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Sunday February 17, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday April 17, 2013 MYT 12:27:03 AM
by rajes paul
National sports legends: Malaysia’s badminton greats Punch Gunalan and Eddy Choong.
I HAD a chance to chat briefly with the late Datuk Eddy Choong at last year’s All-England in Birmingham and I clearly remember how demonstrative he was when it comes to badminton.
Sadly though, the man, who gave his all for the sport as a player, coach and administrator, passed away last month.
I’m sure when I go back to Birmingham next month, many will be talking and reminiscing about this seven-time All-England champion who reigned supreme in the 1950s and 1960s.
Death has, of late, robbed Malaysia of many other greats too.
We’ve lost other badminton greats like Datuk Punch Gunalan and David Choong.
In athletics, as pointed out by Roger Loong, a loyal reader of The Star, Malaysia has lost legends like Michael Parry (440 yards national athlete), long distance king Dilbagh Singh Kler, middle distance runner Mohd Abdul Rahman and former national long jump champion Shazan Amir over the last one year.
For the uninitiated, Sabahan Dilbagh and Abdul Rahman represented the country in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo while the others had made the nation proud with their own accomplishments.
I never got a chance to meet most of them personally but, from what I’ve read and heard, I have to admit that I’ll always be in awe of their exploits and their simplicity in the pursuit of excellence.
They may have passed on but I strongly believe that we, the ones who are blessed with better facilities, perks, lifestyles and opportunities, must strive to keep their spirits alive.
Their humility, words of wisdom, dedication and sacrifices are worthy to be embraced by the present generation.
In an interview with Eddy during one of the Thomas Cup Finals where he was a special guest, he spoke out against outside powers meddling in the affairs of sports associations.
The great man felt that this was one of the main malaise afflicting sports worldwide, in general, and at home, in particular.
He got it spot-on! A high ranking sports officer just has to make a call and an undeserving player can easily get in through the back door – cue the recent Bukit Jalil Sports Schools (BJSS) selection for badminton players.
Nowadays, we find that coaches have their hands tied and do not have the final say anymore. Some are even slapped with gag orders! Athletes, too, are subjected to such treatment, where they are bound by contracts and have no rights to speak up.
In football and several other sports, politicians-cum-leaders rule the roost and any player or official who dares to speak up, especially if it reflects badly on the management, are often roasted.
Looking back, one significant attribute that these past greats had in common was their humility.
Despite their excellent achievements, they always remained modest and that, to me, is the hallmark of a true champion.
These days, our athletes let the smallest of victories get to their heads.
Take woman cyclist Fatehah Mustapa for example. There she was, feted by one and all after becoming the first woman rider to qualify for the last August’s London Olympic Games.
She, however, let all the attention get to her. She became big-headed and felt that she had the divine right to decide for herself when and where to report for training.
Luckily, the 23-year-old was immediately put in her place, by banning her from going to the World Championships, although she had qualified! Kudos to those who knocked sense into her head.
In the same vein, can someone please tell the football supremos that winning a gold medal at the SEA Games and being crowned the AFF Cup champions are but just small steps towards attaining greater glory.
By the way, Malaysia are now ranked No. 156 in world football, down another spot from the previous FIFA rankings.
And can someone also please tell the badminton leaders that other sports are also delivering medals for the country at the Olympics.
Then, there are some of our sports officials, who can’t accept an honest opinion or suggestion and are also guilty of always bad-mouthing their peers who actually do all the work.
What we, the media, athletes, officials, leaders and the public should do, is take a minute to look at what people like Datuk Eddy Choong, Datuk Punch Gunalan, David Choong, Michael Parry, Dilbagh Singh Kler, Mohd Abdul Rahman and Shazan Amir stood for.
They were all about selfless acts, sacrifices, dedication and national pride. It was never about I, me or mine.
Sadly, those are the qualities missing from our present generation. Now it is about what’s in it for me if I achieve success (no matter how small a measure it is).
What about death caused by famous sportsmen? StarSport’s senior writer Rajes Paul is still coming to terms with the horrific murder allegedly committed by Olympian Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. Sigh!
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