Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Penang was once a feared football force

AWESOME: For a long time, Penang was highly respected as one of the top four in the Malaya Cup and inter-state football. It was up there alongside kingpins Selangor and Singapore, as well as northern rival, Perak. 


The glory days of Penang football.


Today, teams like Kuala Terengganu T-Team, PKNS, Sime Darby FC, Felda United, Muar MC, Pos Malaysia, Police and Betaria are holding their own against established state teams in the Super League and Premier League but Penang is, sadly, no longer around, laments A. Shukor Rahman
For the past  few years, Penang football has gone MIA (missing in action).

To many local fans, the Penang state team no longer exists. Some say the team has long been dead and gone.
Yet I can still recall an era spanning the 1950s to the 70s when Penang was among the top teams in inter-state football.

Today, the "Keramat roar" is just a memory and the City Stadium has only been hosting athletics meets and social functions.
There are reports that the Football Association of Penang (FAP) still owes a whopping sum to the Penang Island Municipal Council, the stadium owners.

Even the Datuk Keramat Padang, for many years the popular venue for Third Division matches, today stands forlorn -- only good for holding pasar malam.

The 1950s saw Penang producing players such as the country's first Olympian, Yeap Cheng Eng, Yeang Kah Chong, Tan Swee Hock, Wong Kam Poh, Yap Hin Hean, Liew Fee Yuen, Lee Ah Loke, the Pang brothers -- Siang Teik and Siang Hock, Aziz Ahmad, Ariff Ariffin, the Chuah brothers -- Poh Aun and Poh Beng, P. Murad, Buang Rawi, Shaikh Omar Isa, Djamal Djanas and Jalil Che Din.
The 1960s saw the arrival of Ibrahim Mydin, M. Kuppan, Ishak Ahmad, G. Vasu, James Raju, Boey Cheong Liam, Zain Rahman, Said Salleh, Yeap Kim Hock, Koay Ban Chuan, A. Arumugam, Latiff Aziz, Ahmad Musa, Teo Peng Chooi and Hassanuddin Harun.

In the early 1960s, winger S. Govindarajoo could not break into the Penang team but became a star with Selangor.

Another Penang-born winger, Abdul Rahman Daie, was only chosen for Penang after making a name for himself playing in Singapore, followed by a stint in Perak.

Since the early 1950s, the tall and well-built Aziz Ahmad was a real menace as centre-forward with his powerful shots and deadly headers and was Penang's top goal-getter in 1953 and 1954.
He scored the winning goal when Penang defeated Singapore 3-2 in the 1953 Malaya Cup final in Ipoh.

He was past his prime in October 1963, but still helped himself to seven goals when Penang trounced Perlis 13-0 in a Malaysia Cup tie at the City Stadium.
The good-looking Siang Teik started as an inside forward for the state and was the "brains" behind practically every attack.

A veteran of several campaigns, he was the most seasoned player in the team by 1961, and moved back to the heart of the defence.

He took over as captain when Cheng Eng retired and proved to be an inspiring skipper.
The early 1960s also saw a glittering array of "stars".
Selangor had Abdul Ghani, Arthur Koh, S. Lourdes, Abdullah Noordin, Edwin Dutton, Stanley Gabriel, and Govindarajoo.

Perak had goalkeeper Yusof Bakar, Yee Seng Choy, Ahmad Nazari, Kamaruddin Ahmad, Foo Fook Chuan, Kabri Yusof and Hamzah Hakim.
Kedah had Osman Ali, Syed Hood and Lim Ban Chiang, while Singapore had the likes of Rahim Omar, Quah Kim Swee, Majid Ariff and Ali Astar.
Kelantan had Mohamad Che Su, Awang Isa, Hamid Ghani and Nik Leh Nik Man while Malacca had the Choe brothers, Robert and Richard.

By 1965, veterans such as Siang Teik and Aziz made way as Penang rebuilt.
M. Kuppan took over as captain with Yeap Kim Hock, James Raju and Ibrahim Mydin the only other survivors.
Newcomers included Soo-Toh Kim Poh, Zainal Ghani, Abu Hassan Mohamad, K. Linganath and Kim Lean Kong.

For the first time, Penang also preferred the services of four Australians from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) which participated in the local league.

They were John Leather, Clive Warren, Vic Probert and Alan Peacock.
Football fan Sulaiman Ibrahim, of Jalan Perak, recalled that there were rumours that the four Australian airmen were actually based in Hong Kong and were flown back to Penang by the RAAF for state and league matches.

The late 60s saw the emergence of Aziz's nephews, the Abdullah brothers -- Namat and Shaharuddin. At his peak, Shaharuddin was a prolific goal-getter and many fans still remember his stylish flying kicks when the ball often ended in the back of the net.

In this respect, a few even put him ahead of the great Mokhtar Dahari.
Penang made the Malaysia Cup final in 1968 to face mighty Selangor but nobody expected it to be a massacre.

Selangor romped home 8-1 in one of the most one-sided finals ever.
This led to some fans saying Selangor must have had some powerful "black magic".
The 1970s heralded the arrival of the Bakar brothers - Ali and Isa, Shukor Salleh, Mohamad Bakar, Cheah Peng Chean, Khalil Hashim, Desmond David, Ooi Hock Kheng, Nik Hassan, N. Baskaran, Teoh Yit Huat and Gopal Krishnan.

In 1974, Penang heroically knocked Singapore out in the semifinal to face northern rival Perak in the final.

Namat Abdullah led Penang to a 2-1 victory in what was to be the state's last Malaysia Cup final victory.

The Penang line-up was Desmond David in goal, Namat Abdullah, Ooi Hock Kheng, Shukor Salleh, Nik Hassan, T. Gopal Krishnan, Ali Bakar, Isa Bakar, Mohamad Bakar, Shaharuddin Abdullah and Khalil Hashim.

Up to the late 1950s, almost all the big matches were played at Victoria Green, home of the Chinese Recreation Club, before the City Stadium was built in 1956.
Today, the Polo Ground has become the venue for Third Division matches but it is not as popular as the Datuk Keramat Padang.

The league competition run by the FAP had three divisions and was undoubtedly the best run in the country until the 1980s when the programme could not be completed as scheduled. After that, the league went downhill.

Some of the well-known FAP officials then were Loh Hoot Yeang, who was president for many years, A.S. Mohamad Mydin, Tan Cheng Hoe, Yaakob Syed and Haris Hussain.

Datuk David Choong was president in 1962 when Penang made the FAM Cup final, but lost 3-4 to Selangor in a pulsating contest on May 12 before a capacity crowd at the City Stadium.

To the delight of the home fans, Ibrahim Mydin put Penang ahead, only for Govindarajoo to equalise.
It was 1-1 at half-time. Ho Yuen Meng then put Selangor ahead, but Ibrahim levelled for Penang.
Then veteran winger Chuah Poh Beng put Penang in the lead but Abdul Ghani Minhat saved Selangor with his equaliser.

At full-time the score stood at 3-3. In extra-time, Ghani intercepted a corner to net the winner for Selangor.
Zainal Abidin Noor, who played for Perak and Penang in the 1960s, said Malaysian football has changed drastically compared with his playing days.

"There was hardly any monetary incentives then and we used to order our boots from local cobblers such as Chip Bee in Chulia Street.
"Today, young players have branded boots costing RM300 or more and strut around as if they are Barcelona or Real Madrid stars.

"But football standards today have gone downhill," he said.
Can Penang ever hope to scale the lofty heights of yesteryear?
Football fan Chang Chuen Bin believes that it would take a lot of effort and time as the rot had set in for quite a long spell.

Locals, he said, seemed to have lost interest in inter-state football.
Bookies, were also a big problem. Many, he said, have yet to glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel.

But veteran Datuk Shukor Salleh is hopeful that Penang may come good again in the future.
"The problem is money. Money is everything today and once you can get sufficient funds, Penang can start making her way back.

"However, getting funds from the FAM alone will not be enough.
"We can see that other state teams are also facing financial problems.
"Things have changed tremendously since the last two decades.

"We used to play for the love of the game but players today will put money foremost in their consideration."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Archery: Khairul makes it to World Cup Finals.

Khairul Anuar has become the first Malaysian archer to qualify for the season-ending World Cup Final in Paris, featuring the seven best archers of the season plus one from host nation France. The event will be held on 21-22 September at the Trocadero Esplanade. Khairul Anuar will shoot in the recurve category on Sunday 22 September, the day of his 22nd birthday!

Khairul Anuar was promoted to the Malaysian elite squad in 2011 as a 20-year old archer. After finishing second in the team event at the European Grand Prix in Boé, France in May 2011, he earned a spot on the Malaysian team for the London Olympic Games when he finished first in the team play-off competition.

Khairul Anuar made Malaysian archery history when he reached the recurve men's individual final at Stage 4 of the Archery World Cup, in Shanghai in September 2011, competing in his first World Cup event in only his third international tournament. Khairul Anuar edged out several top archers before losing to USA’s Joe FANCHIN in the gold medal final. This was the first medal for a Malaysian archer in an individual World Cup event.

One month later, Khairul Anuar tied the national record to finish second in the recurve men's qualifications at the London Archery Classic Olympic Test Event. He then defeated experienced Ukrainian archer Dmytro HRACHOV (UKR), team bronze medallist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, to snatch third place, thus emerging as an Olympic medal contender for London 2012. 

In the Asian Championships in Tehran two weeks later, the archer from Malaysia took a well-deserved title in the individual event. This was just two days after Khairul Anuar won the team continental title, stopping China in the final.

At the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Malaysian archer made it to the quarter-finals of the individual event, where he was stopped by eventual silver medallist Takaharu FURUKAWA of Japan, finishing sixth individually. With his team, however, he retired after a first-round loss.

This 2013 season started with victory in the team event at the First Asian Grand Prix 2013 in Bangkok. He then clinched fourth place at the first World Cup event in Shanghai, losing to No.1 seeded athlete OH Jin Hyek of Korea in the semi-finals and to Japan's Shungo TABATA for the bronze medal. Eighth and 17th place finishes in Antalya and Medellin offered Khairul Anuar his ticket to Paris for the World Cup Final.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Playing for the flag

JUNG-MOO, ke tengah, Khalid, dapat kepada Hassan, masih lagi Hassan, cocok Hassan, Hassan, Young-jeung mengejar, kepada James, peluang untuk James, James, gol! Gol!”

(“Jung-Moo to the centre, Khalid heads it out to Hassan, still Hassan, Hassan moves forward, Young-jeung chases Hassan, Hassan passes it to James, chance for James, James, goal! Goal!”) Over three decades on, that commentary on YouTube still mesmerises this football enthusiast.

What a priceless experience it must have been for local football fans to watch Hassan Sani dribble past two players to set up that pass to James Wong – a move that led us to the 1980 Olympics!
Though the squad did not play in the Moscow Games due to the US-led boycott which Malaysia joined, both Sabahans etched themselves in the hearts of many Malaysians after their match-winning exploits in Stadium Merdeka.

In the past, South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries found our Malaysian side a fearsome force to be reckoned with.

Players like the late Datuk Mokhtar Dahari, Datuk Santokh Singh, Datuk Soh Chin Aun and the late R. Arumugam were top class individuals during their prime.

Mokhtar was lauded as one of the best Asian players during the 80s and he spearheaded one of the best teams in Malaysian history.

And while east Malaysian legends Hassan, from Labuan, and Kota Kinabalu-born Wong played in a squad dominated by Malaysians from the peninsula, Hassan says that they were not treated any differently.

“When I first joined the squad, I was a junior. There was occasional bantering between seniors and juniors in the squad, but we were all friends and we played as a unit,” he said.
That team had only one thing on their mind: to play for the national flag!

Hassan, 55, added that his teammates were encouraging – “They told me not to be shy as I was part of the team!” – and fondly termed them as family.

“I thank them for giving me the fighting spirit. Players like Chin Aun, Mokhtar and Santokh gave my game some much needed impetus,” he said.

Wong, however, did not know what to expect as joining a band of footballers from the peninsula was a new experience for him.

“However, the thought of representing the country was foremost in my mind. It was a case of mind over matter,” said the 61-year-old.

The team eventually bonded over shared meals, training sessions and off time.
“Friendships naturally fell into place. Before we joined the squad, a sense of intimidation was present, but it gradually faded,” he said.

Santokh said Wong and Hassan played for the national team because of their abilities and not because of their state.

“Hassan Sani was a good right winger and James Wong was a good centre-forward because he controlled the ball well and could make good passes,” he said.

“For the first two days (of national training), both of them (Hassan and Wong) felt awkward but gradually we made them feel they were part of the national team.”
Santokh said the national team at that time was totally 1Malaysia.

“From those days, our heart and soul were 1Malaysia.
Legends (from left) Hassan, Chin Aun, Wong and Santokh together during a media function in Kuching in September 2011.

“We played for the country and we loved the game,” he said.
During his time, Wong said football was not just a profession but a passion.

“I was passionate about the game. I just wanted to play football with a group of friends from my hometown and I wanted our team to be the best,” he said.

Hassan and Wong say they had the privilege of playing with the likes of Mokhtar, Chin Aun and Santokh.

“We had excellent players during my time. Not only did they have skills, but they also brought some sense of intelligence to their game.

“Football is not just about kicking a ball around and running aimlessly. It requires smart running, passing and positioning in attack and defence,” said Wong, adding that today’s players lack these attributes.

To Hassan, the 1980 side was a very spirited one complete with all the necessary ingredients for success.

“In those days, we played with high spirits and went all out during our games. We only thought about the flag and the national team, nothing else,” he said.

Even if they lost some of their games, Hassan was satisfied as the team did not give up and played till the final whistle.

He also had the same mentality for his Sabah state team.
Citing Wong and longtime Sabah goalkeeper Peter Rajah as his close friends, Hassan said Mokhtar was by far the best national player Malaysia has ever had.

“I learnt a lot from him. As for Sabah, James (Wong) is the best.
“We have played together for so long, and this started since we first played in the Borneo Cup,” said Hassan.

For Wong, many footballers during his time deserve a mention, and he had only fond memories of those he played with.

Asked about the current state of Malaysian football, both players said the national side has been in the doldrums for many years.

Happily, it has seen some improvement in the last two years, with Hassan lauding the Harimau Muda team for its fighting spirit that should inspire their seniors.
“In those days, we were better than Japan and South Korea. Now, they have improved thanks to their league.

“If we have a strong league, our players will improve too,” he said.
Wong, who is now in the entertainment business but still keeps in touch with Hassan, Chin Aun and Santokh, said there had been a slight improvement.

“There are signs of quality games being displayed by our national side, but we are not consistent.
“At the same time, I wonder if we have all the best players assembled in our current squad,” he said.
Hassan still plays football as he features with some of the former Sabah state players for the Labuan Veteran’s squad.

“Occasionally, we organise friendly matches and play against other state veteran sides. We still need to exercise lah,” Hassan joked during the phone interview from Labuan.

To him, discipline is the key ingredient for any footballer.“My father, Sani Tengah, was also a footballer. He told me that to succeed in life, you need to have discipline,” he said.

Asked about the future of Malaysian football, Wong feels that it may take some time to achieve better results, but added that the latest crop of players show promise.

“Most of them are paid footballers, and it’s their job to excel. If we could do well as amateurs, there’s no excuse for today’s professionals to not do the same,” he said

Monday, September 2, 2013

Former hockey players from 70s to hold reunion gathering

Way back then: The Malacca Combined Schools hockey team that won the inaugural Federation of Malaya inter state schools honours in 1959. Standing in the back row are Goh (third from left) and manager cum coach A.G. Leon (fourth from left).
Way back then: The Malacca Combined Schools hockey team that won the inaugural Federation of Malaya inter state schools honours in 1959. Standing in the back row are Goh (third from left) and manager cum coach A.G. Leon (fourth from left).

MALACCA: Wong Boon Heng and Micheal Goh Doh Jin, two prominent former Malacca state and national hockey stalwarts of yesteryears are undertaking ground and leg work towards organising reunions of the 1975 Malaysia’ women Scotland World Cup side and the 1959 Malacca Combined Schools team.

For the record, Wong was in the 1975 outfit which wound up in 17th spot out of 25 teams in the Edinburgh Women’s World Cup.

On the other hand, Micheal was the first choice goalkeeper in the Malaccva schools side which bagged the inaugural Federation of Malaya inter-state combined schools title in Kuala Lumpur beating Perak 2-0 in the final in 1959.

Wong also played in the 1971 edition of the Women’s World Cup in Auckland apart from the 1975 tourney.

“I am already in touch with a couple of my team mates residing in Kuala Lumpur with regards to my reunion proposal,” said Wong.

“Several of the 1975 world cuppers are still in the country while a handful have migrated overseas mainly to Australia. I am contacting these players’ family members, relatives and friends still in Malaysia in attempts to contact those who had migrated.

“In fact there were 16 of us in the national contingent that made the Scotland trip when the late Vivian Soars was manager.

“Also, another who passed away was Dorothy Sibert Bailey, the national association’s secretary who accompanied the team as an official.

“Hopefully when all are contacted, I shall arrange an end-of-year reunion date in Malacca where their family members can attend.”

Women power: The 1975 Malaysia women’s Scotland World Cup contingent with former Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak and wife in the group. Standing extreme left in front row is Wong.
Women power: The 1975 Malaysia women’s Scotland World Cup contingent with former Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak and wife in the group. Standing extreme left in front row is Wong.
The Scotland trip contingent included Vivian Soars (manager), P.T. Lingam (treasurer of the national association),Dorothy Sibert Bailey (treasurer) while the players were Khoo Jok Nee, Mary Soo, P. Savithri, G. Sundra Lakshimi, Evelyn Koelmeyer, Norlia Abu, Daphne Gomez, Dr. K. Navanayanam, Lyiha Ismail, Yap Siew Bee, Goh Joo Pek, Rani Kaur and Wong Boon Heng.

Wong recalled that most players don national colours in the 1971 Women’s World Cup in Auckland, apart from turning out in the 1975 Scotland edition.

Also, the national team bagged the 1974 Asian crown beating Japan 1-0 in the final played in Kuala Lumpur while Wong netted the solitary goal winner when Malaysia edged favourites India earlier in the semi-final.

“Apart from the reunion, a shorten friendly game would be arranged between the national side and the local combined schools girls team where family members and supporters would be invited to attend and maybe take turns playing. I hope the group will come to the reunion and make it a holiday to meet up and go down memory lane,” added Wong.

All former players, supporters and family members keen to come can contact Wong at

Meanwhile, Michael has been in contact with several of the 1959 Malacca Combined Schools team including a couple of them who have settled down in Australia.

The reunion is specially arranged to pay tribute to the team’s manager and coach A.G Leon, formerly with the Malacca Education Department who is presently residing in Kuala Lumpur and in poor health.

A couple of players have already passed away and their family members have indicated turning up for the reunion to represent them, added Micheal a former Malacca Survey Department staff now residing in Melaka Baru.

He can be reached at 012- 659 7623 for further details and enquiries.