Read New Straits Times' report here, here and the Star here.
When Hamzah was made the Culture, Youth and Sports Minister, one of his first tasks was to establish the National Sports Council under the National Sports Council Act 1971.
He mooted the idea to host the Commonwealth Games and suggested for the country to have a clarion call which led to Milo's Malaysia Boleh slogan ahead of the Singapore SEA Games in 1993, as Datuk Dina Rizal can testify here
Hamzah's timeline in the world of sporting officialdom:
1971 - tabled the National Sports Council Act, as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports
1976 - Elected to head FAM and OCM, succeeding Tun Razak who passed away in London, for both seats
1978 - Elected to head AFC in the Bangkok Congress on Dec 18 to co-incide with the Asian Games, succeeding acting president Kambiz Atabai who presided over the governing body following Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra's resignation in 1977. Elected to be a member of the IOC executive, a position he held until 2004.
1980 - president of FAM that oversaw the team qualifying for the Moscow Olympics and entering the Asian Cup finals, also underwent coronary bypass
1982 - Elected as FIFA vice-president
1984 - replaced by Sultan Ahmad Shah as FAM president
1990 - lost to Sheikh Fahed Al Sabah of Kuwait by one vote for the FIFA vice-presidency from Asia in the AFC Congress in Bali but maintained his position as AFC chief
1992 - crucial in lobbying for the rights to stage the Commonwealth Games, culminating with the victory over at the Barcelona Olympics
1993- Joint chairman of Sukom 98 Berhad with Senator Annuar Musa
1994 - withdrew from defending AFC presidency, paving the way for Sultan Ahmad Shah to take over
1998 - Unseated as OCM president by Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar
When I wrote about the country's 50 most influential sports figures for the Malay Mail in conjunction with Malaysia's 50th birthday, Hamzah's name was certainly among those on the top. Read here
For former Utusan Malaysia sports editor and later Berita Harian writer-cum-sub editor, Ismail Ahmad, Hamzah was a leader par excellence.
"I have a lot of personal insights and experience with the late Hamzah. In the 1970s and early 80s, NSC were dormant. So OCM and the Sports Ministry were the driving force of the sports fraternity. On a tour to Australia, the national hockey team requested for financial assistance to a tune of RM60,000 but I told him "no Datuk (at that time he was not yet a Tan Sri), the team had lost four matches. RM60,000 was big money those days! He was open enough to accept ideas."
Ismail or Iba to his friends, covered the Asian Games in Bangkok, when the national football team were given a 7-1 hiding by China.
"Hamzah felt cheated. He told me "Mail, if given a choice I would send the players to the guard room," Ismail said, alluding to allegations of bribery surrounding the team then.
"There was once the late Mokhtar Dahari confessed of having been approached by Indonesian officials to fix a Merdeka Tournament match. Mokhtar disclosed this to Hamzah before me at the Equatorial Hotel. It was an open secret Mokhtar announced his retirement a few times at the height of his powers as he had grown disillusioned with the game. Hamzah said Mokhtar was clean and perhaps he belonged to the group of minority who did not sell their soul to the highest bidder."
According to Ismail, Hamzah enjoyed the highs and suffered the lows of officialdom, probably the most tragic was when he lost to the FIFA vice-presidency from Asia by a vote in the AFC Congress in Bali in 1990!
"It was the darkest moment of his career in sports. Hamzah lost the FIFA vice-presidency for Asia by one vote, 15-16 to Sheikh Fahed Al Sabah of Kuwait, and two were spoilt votes. I was there with Fauzi Omar (now Datuk) of New Straits Times and saw the commotion when the late Datuk Abu Bakar Daud, an FAM delegate in the Congress, was ordered to leave the room. Fellow journalists from neighbouring countries came to us asking what happened...the delegates from FAM had betrayed their former president."
"Hamzah was upset by a betrayal he considered of the highest order. I met him later that night when I saw with my own eyes how tears flowed down the cheek of a former Minister. I was called to his room accompanied by Peter Velappan (Datuk), the AFC general secretary.
"He told me "Mail, the FAM conspired to oust me. Mail, you listen to me, Sheikh Fahed will not last long in the seat. True enough three months later Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990 and Sheikh Fahed was killed and Hamzah was re-installed as FIFA vice president from Asia."
The Arabs were intensely canvassing for votes the night before the election as they went room to room, promising the world to the delegates. When I bumped into Sheikh Fahed having dinner, he asked me: "Are you on my side or Hamzah's side? I told him as a journalist one has to remain neutral. But he knew I was very close to Hamzah."
Later after Velappan was asked to leave the room, Hamzah told me to pick up his briefcase and then took out three pills before I helped him to bed. I was afraid he had suffered a heart-attack!"
Ismail can be seen here
Hamzah (fifth from left, front row) with FAM exco members in 1976 - History of Football in Malaysia 1900-2000
Hamzah with Sheikh Hamdan Zayed Al-Nahyan, president of UAE FA and FIFA president Joao Havelange during a match in the 8th Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi in 1988 - Power of Dreams
With IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch - Power of Dreams
Ismail's junior by a few years, Nasir Ahmad, said one incident involving his colleague Zainal Abidin clearly defined Hamzah's character. Hungry for more information, Zainal almost threw himself onto Hamzah's car. Hamzah opened the door and the two continued their conversation as the car sped off!
"MUNGKIN saya tidak begitu rapat dengan Allahyarham berbanding bekas bos saya, Ismail, Mustakim dan Allahyarham Zainal Abidin (Spy13), namun sifat rendah diri, menjadikan Hamzah Abu Samah sangat istimewa di kalangan wartawan sukan. Satu peristiwa, sebaik tamat sidang media di Stadium Negara, 'Spy13' yang tak puas hati bahannya, menerkam ke kereta Allahyarham yang bergerak perlahan untuk pulang. Hamzah membuka pintu, mengajak Zainal masuk untuk 'sambung' temubual dan kereta terus meluncur pergi. Hari itu sejarah pun tercipta. Ia sekadar memberi isyarat, Hamzah boleh ditemui di mana-mana dan pada bila-bila masa. Al-Fatihah!" - NASIR AHMAD
"Hamzah was very open to criticism and took them by his stride. Imagine he was chief of FAM and OCM, as well as AFC...but he remained a gentleman until his death," said Nasir.
Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah
Date of Birth: Jan 5, 1924
Marital Status: Married to Toh Puan Zainon Hussein, seven children
1990 Merit Award, Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
1996 IOC Centennial Sporting Excellence Award by Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM)
1999 "Tokoh Sukan" National Sports Awards
2000 OCM Hall of Fame, Olympic Council of Malaysia.
2003 Sports Leadership Award, Pahang.
Our deepest condolences to Tan Sri's family! May his soul be granted the gardens of paradise. Al-Fatihah.