If you do see a bunch of people in a field wearing cage helmets and holding mesh sticks, it’s not what you think. No, they are not riot police but may certainly be lacrosse players.
Lacrosse, a sport drawn from Native American origins, is a relatively new sport in Malaysia with the founding of the Malaysia Lacrosse Association (MLA) in 2014.
“When I came to take up a job offer, I wanted to carry on playing the sport so I contacted someone on Facebook.
“He said come and join the practice. I thought it would be great to join a team but found there was only the two of us,” related MLA president Jake Marr.
“So we decided to put our heads together and start something. We managed to get more and more people interested. It’s divided between those who haven’t heard or played the game and those who have played it in their home countries,” said Marr, who first learnt to play the sport in Staffordshire, England.
“We have slightly less than 100 enthusiasts but it’s steadily growing. I think there are challenges in trying to promote the sport because it is expensive as all the equipment has to be imported. And also because it is still not well known.”
Marr related on the positive side that the MLA had gained affiliation with the world body, the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL), as well as membership in the Asia-Pacific Lacrosse Union and had also become the official body for the sport in Malaysia in 2014.
“Since then we have competed in friendlies against Singapore and in 2015 took part with a 15-man team in the Asia-Pacific Championships in Bangkok, Thailand.
“We did not fare as well as our team was more like a Sunday League squad compared to countries such as Australia who are third ranked in the world,” he said.
He said the association welcomed all Malaysians and others to take up the sport.
“For beginners we teach them the basics such as catching and cradling. The novices won’t use the gear yet until they are quite familiar with all the fundamentals.”
He added that newbies did not have to worry about equipment as these will be provided by the association.
“We have managed to gather some equipment through personal donations and from abroad. So all the new player has to do is to turn up on Sunday.”
MLA recently secured the Tun Razak Hockey Stadium as their ground for training but on occasions when the grounds are unavailable, they train either in Padang Merbok or futsal courts.
“The hockey stadium is an ideal centre because of the surface and the nature of our sport. The other pitches are not as good but we have to make do at times.”
MLA have tried to promote the sport in universities, international schools and the like but face challenges.
“Due to the fact that all the members of the association hold full-time jobs, we are sometimes not available to coordinate activities during the week,” he explained.
Marr said they would carry on promoting the game within the educational sector where they see a potential channel of talent.
“Our long-term goal is to build a men’s and women’s national team and a junior team as well,” he said.
Marr described the sport as a mix of hockey with American football.
“The men are allowed to body charge and check the opponent until they drop the ball. But this is not allowed among the women who will have to use speed for their attacks. The men’s game is well known for its physicality,” he said.
Asena Kaneko is one of the Sunday enthusiasts who has enjoyed playing the sport since she was an 18-year-old student in university in Japan.
“I came to work in Malaysia in 2011 but only found this group playing lacrosse in 2015. I really enjoy this fun sport and the friends I have met,” said the 30-year-old cabin crew member of Air Asia X.
Lacrosse is a contact team sport played between two teams using a small rubber ball and a long-handled stick called a crosse or lacrosse stick.
The head of the lacrosse stick is strung with loose mesh designed to catch and hold the lacrosse ball. There are many different ways to put mesh on the head of the stick, also known as “stringing the stick.”
The objective of the game is to score by shooting the ball into an opponent’s goal past the goalie, using the lacrosse stick to catch, cradle and pass the ball to do so.
The sport has four major types: men’s field lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, box lacrosse and intercrosse. The sport consists of four positions: midfield, attack, defense and goalie. In field lacrosse, attackmen are solely offensive players (except on the “ride”, when the opposition tries to bring the ball upfield and attackmen must stop them), defensemen or defenders are solely defensive players (except when bringing up the ball, which is called a “clear”). The goalie is the last line of defence.