Ahmad Shabery will be remembered as a Minister who was open to ideas and criticism. He wanted the industry to be driven beyond the normal medal-hunting scope but I guess his officers and little Napoleons let him down.
Media-friendly, Ahmad Shabery worked closely with the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM), a non-governmental organisation comprising of individuals involved in the sports media. In officiating the KBS-SAM Awards in PJ recently, Ahmad Shabery again mentioned the need to model it after the Pulitzer Prize. Read KBS-SAM Awards, Pulitzer style
SAM-KBS Media Awards offer a number of categories such as Best Overall (open), Best News Report (print media), Best News Report (electronic media), Special Repor & Commentary (print media), Special Report & Commentary (electronic media) and photography.
I wish to suggest the main categories of the awards be named after four of the country's biggest names in sports media.
Norman Siebel was the founding president of SAM and Straits Times sports editor
Ceylonese-born Siebel, as the nation's foremost sportswriter, enjoyed access to the corridors of power. Siebel (second from left) with Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's first Prime Minister who held positions in several sporting organisations, notably FAM and AFC. Siebel had a huge following and was credited with giving the moniker Punch to badminton legend Punch Gunalan and created the nickname the Thing for Tang Hsien Hu. The Indonesian-born Chinese badminton legend was so agile, powerful and ferocious that he literally tore his opponents apart, prompting Siebel to liken him to THE THING, the main character in the 1951 sci-fi movie. A cricket player in Ceylon, Siebel was highly influential in haping the rakyat's opinions on sports. He wrote a racing column for pre-war Malaya Tribune, then made a name for himself as an opinion maker in football, rugby, track and field and tennis. Together with 37 other sportswriters, Siebel formed SAM at the Straits Times office at Jalan Riong. Two months later, Siebel passed away. Rahim Razali who was a leading television and radio sports commentator, became acting president. G.S Kler was the first secretary and Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah, then the Information Minister, the patron. Besides Siebel, Rahim, Kler and Mansoor Rahman, the other pioneer members present at the meeting were Lee Pek Hoo (Nanyang Siang Pau), R. Jeyanathan (Radio Malaysia), Conrad Ng (Straits Times), Wong Siew Hoon (China Press), Matmor Bachik (Utusan Malaysia), Chang Cheng (Sin Chiew Jit Poh), S.L.E. Maran (Tamil Nesan), Chan Tin Wang, Liew Mok Yoong, Alex Soars, Francis Emmanuel, Rahim Kassim, Tony Francis, Ian Pereira, Peter de Souza, Sajab Siraj, Tony Danker, Ma'arof Mohamed Nor, M.T. Lingham, Ibrahim Ngah (all Straits Times), Abdul Ghani Othman, Khalid Jafri, B. Abdul Ghani, Taufik Kajai (Utusan group), Baharin Tahir, Ronnie Atkinson, Santokh Singh Gill (Radio Malaysia), Harjit Singh, Idris Nordin, K. Chandrashekaran (TV Malaysia), Liew Koon Siong (China Press), Alban Gomes (Bernama), Tan Oou Teck (Nanyang), Ben Variyan (Eastern Sun), R.D. Selva (Straits Echo) and Hari Chand (freelance).
The commemorate Siebel's contribution, the main category award should be named after him. Try the KBS-SAM-Siebel Golden Pen Award...
For the main category for TV, name it the KBS-SAM Rahim Razali Award...Datuk Rahim Razali who took over SAM after Siebel's demise, was arguably at one time the nation's best TV and radio sports commentator.
Russia menembak enam gol memasuki pintu gol Hungary...(Russia shot six goals past Hungary)
And do you know who was the first ever journo to be dispatched overseas to cover a major sporting event? It was Lee Siew Yee (Tan Sri), who covered the Thomas Cup in United Kingdom in 1949, 20 years before SAM was established. He rose to the position of the New Straits Times Editor-in-chief in 1970 and was bestowed the MPI Eminent Journalist Award in 1992. In his book The Singapore Lion: The Biography of S. Rajaratnam, the scholarly Siew Yee struck the writer as being apolitical.
Under the heading How Malaya Won Thomas Cup, Siew Yee wrote:
"The Thomas Cup for the world international badminton competition, was presented by the donor, Sir George Thomas, to Lim Chuan Geok, the Malayan captain, at 11.30 GMT last night (7.0am Sunday Malayan time) to the strains of the national anthem. Malaya had beaten Denmark eight-one in the final."
A few days later, on March 3 to be exact, Siew Yee wrote:
"This is a story of a crisis which hung over the Malayan Thomas Cup team while they played the Americans in Glasgow and the Danes in Preston. Lim Chuan Geok, the manager, had no money left. He did not tell the players. When the team reached Glasgow, Lim secured 200 pounds advance from the organisers against Malaya's share of the gate collection. With this, he paid the hotel bills, exceeding 100 pounds."
The trip was sanctioned by the Straits Times board of directors, with the airfare borne by the paper but Siew Yee had to dig into his own pockets for other expenses.
The print category can be named after Siew Yee, who died in 1999.
Another name that cannot be ignored is Zainuddin Bendahara who brought SAM to greater heights in the 80s. Perhaps the special report category can be named after him.
p/s to SAM exco, please organise a dinner to pay tribute to past presidents, founding members of SAM such as Ian Pereira, Wong Siew Hoon, R.D. Selva, Tony Danker, Ronnie Atkinson as well as seniors like Amran A Hamid and Hussin Ibrahim.