Discipline and dedication are second nature to Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria.
That comes with being the son of not one, but two school teachers!
“My parents are teachers. So, can you imagine my life growing up!” he said at the Tropicana Corporation Berhad office, where he is the deputy chairman of the board of directors.
“I’m grateful to them because without being grounded with good teachings at home, I won’t be who I am today,” added the 49-year-old Norza, who is a chartered accountant from the Malaysia Institute of Accountants.
Norza has accomplished much – both in the corporate and sports world.
He rose from the ranks in the corporate world and is now the chairman of the audit committee in four public-listed companies and is also on the board of directors of a few others.
In sports, he is the National Sports Institute (NSI) chairman, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) deputy president, the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Association (KLBA) president, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) treasurer and the Kiara Polo Club president.
“What I’ve learnt the most being “anak cikgu” is to lead by example,” said Norza.
And it was this “practice what you preach” trait that led him to doing such a good job as chef de mission.
Norza took the chef de mission job seriously. Months before the Games began, Norza held meetings and seminars as well as open and transparent discussions with team managers, athletes and all the stake holders.
During the Games, he was up and about from 8am-11.30pm from June 2-17.
He clearly wasn’t the type who only shows up when athletes win medals!
He kept a check on all the team managers – either meeting them individually or sending them messages and constant sound bytes via WhatsApp – always encouraging and motivating.
Although the athletes were scattered in 18 different hotels, not one sport felt left out.
“As a first-timer myself, the initial challenge as chef de mission was how to galvanize the whole thing. The pre-planning and professionalism were crucial to getting it right,” he said.
“We didn’t want team managers to be tourists. Anyone in sport must lead by example. Our main objective was to provide first-class services to the athletes. Without the athletes, we are nobody.
“The first goal was to eliminate all kinds of administration issues from the athletes’ mind. We wanted them to focus only on giving their best.”
In fact, during the final five-day motivation camp before the SEA Games, none of the 500-odd athletes dropped out (like they used to previously!). New motivational speakers and a new song (Kuasa Juara by KRU) were introduced. The war cry was relevant to athletes from all the different backgrounds.
“At the SEA Games, I had two deputies – Dr S. Shamala and Peter Chee. I’m colour blind. No one received special treatment, no matter how successful or different they were,” said Norza.
All these changes saw Malaysia not only enjoy one of the best SEA Games results outside of the country – winning 62-58-66 medals. But the best part was that there were none of the embarrassing issues of indiscipline or doping in Singapore.
I’m not an opportunist
For Norza, being open and transparent is also important, especially since he has been criticised for holding too many positions in sports.
“I do hear people saying that I wear too many hats and am power crazy. I have no political ambitions,” he said.
“It’s time to give back to society, to the public and leave a legacy in sports. I have no hidden agendas.
“As the NSI chairman, I was able to thrust sports science as an integral part of athletes’ preparation for the SEA Games. We had 60 NSI staff in Singapore. Every sport benefited from it.
“I was able to make it work despite the limited resources because I was in position to do so. But rest assured I will not hang on to these positions.
“I’m not an opportunist ... but I’ve been given an opportunity to help Malaysian sports, so why not give my best?,” added Norza in explaining the request by OCM president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar to contest the deputy president’s post.
So, what does he hope to change in the OCM?
“There should not be a situation where politics is more important than sport. I can be there to provide new ideas, professionalism in governance and organisation,” he said.
“I also call for maturity. It’s time to put sports first. Our athletes are our assets. It’s time for each of us to ask ourselves whether we are still relevant to the organisation.
“We cannot dwell on past glory. We cannot look forward to sporting success without putting in effort and precision planning. We need all parties to rise to the occasion.”
Not one to shy away from responsibilities and challenges, Norza said: “I’m ready to learn. We can do it ... if we do it the right way.”