Trying time for athletes


  • Metro News
  • Saturday, 13 Jun 2020

Thanabalan (standing, second from right) with the Selangor squad and officials after the Malaysia Cup finals in 1968 when he bagged four goals as Selangor hammered Penang 8-1.

WHILE training is now allowed to resume for team sports like football, hockey and rugby the recovery movement control order (MCO), there will be no matches and tournaments held.

The prohibition is part of the government’s continuing efforts to contain Covid-19.

The ban is expected to extend until at least during until Aug 31.

However, there is still plenty for sporting fans to look forward to now that the popular English Premier League (EPL), Formula 1 and golf are set to make a comeback internationally this month.

Even as most athletes are raring to get back into the thick of action, Malaysia’s former sporting greats are equally eager for games to restart.

National football legend Datuk N. Thanabalan, who represented Selangor and Malaysia in various international tournaments in the 1960s, cannot wait for football to resume.

Dr Amarjit in action during his playing days.Dr Amarjit in action during his playing days.

“I am a huge fan of Manchester United and eager for the English Premier League to commence.

“I miss my football fix. I am looking forward to the local Super League to begin in September and hope Selangor will do well, ” he said.

The EPL is set to resume on June 17, following its suspension in March with runaway leaders Liverpool poised to lift the title after 30 years.

Meanwhile, the Super League has been reduced to a one-round tournament with only seven matches left due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Commenting on the sport today, Thanabalan said: “The standard of the game locally has gone down as players seem to be less fit and committed, but I believe things can and will improve, ” he said.

He shot to fame in the mid-1960s with his lightning speed, dribbling skills and potency in front of goal and famously scored four goals for Selangor as they crushed Penang 8-1 in the Malaysia Cup finals in 1968.

Thanabalan: The standard of local football has gone down, but I believe things can and will improve.Thanabalan: The standard of local football has gone down, but I believe things can and will improve.

“Back then, we had an undying passion for the game, which is hardly existent now as times have changed and money is the priority for many players.

“During my time, we were all amateurs but went all out in matches and injuries didn’t matter, but now I can see a few players who are pampered and fake injuries, ” said Thanabalan, who excelled in athletics at his alma mater Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur.

Former Malaysian cricket captain Datuk Dr Amarjit Singh Gill is looking forward to watching international cricket on television.

However, he said playing in an empty stadium without fans would rob the game of its atmosphere and excitement.

“Sportsmen know spectators can either make or break you.

“The players will miss hearing the fans cheering and supporting them, ” he said.

He reminded that the world was still facing a global pandemic.

Thanabalan (standing, second from right) with the Selangor squad and officials after the Malaysia Cup finals in 1968 when he bagged four goals as Selangor hammered Penang 8-1.Thanabalan (standing, second from right) with the Selangor squad and officials after the Malaysia Cup finals in 1968 when he bagged four goals as Selangor hammered Penang 8-1.

“It looks like it is going to last for the next six to 18 months before a safe and reliable vaccine is found, ” said Dr Amarjit, who was inducted into the Olympic Council of Malay-sia (OCM) Hall of Fame in 2017.

“In the meantime, there are standard measures that must be taken if the game is resumed.

“Teams must adhere to SOP on international travel and quarantining players, ” he added.

Dr Amarjit, a southpaw bowler and right-hand batsman, represented Malaysia in cricket from 1979 to 1989 where he captained the national team from 1982 until he retired from international competition.

Described as a “master tactician”, he remains the most successful captain in the country’s cricket history as Malaysia during his captaincy scored a record five wins in a row against Singapore in the Saudara Cup competition.

He also had the distinction of leading the country to victories over Bangladesh and Argentina in the ICC trophy in England in 1986.

“I am eager to catch the live telecast of England hosting West Indies in the tests next month.

“The players will have to get used to the new standard operating procedures for the game and playing behind closed doors, ” said Dr Amarjit, whose favourite player during his glory days was legendary Indian cricketer Kapil Dev.

England will play three tests within 21 days when the international summer gets underway in July.

Victor showing the medals and trophies he won throughout his 65-year athletic career.Victor showing the medals and trophies he won throughout his 65-year athletic career.

The series against West Indies will begin on July 8 at the Ageas Bowl, followed by tests at the Emirates and Old Trafford in Manchester on July 16 and 24.

The three matches will be played behind closed doors at the bio-secure venues, both of which have hotels on site.

Dr Amarjit feels that cricket here has lacked grassroot development and wants more to be done to improve the game in Malaysia.

“Globally, cricket has moved to another level in the last decade. International players, especially in the test playing countries, have become fitter, stronger, faster and more innovative.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to keep pace and improve over time in Malaysia despite the exposure given to our players over the last 15 to 20 years.

“Not many schools play the game now, and inter-district competitions are non-existent with hardly any club teams of standing anymore, ” he noted.

Meanwhile, Karu Selvaratnam, who represented Malaysia in athletics and cricket, expects plenty of new norms in future.

Karu, who competed at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in 400m hurdles, said that although Covid-19 had caused a setback in sports, we should all brace for changes during the recovery MCO.

Karu (right) with triple jumper Willie Banks, who was inducted into the US National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1999, at the World Olympians Forum in Switzerland last year, where Karu represented Malaysia in his capacity as Malaysian Olympians Association president.Karu (right) with triple jumper Willie Banks, who was inducted into the US National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1999, at the World Olympians Forum in Switzerland last year, where Karu represented Malaysia in his capacity as Malaysian Olympians Association president.

“The days after MCO and Covid-19 could see changes in the athletes’ daily routine.

“Contact sports will be affected and athletes will be required to train indoors, which could mean they might not fulfil their full potential during competitions, ” he said.

Karu was also a national cricketer and played regularly for Malaysia from 1960, and captained the Malaysian cricket side in 1980.

He played top level hockey too for the Malaysian armed forces and had captained the navy’s hockey team.

On what can be done to improve the standard of sports in Malaysia, he said knowledge was key for any sport to stand out.

“People who want to get involved in the development and management of sports should have some knowledge of that sport, and have the time, desire and passion to want to move it forward, ” said Karu, whose son Rohan Selvaratnam captained the national cricket side for three years.

Karu is eagerly awaiting to watch live sports on TV again, particularly cricket, track and field events and football.

Karu running hurdles in the 1960s. Karu running hurdles in the 1960s.

“I have been a Liverpool fan since 1965 and cannot wait for the Reds to finally lift the EPL title, ” he added. Former Malaysian sprint champion Datuk Asir Victor, 80, who took part in four Olympic Games from 1960 to 1972 and three Asian Games, feels that the post-recovery MCO period will be a challenging time for local athletes.

“The Covid-19 pandemic would have caused mayhem to an athlete’s physical health and fitness.

“Training on their own indoors is never the same.

“While one can still do simple exercises, there is nothing like circuit training on the tracks and doing sprints, ” he said.

He participated in six SEA Games from 1961 to 1973, winning his first gold in the 1962 SEA Games in Myanmar and from then on blazed his way to 400m supremacy for almost 12 years.

“It will be tough for our athletes, but we have to aim for the top, ” said Victor, who participated in the Asian Games from 1962 to 1974 where he won three silver and four bronze medals.

He was due to take part in the 400m sprint event at the World Masters International Games in Vancouver, Canada, but the event was cancelled due to Covid-19.

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