was the type of sportsman who did not do it for personal glory
but for the nation. There was no monetary award to speak of at that time,
the only satisfaction he derived was bringing joy to the people by
winning," said Malaysian Hockey Federation vice-president Datuk Dr S. S.
Cheema, who was in the stands when Harbans won his first Seap Games gold
medal at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in 1971.
Harbans was for a long time a security guard at the Maba House. Perhaps we can expect Malay Mail's Ian Pereira to pay tribute to Harbans soon!

AFC's wish list


In its meeting on 29 July 2008, the AFC Executive Committee decided to open the bid to AFC’s 46 Member Associations to host the AFC Headquarters. The Executive Committee decided to establish an Ad Hoc Committee to determine the criteria and requirements to be included in the bid document.

The bid will be opened to all cities within the 46 Member Associations. There can be more than one city bidding from the same country.

1. Host acceptance
a) The host city, host country and its governments and AFC’s Member Association must accept AFC and support all of its activities. (I thought it was clearly illustrated when the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak and the then Sports Minister, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, paid Hammam a courtesy call not long after the Manchester United issue was settled. A lot of goodwill though was lost due to the Malaysian Government's insistence that the Red Devils be allowed to play in Kuala Lumpur during the Asian Cup last year. Remember, the Malaysian Government was bound by the agreement they signed with the AFC that no other football activities were to be promoted throughout the Asian Cup. AFC's decision drew flak from the Malaysian public, who felt Hammam's fears that the presence of United would divert attention away from the July 7-29 Asian Cup as unfounded).

b) As AFC is a multi-cultural organisation, host country must address and accept the concept of non discrimination on the grounds of language, religion, gender and nationalities. (Hammam sounds like a politician from the Opposition)

c) The host country must have excellent diplomatic relations with all Asian countries. (Sounds like Malaysia)

d) The host city must be located in a politically and economically stable country with safe and secure environment. As AFC receives numerous guests each year, the host city and country must possess excellent international and domestic transport network, as well as sufficient number of five (5) star hotels. (Where else but Malaysia?)

2. Economic considerations
The cost of establishing and operating AFC should be a factor in the selection of the city. Issues, which may have an influence here, include living costs for employees, construction costs of the AFC Headquarters, establishment costs, operating costs, communication costs, and the costs associated with gaining access to the facilities AFC needs. The host city must provide AFC with a detailed costing of its utilities such as water, electricity, telephone, etc. (No problem, Syabas, TNB and TM will do the necessary)

3. Legal status and support
The laws and legislative framework of the host city and country must support AFC's objectives and activities. In particular, the laws and legislative framework must be conducive to the efficient operation of AFC and should cover the following main areas:
• Legal status of AFC
• International organisation which allows for diplomatic status for AFC and its senior officials (Hey Mr Hammam, even in Qatar you do not get red carpet treatment)
• Tax exemptions for all direct and indirect AFC revenue and duty-free transfer of goods, services, and money (So long as AFC is rooted on the hills of Bukit Jalil, it is subjected to Malaysian laws)

• Tax exemptions on purchase of office equipment and vehicles for AFC and its senior officials
• Legal status of AFC’s employees
• Guaranteed resident and employment permit for AFC employees and their direct families (spouses and children) (Well, perhaps the Immigration can exercise discretion here?)
• Tax exemptions for all AFC employees who are non-citizens of the host country (I know AFC people are saying why should they be paying tax to the Malaysian Government)

• Guaranteed issuance of visa for all AFC’s staff, families and guests. Senior AFC officials and VIP guests to be afforded VIP treatment at airports. (This can be discussed, I guess)

Headquarters and Connected Facilities
AFC requires a minimum of 30,000 square metres of land on which the AFC Headquarters and its connected facilities will be built. The land should be free of any encumbrance and provided to AFC without any financial cost. The land must be in a prime location that is easily accessible from both transport and communication perspectives as the AFC Headquarters and its connected facilities should be visible and approachable at all times. ( I thought Bukit Jalil was considered a prime location?)

Financial support
AFC requires an interest-free loan to cover the cost of the construction of its headquarters and connecting facilities. Loan is to be repaid in 20 years with a grace period of five (5) years.

Preferential rates on all utilities to be offered.
Access to facilities
AFC must gain access to facilities which it may need to organise some of its competitions, particularly stadiums, indoor facilities and training fields. These facilities must be provided to AFC with no financial cost. (This can be discussed as it involves local authorities)
Temporary AFC Headquarters
In the event that AFC would like to move the AFC Headquarters prior to the completion of its Headquarters in the host city, the host country must provide AFC with a temporarily fully operational headquarters in the host city without any rental cost to AFC.

Any other benefits and privileges which the host country and host city would like to grant to AFC and/or its employees, members and guests must be detailed and presented in the bid document.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pistol Pete guns down Hammam

The late Datuk Teoh Chye Hin served as AFC general secretary from 1974 to 1978
Former referee Koe Ewe Teik replaced Lee Wai Tong as the AFC secretariat was moved to Penang in 1965. Ewe Teik was once described as "the most knowledgeable soccer figure in Asia". Pic from Power of Dreams, 50 Years of the Asian Football Confederation

FORMER Asian Football Confederation (AFC) supremo Datuk Peter Velappan, who was unceremoniously shown the door by Mohamed bin Hammam in 2006, wants the FA of Malaysia and the Malaysian Government to fight the proposal to move the AFC secretariat elsewhere. Read here. Is it worth the fight? Negeri Sembilan-born Peter is the third Malaysian to hold the general secretary's post, after Johorean Koe Ewe Teik and Perakian Teoh Chye Hin. The present gensec is Kedahan Datuk Paul Mony Samuel. I shall dwell into the dynamics and politics of AFC soon.

Shukor v Soe

Shukor (left) and Soe Myat Min. Pic New Straits Times

Malaysian skipper Shukor Adan, the Malaccan-born midfielder whose footballing skills were nurtured by Negeri Sembilan, must keep an eye on his counterpart from Myanmar, Soe Myat Min, in tonight's Merdeka Tournament semi-final at the National Stadium.

Shukor has intimate knowledge of Soe's influence on his team mates as they have crossed swords numerous times before. In the 2001 SEA Games, for instance, Shukor and Malaysia handed Soe a semi-final defeat thanks to a solitary goal from Nizaruddin Yusof.

If Shukor stokes the engine room with his surging runs, Soe is the soul of the Myanmar team with his tireless running, ball-winning ability and nose for goals. It was Soe who produced the winning goal for Myanmar in the 2006 semi-final at Shah Alam Stadium, and it was Soe who galvanised his team to a 3-2 win over Allan Harris' Malaysia in the pre-Asian Cup in Bahrain in 2003.

Read the New Straits Times here and the preview in the Star here

But I pick Malaysia based on the form they have showed thus far.

Formation: 4-4-2
Strengths: Well-organised outfit, with nice inter-play involving the engine room and the forward-line. Homeground advantage is usually a plus, illustrated by the fact Malaysia have held Asian giants Iraq and Bahrain to draws on the same pitch in recent years.
Weaknesses: Good approach work either through the middle or the flanks but often letdown by poor finishing.
Key players: Shukor Adan, Safee Sali, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak

Formation: 4-5-1
Strengths: Myanmar base their game on the towering presence of Yan Paing as their focal point of attack, with quick support from a five-man midfield.
Weaknesses: Myanmar often resort to a robust game to unsettle their opponents. Tactically wanting on a few occasions so far, they could rue the absence of their first-choice target man Yan Paing who will sit out the match after he was given the marching orders against Mozambique.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tun M and I part 1

The denim shirt that bears the old Malay Mail logo is dear to my heart. Every single staff of the paper was given one each when millionaire blogger Rockybru was the head honcho. When I was given the honour of covering the Athens Olympics in 2004, this was the picture byline that accompanied my stories. Notice the MM logo?

Since it is a treasured piece of clothing to remind me of the good old days of the paper, I wear the shirt only on special occasions. So on a beautiful Sunday morning, I wore it with the knowledge that I was about to interview and meet someone special.

... So meet the elder statesman, blogger, horse-rider and ex-PM.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Johnson withdraws candidacy

Johnson Fernandez has withdrawn his candicacy for the secretary's post in the upcoming Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) elections.

In his text message to those concerned, the Malay Mail copy editor said he has informed KLHA of his decision.

"Some of us were meant to write sports, some to manage sports. I guess my calling is the former," said Johnson, who served as the sports editor of the Malay Mail (old version) from 1999 to 2003. This could pave the way for Sgt Hashim Mohd Yusoff to retain his post.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hammam blames the media?

Cheek to cheek, eh... Chung Mong Joon (left), Blatter and Hammam. Mong Joon, fondly known as MJ within the football circle, is the son of the Hyundai founder. He's not in Hammam's camp.

News from Bukit Jalil is that Mr Mohamed bin Hammam Al Abdulla is trying to pin the blame on the Malaysian media for Asian Football Confederation (AFC)'s decision to shift elsewhere.

I think Hammam is not only trying to move to Dubai and bring AFC along with him, but he's also eyeing the FIFA presidency. If not, he would not be issuing this kind of statement. Read here

Safee's scissors

Safee Sali (left, with photographer Osman Adnan and Amirulhadi Zainal) has a knack of scoring beautiful goals. His scissors kick off his cushion header thanks to a lob from Shukor Adan ended up in the Nepal net as Malaysia won 4-0 in their opening Merdeka Tournament match.

In one Intercontinental Cup match in June, Safee's athleticism enabled him to volley home a goal against one of the teams, I can't recall off hand.

But each time I bump into Safee, I like to remind him of a certain occasion when his well-timed pass freed Akmal Rizal Ahmad Rakhli to equalise as Malaysia held China to a 1-1 draw in a pre-Olympic tie in Wuhan in 2004. It was Safee's first touch after coming in as a substitute. Dispossessing a Chinese midfielder, Safee's through ball pierced the Great Wall and Akmal gleefully tucked home the equaliser with three or four minutes to go. But we did not qualify for the next stage, let alone the Athens Games. But I did go to the Athens Olympics, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, thanks to the Malay Mail.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My ex-boss for MHF?

Tengku Abdullah (fourth from right) with the Pahang Royal family. Picture taken decades ago, copied from my aunty's framed photo

Johnson Fernandez has been nominated for the MHF secretary's post. He is vying for the position provided Sapura supremo, Kenneth Gerard Pereira, who is pursuing his PhD, be voted into office as the deputy president. The duo would want to commit themselves full-time in running the MHF secretariat!
Johnson who had served as secretary general of the Asian Sports Press Union before, will have to quit his cushy job at the Malay Mail (there's already an exodus at the paper). It is said that he was not amused that one commenter of this posting remarked that all the campaigning through his criticisms of MHF over the years has finally borne fruit.
"If at all it's true, this must have been the longest campaign ever for someone eyeing the secretary's post! I've written about hockey for almost three decades" he told someone!
Original posting
I was told by a reliable source that my ex-boss, Johnson Fernandez, is set to be nominated for one of the key posts in the upcoming Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) elections. Is he part of Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah's team? Hmm...Johnson, an avid hockey fan, writer and coach, was a former secretary of the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM). The former Malay Mail sports editor is passionate about the sport, no doubts about that. Deadline for nominations is Oct 25 and the elections will be held on Nov 1. Now I wonder what's going to happen if Tengku Abdullah is nominated? Will HRH be willing to go against his brother-in-law Tengku Bendahara Johor, Tengku Majid? Or would Tengku Majid make way for Tengku Abdullah? What about Tan Sri Anwar Mohd Noor?

Tengku Majid (front row, extreme left)

Check them out

I must commend the Bernama TV sports team for their good coverage of the domestic scene over channel 502. The reports on their daily bulletin at 11.30pm are usually apolitical and straight to the point. One of their presenters is an old neighbour of mine. My only wish is for the bosses to bring it forward to prime time. Astro Awani's daily sports update at 6.45pm over 501 is also good. I'm sure they are giving the more established guys at TV3 and RTM1 a run for their money.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy B'day

As if by design, Mak and Abah's three daughters celebrate their birthdays in the same month.
Kak Ja, a doctor in Kulim after journeying life through STF, Cheltenham, KK and HUKM, the last stop albeit briefly, celebrated hers on Oct 8, followed by my dear Cikgu Intan "Gem of Life" Salina on Oct 10, and Serdang-based Syahida Oct 12.
Selamat Hari Jadi to all three, semoga sentiasa di bawah LindunganNya, murah rezeki, diberkati hidup dan selamat dunia akhirat. Amin. Sorry lambat sikit, nooo...
Mak and Abah's two sons - Azam and Azim - were born in the month of January, just like Azam and Azim's Tok Wan, Cikgu Abu Bakar Hassan (Mak's dad).

Mak and Abah's quartet of grandchildren

Merdeka Tournament, what does it mean to you?

The year - 1980. The venue - Merdeka Stadium.

The stars - most of the cast in the Malaysian all-yellow strip, Chow Chee Keong being recalled from his Hong Kong stint, Soh Chin Aun's socks rolled down to his ankles and Santokh Singh's banana free-kicks with the outstep of his boots.

The outcome - Malaysia losing 2-1 to Morocco in the final.

It was my first Pestabola Merdeka. My late Ayah took me to the stadium knowing that I was old enough to remember, and young enough to get excited by the thrill of being part of "live" matches. For the final, we got a seat right behind the Malaysian goal. Those days I used to watch matches at the stadium and then read the match reports in the New Straits Times the following day. For the best action pictures in colour, one had to wait a little longer for the next issue of Dunia Sukan, a monthly sports magazine produced by the Utusan group.

Malaysia Cup and Pestabola Merdeka were the two tournaments that mattered most during the pre-internet, cable TV days. Both (the tournaments I mean), I must admit, have lost their lustre. The urban community seems engrossed and obsessed with the English Premiership and have little time for domestic football.

I don't blame them. But save that for later.

The 40th edition of the Merdeka Tournament kicks off Wednesday. Afghanistan, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Malaysia form Group A while Group B comprises Vietnam, Myanmar, Mozambique and Bangladesh.

Read Malaysian coach B. Sathianathan's aspirations here

Nades and Terence at it again!

Sometimes I can only offer Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said my sympathies. Particularly so when she comes under siege by the mainstream media, which is in reality, a rarity. But trust R. Nadeswaran and Terence Fernandez to come up with more revelations. Now it appears my ex-boss Tony Mariadass and David Chiam, who were Azalina's loyallists when she reigned supreme as the Ministry of Sports, have come under the microscope!

Do read here. But be civil if you feel compelled to post your thoughts. Otherwise I might have to press the delete button.

Nades also zooms in on a few issues here.

P/S: Tony, any chance of sponsoring Fariq?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rest in Peace, Tuan Jamal

New Straits Times pic

I was in Johor last Friday when I received an SMS from a dear friend stating that Datuk Jamaluddin Khalid, the Police deputy director of internal security and public order, had passed away.

Read here.

A former disciple of former KL CPO and FA of Malaysia general secretary, Datuk Dell Akbar Khan Hyder Khan, Tuan Jamal was occasionally given the task of handling the national team's security aspects, including accompanying the team for overseas assignments when Dell was in charge of the secretariat.

It was in Doha, Qatar in 2001 that I got the chance to talk to Tuan Jamal in private as he was the team security officer while I was covering the pre-World Cup for the Malay Mail. Upon our return, there was one particular incident at the Abu Dhabi International Airport which remains imprinted in my mind. We were on our way back to Kuala Lumpur from Doha after another failed mission.

Due to a slight misunderstanding, the coach Allan Harris and I almost came to blows. If not for the quick intervention of Dell and Jamal who played referee and separated Harris and I, I could have probably gotten a red eye and bashed up by a former player whose Chelsea legend brother Ron was nicknamed Chopper for his tough tackling.

Tuan Jamal then gave me a piece of his mind. "Mulut tu jaga sikit (watch your mouth)!" Yes, Tuan, it was a darn good advice but they don't call me loose cannon for nothing. While there were few opportunities for Tuan Jamal and I to foster a closer relationship thereafter, I kept tabs on his career in the force. Harris and I, meanwhile, remain great friends.

May the Almighty forgive him of all his sins and may Tuan Jamal's soul rest in eternal peace. My deep condolences to his family and friends, including Dell. Al-Fatihah.

Pak Alwi and his Alfa

Former national cycling coach Pak Alwi Ahmad can be considered an Alfaholic, someone who's passionate about his choice of cars and his Alfa Romeos. Pak Alwi and his trusty Alfa GTA, with a bunch of cyclists inhaling the smoke emanating from the Italian classic machine's exhaust pipes, were a common sight for road users around the Jalan Semarak and Keramat area in the 70s.

Long before I entered the world of journalism, I always felt there was a bond between Pak Alwi, his son Rosman and me. Not only because I liked to wave at them whenever our paths crossed when I was a kid, but my arwah dad was also an Alfa Romeo enthusiast.

Pak Alwi had a similar model

Today Pak Alwi is no more on the driving seat. He is not exactly in the pink of health. Like another sports figure Sidique Ali Merican from the same era, Pak Alwi is bed-ridden, suffering from stroke as highlighted by Harian Metro yesterday. Please read here

Our family used to travel the length and breadth of the country with something similar to this Giulia saloon petrol-guzzler