MALAYSIAN sports witnessed some very interesting happenings in the early days of 2019, on and off the playing field. Topping the list was, of course, the appointment of a sports-loving Sultan as the new King.
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah was initially installed as the Sultan of Pahang, and elected King a few days later.
Sultan Abdullah is by no means a new face in sports, whether in Malaysia or on the international stage, but unfortunately, a few days ago, due to his new status, His Majesty was forced to hand in his notice of resignation from the FIFA Council.
Sultan Abdullah served the FIFA Council from 2015, but in truth, he has spent close to 25 years serving FIFA in various capacities.
Sultan Abdullah was also the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president from 2014 to 2017, and in 2015, became the first Malaysian to hold a post in FIFA since the late Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah.
He also served the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for almost 15 years in various capacities. Not many are aware that during his tenure with FIFA and AFC, he implemented many grassroots programmes and development ideas, and today, one of his programmes is the key factor in the FIFA Forward programme for developing countries.
Sultan Abdullah is very much like his father, Sultan Ahmad Shah, both of whom have played an instrumental role in helming and reviving Malaysian sports such as football and hockey at different times.
I have had the privilege of personally working with Sultan Abdullah on many occasions both at FAM and the AFC, and I can say in no uncertain terms that he is a natural leader and sports is in his DNA.
Malaysia may have lost its seat in AFC and FIFA, but more importantly, the new King has a bigger role to play within the country, and that is to bring stability and fair play.
From a sports-loving King, we move on to Malaysia’s queen of squash, Datuk Nicol David, who has decided to call it a day. Not only squash fans, but all Malaysians will be sad when this amazing and much admired player from Penang does finally play her last match.
Acknowledged as the greatest women’s squash player of all time, Nicol has had an amazing playing career. She was five times British Open champion, eight times World Open champion, nine times Asian champion and twice a Commonwealth Games gold medalist, captured 81 championship titles and was World No 1 for 108 months.
I may be sticking my neck out here, but I doubt very much if we will ever see another Malaysian or Asian player breaking these records anytime soon.
The question now is who will be next after Nicol? I hope the Government and National Sports Council will learn from Nicol’s achievements to unearth another champion for the sport and the country.
In all fairness to Nicol, and in recognition of her amazing feats, there should be a tournament named after her. She has brought honour to the country. Thank you for the memories, Nicol.
And if you are in Kuala Kangsar this weekend, make it a point to catch the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK7s) rugby tournament which will see about 25 teams do battle for the NJ Ryan Cup.
I have been visiting this royal town and MCKK for the last five years to catch the tournament which carries the tagline “Premiering Talent and Sportsmanship”.
It is amazing to see the entire royal town coming together to ensure the event is successful year after year. The Malay College Old Boys Association (Mcoba) work tirelessly to put the event together. They raise their own funds and sacrifice their weekends to ensure the fans and players have an unforgettable weekend.
The MCKK7s has been such a resounding success all these years thanks to some big sponsors, but more importantly, the old boys are giving back to the college and to the sport.
This is what is lacking in Malaysian sports today. Everyone wants to run to the government for funds. If only some of the associations and clubs can come together and do what Mcoba has done for MCKK7s, I am very sure Malaysian sports would be in a better position.
Kudos to the Mcoba for their hard work and dedication towards the development of rugby.
On the local front, we have the country’s strongest Super League Team, JDT, making their mark at the Asian Champions League (ACL). They will take on Japan’s Kashima Antlers on March 5 at the Kashima Stadium, Japan.
Finally, a local club is flying the Malaysian flag at Asian level, and we hope they will do well and progress to the next stage. The hard work of Tunku Ismail is starting to bear fruit on the local and Asean fronts, but I am sure, the outspoken Prince will want the team to do better at the Asian stage.
While many are envious of what JDT have achieved over the last couple of years, the fact remains that steady leadership is needed in order for one to succeed, otherwise, the ship will not have a direction.
Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim has his team’s mechanism working like a Swiss watch and has steadily guided JDT to become a force to be reckoned with.
So, to the JDT fans out there, go and cheer on your club when the ACL matches are played at the Larkin Stadium in the weeks and months to come.
March will also see two important events for two of Malaysia’s football teams. Coach Ong Kim Swee’s players will see action at the Shah Alam Stadium in the AFC Under-23 Olympic Qualifiers and coach Tan Cheng Hoe’s charges will take on Oman, Singapore and Soloman Islands in the inaugural Airmarine Cup which will be played at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
We have some very interesting events taking place in the country, so let’s all come together to give local sports our support.Christopher Raj is chief executive officer of a sports public relations agency. Chris’ Twitter account is @chrisraj23