MPs, the ball is really in your court now


An attempt to unite the races – like in the old days – is in the hands of four sporting MPs whose goal may be obscure, but not within reach.

TOMORROW, four MPs get hauled to court – a basketball court.

Khairy Jamaluddin, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Gan Ping Sieu and P. Kamalanathan are going to turn cagers in a 3-on-3 tournament at Berjaya Times Square in Kuala Lumpur.

MPs playing basketball?

I can live with that.

Beats having basket cases as MPs, anytime.

And besides courting the voters, they may be doing some good, like proving a point or two – that sports belongs to all.

And that it’s a great unifier.

Of course, it would have been nice if they had roped in a few reps from the other side, but that may be too much to ask.

I don’t know their real intentions but I guess they chose basketball because it’s often seen as a sport dominated by one race.

The Chinese in the country are the ones who excel in it, with guys like former national captain K. Satyaseelan being more of an inevitable exception to the rule.

Even in the United States, where African Americans dominate, a Chinese stole the show. The recently retired Yao Ming was bigger – and taller – than most others.

And he had more than a billion Chinese rooting for him as well.

But we digress. Back to our MPs.

The point they are trying to make – about sports bringing people together – is a valid one. And not just in basketball.

Last Sunday, in Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya, there was a sports carnival.

Some 300 primary school children turned out for the Milo “Play More Learn More” carnival.

It was a great show of togetherness in a place that shot to fame – or infamy – in 2001 when an ugly, bloody incident rocked the nation.

It was an incident that left at least six dead, scores injured and racial unity in tatters.

Here, 10 years on, children who were babies during the incident were playing happily together. Or were they, really?

Of the 20 football teams that took part, only one was multi-racial.

All the others and the 12 netball teams comprised solely of one race.

They played with each other, against one another, but not together. Really sad!

That’s not unity.

That’s pen-“insular” Malaysia – when we come out of our comfort zones, laugh, play, interact and then retreat into our own tribal exclusive zones.

It makes one yearn for the days of old. When you could rattle off the names of the Malaysian football team – V. Arumugam, M. Chandran, Santokh Singh, Wong Choon Wah, Soh Chin Aun, Shukor Salleh, Mokhtar Dahari, Shaha­ruddin Abdullah, Isa Bakar, Hasan Sani and James Wong.

Those were teams that had everything – skills, brilliance, Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sabahans and Sarawakians.

(Of course, I often wonder what stock the stocky Bawandi Hiralal was of.)

In athletics, who can forget Mumtaz Jaafar, V. Angamah, Saik Oik Cum and Zaiton Othman flying off the blocks, leaving their opponents struggling in their wake? Precious!

Or the hockey team of 1975. Poon Fook Loke, Khairuddin Zainal, M. Mahendran, Sri Shanmuganathan, Brian Sta Maria, Len Oliveiro, Franco D’Cruz and Mohd Azrai Zain. A truly great Malaysian team!

Thus, the efforts of the four MPs is one to be lauded, indeed.

While religion, race, politics and even culture can rend us apart, it is sports that can really bring us together.

It is for the Lee Chong Weis, Nicol Davids and the Shalin Zulkiflis that we really forget our tribalism and cheer together.

And in a fast globalising world, we do need to join hands as one.

Of course, a few minutes of huffing and puffing on a basketball court by a bunch of MPs from the same side of the political divide is not going to make us all suddenly get up and hug each other and start sharing our meals.

Nor is half a day of having kids kick a Size 4 ball at each other on a muddy pitch.

But like the cautious treading of those kids over muddy patches, both the efforts of the MPs and Milo’s Sports Camp are baby steps to the ultimate goal.

That we can all be truly Malaysians, and be proud of being one.

Or, at the very least, put aside those political, racial and religious bigotries for a while.

> The writer is planning to take the one multi-racial team in the camp under his wings and hopes to mould a team for the future – one that we can all be proud of.

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