On June 10, I officiated the finals of the Malaysian Basketball Association (MABA)-MATRIX Basketball Tournament 2022 at the Balik Pulau Sports Complex in Penang.
In this tournament, Negri Sembilan team emerged champions after defeating the team representing Sabah.
For this tournament, a basketball floor was installed in a multi-purpose hall; it was interlocking flooring made of plastic. In Malaysia, a basketball court of international standards can be found at the MABA stadium in Kuala Lumpur, and it is made of air thurst wood.
For the basketball world, some of the best floors - such as those used by the National Basketball Association (NBA) - are made of maple wood. The price of a basketball floor is not expensive and with good maintenance, it is durable.
When it comes to the MABA-MATRIX Cup, it is the most important non-Chinese tournament. It aims to hone the talents of non-Chinese players, who are eventually expected to play in the country’s national basketball teams.
For the national men’s team, starting with Zabri Chik in the 1970s, almost every team has non-Chinese players. The national women’s team that won the 2015 and 2017 SEA Games gold medals had two non-Chinese players, namely Izzati (captain) and Kalai.
In 1974, full boarding schools started two tournaments - the Hamdan Cup for men and the Zainab Cup for women. Basketball is also popular in MARA Science Junior Colleges.
More and more non-Chinese are playing in other schools. Meanwhile, Universiti Teknologi MARA is among the best university teams.
Today, there are over half a million non-Chinese who play basketball. The image of basketball as a "Chinese sport" is beginning to wane. To enhance its development, MABA president Datuk Seri Lee Tian Hock has set up a Non-Chinese Basketball Development Committee. It is chaired by Liew Yong Choon, who was the manager of the national men's team that won the 1989 SEA Games gold medal and the coach of the Kuala Kangsar Malay College. It is made up of committed non-Chinese coaches and former players.
The achievements of our national basketball teams are encouraging. At the SEA Games, our women's team has won gold medals 11 times. Also at the Asian level, our men's team is ranked 27th, women's 12th and our junior teams are at 13th place for men and 8th for women.
At a world level, the men's team ranks at 126th place and the women's at 68th, while the men's junior and women's junior rank at 68th and 48th places respectively.
Thus far, the nation’s basketball has been developed, in general, independently. If it obtains greater financial assistance from the government, as well as with more systematic planning and implementation of development, it can leap forward.
In any case, basketball has managed to become a unity sport.
(The author is the Founder of the Malaysian Women's Basketball League and a former coach)
Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah is the Foreign Minister of Malaysia. Views expressed are the writer’s own.