Saturday, November 22, 2008

Azizul and something we've never tasted

Just got off the phone with Azizulhasni Awang in Melbourne tonight.
I missed the 20-year old's keirin gold medal in the UCI World Cup in Melbourne a night earlier. It wasn't just the country's first World Cup gold medal ever, the kid from Dungun might even be the smallest gold medallist in the history of the World Cup.
I only got the message while seated at 1am in NPC, just as the notorious Laych said her goodbyes for the night.

Nobody did understand my joy as I read the sms that told me Azizul had won a gold medal. Guess nobody cares too much for a gold medal in cycling at the world stage. He's no Nicol David.

"Slow, slow la bang," Azizul exclaimed as I suggested it could be time for him to think about becoming world champion. To do that, he'd have to bring up his form up and stay out of trouble all the way to the World Championships in Pruskow, Poland at the end of March next year. There he'd have to beat Chris Hoy, the tank of a Brit who was just too powerful for the pint-sized Azizul when they faced off in the 200m sprint quarterfinals at the Olympics.

This pic above coloured most dailies around the country during the Olympics. Hoy clenched his fists in celebration after ousting the surprise package of the Games, Azizul.

Hoy was just about the only real big name not present at the Melbourne World Cup. He's busy preparing to race against a car. He's obviously faster than any tank around.

But Hoy's 30 already. His time at the top is trickling away. That Malaysian behind him in the picture, you must note, has added accolade upon accolade to his profile, the World Cup gold being the latest.

Imagine, just two years ago, he'd won the sprint treble of keirin, 200m sprint and 1km time trial at the Asian Junior Championships. In 2007, he moved up to senior ranks and won the Asian Championships keirin gold medal. This year, he became 200m sprint and keirin Asian champion, while qualifying for his first Olympics and now has gone a step further and won a gold at the World Cup. He just can't stop. That excites me.

By now, if you still don't know who Hoy's replacement as prince of the velodrome is gonna be, ask Azizul.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Fairuz Fauzy was running out of options at the end of last season. His family had already paid a bill almost "enough to build a sports complex" to develop his career for the past 10 years. Now more was needed if he was to go further and no help was coming.
Offers came from Formula One teams, but none were going to put him right into a race seat without him having to invest to prove his worth.
Millions more were needed if he wanted to prove himself in either GP2 or the Formula Renault 3.5 World Series, even GP2 Asia.
His only other option, A1 Team Malaysia.
This is not Formula One, neither is it a feeder series. This is the business of bringing glory to your country.
Look where Fairuz has put us now. After Round Two in Chengdu today, Malaysia sits atop the championship standings, five points clear of the best of the rest in Ireland and France.
Can't wait for the next round at Sepang!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

R.I.P. Kasim Cha Tong @ "Mr. Kap"

Pic stolen from Shanghai Fish.

"You remember my friend Kasim Cha Tong? The white haired guy from Golok?" Dino Pasqual Herrera asked when we met at the NPC last night.
Yes, of course, the guy who'd suddenly go virtually silent in the midst of a heated conversation when his phone rings. All we'd see and hear then would be nods and a soft,"Kap...kap...kap," plus some strained whispering in Thai. Hence I coined a little nick for him, Mr. Kap. He didn't seem to mind. Lately he sure didn't look anything like the guy in that mugshot (above) that appeared in most dailies today.
"He was shot in Golok this evening. Some bugger just shot him in the back and ran away. Pity the bugger," Dino went on... A few minutes later a duo from the Malay Mail arrived and their photographer snapped Dino's mugshot. Off they went to complete what came out SO in the paper this afternoon.
Though I didn't really get to know to the late Kasim intimately, we did chat on various occasions as he'd regularly visit the NPC in Jalan Tangsi each time he came down to KL. Sometimes he'd stay till late and he even joined Dino and myself for supper once, or twice, probably even three times.
The NST did the best take on the murder of this anti-piracy legend HERE, amidst conflicting stories in various papers today. I'll remember this guy not for his anti-piracy endeavours, but as the guy from Sungai Golok, who painted a different, more humane, more loving picture of the town revered for everything wrong North of the East Coast border. Of course, he was born in Sungai Golok. And there he died.
May his soul rest in peace.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Pic taken from NSTOnline
THE NPC-GAB Inter-Media Futsal Championships 2008 at the Sports Barn in PJ yesterday ended on a high for all of us at the New Straits Times. Get the story HERE.

We walk into the office today knowing that Balai Berita is home to not only the men's but also the women's inter-media champions from the biggest inter-media tourney in the country this year - there were 16 men's teams and five women's teams contesting the tourney, which yours truly was in charge of organising as NPC exco member.

The girls, coached by Ridzwan Abdullah @ Nelson Fernandez and Leslie Andres were surprising. This was the first time most of them even played futsal. Hell, they'd started playing just a little more than a week prior to the tournament. But if you needed an example of discipline, you should have showed up at Sports Barn yesterday and watched them. Each and every one of them stuck to the strategy, kept their positions throughout and played their hearts out. They deserve every bit of the success.

In the men's section, we fielded two teams, NST 'A' and NST 'B'.. NST 'A' was a team comprising editorial staff and we were lucky just to make the quarterfinals, although we played badly to get knocked out by Bernama there. NST 'B' comprised our photographers, office boys, finance and HR staff. NST 'B' was the team we'd hoped would go far in the tournament and they proved us right.

They are the ones who fully utilise the sporting facilities available at Balai Berita, like our gym, futsal court and so on. They've been taking it very seriously, like the guy Mohd Shahir Othman, who was named player of the tournament. He's even had a strength and endurance training programme for the past year. These guys deserve it for all the hard work they put in. They beat a Malaysia Nanban team that had raised numerous doubts from most participating teams, as some had stated that their players were not staff of the paper. Our eyes and ears on the ground too (well, most of us are journalists and this is our bread and butter) got closer to them and sure enough some of their players leaked out information that just two of their 10 players registered were staff of Malaysia Nanban. So, they should feel really disappointed at losing 3-2 to a TRUE BLUE newspaper team in the final. I surely hope they look into reviving the spirit of sportsmanship at their newspaper.

Sure there were lots of complaints. I had a tough time trying to appease friends, while maintaining a strict adherence to the rules. None were as serious as the Malaysia Nanban issue. We'd relaxed the rule and opened up the tournament to non-NPC members, so long as players were employed by media organisations this time around, but still some people saw it as a chance to cheat. What use is there having a tournament to strengthen the bonds and friendships within our media fraternity, when you bring in people who have nothing to do with us, just prizemoney on their minds. It is like inviting the taxi driver to your family dinner. He just wants you to settle the fare, but he'll take the food too.

It was my first time doing such a thing. Hope it all turned out well for everybody and that I didn't lose any friendships.

Special thanks to Datuk Dina Rizal of SportsUnite, Ng Ping Loong of Nestle, Tang Kok Wai of Figos, Datuk Kamal of F&N, Herman Shah of Sports Barn, our National Press Club president Mokhtar Hussain, vice president Joe Fernando, club manager Stephen Francis, clubhouse caterer SB Loy, our Herbalife agent, good friend and complimentary emcee services provider Tony Gayondato and all the friends who helped us make this happen.