Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A topic for the National Sports Convention

Perhaps the ongoing National Sports Convention should also discuss some of the points raised by kijangmas here. I've reproduced excerpts of his brutally honest posting below, without his permission.

Even sports are caught up in this crippling racial imbroglio. Pay TV operator, Astro, somehow deemed it cute and proper to spin short promo clips of Malaysian Olympians talking in their “mother” tongues. Lee Chong Wei and other ethnic-Chinese Malaysian athletes uttered their hopes in Mandarin, likewise others spoke in Tamil and English. Only ethnic-Malay Olympians spoke in Bahasa Malaysia, as if the National Language has been relegated to be on par with the other languages and only applicable to the Malays. I’m sure many of us would be interested in Lee Chong Wei’s aspirations. But we will never know because he is speaking in the national language of China and not even the Hokkien or Cantonese of his household! So in effect, barely a fifth of Malaysians knew what the heck Lee Chong Wei and the ethnic-Chinese Malaysian Olympians were saying and seven percent or less could comprehend the Tamil utterances of the ethnic–Tamil athletes. Hence, is it really a wonder why Lee Chong Wei’s endeavour to Olympic Silver was not followed with the passion of the past by the nation and hardly celebrated upon his triumphal return? Why no open top motorcade processions in the kampungs di setiap pelusuk tanah air, like the 1992 Thomas Cup heroes? Because Mandarin-speaking Chong Wei was not regarded as “one of us” by the ubiquitous Malay masses out there? What was Astro trying to prove?

Events such as the Olympics, where our athletes are supposed to represent the country as a cohesive, united nationalistic Malaysian Race -- as uttered in our battle hymn, “Satu Bangsa, Satu Negara, Malaysia Berjaya” – would require complete cohesion with a sense of shared destiny, not a patchwork of variegated ethnic groups, tribes and suku kaums whose only affinity with one another is their mutual contempt and suspicion.

What happened to our cohesive, triumphal sports teams? Remember our football and hockey teams of the sixties, seventies and eighties? And our Thomas Cup winners of 1992? Recall how cohesive they were and how patriotic we were then? Remember our 1975 World Cup hockey team? We almost made it to the final if not for two heartbreak goals by ultimate champions India. Yes, we were perched on top of the world. Remember our Bangsa Malaysia hockey team of that period? Khairuddin Zainal the rock in goal, skipper Sri Shanmuganathan marshalling the defense with authority, and Poon Fook Loke the bane of opposing defenses. They were Anak Malaysia, they were Bangsa Malaysia, they were our Pasukan Kebangsaan! What’s the state of Malaysian hockey now? We cannot even make the cut to a crowded 12 team field in the Beijing Olympics. What happened to the Foo Keat Songs, Sarjit Singhs and M. Mahendrans of Malaysian hockey? How come Malays now dominate our hockey scene? Do we have to blame this on the NEP as well? I don’t recall any 70% quota on national representation

Did we view our football legends, Mokhtar Dahari, Soh Chin Aun, R. Arumugam and Santokh Singh, through race-tinted lenses? Of course not. They were members of the Bangsa Malaysia team that reigned supreme in Asia, even won the Bronze at the 1974 Teheran Asian Games and qualified for the 1972 and 1980 Olympics. Remember when Malaysian football dominated Southeast Asia and was superior to South Korea, Japan and the West Asian teams that are today regular attendees in World Cups? Can we recall Chin Aun, Arumugam and Santokh talking on TV in any other language but Bahasa Malaysia? Of course not. They were proud members of Bangsa Malaysia, confidently speaking in one voice. Chin Aun – the Babaesque Malacca native -- was the unquestioned skipper, leader and libero for a decade. He was the Towkay. Remember? Would we ever have another ethnic-Chinese captain of the Malaysian football team? Heck no. Forget that question. Let’s make it simpler. Can anyone name one ethnic-Chinese player in our current pasukan kebangsaan? No? Remember when we had Chow Chee Keong or Lim Fung Kee or Wong Kam Fook in goal; Chin Aun in defense; Wong Choon Wah the midfield general; and Yip Chee Keong in attack – all on the same field for Malaysia at the same time? Later came the likes of Lim Chuan Chin, Ong Yu Tiang, James Wong, Wong Hung Nung, Lee Kin Hong, Chow Siew Yai, Khan Hung Meng, Tang Siew Seng and Lim Teong Kim. These were fantastic players, many good enough to pursue professional careers in foreign lands.

We were a cohesive group of 45,000 screaming and laughing members of Bangsa Malaysia at Merdeka Stadium. On many occasions, I was there as a member of this Bangsa Malaysia. I can vividly recall our 1977 KL SEA Games Dream Team that trashed then-Burma 9-1 and overpowered Thailand 2-0 in the final. In fact, I can still utter their names as they are etched in the collective memories of my generation. Heck, I’ll say it now as they deserved to be remembered for posterity. This team of seven Malays (Jamal Nasir, Yahaya Jusoh, Abdah Alif, Shukor Salleh, Bakri Ibni, Isa Bakar and Mokhtar Dahari), two ethnic-Chinese (Soh Chin Aun and James Wong), an ethnic-Tamil (R. Arumugam) a Punjabi Sikh (Santokh Singh) and a Sarawak Dayak substitute (James Yaakub) were the embodiment of the Malaysian Race, the Bangsa Malaysia. These were the idols of Malaysian sports fans across the land. The Malaysian football team was our team, the Bangsa Malaysia team. At the neighbourhood padang, my gang took turns to mimic Arumugam in goal and Chin Aun as the libero and, of course, SuperMokh, Mokhtar Dahari. My buddy, Ow Chak Yoon would mimic the RTM running commentary as the rest of us scurry after the tattered football; his impersonation of Zulkarnaen Hassan in ecstasy over a Malaysian goal was uncanny, surreal, and reverberates in my ears whenever I look at old faded photographs of my classmates. Oh yes, every ethnic-Chinese in my Standard Six class wanted to be Mokhtar Dahari on the field. I always imagined I was the great Chin Aun, elegantly caressing the ball with imperious presence in the Malaysian backline. Race was never an issue. These football legends belonged to all of us Bangsa Malaysia, speaking in one voice, striving for the same goal. Three decades later, our sports teams have degenerated into a collection of Mandarin, Tamil and English- and Manglish-speaking individuals, with Bahasa Malaysia uttered only by the Malays, and even that in mutually-unintelligible Kelantanese, Kedahan and assorted Borneo dialects. No wonder we have become minnows in team sports, where team mates could hardly communicate, let alone strategise. Our football team is now ranked 160 by FIFA, sandwiched between such powerhouses as Lesotho and St. Lucia. Where the heck is St. Lucia? Our hockey team has all but dissipated under the astroturf. Our badminton team is a shambles. These are just a small sampling of the price we all pay for our lack of national unity, lack of national identity, lack of national cohesion. I think it is utterly Scandalous. Kita semua sudah gila ka?


Anonymous said...

Agak menarik melihat tulisan yang dipaparkan....Timeline perubahan komposisi pasukan kebangsaan boleh diselarikan dgn peningkatan peranan kerajaan dalam pembangunan sukan di Tanah Air. Say tidak menuduh cuma mencadangkan kajian dilakukan dalam mengenal pasti punca kemerosotan sukan sebelum mencadangkan langkah-langkah untuk memulihkannya.

Hakim Amir said...

a very telling article, this one!!!
i have nothing else to add to this one. we need our Bangsa Malaysia team back again!

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