UPDATED, June 10, 17.51.
There was a time when journalists looked forward to any event organised by Castrol. Credit must be given to the then Castrol PR Manager, Tan Cheng Looi, for keeping the Press happy not only in terms of the flow of information but also the due respect accorded to this bunch of underpaid journos.
Castrol was a major player in sports in the 90s, sponsoring the first local cycling pro outfit managed by 1991 Manila SEA Games bronze medallist, Wan Maizan Ahmad Radzi, Wan Zaleha's younger sister apart from investing heavily in motorsports.
The last time I dealt with Castrol was in 2003 when Real Madrid-bound David Beckham came to our shores. Almost 4,000 people came to see Beckham in the flesh at the KLBA Stadium in Cheras and the PC was fairly light-hearted but lasted, unfortunately for most present, less than 10 minutes. Beckham was introduced to the Press by the master of ceremony (a local PR guy who then had the gall to pose four questions himself and even answered on Beckham's behalf on a few occasions) as the world's greatest footballer, which drew an embarrassed look even from the former England captain.
Which brings us to the national Under-20 team's session with Arsenal supremo, Arsene Wenger at Dataran Merdeka on Tuesday. Apparently the NSTP group was not invited for the dinner the night before which was supposedly reserved for certain sections of the media.
I was told these days PR practicioners tend to be selective. Also during the meet the press session, I was told the media from Indonesia and Thailand, no doubt invited for the all-sponsored trip by Castrol, were given exclusive interviews with Le Professeur. Questions from the floor came mostly from Castrol people or the PR agency...it was bad PR, if you asked me!
Shabby treatment the local media is subjected to by the PR people is nothing new. We remain second class citizens in our own backyard.
In the case of Beckham's visit, the Press were asked by the PR people to send in questions and were reminded to follow certain "rules" imposed.
Among them, the media could not ask about his old club, his new club, his family and even his endorsement deals. Journalists were told to be there as early as 12.30pm even though the timing of Beckham's arrival was shrouded in mystery. Photographers could only take photos in the stadium if they accepted the "terms and conditions" that included not getting within 200 feet of the man. Well, what to do...
Original posting, Sunday June 7
Arsenal supremo Arsene Wenger will be making his way to Kuala Lumpur for the second time since 1999 with a coaching clinic and meet-the-fan session scheduled at Dataran Merdeka on Tuesday. Shortly after Arsenal's victory over Abdul Rahman Ibrahim's national outfit at the National Stadium over a decade ago, I tried to elicit a hearty response from the man from Alsace with this question: "Arsene, having worked with some of the best players in Europe like Klinsmann, Djorkaeff, Bergkamp, Overmars and Vieira, who do you think is the best among them?"
Typical of the Frenchman, he did not give a direct answer and simply said he has had the good fortune of working with great professionals.
Having transformed the Gunners into a respectable and championship-winning side from the days when they were tagged boring, boring, Arsenal, Wenger may need a new challenge. The 59-year old who arrived at Highbury in 1996 should broaden his horizons further.