Sunday, January 31, 2010

Champions at last... But it wasn't just about the hockey.

It should be about perseverance paying off, but what transpired in the NPC-Milo Inter-Media 9-a-Side Hockey & Netball Championships 2010 at Kelab Aman on Jan 23 made me think again.
Well it could be because our NST "A" team, which I led, emerged champions in hockey. It tasted so sweet that we're still talking about it in the office. It ended my personal nine-year wait since I joined the NST, to win something in any inter-media tournament, and in any sport.
Futsal is the sport most actively played in our company, NSTP, ever since we've had that court up on the rooftop. But the editorial team I represent had began as whipping boys. In the early years, it was hard to lift our spirits to wake up in the mornings and go to tournaments simply because we knew we'd be knocked out in the first round. And we were usually right.
In the inter-department 9-a-side football competition, we were just there for the fun of it all. We couldn't even begin to think of sending a team for inter-media tournaments.
But we began to pull our socks up about three years ago. I needed to shed weight and get really active myself, after allowing myself to be consumed by the job since i joined and never really bothered to go out and play for about six years. As a result, I'd become fat beyond my imagination and so unfit that the beginning was very painful.
When the company provided a gym at the office, my first treadmill session lasted just 10 minutes and I was huffing and puffing like a hungry monster. This definitely was not the kid who never had a problem jogging 10 laps or more around the school football field. This man weighed almost a hundred kilos, when his optimum weight is 71.
Well, getting active again was the easy part because I was used to it. In school we played everything. Football, hockey, badminton, tennis, sepak takraw, table tennis, handball, volleyball, basketball, simply everything there was to play.
My dad was my hockey mentor and also my opponent in squash, badminton and tennis. My mom was a hockey player too, so she loved it so much when I played that both of them would stop by the school to watch our morning training sessions before they went to work when I was in primary school.
And once I got active again, it just simply never stopped. I found the energy to do more and more and more. Life just turned exciting, even if I'm living it alone.
I shuffled between work and play so happily. I just couldn't stop this party. I wanted to climb every mountain, ride every road, beat every opponent. I keep wanting to do more. I want to get everybody to join the party.. hahaha..
Things started looking better in all the tournaments we played. In futsal, these days we at least make it past the first round in any inter-media or inter-department tournament. In hockey, last year we merely missed out on a spot in the final on penalty strokes against the eventual champions.
It was also no problem working on the organising committee for the Jan 23 tournament with a really good team, while getting the NST hockey and netball teams, as well as the NPC netball team organised for it, then play in the tournament too.
I'm telling you, that win in the final against the NST "B" team which comprised all the stars of our NSTP Inter-Department hockey tournament showed me that it pays to get your heart-rate up and keep yourself active.
Of course, the team did it, not me alone. But I wouldn't have been half as good a contribution to the team as their goalkeeper, if I'd not gone back to my old ways three years ago.
These days, I leave a competition not thinking about going home, but about when and what we're playing next. I'm no pro athlete, but I sure am enjoying this life.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Let it rip!

I must say I've usually been quite impressed by the enthusiasm shown by some of the women folk at the New Straits Times when it comes to sport.
Just over a year ago, we got some of them to put on their futsal shoes and take on the best of the media world in the NPC Inter-Media Futsal Championships in 2008. They actually comitted to a month-long training regime under makeshift coach Nelson Fernandez @ Ridzwan Abdullah. My colleague Nelson's tactical know-how, I must also say, is not by any means sub-standard, as he molded that team into eventual champions.
You won't imagine how it felt to have coaxed the likes of Regina Lee and Evangeline Majawat to actually buy pairs of futsal shoes for the first time in their lives and then watch them lift the trophy, beating the likes of the seasoned Harian Metro girls, who had at that time competed regularly in inter-media and open competitions. Not only that, we had Sharifah Omar emerge top scorer and Jasmine Shadique the player of the tournament.
This time, we start of the NPC Inter-Media Games with the 9-a-side Hockey and Netball Championships at Kelab Aman on Saturday (Jan 23). It was former NPC president and current advisor Mokhtar Hussain's idea to hold the two sports simultaneously at the same venue, so as to create a carnival atmosphere. Well, I usually have a lot of trouble saying no to Mokhtar. So, off the ground this plan got and we're just days away from making it a reality.
It has been again, a big headache trying to get these women to just commit to representing the company. So many turned me down.
I only managed to secure the commitment of a core group of some of the newer staff like Natasha Ilyas and Halimatul Saadiah. Thank God, Sharifah Arfah who is from the same batch that entered NST through the great PETS 11 bunch of 2001, was on the same wavelength as I was and just as excited about this whole thing.
Just four turned up for the team's first training session yesterday evening. Incredibly, our receptionist Sumathi, who was so living in denial, actually came to watch, then decided to change into sporting attire and join in the fun. At the end of the session, I think she was pumped up about being in the competition.
It was so much like that 'old' futsal team, that were a bunch of naysayers at first, but then turned out to be the most disciplined, most enthusiastic, most excited bunch once the action started. Can you imagine, I actually dragged Halimah to the sports shop in Lucky Garden and forced her to buy a new set when she said she forgot to bring her attire!
Here she is in the brand new kit!

Sharifah (Omar) took charge of the training session which saw both the NST "A" and NST "B" teams together for the first time. Well, most of them at least. Natasha proved to be more than a handful inside the semi-circle and the rest of the team promised to show up training the next day.
This is mad. They just have two days. But I guess, enthusiasm could prove a vital element in ensuring this turns out to be a success for NST.
As for the hockey team, their goalkeeper is caught up with organising duties and was spotted recording the netball team on video. The first plan is for everybody to just show up on time at Kelab Aman on Saturday. We'll take it from there.
In any case, if you've got too much free time with nothing more interesting to do on Saturday, do show up at Kelab Aman in Ampang. I'm sure you'll at least be entertained. If your not too particular about the standards of hockey and netball.

Majulah Sukan Untuk Negara!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

This GANG will be together forever

Well, complete with an exco line-up led by the first Datuk in our clan, a group of old buddies of mine got together and formed what, scary as it may seem, they wished to call the Gang of Subang (GoS).
We've even got a website HERE.
In keeping up with the hectic runabout (not exactly jet-set) type of life as a budding sports writer, I sort of veered off course the past nine years or so and forgot the joys of having this bunch alongside me as we faced everything life threw at us growing up together in Subang Jaya.
Reconnecting with the clan was good. It began about two months ago. Anis Syahrein, Jeffree Shahrizal, Muzaffar Muhammad, Saiful Azmi Khalid and Azhar Halim all have the same faces as those 10-year olds I first got to know.
Thanks to information from best buddy Azlin Mazhar, that tea session in SS15 I joined in October immediately reminded me of the days we'd meet every morning for hockey training, after which we'd agree with the likes of R. Letchumanan and Shamsul Azeri to head for the then still popular Taman Subang Ria watersports centre, where we'd go canoeing and stuff like that.
Jeffree, who was very popular with the girls, was also a legend as early as when we were in Standard Five, as some of us witnessed him creating history with his hands. I shall stop at that.
When we had football training, the likes of future stars such as Asmawi Bakiri would come over to my home to shower before we went to school in the afternoon when we were in Standard Six. So you imagine the pride in all of us when he walked up to collect his first Malaysia Cup winners medal in 1997, playing for OUR team Selangor, who beat Pahang 1-0 through a dramatic extra-time goal kneed in from the brink of going out by David Mitchell.
Each and every day of our childhood was an adventure. And we were a mischievous bunch.
The holy month of Ramadhan would bring us all out at night. Back then Subang Jaya was a peaceful neighbourhood, unlike the madness it symbolises today. Roads were so clear, you might even have considered the place rural. We could ride our bicycles all over town, without our parents even having the slightest fear in allowing us to do so.
Well, if only they knew what we were up to. I'm sure all would remember those police-and-thief games on bicycles that covered the whole of Subang Jaya, with one of the arched entries at the Masjid Darul Ehsan being the 'jail'. The 'thieves' would be riding like crazy with 'police' in hot pursuit. There were easily more than 30 of us involved in these nightly Ramadhan games. And if some thought they could disappear in the crowds at the pasar malam... Well, let's just say the havoc we created with 'thieves' frantically whizzing through crowds with 'police' on tow, helped the crowds at the pasar malams disappear.
The town was an enclave surrounded by oil palms, rubber trees and tin mines. Subang Jaya was an oasis. Our oasis. And who could forget that oasis in the middle of the oil palm estate that served as our river resort. Haha... We enjoyed many a splash there, I can tell you.
We would gather at the school padang each evening to play football, sometimes hockey, which were the favourite games of most of our clan. Lee How Seng, Jason Chua and Jason Tan would often be found at the SMSJ basketball court, a stone's throw away from my home. Walk down the road, I'd find the plump figure of Marcus Choy in his BBP14, the old Toyota Starlet he drove around when he was just 15. Fadhil Manan was a son of a policeman and also our classmate, so he was our contact in case we got into too much trouble.
Walk the other way any evening, you'd likely find Sheikh Shahril, Nazri Mokhtar, Ritesh Singh and the clan that lived closer to SRK Subang Jaya, charting mischief from the meeting point we all commonly termed as "Bridge".
You see, everywhere we turned, around every corner, we'd more than likely bump into friends. That was the close-knit community that Subang Jaya was in those days.
From the video games arcade age, to the age of the snooker parlours, then internet cafes, the tea dances at Picadilly, we went through it all together.
So, having so many of those faces I never forget all around me at the National Press Club for our reunion last Saturday (Jan 9), brought about this overwhelming feeling of pride in having so many who actually cared to come and at least look up each other although all have more than their hands full with crazy mind-boggling jobs, even crazier kids and the old spouse things. I'm just having the first of the three for now, thanks. But these friends, I want to keep.
A promise we made to each other was that we'd stay in touch. I think we meant forever.

Friday, January 8, 2010

LTdL 2010?

Been nosing around as usual.
Latest feedback from some contacts and some connections with the major teams in cycling say that Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) 2010, which is set to run under the organisation of the Ministry of Youth and Sports from March 1 to 7, will likely have its weakest field since the inaugural edition in 1996.
Worst of all is the absence of ever present Diquigiovanni-Androni Gioccatoli team of charismatic directeur sportif Gianni Savio. Savio has indicated that the defending champions, who won their second consecutive overall title through Jose Serpa last year, will not be coming as they haven't been paid their dues from 2008.
Without to date a single Pro Tour team having agreed to ride in this year's race, this already is a big slap in the face for Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek and the main people behind the race this time around, namely Sports Ministry secretary general Datuk Mohd Yassin Salleh, his deputy Datuk Mohid Mohamed and their appointed head honcho Zulkifli Khalil.
But it isn't just that. The line-up for this year's race as it is, could see just Asian and Australian continental teams riding the race, apart from the South African national team.
This would likely also be the poorest field in the UCI hors categorie race (2.HC) anywhere in the world. So much for wanting to be part of the Pro Tour.
A little bird told me that even the Ukrainian-backed, Italian registered pro continental team ISD who are the only team to have had solid contact with the organisers over an appearance in the race, have not given their full commitment. This little bird, I hope for the sake of the race, could be wrong.
Thus, on the positive side, this would be the best chance for a Malaysian rider to achieve the first ever stage win by a local in the race. But whether it is as meaningful as it would have been when the field was from a field worthy of the 2.HC status of the race, will be up to you to decide.
I just continue to fail to understand why there is so much continued politicking in Malaysian cycling and everybody from the MNCF to the Ministry seems to have a hand in it. Together, as 1Malaysia, they continue to destroy it all.