Below is part of a speech delivered by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah today....
Tengku Abdul Rahman was a man at ease with himself, made it a policy goal that Malaysia be “a happy country”.
He loved sport and encouraged sporting achievement among Malaysians. He was owner of many a fine race horses. He called a press conference with his stewards when his horse won at the Melbourne Cup.
He had nothing to hide because his great integrity in service was clear to all. Now we have religious and moral hypocrites who cheat, lie and steal in office, who propagate an ideology that shackled the education system for all Malaysians, while they send their own kids to elite academies in the West.
Speaking of football - you’re too young to have experienced the Merdeka Cuphe 60s and 70s. Teams from across Asia would come to play in Kuala Lumpur: teams such as South Korea and Japan, whom we defeated routinely.
We were one of the better sides in Asia. We won the bronze medal at the Asian Games in 1974 and qualified for the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Today our FIFA ranking is 157 out of 203 countries.
That puts us in the lowest quartile, below Maldives (149), the smallest country in Asia, with just 400,000 people living about 1.5 metres above sea level who have to worry that their country may soon be swallowed up by climate change. Here in Asean we are behind Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, whom we used to dominate, and now only one spot above basketball-playing Philippines.
The captain of our illustrious 1970’s side was Soh Chin Aun, R Arumugam, Isa Bakar, Santokh Singh, James Wong and Mokhtar Dahari. They were heroes whose names rolled off the tongues of our schoolchildren as they copied them on the school field. It wasn’t about being the best in the world, but about being passionate and united and devoted to the game.
It was the same in badminton, except at one time we were the best in the world. I remember Wong Peng Soon, the first Asian to win the All-England Championship, and then just dominated it throughout the 1950. Back home every kid who played badminton in every little kampung wanted to call himself Wong Peng Soon.
There was no tinge of anybody identifying themselves exclusively as Chinese, Malays or Indian. Peng Soon was a Malayan hero. Just like each of our football heroes. Now we do not have an iota of that feeling. Where has it all gone?
I don’t think it’s mere nostalgia that makes us think there was a time when the sun shone more brightly upon Malaysia. I bring up sport because it has been a mirror of our more general performance as a nation.