PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has been working tirelessly to integrate all races through his 1Malaysia concept in sports as a tool to foster national unity.
After two years of 1Malaysia, it is obvious that certain segments of society are sceptical whether the 1Malaysia concept and principles are achieving the desired objectives.
Separate language streams in primary schools hamper interaction among the various races in education and sports.
Effective interaction should be enhanced through sports having a common soccer or badminton team or a common sports day in schools. If not, the gaps will only widen and result in suspicion in the absence of shared moral values.
In the 50s, 60s and early 70s, sports teams were well represented by all Malaysians because opportunities were given, and Malaysian sportsmen fared well at international competitions.
Malaysia was a powerhouse in athletics in Asia, and at the 1966 Asian Games in Bangkok we won five gold medals in track and
field through Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan (100m and 200m), Datuk M. Rajamani (women’s 400m) and Datuk Nashatar Singh (javelin) and the 4x100m quartet comprising Mohd Ariffin, G. Rajalingam, Tambu Krishnan and Tan Sri Dr Jegathesan.
In soccer, at the Asian Games in Teheran in 1973, we were well represented by a strong team that comprised the best talent of all races. Malaysia captured the bronze medal.
With such talents as the late Datuk R. Arumugam, Datuk Soh Chin Aun, Datuk Santokh Singh, the late Datuk Mokhtar Dahari, Isa Bakar, Datuk Namat Abdullah, Reduan Abdullah, Wong Choon Wah, Sharuddin Abdullah, Syed Ahmad and Wong Kam Choon we qualified for the 1972 Munich and 1980 Moscow Olympics.
In the 1975 World Cup Hockey in Kuala Lumpur, we finished fourth.
The line-up included goalkeeper Khairuddin Zainal, Datuk N. Sri Shanmuganathan, A. Francis, Wong Choon Hin, K. Balasingam, S. Balasingam, R. Ramakrishnan, Datuk Poon Fook Loke, M. Mahendran, Franco D’cruz, R. Pathmarajah, N. Palanisamy, Len Olivero, Yang Siow Meng, Brian Sta Maria.
This was the highest finish ever for hockey, and the whole nation was cheeering when Malaysia beat top team Holland 2-1 at the Kilat Club to qualify for the semi-finals. In the semi-finals we lost 3-2 to India in extra time.
In badminton, Wong Peng Soon, Abdullah Pirus, Ismail Marjan, Ong Poh Lin, Ng Kok Liong, Datuk Eddy Choong, Tan Aik Mong and Tan Aik Huang, Abdul Rahman, Datuk Punch Gunalan, Datuk Tan Yee Khan and Ng Boon Bee ruled the badminton world in the 50s and 60s.
The raw talents were nurtured and developed from the various states by local coaches, while our national soccer team was coached by foreign coaches, badminton by our own local coaches and later foreign coaches in the 90s, the 1975 hockey team was coached by the late Datuk Ho Koh Chye and Mohd Sidek.
Our players and athletes over the years were proud to represent the country without any incentive or reward.
The sportsmen demonstrated discipline, teamwork, unity, perseverance and dedication to bring glory to the nation unconditionally.
Today, the challenges in sports are different. Parents are reluctant to encourage their children to take up sports. The focus of parents is on academic excellence. They want their children to have a secure future through education.
If Malaysia wants to excel in sports, the Youth and Sports Ministry needs to nurture and identify raw talents like in the 50s and 60s where talents came from the clubs, estates and small towns.
The best talents represented the country irrespective of race, colour or creed. All represented the country with pride and passion.
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