Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy birthday YB Hajjah Aza

I have repented, therefore I seek redemption. One of the subjects of my criticism the last three years had been former Sports Minister, YB Datuk Seri Hajjah Azalina Othman Said, who is presently running the Tourism Ministry.

As a birthday present for the Penggerang Member of Parliament, I would like to extend an olive branch and express my utmost sincerity in asking for her forgiveness.

To illustrate my innermost thoughts, I have taken the liberty to attach herewith an Open Letter to YB Azalina, who celebrates her 45th birthday on Dec 31, 2008.

Dear YB Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said

RE: Happy birthday

I hope this letter reaches you in great health, YB.

On behalf of my family and I, I wish to take this opportunity to wish you a great 45th birthday. We send you many wishes of comfort, peace and happiness on this wonderful celebration day of your life.

May Allah grant you a sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you, and a sheltering angel to comfort you and shield you from harm's way.

I realise, YB, that it's time to bury the hatchet, well, if there was any in the first place. After all, YB, you no longer preside over the Sports Ministry, while I have left mainstream journalism.

Therefore it is time for me to stop writing tongue-in-cheek pieces aimed at your esteemed self. I’ve taken enough potshots at you for which I was wrongly perceived as being your "eternal foe".

Although I was accused by your lobbyists of malice aforethought in my writings, I must say my conscience is clear, YB. I'm sure you were aware, YB, that there were several attempts to stop me from writing things which could be detrimental to your stature as a politician and a rising star in UMNO.

You may recall, YB, that when you suspected a number of NSC officials as being the deep throat in the organisation, you sent Khazai Abu Bakar alias Tepak Bersulam and Sajahan Abdul Waheed to spread their investigative tentacles.

Sajahan, I believed, submitted a report to you on his conversation with me at Strudels, Bangsar, in early 2005, shortly after I began to question the wisdom behind NSC's RM500,000 funding on a monthly basis to sports newspaper, Malaysian Today. Sajahan's leading questions were designed to cajole me into revealing who my source was. And he did ask me "what's your agenda, Rizal?"

Praise be to Sajahan for his persistence as he mentioned among others Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad and Ahmad Shapawi Ismail as two of my sources. I remained steadfast and instead continued munching away the sandwich courtesy of Sajahan of course. I gave Sajahan a piece of my mind as I felt there were signs of abuse of power. I did not expect you and your team to be receptive to my honest assessment, though.

True enough, there was a witch hunt in NSC, with Mazlan and Shapawi as the two individuals potrayed as the culprits and a hindrance to "new ideas". Being the loose cannon that I am, I realised what was happening and as a result, sent a number of text messages telling Sajahan that I would not hesitate to speak to the powers-that-be if you continued to abuse your position.

Shortly after word got out that I was "out of order" in the manner I posed questions to you when you visited the National Sports Institute, the then Malay Mail editor Ahirudin Attan or better known as Rocky decided to pull me out of the beat. Ghaz Ramli, a greenhorn by any reckoning, was given the beat.

Fast forward to the final day of 2008, YB, and I'm pleased that Sajahan is doing well in his second stint at the New Straits Times. We are even friends on Facebook. Upon leaving your office sometime this year, he sent me a flurry of text messages apologising profusely to me that he was merely doing his job.

When I decided to come up with this blog, I did not do it out of spite. My intention was to share my thoughts in cyberworld. But I had expected your cybertroopers to launch a counter-attack and sure enough Khazai or Tepak Bersulam did. He accused me of having been flown overseas to play golf and that I was a mercenary, prostituting my writing skills to the highest bidder. And he did it in poorly written Bahasa riddled with literals, grammatical mistakes and above all factual errors.

But that's all in the past, YB. Let bygones be bygones. I know you are seeking ways to boost your image and promote tourism through Zoom Malaysia.

Although there are rumours saying certain sections of your advisers are charlatans who, contrary to the PR hype and spin, put profits and personal gain before principles, I don't think it is true. I've also heard astonishing tales of deceit, deception, corruption and above all, breathtaking hypocrisy but I guess they are all hearsay.

As we usher in 2009, YB, allow me to wish you a Happy New Year. May the year 2009 turn out to be a highly successful year for you personally, YB.

Again, please accept my humble apologies. The loose cannon is now aimed at others, including your successor.

Warm regards,

Respectfully yours,

Rizal Hashim,
Kuala Lumpur

p/s Anyway just to refresh your memory, YB, the following Open Letter to you appeared in the Malay Mail on Dec 31, 2007.

Dear YB Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said,

RE: Happy Birthday and Many Happy Returns

I hope this card reaches YB in fine health. I, on behalf of The Malay Mail sports desk, would like to take this opportunity to wish YB a grand 44th birthday and a Happy New Year.

May the year 2008 turn out to be a highly satisfying year for you personally, YB. After all it is shaping up to be a critical year, with elections looming on the horizon, while the Beijing Olympics is a mere eight months away.

YB may not know this but you are in exalted company, YB, as you share the same birthday as the likes of Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley, French painter Henri Matisse, American military leader George C. Marshall, Simon Wiesenthal, the controversial Nazi hunter and Manchester United supremo Sir Alex Ferguson.

I must admit, YB, that I've questioned some of the decisions made in your capacity as the chairman of the National Sports Council Board.

The list is too long to mention but among the issues are the hiring of foreign managers to accomplish tasks which were once performed within our walls, your constant criticisms towards high-achievers such as Nicol David, Wong Mew Choo and Noraseela Mohd Khalid as if they were machines that are expected to perform week in, week out, the Hertfordshire project which was pursued against the public's wishes and the de-registering of the Malaysian Taekwondo Association.

I don't intend to dwell on them. Instead, I wish to share the enthusiasm showed by some of your advisers and business associates who have been trying hard to convince me expensive programmes such as Rakan Muda Jiran Muda Sports Community League and the Tunas Gemilang Talent Identification will bear fruit in the long run.

This card is therefore a gentle reminder for YB to continue the good work. Personally, I was a big fan of yours, having grown to admire you since you projected yourself as an articulate, bold and straight to the point host while anchoring ntv7's Dateline in 1998.

It was such a refreshing sight to see YB as well as Khairy Jamaluddin, who is now a deputy president of the FA of Malaysia, anchoring the show and holding discourses on governance issues affecting the country. At some point I might have doubts about your leadership style but I hope politics has not changed the way you work, YB.

Well, I don't intend to be long-winded, as one of my old bosses always said: "Keep it short." I've prepared a long list of unsolicited advice for YB to peruse but, I had a change of heart, considering you, YB, surround yourself with some of the so-called best brains in the industry, even if they have little track record to impress me.

Truman, YB, once said: "If you can't convince them, confuse them."

My wish for the new year is for YB to keep an eye on individuals who have the tendency to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain.

On the issue of Tan Sri Elyas Omar's successor as the Sports Commissioner, perhaps YB can consider appointing the Italian-speaking secretary-general of the Sports Ministry, Datuk Yasin Salleh, as a stop-gap measure before you find the right candidate.

Or extend Elyas' tenure as the Sports Commissioner until he settles all the outstanding issues. Although I'm convinced Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad is the right man for the job, considering his wealth of knowledge and experience in steering the NSC, I don't think YB share my sentiments.

After all, my opinion is something that is true for me personally, my conviction, on the other hand, is something that is true for everybody, in my humble opinion. I salute you, YB, for having tolerated criticisms from various quarters, some of them valid, in making all your programmes a resounding success since you were appointed to replace Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein in early 2004. I hope YB continue to exercise a high degree of tolerance.

To borrow a famous quote from Abraham Lincoln: "Nearly all men (women in YB's case) can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power!"

Till then, YB. Many happy returns, again!

From your fellow Johorean,

Rizal Hashim,

Monday, December 29, 2008

Salam Ma'al Hijrah

Buat keluarga, sahabat handai, pembaca blog dan warga sukan tempatan, Salam Ma'al Hijrah, semoga kita dapat berhijrah ke keadaan yang lebih baik daripada dahulu.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Heartfelt condolences to Tunku Pete

My heartfelt condolences to Olympic Council of Malaysia president Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar on the demise of his beloved Ayahanda.

Tuanku Ja'afar Ibni Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the second son of our first Yang di-Pertuan Agong, was the Malaysian Malays Cricket Association president. The association was revived under his leadership and it grew into becoming the assembly line for future cricketers.

There was an attempt to coax Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah to consider taking over but the Pahang Tengku Mahkota will have his plate full trying to navigate the Malaysian Hockey Federation onto the right path.

Tuanku Ja’afar and the royal family of Negeri Sembilan are known as the “Royal Family of Sports”. He and his family, namely Tunku Imran and Tunku Dara Naquiah are and were office-bearers in cricket, tennis, women's football, badminton, squash, hockey and golf within and outside Malaysia. Tunku Imran is currently the president of Malaysian Cricket Association and was the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia founding secretary.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Alex to succeed Mony?

Johor-born individual once considered one of football's most knowledgeable man

A respected figure in Ipoh who died early this year

From Port Dickson he came

The man from Kedah

Latest in line?

It was in May 2008 that Datuk Paul Mony Samuel was featured in the World Soccer's Top 100 movers and shakers. The Kedah-born former teacher was placed in the exalted company of other influential people in the world game, the decision-makers, power-brokers and iconic personalities whose actions influence the way we watch the game and how it is played. Read here.

Soon he will no longer be moving and shaking at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The former FA of Malaysia general secretary is on a six-month medical leave pending retirement as the general secretary of the confederation.

Poised to replace him is Alex Soosay, an AFC veteran who was made the acting general secretary last month. He has headed headed several key departments in AFC during his 14-year-long career. The Malaysian has played and coached at the national level and was Executive Secretary of the Negeri Sembilan Football Association before joining AFC in 1994.

Simply known as Alex, the 48-year old was involved in the AFC Asian Cups of 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2007, and the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Championship, 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

If Alex's appointment is endorsed and finalised next year, he would become the fifth Malaysian on the trot after Koe Ewe Teik, Datuk Teoh Chye Hin, Datuk Peter Velappan and Mony, to serve as the chief operating officer at the secretariat. Why did I say COO? Because the executive powers lie with the president, Mr Mohamed bin Hammam Al Abdulla. It was said that Mony was reduced to signing papers at the tailend of his tenure at AFC House since Hammam has a say in almost every aspect of the daily running of the office. Tough, eh?

But what if AFC goes ahead with the plan to relocate to the Middle East? Would it spell the end for Malaysian officials as well?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Season's greetings

Have a joyous Christmas and a happy and prosperous year ahead.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tahniah Shalin

Enam belas tahun yang lampau aku membuat liputan gadis berkulit hitam manis yang selamba membuat jatuhan pin. Dia seolah-olah dilahirkan bermain bowling.

Sesudah puas mengharungi pelbagai cabaran dan menjulang begitu banyak gelaran, Shalin Zulkifli yang kini bermain secara profesional, akan bergelar isteri. Dia akan mendirikan rumahtangga dengan Azidi Ameran pada minggu depan. Kedua-duanya mengusahakan pusat bowling dinamakan Pin Junction. Baca blog Noorhasilah Ismail di sini. Shila adalah penulis sukan wanita yang berwibawa seiring nama-nama seperti Tham Choy Lin, Rosniza Rasul dan Jamhariah Jaafar, disusuli Veena Rusli.

The Star turut memuatkan berita perkahwinan Shalin di sini.

Pada pertemuan 16 tahun yang silam itu, aku menulis laporan yang disiarkan akhbar Berita Harian pada 1 Disember, 1992.

JUARA Masters Terbuka Wanita Kebangsaan, Shalin Zulkifli, sekali lagi tampil sebagai jagoan untuk meraih pingat emas pertama Petaling Jaya menerusi acara perseorangan Kejohanan Bowling Antara Bandaraya Asia ke-6, di Kent Bowl, Petaling Jaya, semalam.

Shalin, 14, meneruskan sentuhan konsisten ketika menjuarai Masters minggu lalu, dengan melakukan 1,161 jatuhan pin dalam enam permainan bagi memaksa Maria Lujan dari Guam di tempat kedua dengan 1,156 pada hari kedua kejohanan.

Peserta Kwong Myong, Korea, Chen Mei Hua, pula menduduki tangga ketiga hasil 1,148 jatuhan pin.

Malaysia turut menikmati kemenangan menerusi kategori perseorangan lelaki apabila peserta Kuala Lumpur, Jamaluddin Rahman, muncul juara selepas melakukan 1,301 jatuhan pin untuk mengecewakan Kim Jun Sik dari Kwong Myong (1,284) dan wakil Hong Kong, Cheung Wing Kit (1,233).

Dalam acara wanita, Shalin seawalnya di tempat ketujuh hasil 570 pin dan ketinggalan kepada peserta Hong Kong, Wong Lai Yung, yang melakukan permulaan dengan tenang untuk mendahului sehingga permainan ketiga menerusi 587 pin.

Bagaimanapun, balingan Shalin lebih konsisten untuk mengumpul 591 dalam tiga permainan terakhir ketika lawan bagaikan hilang tumpuan. Lai Yung akhirnya sekadar meraih tempat ke-34 apabila memperolehi 125 pada perlawanan kelima dan 149 menerusi permainan akhir.

"Selepas menjuarai Masters Kebangsaan, peserta lain ternyata memandang berat cabaran saya. Pada mulanya, ia menimbulkan tekanan, tapi saya sendiri terkejut mampu muncul juara. Mujur peserta lain kurang menonjol," kata Shalin.

Lujan dari Guam bangkit pada tiga permainan terakhir untuk mengumpul 608 jatuhan pin. Peserta negara yang juga mewakili Petaling Jaya, Lisa Kwan, pula hanya berpuas hati di tempat keempat apabila melakukan 1,144 jatuhan pin.

Dalam kategori lelaki pula, Jamaluddin mengumpul 1,301 dengan melakukan purata 216.8 pin setiap permainan selepas bertarung sengit dengan Jun Sik yang mengumpul 256 pin menerusi permainan pertama.

Bagaimanapun, Jamaluddin yang merangkul kejuaraan perseorangan kebangsaan minggu lalu, enggan akur akan kehebatan peserta Korea itu, malah mengekalkan tumpuan dengan melakukan 253 jatuhan pin.

Sesudah itu, Jun Sik melebarkan jurang apabila melakukan 242 jatuhan pin pada permainan kedua, manakala Jamaluddin sekadar memperolehi 201. Namun, tuah memihak kepada Jamaluddin dalam permainan terakhir hasil 222 pin untuk menewaskan peserta Korea itu yang hanya mampu melakukan 169 dan 176 pada dua permainan terakhir.

Kejohanan tujuh hari itu adalah anjuran bersama Majlis Perbandaran Petaling Jaya (MPPJ) dan Persatuan Bowling Selangor yang menampilkan peserta handalan seluruh Asia. Antara bandaraya yang bertarung mewakili negara masing-masing ialah Auckland (New Zealand), Singapura, Pohang (Korea Selatan), Taipei (Taiwan), Sanjuan, Baguio dan Metro Manila (Filipina) dan Kowloon (Hong Kong).

Penyandang gelaran keseluruhan kejohanan adalah Kaohsiung dari Taiwan yang menggenggam kejuaraan dua kali berturut-turut sejak 1990.

Antara peserta kebangsaan yang menonjolkan persaingan di bawah bendera Petaling Jaya selain Shalin dan Lisa ialah Kenny Ang, Allan Lee dan Jimmy Lee.

Dua hari kemudian, artikelku ini disiarkan dalam Jaguh, sisipan sukan Berita Harian.

BAYU nyaman yang bertiup dari pendingin udara, mencengkam tubuh ratusan penonton di sekitar arena. Segenap mata menghala tumpuan ke lorong selepas menanti penuh debaran untuk menyaksikan balingan ke sasaran.

Suasana sekeliling yang hingar-bingar, menghangatkan lagi corak permainan. Namun, gadis berkulit hitam manis itu tampil dengan selamba untuk melakukan jatuhan pin.

Jari-jemari yang baru 14 tahun mengenal dunia, seakan menyembunyikan ketajaman ketika melontar bola ke sasaran, dan jatuhan pin sempurna menjadi pelengkap persembahan.
Tangannya ternyata menjadi pusaka paling bernilai bagi Shalin Zulkifli yang menerima jolokan juara baru wanita Masters Bowling Kebangsaan, selepas mencipta sejarah sebagai peserta paling muda untuk muncul johan peringkat negara minggu lalu.

Tiga hari lalu, Shalin yang mewakili Petaling Jaya, sekali lagi membuktikan keunggulan untuk menjuarai acara perseorangan dan beregu bersama Lisa Kwan di Kejohanan Antara Bandaraya Asia ke-6.

Kejayaannya mungkin membuka mata peminat, namun masyarakat bowling negara sudah betah melihat pelajar Sekolah Menengah Perempuan Bandaraya itu menghabiskan sisa waktu di arena untuk mengasah kepakaran.

Lantas, namanya dijulang sebagai penerus warisan kecemerlangan puteri bowling negara, mengambil alih daripada Lisa Kwan, Lydia Kwah, Shirley Chow dan Pearly Chong.

Percikan semangat untuk mencuba bowling datang daripada ibu bapanya yang kerap bertandang ke arena untuk meleraikan kekusutan selepas lelah menjalankan tugas harian.

"Saya sendiri tidak menyangka akan mengikut jejak ayah dan emak untuk mencuba sukan ini. Mungkin selepas bosan menunggu, saya memberanikan diri untuk memegang dan kemudian membaling bola ke sasaran."

Lantaran itu, hasil pengamatan bapanya, Zulkifli Ali, dan dorongan ibunya, Rohani Razak, Shalin dipupuk untuk menonjolkan bakat dalam sukan yang lebih menjurus ke arah mencabar tahap keupayaan seseorang tanpa menitikberatkan pertarungan fizikal.

Sebagai usahawan berdikari, Zulkifli mengambil kesempatan atas kelonggaran waktu untuk menurunkan ilmu kepada anak tunggalnya. Sehingga kini, beliau sudah membelanjakan RM45,000 semata-mata untuk menjadikan Shalin pakar dalam melakukan jatuhan pin.

"Kebanyakan wang yang saya curahkan adalah untuk membeli pita video dan buku berkaitan bowling dari luar negara sebagai bahan rujukan. Selepas meneliti semuanya, saya terjemahkan kepada Shalin.

"Kadangkala, jurulatih sesuatu skuad itu terlalu sibuk untuk menumpukan perhatian kepada individu. Kehadiran saya sekadar memudahkan Shalin menemui rentak sama ada ketika latihan atau kejohanan," katanya yang bertugas sebagai jurutera sebelum menempuh dunia perniagaan.

Namun, katanya, bowling memerlukan teknik balingan dan langkah yang tepat di samping mengambil berat mengenai lapisan minyak di lorong agar pemain mampu mempamerkan permainan konsisten.

Untuk itu, setiap kali Shalin bertarung dalam sebarang pertandingan, Zulkifli tentu memerhatikan dari belakang untuk mengesan kesilapan.

Selepas melakukan balingan, Shalin berpaling ke arah bapanya sambil mendengar arahan.

Beliau berkata, isterinya juga pernah menyuarakan kerisauan kerana seolah-olah terlalu taksub menyusun program kehidupan Shalin dengan rapi.

Antara katakata yang masih terngiang-ngiang di telinganya ialah:

"Awak ingat anak awak robot, ke?"

Betapapun, Zulkifli tetap mementingkan prestasi sekolah anaknya agar tidak tercicir. Untuk itu juga, Zulkifli menyusun program bagi membolehkan Shalin menatap buku sekalipun ketika beraksi di arena.

Remaja cilik itu berkata, dia wajar mengagihkan masa belajar dan bermain kerana mahu tampil sebagai sama ada peguam atau usahawan di samping mengekalkan nama dalam bidang bowling.
Seandainya waktu persekolahan bertembung dengan sesuatu kejohanan, Persatuan Bowling Tenpin Selangor (STBA) akan mengemukakan surat meminta Shalin dilepaskan agar bebas mewakili pasukan terbabit.

1992 - Juara perseorangan Kejohanan Antara Bandaraya Asia ke-6, juara
Masters Kebangsaan; empat emas, satu perak, satu gangsa Sukma; juara
Remaja Kent All-Stars; juara Remaja Terbuka Selangor; empat emas, satu
perak membantu Selangor dalam Kejohanan Antara Negeri
1991 - Dua emas dan dua perak Kejohanan Antara Negeri; tempat ke-12
Kejohanan Antara Bandaraya (mewakili Petaling Jaya); tempat ke-18
Kejohanan Remaja Dunia FIQ
1990 - Juara Terbuka Majlis Perbandaran Petaling Jaya (MPPJ); juara Remaja
Kebangsaan; juara KL International; Bintang Harapan Selangor
1989 - Tempat ke-4 Kent Graded

A dash for charity

You can do your part by contributing RM2 to build a shelter for 20 female old folks at the Rumah Sejahtera Warga Tua (MPKSM) at Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor.

If you plan to celebrate the arrival of 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, you might want to consider participating in a race that has a dash of charity to it.
Forget the fact that the guy organising it came from SJI's fiercest rival school (I can't even write the name down, let alone pronounce or mention it).
Here are the details:

Date: Dec 31, 2008

Registration fees: RM15 (RM1 to charity)
Goody bags valued at: RM80.00
Top 3 winners in each category (excluding skaters and fun dashers) walk away with prizes worth RM150.00

Following is the e-mail I received from Nithi, who once struck fear to the best defences in Kuala Lumpur for his dribbling and goalscoring skills. Ask Lim Kim Chon of FA of Malaysia and he will happily testify of Nithi's ability.

Dear friends,

Thank you for allowing me to email you.

I am bored of receiving the usual straight to the point and a bit too professional
email that does not engage me as a person.

I like an email that speaks to and reaches my heart and not only my mind.

I hope and believe that this message on ONE MILE DASH: NEW YEAR BASH will engage your passion for doing something different.

ONE MILE DASH: NEW YEAR BASH may be the one that could excite you to do something different come this 31st December 2008. It could be the one activity you have never done in your life on your own or with friends and family. It could be that one event that may make you feel special on a very special night of a very special year. It could be that one night that you may cherish for a very long time because you did something unique for yourself to welcome the new year.

To download the registration form please click on the link below.

Well, that is the very reason why we at Twenty First Century Sports (TFCS) decided to organize this special and unique event. Sorry, not organize but to create (it was painful to the brain) and to do things that we normally would not do, to make the ONE MILE DASH:NEW YEAR BASH a reality.

For example, we got laughed at by the traffic police when we asked their permission to close the roads along Heritage Row (Jalan Doraisamy), Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman and Dataran Merdeka. We laughed along with our caring and friendly police while we explained to them about the crazy ONE MILE DASH and got their permission.

They realised that we made sense when we pointed out to them that the roads around Kuala Lumpur are closed anyway until 12am as to celebrate the various countdowns in KLCC and Dataran Merdeka. We also gave them the assurance that the race will be over by 10pm and that we will advise our guests (participants) to take the monorail or LRT to Heritage Row.

I guess they realised that many Malaysians can benefit from this unique, exciting and energetic night social running event as long as safety measures are taken. A lifestyle event with a difference.

We got more laughs when we spoke to the sanctioning body (FTAAA) that this race will be only a 1 mile dash (1.609km). On top of that we also mentioned that there won’t be neither t-shirts nor certificates to give to our guests. That got them rolling on the floor. No way, they said. Malaysians love their t-shirts and certificates, was their reasoning.

Again, we laughed with the officials and from the heart we told them our guests will walk away with a goody bag worth 5 times the registration fees of RM15. The top 3 winners will receive prizes worth 10 times the registration fees. Most importantly you, our guest on this special night will walk away with a smile on your face because the memories of the 31st December 2008 that is just priceless. My suggestion is that you bring your camera so that you can take excellent photos of the KL city lit with thousands of colourful lights along the streets and trees. My favourite is the man made colourful bunga raya. My team members will be along the one mile stretch to ensure your safety and they will help take your photos.

Please click on the link below to download the registration form.

We have been successfully organizing road races for 8 years now and we know that Malaysians cherish memories, unique moments that will be imprinted in their psyche for a long time. Our guests will share their experience on their blog, email, facebook, face to face chat over teh tarik or Nescafe kurang manis on the fun they had in running that one mile dash and how much a bash it was at 8pm on 31st December 2008.

Yes, it is for this very reason why we at TFCS are taking a chance of reaching modern and dynamic Malaysians who cherish beautiful and exciting memories just as much as tangible momentos.

And as a bonus TFCS will contribute RM1 of your registration fees to build a shelter for 20 female old folks at the Rumah Sejahtera Warga Tua (MPKSM) at Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor. As an extra bonus we will match that one ringgit from our own pockets back to the same charity.

This way, not only you will have fun but will also contribute to the community. Wow! What a grand opening to 2009.

I believe the ONE MILE DASH:NEW YEAR BASH on the 31st December is the only opportunity you have to enjoy and at the same time contribute to charity for this year.

Have a great dash and a bash.

Please click on the link below to download the registration form.



+6012 3722 016
Tel: +603 - 78748488 Fax: +603 - 78747488

Monday, December 22, 2008

An arena for local sports

The Malaysia-centric round-the-clock sports channel is going to be called AstroArena on channel 181.

Local production house Peninsular Digital tasked by the Olympic Council of Malaysia to produce the programmes have apparently succeeded in sourcing for the RM20 million required to run the channel.

The man behind it, it seems, is the son of a famous judge.

It was last year that the OCM signed a joint venture agreement with the production house to establish a dedicated Malaysian TV sports channel with Astro as the platform.

The idea is to provide OCM's affiliates an avenue to promote their respective sports and activities over a channel that is similar to Astro Supersports, ESPN, Star Sports and Eurosports. The new channel is set to feature daily sports news, live telecast of sporting events and talk shows. The big difference is of course it will feature the likes of Nicol David, Esther Cheah, Lee Chong Wei and Safee Sali instead of Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer and Lewis Hamilton.

I was told it was supposed to be launched last month. I wonder what's holding them back! There is also a call to have a dedicated radio sports channel. Is that feasible?

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Aussie rules" Tourism Ministry

When I was a kid, I remember reading Manchester United hardman Kevin Moran's exploits in gaelic football. The game is similar to Aussie rules, please read Wikipedia's take here

Aussie rules is without doubt the number one watched sport in Australia. But unlike football, the game has little appeal outside Down Under.

The Bernama report carried by the New Straits Times here gives me the impression that the Tourism Ministry has entered an agreement with a soccer team or league, with Carlton dubbed as Australia's Man Yoo.

News portal had in November carried a piece on Malaysia's investment in an AFL club here. Also read Tourism Ministry's backs to the wall

Now I can understand Tourism Ministry's target audience but an astute reader pointed out:

"Give me the money and we will do sports tourism events that will generate steady and consistent flow of direct tourists who will extend their stay in this country. The name Aussie Rules itself means it is not a worldwide phenomenon. Thus every sen spent will not be justified. Count how many Aussie tourists who come directly as opposed to indirect tourists or transit tourists, most either go direct to Singapore, Bangkok or Bali.

"The Tourism Ministry officials must have been afraid to express their concerns with their "Saya yang menurut perintah" attitude which may translate to "numerous overseas trips" in return.

"Marketeers would put the money on the Chinese Football League, it is worth the investment for a country that has two billion population, with the hit rate bigger plus Malaysia Truly Asia tagline carries a bigger weight as we have plenty of common heritage that can be exploited like food, culture, famous "made in China" shopping items.

"I don't know whether some people are already positioning themselves for life in Australia after March 2009."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aidil oh Aidil...

"Eh berapa kali nak pergi tandas nih?" aku boleh bayangkan orang rumahku menjegil ke arah pelajarnya.

Tanpa dia sedari, Intan "dok jerkah" kat budak lain, iaitu kembar yang seorang lagi.

Intan tergelak menceritakan pengalamannya mengajar kembar bersaudara Mohd Aidil Zafuan dan Mohd Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak di Sekolah Sukan Bukit Jalil (SSBJ) di antara 2002 dan 2003.

Aidil dan Zaquan boleh dikatakan memiliki pakej lengkap, berkemahiran tinggi, cukup menghormati orang lain, glamour dan "handsome". Tidak hairan mereka menjadi tumpuan ke mana saja mereka pergi.

Perkahwinan Aidil dengan Rita Rudaini tidak mengejutkan. Ini kerana spekulasi sudah lama bertiup kencang dan beberapa kali disiarkan dalam ruangan gosip hiburan akhbar-akhbar tempatan. Bapanya pula, Encik Abdul Radzak Salleh, pernah meminta pendapat aku tidak lama dahulu bagaimana menangani keadaan itu kerana Aidil sudah tidak mahu mengikut telunjuknya.
Sejak mula membuat liputan kerjaya kedua-dua pemain itu, aku berkesempatan mengenali keluarga dan ibu bapa mereka secara dekat. Lagi pula Encik Radzak "junior" bapa mertua aku Cikgu Abdul Jalil di SMK Badlishah di Kulim, bermakna mereka satu sekolahlah dengan orang rumah aku, Allahyarham Datuk Paduka Ahmad Basri Akil dan wartawan penyiar RTM, Hafizal Hamad.

Namun aku bersependapat dengan Menteri Besar Negeri Sembilan, Datuk Seri Utama Mohamad Hasan, yang juga Presiden Persatuan Bola Sepak Negeri Sembilan (PBNS), yang tidak mahu campur tangan dalam kisah peribadi pemainnya.

Sejauh ini prestasi Aidil yang lahir tiga minit lebih awal daripada Zaquan, tidak diragui. Bagi aku, dia lebih lengkap daripada Zaquan kerana kebolehannya beraksi sama ada selaku defensive midfielder ataupun pemain pertahanan. Selain kepantasan yang dimiliki, Aidil mempunyai daya lompatan yang bagus menyebabkan dia mudah menangkis serangan bola tinggi.

Bahkan bagi aku, Aidil adalah kapten pasukan negara satu hari nanti. Cuma aku harap kehidupan peribadi Aidil tidak akan menjejaskan persembahan dan fokusnya selaku atlit negara. Usianya muda, baru berusia 21 tahun Ogos lalu.

Bagi Rita yang berasal dari Perlis, dia memang meminati pasangan kembar agaknya. Bekas suaminya Akhbar Sahari, hos rancangan Scoreboard di TV3. Kembar Akhbar pula seorang ustaz yang menjadi hos sebuah rancangan berunsur agama di Astro Prima.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another year for Sathia

More than a decade of covering Malaysian football, I realise any team official worth his salt would be defending his coach and players without hesitation. Although by right his judgement alone is not adequate since he is emotionally involved, he has the inside knowledge and understanding of the whole process.

Our former No 3, Datuk Soh Chin Aun, is no exception. Although rightfully a manager or assistant manager with a technical background like him should submit a comprehensive report on the team's failure at the recent AFF Suzuki Cup, Chin Aun's verbal endorsement was enough to convince FA of Malaysia's bigwigs that B. Sathianathan would have another shot at leading the national team.

I'm surprised that FAM deputy president Datuk Redzuan Sheikh Ahmad failed to remind the national management committee of the things he did as technical chairman in September 2005.

For the committee relied on the technical report prepared by technical adviser Mohamed Bakar before sacking Bertalan Bicskei, only two months before the Manila SEA Games.

FAM's top three salaried staff - general secretary Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad and his two assistants, Rosli Hussein and Noor Kefli Sulong - had to rely on various reports from the technical adviser, Bicskei himself and the three-man panel formed to probe the 7-0 thrashing by Thailand in Bangkok before forming an opinion. But FAM stood accused of pre-meditating the whole affair because the beleaguered body went against the recommendations submitted by the three-man independent panel to probe the 7-0 defeat toThailand in the pre-SEA Games in Bangkok.

The panel comprising the then National Sports Council director of management Datuk Zolkples Embong, sports scientist Prof Ismail Mohd Noor and former coach Khaidir Buyong, wanted Bicskei to spearhead Malaysia's Under-23 challenge in the Manila SEA Games. The panel discovered the only grouse voiced by the 20 players brought to Bangkok was Bicskei was too serious in conducting training and briefing sessions, but other than that they thought highly of the former Lucerne tactician.

Curiously, technical adviser Mohamad Bakar had the gall to hint to Bicskei at the Bangkok Airport the Hungarian's fate was sealed, even before the panel had sat down to interview the relevant parties.

While Mohamad was given the opportunity to influence the technical committee chaired by Redzuan, Bicskei was not called to defend himself. FAM basically had no grounds to reassign Bicskei. FAM's boo-boo then made me wonder whether there was an agenda to create a wall of excuses should, and when, the team failed to land the gold in Manila.

Redzuan's committee failed to consider several factors, by choice or by a sudden attack of amnesia.

First of all Bicskei, who was appointed to the hotseat by the previous FAM secretariat headed by Datuk Dell Akbar Khan and technical director Karl Weigang, never had the chance to parade his best 11 after he succeeded Allan Harris in July 2004. In the Tiger Cup, Bicskei recalled Khalid Jamlus and V. Saravanan besides introducing Mohd Nor Ismail and Mohd Ivan Yussof as Malaysia finished third in the absence of the likes of Hairuddin Omar and IndraPutra Mahayuddin, who were deemed unfit for competition.

His team's preparation for the Islamic Solidarity Games in April was marred by Bicskei's spat with the Pahang and Perak bigwigs, thus denying him key players such as Indra, Hairuddin, K. Nanthakumar, Fadzli Saari, Irwan Fadzli Idrus and Rosdi Talib.

By contrast Sathianathan did not have to fight the local coaches. He has the support of the players. Some would retire from the national set-up if he had been sacked. He has had the time to prepare his team.

I've nothing against Sathianathan, in fact we've forged a relationship ever since he set foot in Wisma FAM as an assistant coach to Richard Bate, if I'm not mistaken.

Granted replacing him now with any world-class coach would not transform our fortunes overnight. But I don't understand on what basis was Sathianathan judged. What was the key performance indicator?

When YB Khairy Jamaluddin was appointed the team manager in February, he said: "I would like to thank Tuanku President Sultan Ahmad Shah for consenting to my appointment as national team manager.

"It's an enormous responsibility and I look forward to working with coach B. Sathianathan. Our target this year is to prepare and succeed at the year-end AFF Championship.

"That will be the key performance indicator for Sathianathan and myself," said Khairy.

Does success mean failing to guide the Under-23 team beyond the group stage in the SEA Games in Korat and later the national team to the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup? I thought the writing was on the wall because the last time we failed to enter the last four in the SEA Games was in 1999, and the only time we failed to qualify for the semis in the AFF Cup was in 1998.

When I quoted Khairy as saying the team's defeat in Korat as "Failure is subjective" in the Malay Mail in December 2007, my boss Mustapha Kamaruddin and my colleagues laughed.

"How can failure is subjective, when you fail, you fail lah!"

I almost fell off my sofa when I heard FAM would form yet another committee to monitor Sathianathan's performance.

FAM could have considered giving Sathianathan two more months (well, I know it is not the norm) and see how the team performs in the pre-Asian Cup.

After all I don't see the team beating Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Group C qualifiers. In the end, let's just lower our expectations!

Read here and here

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why the double standards?

Read here on the MGA

Read here on the issue of the Armed Forces athletics organisation's registration

and read here

Why the double standards, Datuk Commissioner? The Sports Commissioner's office has already gained a reputation as a dumping ground for under-performing civil servants. It's hard to alter the perception if the Commissioner himself is inconsistent in his policies. I suggest an association's infighting or bickering be referred to the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), as its secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi has always maintained it has the necessary measures to deal with such issues. This will allow Nik Mahmud and his staff concentrate on accepting or rejecting new applications for registration. Jadilah dumping ground, habis cerita!

MAAU, many are against U

It saddens me that the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) continue to hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. Rajemah Sheikh Ahmad, a former hurdler and wife of former horizontal jumper Kamaruddin Maidin, was as expected shown the door, suffering a slim defeat in her bid to defend her vice-presidency on Sunday. She lost to Datuk Paduka Dr Mumtaz Jaffar (picture) and K. Yogasveran by the slimmest of margins in the MAAU elections on Sunday.

I wonder what else can Mumtaz, a sprinter in her heyday, contribute. She was an office-bearer in the 90s and was in fact coach of Watson Nyambek. Some say Mumtaz was the reason behind Watson's failure to realise his potential. But it helps that Mumtaz is close to the powers-that-be. She can thus put in a good word about MAAU president Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim to whoever that matters lah!

Read here

With Shahidan continuing as the MAAU president, we can PERHAPS expect:

1. Reporters to receive envelopes when they cover an MAAU event or meeting

2. The welfare of athletes and coaches be the least of MAAU's concerns

Shahidan has suggested MAAU dropped the amateur word, but as far as I'm concerned, the oldest sports body in the country remains amateurish in every aspect. I make no apologies about it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy birthday to Kak Lin and the Malay Mail

On December 14, 1896, the first issue of The Malay Mail was published by John H. Matthews Robson in Kuala Lumpur. It was a hand-printed broadsheet with four pages - only advertisements on front page, page 2 and local news on the other two pages. Two hundred copies daily and sold at 15 sen. I spent almost 12 years of my life with the paper. Co-incidentally the paper shares her birthday with Kak Lin. If not for Kak Lin's promptings for me to apply for PETS IV in 1991, I would have gone on to do other things, journalism not one of them! Many happy returns Kak Lin, may the Almighty continue to shower his choicest blessings upon you and bless you with good health, peace and happiness.

Do we need foreign expertise?

I wrote an Open Letter to B. Sathianathan upon his appointment as the national coach last year. Note that I mentioned the full list of his predecessors since 1957, 14 of them from foreign land. Do we need another foreign coach to provide us the panacea to our ills? Peter Withe seems cut out for the job not only based on his expertise but also his ability to blend in with the Thai and Indonesian mentality. Come Monday though, the FA of Malaysia may opt to extend Sathia's contract up to a certain point as the pre-Asian Cup kicks off next month and there is little time for any new coach to forge an understanding with his players.

Dear Sathia,

RE: Appointment as the national football team coach

I hope this letter reaches you in great health, my friend.

Allow me to congratulate you on your recent appointment as the new national team head coach. Also, it is still not too late for me to wish you a Happy 50th Merdeka.

The national Under-23 team's Merdeka Tournament victory last week was obviously a perfect gift for the country.

But I'm sure you would, by now, be asking your boys to keep their feet planted firmly on the ground. Winning an invitational tournament against opponents who appeared not to be too interested, with Myanmar the exception, does not give us a reason to rejoice as if we had qualified for the Olympics. You have been in the business long enough to keep things in the proper perspective.

Remember, a few of your boys were jeered by their fellow Malaysians in the much-hyped match against reality TV upstarts MyTeam on May 28, 2006. A year later the same group of players is suddenly hailed as the future of Malaysian football. Ah ..., my friend, this simply shows how fickle this business of football can be.

Your appointment, if I might add, must have come as a surprise to many. As you would readily admit, very few had shown their faith in your ability. One of them is the former FA of Malaysia general secretary, Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad, who gave you the Under-23 hotseat last year.

Your detractors claim you like to hang on to people's coat tails, hiding behind the likes of Josef Herel, M. Karathu, Hatem Souissi and Allan Harris. Your critics pointed out the fact that you had never handled a State team, unlike your predecessors. They say you sought refuge behind the assistant tag. It's time for you to prove them wrong, my friend. Show the world that you are a coach in your own right. You have done so in handling the pre-Olympic side. However the senior team is a different kettle of fish altogether. This is what you have been aiming for, since the moment you became the youngest participant, at the age of 17, to obtain a coaching certificate from Mazlan Hamid in Muar more than three decades ago.

The kampung boy, born in Tanjung Malim and brought up in Panchor near Muar, made good, that is how you like to describe your career path. Not many individuals possess the courage to assume the hotseat, particularly after Norizan Bakar and his men were lynched by the Press and public alike following the disastrous Asian Cup outing. You are the latest in a long line of coaches who had tried to provide immediate answers to our perpetual woes with limited success.

Since 1957, you are the 33rd individual to try your luck as the head coach. The full list reads Neoh Boon Hean, Edwin Dutton, Choo Seng Quee, Otto Westphal, C. De Silva, Peter Velappan, Ghani Minhat, Harold Hassall, Dave McLaren, Jalil Che Din, M. Kuppan, Karl Weigang, Chow Kwai Lam, Mohamed Bakar, M. Chandran, Mohamad Che Su, Frank Lord, Abdullah Mohamad, Georg Knobel, Josef Venglos, Ahmad Shafie, Trevor Hartley, Richard Bate, Rahim Abdullah, Ken Worden, Claude Le Roy, Wan Jamak Wan Hassan, Hatem Souissi, Abdul Rahman Ibrahim, Allan Harris, Bertalan Bicskei and Norizan Bakar.

It is well-documented that Malaysia advanced to the Olympics only on two occasions, first in 1972 under Jalil and eight years later during Weigang's tenure. Malaysia too qualified for the 1976 Asian Cup under Kuppan, and Mohamad Che Su led the squad to the 1980 finals.

Working as a backroom thinker with a number of coaches over the years must surely have broadened your horizons. From Herel and Karathu, you learnt basic organisation and discipline. From Hatem, it was the importance of updating your knowledge, while fitness trainer Aleksandar Bozenko exposed you to a variety of fitness programmes. It was an open secret that for five years you were the one who prepared Harris' team reports. But you treated it as a learning process because you knew the Englishman would impart his knowledge to you for he had the privilege of working intimately with Bernd Schuster (current Real Madrid coach), Gary Lineker, Steve Archibald and Andoni Zubizarreta, among others, when he was Terry Venables' assistant at Barcelona.

The Merdeka Tournament victory naturally is an encouraging sign. However the truth be told, I have personally seen previous national teams with stronger character and better skills. The 1992 Barcelona Babes under Chow Kwai Lam, for instance, boasted of Azman Adnan, Mubin Mokhtar, Salahuddin Che Rose, Yap Wai Loon and Shahrin Majid. Le Roy's 1996 generation was symbolised by Azrul Amri Burhan who would have enjoyed a greater profile if not for the bone-crunching and career-threatening tackle from David Beckham in the Toulon tournament in France in 1995.

I too followed closely the 1997 World Youth Cup squad. Then the team became a test case of sorts, when FAM decided to let them stay together for two years. You realised later that keeping a bunch of teenagers with raging testosterone was a mistake.

Boredom crept in and a group of them rebelled, causing chaos and damage to their condominium. I'm sure that you would agree with me the 2001 generation that came within a whisker of regaining the SEA Games gold medal was a good one. Syamsuri Mustafa, Norhafiz Zamani Misbah, Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Akmal Rizal Ahmad Rakhli, Nizaruddin Yusof, Shukor Adan, Hairuddin Omar, Kaironnisam Sahabuddin Hussain, Subri Sulong and Irwan Fadzli Idrus went on to don the national jersey.

You have a thankless task ahead of you, my friend. Bahrain awaits you in the World Cup qualifiers in October and the SEA Games in Korat in December will be the ultimate test for you and the team.

Not only you have to keep on reminding your charges not to fall for the trappings of fame and glamour but also continue guiding them technically and tactically. Foremost on your mind would be the results on the pitch. Anything else matters little for the average fan.

In the meantime, you can be assured of my support, my friend. After all you took the trouble to attend my stepmother's humble abode at Kampung Sengkuang, Sri Gading, for my wedding six years ago, accompanied by a busload of the national Under-19 players bound for Johor Bahru. Best wishes, my friend. You need all the luck in the world to succeed.


Rizal Hashim,

In 2006, Sathia was struggling to form a decent side for the pre-Olympics. I wrote this for the Weekend Mail.

WHEN B. Sathianathan assembles his Olympic boys next week, he will bid to shift the weight of history staring him in his face.

The former MPPJ boss is the latest in the virtual procession of coaches bidding to propel Malaysia to Olympic glory.

Since Malaysia's no-show in Moscow'80, foreigners and locals - Frank Lord, Josef Venglos, Chow Kwai Lam, Claude Le Roy, Hatem Souissi and Allan Harris - have all tried and, invariably, run aground, crushed by the overwhelming nature of the task.

The last was Englishman Harris, who spent a major part of his life hanging on to Terry Venables' coat-tails.

Even Venglos, later of Celtic and Aston Villa fame, and Frenchman Le Roy, credited as the brains behind Cameroon's success in the late 80s, could not work their magic here.

German coach Karl Weigang succeeded in the 1980 campaign but Malaysia missed the Moscow Games following the US-led boycott.

So the only coach who had successfully brought Malaysia to the Olympic Games was the late Jalil Che Din who helmed the Munich squad in 1972.

Venglos laid the foundations behind Kuala Lumpur's success in the mid-80s

Georg Knobel (centre), the man who opted to let the great Ajax team to vote for their skipper, thus paving the way for Piet Keizer to succeed Johan Cruyff ahead of the 1973/74 season, marking the end of the latter's reign in Amsterdam

From left Dang Suria Zainurdin, Abu Bakar Atan, loose cannon, Pegguy Luyindula, Akmal Rizal Ahmad Rakhli's parents (Ahmad Rakhli Hassan and Mariam Hashim), Claude Le Roy and Akmal Rizal's younger brother (squatting) shortly after Strasbourg's friendly with the Malaysian side in 2000

Karl Weigang (1977-79, 1980-1981)

Thanks to the incredible generation that boasted the likes of Soh Chin Aun, James Wong, Hassan Sani and Bakri Ibni, Weigang was able to guide Malaysia to the Olympic Games in Moscow. Malaysia did not miss the injured Mokhtar Dahari's marauding runs but instead steamrolled past Japan, the Philippines and Korea to book a ticket to Moscow.

Weigang (left) was on the Sports Ministry's payroll when he helped the national team in 1980. Here he's calling it a truce with Allan Harris, with loose cannon as the peacemaker soon after the German coach was appointed as the FA of Malaysia technical director. Notice the FIFA t-shirt, courtesy of Fariq Rahman who visited the FIFA HQ some years back

Frank Lord (1983-85)

The Englishman brought Malaysia to the Asia-Oceania final round after successfully negotiating the first round in a group that included Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Indonesia and India. But the dream of boarding the plane to Los Angeles was shattered as Malaysia finished fourth in the five-team group comprising Qatar, Japan, Thailand and Iraq.

Josef Venglos (1985-87)

Venglos came with the reputation of having managed Czechoslovakia in the 1982 World Cup, and after laying the foundation for the Kuala Lumpur team that went on to bag the Malaysia Cup three times on the trot, he was described as the nation's saviour. Yet the Olympic dream remained a dream after a 3-2 loss on aggregate against Thailand in the first round.

Chow Kwai Lam (1991-92)

At the helm of the much touted Barcelona Babes, Kwai Lam was appointed mainly following his success in leading KL to three successive Malaysia Cup titles in the mid-80s. Failed miserably but the players went on to don the senior colours.

Claude Le Roy (1994-95)

Using his good office, Le Roy brought his boys to a few stints in France, including the historic appearance in Toulon, but eventually the team found themselves out of depth against China and Singapore. His dream of building a decent side was wrecked by the bribery scandal.

Hatem Souissi (1995-99)

The Tunisian was retained after the World Youth Cup in Malaysia but could not alter the team's fortunes as they succumbed to the Shinji Ono-led Japan and Hong Kong in the qualifiers.

Allan Harris (2001-2004)

Malaysia advanced to the final round of the Asian zone by default after Turkmenistan withdrew due to the SARS outbreak. But the moment Malaysia were drawn with South Korea, Iran and China, Harris knew his days were numbered.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bye bye Sathia

To coach B.Sathianathan, it's time to say goodbye to Wisma FA of Malaysia.

The 3-0 defeat to Thailand last night should serve as the final curtains to Sathia and possibly a few seniors who have had their moments in the sun.

Sathianathan has the dubious distinction of having failed to bring the national team to the AFF Cup semifinals and the SEA Games last four in a matter of 12 months.

Consider this; in 1996 Wan Jamak Hassan guided Zainal Abidin Hassan and Co to the runners-up spot, Hatem Souissi's mixed team of old and new fumbled in the group stages, Abdul Rahman Ibrahim led his charges to third place in 2000 and Allan Harris' handpicked squad emerged fourth despite having thrashed Singapore 4-0 and Thailand 3-1 in the 2002 edition.

Bertalan Bicskei' babes beat Thailand 2-1 and Indonesia through a similar scoreline, the country's first win in Jakarta since 1979, en route to a third place finish in 2004.Sathianathan for the record was one of Bicskei's fiercest critics. Norizan Bakar's quest for a place in the 2006 final was only denied by a penalty miss by Khyril Muhymeen Zambri in the shootout. So in the previous six tournaments, Malaysia missed a semifinal berth on only one occasion!

I suspect either K. Rajagopal or a foreign coach will be charting the team's fortunes in the pre-Asian Cup in February.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Salam EidulAdha

Dengan rendah diri ingin kuucapkan Selamat Menyambut Hari Raya Qurban, Hari Raya Haji agar kita sama-sama menginsafi sebab musabab di sebalik peristiwa Nabi Ibrahim A.S dan Nabi Ismail A.S serta wukuf di Arafah, signifikannya Jabal Rahmah serta indahnya negara yang bernama Malaysia.

Bagi ahli-ahli sukan beragama Islam yang meraikan EidulAdha di perantauan, khususnya anak-anak buah B. Sathianathan yang sedang bersaing dalam Piala Suzuki AFF, kuucapkan Selamat Berjuang kerana ia juga adalah satu bentuk pengorbanan.

Aku masih ingat kenangan beraya EidulAdha di Hong Kong pada 2001, apabila pasukan bola sepak negara bergelut dengan Qatar, Hong Kong dan Palestin dalam pra-Piala Dunia. Biasalah bagi sekumpulan wartawan yang membuat liputan di luar negara, setiap majlis meraikan pasukan akan turut diberi liputan. Aku pun tidak melepaskan peluang berhari raya di Konsulat Malaysia sesudah bersolat di masjid di bawah Halal Canteen tidak jauh dari Stadium Queen Elizabeth.

Dikelilingi kebanyakannya keturunan India dan Pakistan yang berkelana ke Hong Kong, aku dan rakan-rakan mendengar khutbah EidulAdha yang disampaikan oleh Imam dalam Bahasa Mandarin.

Kalau hari-hari biasa aku mengisi perut dengan dim sum di kantin berkenaan dengan ditemani Azahar Md Taib dari Harian Metro, hos kami di Konsulat menghidangkan juadah Malaysia belaka. Apalagi, belasahlah...

Di Konsulat berkenaan, aku bukan saya bersua dengan sahabat lama dari alam persekolahan iaitu Rosman bahkan berkesempatan beramah mesra dengan penghibur terkenal Fran, atau nama penuhnya Francesca Peters. Sudah tentu aku menceritakan kepadanya koleksi kaset Roy & Fran yang menjadi dendangan halwa telingaku ketika remaja.

Berbalik kepada cerita di padang, aku masih ingat pasukan negara bimbingan Allan Harris tewas kepada Qatar 5-1, menang 2-0 ke atas Hong Kong dan tewas 1-0 kepada Palestin. Ia memberi aku ingatan yang bercampur baur, kerana hutan batu di Hong Kong menjadi saksi dua jaringan menarik daripada Akmal Rizal Ahmad Rakhli, dan turut melihat pasukan negara tersembam akibat kekalahan kepada Palestin.

Antara yang kekal menyarung jersi negara hingga ke hari ini ialah Norhafiz Zamani Misbah, Juzaili Samion, Hairuddin Omar, Nizaruddin Yusof dan Shukor Adan. Kapten ketika tewas kepada Palestin ialah Bobby Pian, seorang Bidayuh.

p/s aku terlupa,

...dalam kita berkabung atas tragedi di Bukit Antarabangsa, kita jangan lupa bencana banjir di Pantai Timur

...bagi yang menyempurnakan Haji, semoga mendapat Haji yang Mabrur

...bagi yang berkorban, agar lembu dan kambing yang ditumbangkan menunggu kita di syurga

...bagi Azam dan Risya di Turkmenistan, semoga tabah menghadapi dugaan dalam mengharungi hidup di perantauan, dan ingat-ingatlah kami yang menikmati jamuan Raya hidangan Mak. Hehe

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rest in peace, Sir

I took this picture during the launch of Editions Didier Millet's The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Sports and Recreation (Encyclopedia of Malaysia) in June this year. It was launched by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin. It was not everyday that one gets to snap a picture of Koh Chye and his ex-boss, Datuk Noh Abdullah, the former National Sports Council director-general.

"How's your wife, Rizal? Has she gone into remission?"

The late Datuk Ho Koh Chye who passed away around 8.00pm tonight, showed genuine concern for me and my better half Intan throughout our ordeal when she was diagnosed with colon cancer in early 2004. Koh Chye and I developed a common bond of sorts as his son was diagnosed with leukemia around the same time.

We kept in touch through text messages, giving each other moral support in times of need. We were very thankful to the Almighty when both went into complete remission.

It was customary for Koh Chye to ask me my wife's condition each time we met or spoke over the phone. The last time I interviewed him was in 2005, when I was tasked to take charge of the Icons column. As always, talking to Koh Chye gave me immense pleasure.

When I left the Malay Mail in March, opportunities to engage in a discourse with Koh Chye were few and far between. But in June I attended the launch of Editions Didier Millet's The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Sports and Recreation (Encyclopedia of Malaysia) at Stadium Negara. From afar Koh Chye acknowledged my presence and as we exchanged pleasantries, he remarked: "So how's life as a blogger? Your blog has caused a stir in the hockey fraternity!"

I wanted so much to tap his brains but since Koh Chye was preoccupied with his role as the contingent's chef-de-mission for the Beijing Olympics, I told myself "it's OK lah, next time maybe".

Imagine my shock when I was told of his demise and that he had undergone a surgery on his prostate last week.

Koh Chye who turned 66 last month, was due to undergo chemotherapy anytime.

Typical of Koh Chye who shunned the limelight, his condition was made known only to his inner circle. One of them, Randhir Singh, said:

"Koh Chye was one of the finest gentlemen who excelled in his many roles as a player, coach, manager and administrator. A rare breed indeed," said Randhir.

I only knew about his illness upon his demise as my mobile was inundated with text messages from fellow journalists and ex-internationals around 9.30pm while having dinner with two dear friends.

Sports Advisory Panel (SAP) chairman Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad said:

"He sent me a text message today indicating his willingness to serve as a member of the Wawasan Committee of the MHF. His demise is a huge loss to the sporting fraternity, particularly the hockey family. We wanted him to be the new chairman of the Coaching Board but he was reluctant to accept it, saying in all humility that he was old and not up to the task but I knew he was the perfect man for the post."

NSC director general Datuk Zolkples Embong said Koh Chye spoke to him this afternoon, telling the former of his condition.

"We are deeply saddened by the death of a dear friend, a teacher and a boss. Our condolences to the family."

Ahmad Shapawi Ismail who is currently pursuing his Masters degree in the United Kingdom, said:

"I am shocked to learn of his demise. He was one of my mentors as he taught me the art of negotiation in dealing with officials from national sports associations. He did not like to talk behind people's backs and he expressed his anger in a very diplomatic manner. He encouraged us to explore our strengths."

Exploring his strengths was what Koh Chye did throughout his career as a goalkeeper, coach, manager and later administrator.

To Datuk Ho Koh Chye, we bid you farewell. May God bless his soul. Below is the Icons column featuring Koh Chye. Also read here and here and here

DATUK Ho Koh Chye is a rare breed, a sports personality who has been a top-rate player, coach, manager in hockey and later, an administrator and policy-maker.

Mailsport's RIZAL HASHIM remains in awe of the former hockey goalkeeper who was equally adept as a footballer in his heyday.

Mailsport: You are fully retired but still immersed in sports, Datuk?

Koh Chye: Yes. I enjoy the game of golf and the company of my dear friends. As I am also a member of the technical commitee for the Asiacomm 2006 project, I keep myself updated.

MS: Tell us about your early days.

KC: Some 150 metres down the road from my house along Paul Street (now Jalan Yam Tuan) was St Paul's Institution and almost adjoining it was the NS Padang. My parents, Ho Tan Sze and Kuan Yoong, were blessed with nine children (four boys and five girls). I went to St Paul's and developed my hockey skills at the NS Padang. The beauty of my daily activities those days was the fact that we were not restricted to playing hockey. I went on to represent Malaysian schools in both football and hockey. I was a rightback in football and started being a hockey goalkeeper at the age of nine. My involvement and fascination with hockey began when I became the keeper in the Standard Three inter-class competition. As a child, I was happy growing up in an environment that was steeped in hockey tradition. I actually grew up around hockey greats, like Peter and Lawrence Van Huizen, Devendran, Sheikh Ali, Freddie Vias, M. Joseph, etc. Things were pretty simple when I started playing football for the NS Chin Woo Club. Dr Choy Hon Kum, our manager, was provided with a small budget which he had to top up often to pay for ground rentals and refreshments for the team. Jerseys were handed out and collected at the end of a match.

MS: How far did you go in football?

KC: I went on to represent Negri Sembilan. One of my team-mates was Datuk Jamaluddin Ahmad, former team manager of Negri Sembilan.

MS: What do you think of the changing trends in our lifestyle?

KC: No doubt the environment has had an impact on volunteerism and participation levels. People are now working longer hours. More women have joined the workforce, and academic and material pursuits have generally deprived sports of volunteers and participants. Sport is changing rapidly and it is pointless to talk of the past when sport was fun and less business-like. The issue at hand is to find a vehicle that can fulfil the current needs of sports development.

MS: Does the 'win at all cost' mentality pose a huge problem?

KC: Yes it does, even in youth sports. Coaches and administrators, whose jobs too often depend not on their performances but on that of young people in their programmes, encounter countless ethical dilemmas on how to balance their own professional interests with the needs of the athletes for whom they are responsible. Coaches, sport psychologists and sports physicians are enticed, sometimes coerced, into enhancing athletes' performance at the expense of those athletes' health and well-being.

MS: What is your philosophy in sports?

KC: Sports can and should be a place for fun and excitement, for joy, even ecstasy, Sports can contribute to the participants' health, psychological, physical, social and spiritual development. Sports can and should be courts of justice, venues for rejuvenating ideals and promoting the character needed to work toward those ideals.

Profile: Datuk Ho Koh Chye
Date of birth: Nov 5, 1942.
Place of birth: Seremban.
Family: Seventh among nine children. Married to Datin Lee Siew Chan, two children.
Career: Teacher at King George V School in Seremban until 1974, seconded to Sports Ministry and later, the National Sports Council, Retired as Director of International Preparation Division, NSC, in 1992. Appointed Executive Director of the newly-formed SportExcel and served
until 1996. Consultant to the Johor Government for sports development, joint chef-de-mission of the 2003 Vietnam SEA Games. Currently vice-president of the Malaysian Olympian Association (MOA) and member of the Asiacomm 2006 project technical committee. Sporting achievements: Hockey international from 1960 to 1968. Competed in the Asian Games (1962 Jakarta, 1966 Bangkok) and Olympics (1964 Tokyo, 1968 Mexico).
Coaching career: National coach for the World Cups in Amsterdam '73, Kuala Lumpur '75, and Buenos Aires '78.

Friday, November 28, 2008

And Federer's favourite footballer is...

Thierry Henry...and Luis Figo.

"I am a huge fan of Barcelona and Basel," said Federer.

I admire these three gentlemen...Trezeguet for his clinical finishing, a real classy marksman, Henry for his overall ability, combining his gazelle-like grace and physical presence to great effect and Tony Yee for his humility, creativity and writing skills.

It was unfortunate that Tony was largely unnoticed and under-appreciated by the Malay Mail management. By contrast Henry and Trezeguet were given due recognition by not only their superiors but football fans around the globe. This picture was taken when Gerard Houllier's men made a transit stop for the 1997 FIFA World Youth Cup at Shah Alam, when the two players were little known outside France.

They eventually lost to Uruguay through a penalty shoot-out but not before I had the good fortune of witnessing one of Trezeguet's trademark goals and Henry's frightening pace (on one occasion, upon receiving a long pass deep from defence, Henry cushioned header the ball over Martin Rivas and simply outpaced the defender before sending his shot wide).

I wrote a preview of the quarterfinal


Playing style: Uruguay play 4-4-2 with one defensive midfielder, one roving playmaker and two solid attacking midfielders making rapid runs to support the two frontrunners. When in possession, the Uruguayans cover so much space with just a few passes. Their build-ups are straightforward, unlike their cousins Argentina or Brazil who prefer to dwell on the ball or lull the opponents into complacency before unleashing their powers. Splendid off the ball running means the South Americans are capable of confusing the opponents with midfield maestro and skipper Christian Callejas the free man with good support from Walter Coelho and Cesar Pellegrin on the left and Inti Podesta and Daniel Lembo or Carlos Diaz on the right. The target upfront is usually towering Marcelo Zalayeta while his partner, Nicolas Olivera, is a fleet-footed southpaw who can throw his marker off balance with his turning.

Strength: Technically adroit, tactically mature and very physical, Uruguay look the perfect machine. Long-haired anchorman Pablo Garcia has yet to really unleash his dead-ball speciality. Had a good match practice in beating United States 3-0 in the second round. Defence have conceded only one goal, to Malaysia's Nik Ahmad Fadly Nik Leh.

Weakness: There is no apparent weakness in the South American side. Every department was in working order in the group matches.

Motivation: Prominence has been given to their more glamorous cousins, Brazil and Argentina, while Uruguay quietly topped Group A with some panache before marching into the quarterfinals.

Probable line-up: Gustavo Munua, Carlos Diaz, Daniel Lembo, MartinRivas, Cesar Eduardo Pellegrin, Pablo Garcia, Christian Callejas, Walter Coelho, Inti Podesta, Marcelo Zalayeta, Nicolas Olivera.


Playing style: Identical to the French senior team, the France Under-20 side play a square back-four with three midfielders forming another defensive block. The midfield runners are entrusted to form the first defensive barrier as well as working hard to launch attacks for skipperThierry `Titi' Henry and Argentine-descent David Trezeguet to capitalise upon with one attacking or sometimes two midfielders in a supporting role. That means coach Gerard Houllier interchanges between 4-3-1-2 or 4-4-2 formation with ease but the former Paris St Germain (PSG) tactician is expected to crowd his engine room to neutralise the danger posed byUruguay midfielders Coelho and Podesta. Henry and Trezeguet must also attack at the byline to force Uruguay wingbacks Pellegrin and Diaz from utilising the gaps on the flanks.

Strength: Monaco duo Henry and Trezeguet are lethal finishers while Bordeaux's Peter Luccin and Rennes' diminutive Yoann Bigne combine well as midfield workhorses. Confidence sky-high after defeating Mexico through a last-minute goal from Luccin.

Weakness: They lack a genuine playmaker in the mould of Zinedine Zidane. Despite the presence of Henry and Trezeguet, France face difficulties in connecting the midfield and the forwardline. The heat may take its toll on Houllier's players. Several of them have succumbed to the heat-stroke in Kuching. Mentally fragile.

Motivation: As European champions, France want to hold the flag high as well as bettering their predecessors' seventh finish in 1977.

Probable line-up: Mickael Landreau, Mickael Silvestre, Willy Sagnol, Jean-Sebastien Jaures, William Gallas, Peter Luccin, Yoann Bigne, Kadjo Afanou, Cedric Mouret, Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet.

The match report

URUGUAY were tactically astute to march into the semifinals of the Youth World Cup for the first time since 1979 at Shah Alam Stadium last night.

Deemed as the home team after winning three matches and drawing one at the main venue, Uruguay - or nicknamed Charuas - were set to match European champions France blow by blow.

In the end, the South Americans could have wrapped up the match without venturing into the heart-stopping penalty shootout if not for some superb goalkeeping by Mickael Landreau who kept the Uruguayans at bay except for Nicolas Olivera's equaliser in the 68th minute.

Uruguay, who finished fourth in the South American under-20 championships early this year, will now take on African's lone representative, Ghana, on Wednesday for a place in the final on Saturday. With the dramatic win, Uruguayan coach Victor Pua handed his more illustrious counterpart, Gerard Houllier, a defeat which was difficult to swallow.

As far as Pua was concerned, his team were more solid overall and fully deserved their place in the last four.

"I think we were the better team overall even if France had a strong patch in the 15 minutes before half time. They pushed us all the way and I have to admit it was the toughest match for us thus far. As the European champions, they are a truly great team.

"I really suffered during the penalties. It is good if your team win but it is a different scenario altogether if you end up on the losing side,"said Pua.

After assessing the opponents' strengths and weaknesses on tape, Pua knew the French looked jaded against Mexico and could have trouble keeping pace with his hard running men.

Furthermore, the French, with the classic formation of four defenders, prefered to adopt the offside strategy which was always risky against fleet-footed opponents.

And, in 18-year-old left-footer Eduardo Pellegrin, Pua had a trumpcard. The left back, who idolises Enzo Francescoli, was instructed to stay close to the byline and pounce on long passes from defence.

In one such move, Uruguay managed to cancel the French opening goal converted by Argentine-descent David Trezeguet.

Anchorman Pablo Garcia saw Pellegrin unmarked near the byline and he threaded the pass when the French defence were caught square.

Rightback Willy Sagnol tried to cover space but Pellegrin had all the time in the world to choose the receiver of his inch-perfect pass. The Danubio player then pumped in the cross for Olivera to chest it home past Landreau for that all-important equaliser.

In the 30 minutes of extra time, Uruguay came close several times and had at least three clear-cut chances to put the issue beyond doubt through Olivera and Pellegrin's replacement, Mario Regueiro.

And of course a tribute to the French team.

IT was the end of an epoch for AS Monaco young star Thierry Henry and several of his French Under-20 colleagues as Les Bleus bid "Au Revoir" to the 11th Youth World Cup last night.

Most of the players in Gerard Houllier's team were together for almost six years since their Under-14 days but it appears that they will go their separate ways after suffering a heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat to Uruguay at Shah Alam Stadium last night.

Henry and centrebacks Philippe Christanval and William Gallas were part of the French Under-14 team coached by Christian Damiano six years ago but two of them did not end the match while the other came in as a substitute last night.

Looking a spent force, Henry was taken off in the 75th minute to make way for Arsenal's Nicolas Anelka while Gallas was given the marching orders after a second bookable offence in the 85th minute for a foul on nippy Nicolas Olivera.

In the 79th minute, Christanval replaced rightback Willy Sagnol who had given Uruguay's leftback Eduardo Pellegrin so much space leading to the equaliser by Olivera in the 67th minute. The defeat was perhaps a relief for Henry. A win for the French would mean another ardous task ahead for Henry who had played 60 matches the whole season.

Apart from helping Monaco to win the French league, Henry was a vital member of Jean Tigana's team that entered the UEFA Cup semi-finals, skipper of the French Under-18 side who took the European title as well as the Toulon tournament earlier this month.

Last night Henry, who turns 20 in August, looked jaded despite showing flashes of brilliance which prompted Spanish champions Real Madrid to pursue his signature. In the first half alone, Henry had the crowd at their feet by thrice outsprinting the Uruguayan defence led by Martin Rivas only to see his feeble attempts saved by keeper Gustavo Munua.

After Argentine-descent David Trezeguet scored his fifth goal of the tournament in the 26th minute, the French then thought the game was theirs for the taking when Henry was released by midfielder Kodjo Afanou in the58th minute but again Munua was up to the challenge.

The Signature Photoshoot

What's all the commotion? Why are there so many men in black? Are Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in town?
Well, actually the four players in the recent Showdown of Champions KL 2008 - Borg, McE, Fed-Ex and Blake - were ferried from Mandarin Oriental to the KLCC Park by using a buggy driven by Lily, a girl, for the signature photoshoot.
A great shot from Teng Wei is the end product. You can judge his work here. Well, notice the autographs?

This is what you get from a normal camera