Remembering Hasbullah

IT was during the Thomas Cup final match between Malaysia and Japan and I was watching the game in office.

Needless to say, many eyes were glued to the television, as the nation waited with bated breath for Thomas Cup glory after 25 years.

Half of us wanted to watch RTM1, which featured the commentary of Datuk Hasbullah Awang while the other half wanted to watch the “more sophisticated” English commentary.

There was a kind of tug-of-war and switching of channels that went on. For me, personally, it had to be Hasbullah’s voice and no other. The game ended with RTM1 but Malaysia, unfortunately, lost to Japan.

Sadly too, that was the last time many of us heard Hasbullah’s voice live on television.

He passed away at the age of 63 of heart disease on Feb 12.

Hasbullah’s commentary pumped you up and made me believe that victory was coming. It didn’t matter if Malaysia were playing Germany in football or Australia in hockey.

You just believed.   

It also didn’t matter that Hasbullah made mistakes (and he made lots of them) while commentating.

I can still remember a match featuring Venezuela. I can’t remember which tournament it was exactly bit it was in either 1999 or 2001 and throughout the match, Hasbullah called Venezuela as “Filipina”.

After the game was over, he solemnly said, “Sebenarnya tuan-tuan dan puan-puan, bukan Filipina tetapi Venezuela.” (Actually, it isn’t Filipina but Venezuela).

But we are all used to it already. After all, how many times had we heard the words “sebenarnya”  (actually) or “saying sekali” (unfortunately)?

Or what about “goal … oh tidak”  (goal … oh, actually not).

What was in could be out, and what was out could be in. That was Hasbullah.

Even in that last Thomas Cup final, there was the customary “dalam … oh tidak” (it’s in … oh, actually not).

While doing my research for this article, I found that it was Hasbullah’s commentary that accompanied Cheah Soon Kit and Soo Beng Kiang’s winning point in the 1992 Thomas Cup Final.

Millions of Malaysians were accustomed to his intonations and witty remarks; his flowery language and how he could link just about anything to what was happening on the field of play.  

There’s an article online that lists Hasbullah’s 15 best quotes and the truth is, I could not help but cry with laughter.

An my favourite of those is certainly “Ahhhhh sayang peluang di depan gol dipersia-siakan oleh pemain yang berasal dari Kajang ... bersekolah di Taiping dan dibesarkan di Johor ... mendapat 8A dalam SPM dan makanan kegemaran nasi ayam …” (Ahhhh, a chance wasted in front of goal by the player from Kajang …who went to school in Taiping and grew up in Johor …He got 8As in SPM and his favourite food is chicken rice …).

His voice was infectious and his mistakes were amusing. But it was his spirit that captured the hearts and minds of Malaysians.

One thing I do know is that local sports commentary will not be the same without him. YNWA sir.

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