I know it has been almost two months since the National Sports Awards were held but I guess it is not too late for me to congratulate Lee Chong Wei and Pandelela Rinong on being conferred the main awards. Since everyone had gone to town on the duo, I wish to pay tribute to Tan Sri Elyas Omar, who took the stage for having been bestowed the Eminent Sports Figure award.
Elyas Omar...ah the name I was in awe of. The man with the Midas touch.
He was once told me: "Rizal, your English is not bad ah...you may look like a kampung boy but you can write." Well I take that as a compliment.
My first meeting with Tan Sri in his official capacity as Datuk Bandar was in 1991, when I was a rookie reporter attached to the Harian Metro newsdesk. As a reporter with the Berita Harian weekly sports pullout Jaguh, I was there at the Stadium Negara when Elyas lifted the Thomas Cup in 1992. When Malaysia hosted the FIFA World Youth Cup in 1997, I was virtually camped at Wisma FAM to keep tabs on Hatem Souiss's charges of which Elyas was the team manager.
Our paths crossed yet again in 2005 when Elyas was made the Sports Commissioner, the first individual to take up the post full-time since the Sports Development Act was enforced in 1998.
When producer Slamet Sazly Yakub and I decided to invite Elyas for Dengan Izin, he was game for it. However Elyas was not happy with the end-result, sending me a long text message, which was also copied to Slamet, on his dissatisfaction for having been put through a program that did not give him the time to rebut or refute!
I don't wish to dwell on that as I feel Elyas is someone that we need to pay tribute to. Tan Sri you more than deserved the recognition.
Regarded as the most dynamic and successful mayor since Independence of 1957, Elyas presided over a number of sports bodies, namely BA of Malaysia (1986 – 1993), the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (1984 – 1988), Kuala Lumpur FA (1986 - 1996), Asian Badminton Confederation (ABC) (1991-1993), as well as being appointed as patron of the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress from 1988 till today and elected Vice-president of FA of Malaysia (FAM) (1984-1998).
Elyas was made the chef-de-mission to the Jakarta SEA Games 1987, the Commonwealth Games in Auckland 1990 and the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.
A leader of men, Elyas had the knack of turning everything that he touched into gold. The Penang-born gentleman transformed the Kuala Lumpur football outfit from being one of the minnows into a powerhouse in the mid-80s and was the brains behind the Thomas Cup win thanks to the appointment of Fang Kai Xiang followed by Han Jian, Yang Yang, Chen Changjie.
Tan Sri, please accept my apologies for Dengan Izin.