PETALING JAYA: Settling down in a new country with a completely different culture can be daunting and unnerving.
National junior squash coach Andrew Cross can attest to that, having arrived on Malaysian shores eight years ago from England.
Cross was only 21 then. Fresh from graduating with a degree in economics, he jumped at the opportunity to see the world.
It was former national head coach and compatriot Jamie Hickox who offered Cross the job coaching the Malaysian juniors.
But Cross struggled in his first year in Malaysia and the cultural differences and language barrier did not make things any easier.
“It definitely wasn’t the best start as I struggled with so many things,” said Cross who celebrated his 29th birthday on Sunday.
“Honestly, I got a culture shock. The Malaysian players think and do things differently compared to their counterparts in England.
“In fact, I was ready to pack my bags and go home in the first year,” he added.
Fortunately for Cross, he met his girlfriend Tracy Lim during the difficult period. And it made settling down a lot easier for him.
He began to enjoy his work, taking charge of the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) juniors and helping mould players like Ng Eain Yow, Mohd Syafiq Kamal and Rachel Arnold.
“I met Tracy in 2008 during the KL Open dinner. If it weren’t for Tracy, I would have left after a year. Despite taking a job miles away from home, I really wasn’t the most adventurous guy. I had trouble clicking with the players under my charge then.
“Tracy though convinced me that there were a lot more to look forward to in Malaysia and I’ve no regrets since,” said Cross.
Today, Cross feels at home in Malaysia. He has even picked up several typical Malaysian traits.
“What I really like about being in Malaysia is that there is really so much variety. There is a really good mix of culture and it makes the work here very good too,” said Cross.
“Here I can play futsal until 3am in the morning. No one does that in England!
“The food here is also very good. Teh ais is currently my favourite drink because it’s so interesting. No one puts ice in a hot drink in England.
“And right now my favourite food is lady’s fingers cooked with sambal belacan. You can’t find food like that in England.
So is Cross staying here for good?
“Malaysia’s definitely home now. I had a tough time here earlier in my career, but now I’m determined to prove myself as a coach here.
“I’m still working on my Bahasa. I can have a decent conversation with people on the street now.
“And I know it may be weird coming from a non-Malaysian, but I am completely comfortable with the Malaysian ‘lah’ slang.
“I use it so much, even when in England visiting my parents. Sometimes they just give me a weird stare,” said Cross.
For Cross, his proudest day is to see his charges make it through in world squash.
He was instrumental in helping Eain Yow win three different age-group titles at the prestigious British Junior Open.
Under Cross’ guidance, Malaysia have won numerous titles. Malaysia bagged both the team golds – boys and girls – at the Asian Youth Games two year ago. Malaysia also emerged champions – boys and girls – at the Asian Junior Team Championships in February this year.
Besides Eain Yow, Rachel has also made a name for herself. The 19-year-old bagged two golds – individual and team – at the singapore SEA Games last month.
“At the end of the day when you see a player you’ve been coaching since 13 grow up and become a fine young adult and player, it is worth the stay,” concluded Cross.
Name: Andrew Sam Cross
Age: 29 (19.7.1986)
Profession: Squash coach
Marital status: Single (but not available)
In Malaysia since: September 2007
Food: Lady’s fingers cooked with sambal belacan
Drink: Teh ais
Holiday destination: Pulau Perhentian
Pastime: Football, futsal and golf
TV Programmes: NRL (Australian Rugby League) and Person of Interest
Movie: Any war films
- I’m a Leeds United supporter.
- Chicken rice was the first meal I had in Malaysia. I still eat that all the time.
- Spent an entire night speaking with Mohd Syafiq Kamal’s father in Bahasa – despite his strong Kelantanese accent!
- I like places where I can buy one and get one free.
- Kuantan is probably my kampung in Malaysia since I go there at least four times a year.
- My most frequently used Bahasa phrase is probably ‘cepat sikitlah’ when giving out quick instructions in between matches.
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