Stand up for Team Rimau

The world is divided by well-meaning doers and self-serving whiners, so we should try to remain on the right side of that divide and not be plagued by negativity.  

LET’S be honest and look at the bigger picture. Most Malaysians currently consumed by the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games 2017 are only concerned with the country wrapping up the tournament with the heftiest gold medal haul.

Minor glitches have reared their heads, but that’s only natural at any international sporting meet involving thousands of participants.

I think it was grossly unfair, and even smacked of prejudice and bias, when some groups picked on the organisers of the games for these negligible oversights, attempting to give the perception that the KL SEA Games has been shambolic.

It’s fair to say most of us believe that, from the stunning opening ceremony to the steamrolling momentum of the Malaysian team in collecting gold, we are radiating with pride for our country and our Team Rimau.

The multi-racial teams which have been scooping up the medals have restored much-needed national morale and pride, which, rightly or wrongly, appears to have slid down a slippery slope in recent years.

But suddenly, in absolute tribute to the games, a feel and sense of togetherness has washed over us. Malaysians of different races and religions are celebrating as one people, cheering Team Rimau in a unison voice of support in every competing event.

That’s all we really need to care about. It’s what matters most ahead of National Day and Malaysia Day. And the timing couldn’t have been better.

The biting reality is that controversies are par for the course at these events, and the SEA Games is no exception.

In the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, their countryman, Rajendran Kurusamy, was charged for fixing a football match between Timor Leste and Malaysia.

Deputy public prosecutor Nicholas Khoo described Rajendran as “Singapore’s most prolific match-fixer, in terms of convictions” and noted that the jail term was the “highest sentence imposed on a match-fixer on a single charge”.

Rajendran, 55, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He was handed a 42-month jail term for agreeing to slip S$15,000 to the Football Federation of Timor Leste’s technical director Orlando Marques Henriques Mendes to buy the game for Malaysia.

The second charge, for which Rajendran was meant to serve 48 months’ jail time, involved him offering S$4,000 per piece to at least seven Timor Leste players as inducement to lose the match.

The games-opening hoodoo struck the 2015 SEA Games unannounced. Sharon Au, an emcee for the opening ceremony, had to apologise for her purported insensitive actions.

In an audience exchange segment before the ceremony proper, Au apparently approached an Indian girl, and after speaking to her, adopted a strong Indian accent in her commentary.

Posting on Facebook, AFP journalist Bhavan Jaipragas branded the move a display of “racism”, saying Au also “made fun” of the girl’s name, and demanded an apology from the Games organisers and Au herself.

But before even pointing fingers elsewhere, closer to home – in Kuala Lumpur yesterday – RTM admitted making errors when displaying the flags of certain participating countries during its SEA Games showcase and vowed action would be taken to prevent similar occurrences.

The national content provider’s director-general of broadcasting Datuk Abu Bakar Ab Rahim confirmed apologies have been extended for the mistakes which appeared during the news segments on Thursday and Friday. He explained that the mistakes occurred at production level while attempting to update the medal tally, which was constantly evolving.

And with variety being the spice of life, what else is there to look forward to? Upside down flag? Well, the hottest news two years ago was how Filipino winners for the men’s and women’s 100m sprints were left embarrassed when it turned out they had been wearing their country’s flag upside-down.

The strips of men’s champion Eric Cray and women’s winner Kayla Richardson both sported upside-down flags – the red on top – sparking a minor outcry back home.

It’s not clear who messed up and how these runners, said to have spent more time in the United States than the Philippines, were not even aware of the gaffe.

And that’s not even the end of it. Believe it or not, there are even more instances of name and shame.

Singaporean journalists were accused of jeering Malaysia’s netball team during the finals.

They were overheard heckling “balik kampung” (go home to your village) during the game, according to the head of the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia, who said he was “shocked” when he heard about it.

Most of us may have forgotten or have simply been unaware that at the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia, a Malaysian flag riddled with flaws was used during an awards ceremony.

In fact, the Jalur Gemilang was depicted with less than her 14 stripes.

The Indonesian media, in its take on the misdemeanour, pointed out that its own country committed similar blunders six years ago during the hosting of the Palembang games.

The country was hung out to dry by local website, pictures of mismatched flags with participating countries dotting various locations, including a bank, restaurant, hospital, university and hotel, not boding well for the organiser.

Malaysia’s Jalur Gemilang was flown upside down at the Gedung Asuransi commercial centre on Jalan Jendral Sudirman, the canton containing the crescent and 14-pointed star at the bottom.

We neither threatened to attack websites, nor lodged a protest. And we certainly didn’t get so riled up that every figurehead had to figure into the unfortunate circumstance.

Sure, the Indonesians requested an apology for the error, but to their credit, the heads of the Malaysian and Indonesian delegations firmly had their thinking hats on, and so, didn’t persist with the issue.

Granted someone, presumably a publisher hired to put the guidebook (which was distributed to VIPs during the opening ceremony) together, fumbled. It was human error, and unfortunately, a bad one.

Poor Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah Aman had to apologise for it.

If the Indonesians were upset, and legitimately so, some of us lost the plot and went further by demanding a police investigation. For goodness’ sake, it was a sloppy mistake – that’s all. Let’s not go overboard and demand for heads to roll. There are people who put their heart and soul into this work, trying to make an honest living off it.

And surely our police have more important things to do than volunteer to investigate this guidebook bungle, which is likely borne from our fear of offending the Indonesians, above all else.

Of course, there are some of us who love kicking ourselves, too. One melodramatic columnist highlighted this blunder, but mid-way through the rant, went off the rails, complaining about gangsterism in schools, the indestructible spectre of 1MDB, auditor-general’s reports and traffic jams, suggesting all is not hunky dory in this country.

That said, the headlines on cases of food poisoning aren’t covering ourselves in glory either. But even in squeaky clean Singapore, during the 2015 Games, several cyclists at Marina Bay South were dealt a similar blow.

The affected also included Singapore’s Dinah Chan who lost her women’s individual time-trial crown and had to settle for the bronze.

At the 2013 edition in Myanmar, the 29-year-old was forced to pull out of the women’s 100km/128km individual road race, also owing to less-than impeccable F&B.

Singapore’s Darren Low, who finished 9th out of 16 cyclists in the men’s individual time trial, said: “The effects of the food poisoning came in. I couldn’t concentrate. That (performance) was the best I could do.”

The point to all of this is: let’s not be too quick to shoot ourselves down. Instead, why don’t we strive to do better, be more effective and competitive, rather than spend needless time dragging Malaysia through the mud to pander to political plots? And why are some of us still struggling to differentiate between love for country and government disdain?

I agree that we should not follow the follies of others and that we should stand on the right side of things. And we must strive to see the forest for the trees.

Truth be told, the world is divided by well-meaning doers and self-serving whiners, so we should try to remain on the right side of that divide and not be plagued by negativity.

Think about it, we could be just days away from repeating history. Surely, we can come together for a common cause, one that has traditionally fused more than divided us.

Let’s unflinchingly support Team Malaysia, because they have earned and deserve it. They have made us proud of our country and for being who we are first and foremost – Malaysians. We tip our hat in sincere gratitude.

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