Sports unite us, let’s keep it that way

Malaysians cheer for their athletes as if they are soldiers who are fighting battles for the country

pic by BERNAMA

MALAYSIANS always seem to have something to bicker about, be it big or small. Our differences in views and opinions, however, go out the window when it comes to sports.

We cheer for our athletes as if they are soldiers who are fighting battles for the country. We don’t see them as just playing games.

Who could forget how Datuk Lee Chong Wei brought Malaysians together during his final game with Chinese shuttler Lin Dan at the 2012 Olympic Games in London?

He did not win the gold medal but he accomplished something greater; he united Malaysians irrespective of race or religion.

Lee apologised for the loss through Twitter to which his countrymen rubbished. Instead, they congratulated him and expressed their love for him regardless of the result.

Earlier this year, Lee posted on his Facebook, recalling the 2006 Malaysian Open where he saw the crowd’s unwavering support for him when he was down several points.

He saw a little Malay girl with her hands up in prayer for him, he saw an Indian girl crying, and a Chinese boy who was cheering so loud that the umpire told him to quiet down.

The Malaysian football team, formed in 1963, flourished in the 1970s and 1980s but got into a downward spiral in the early 1990s up to 2009. Although there were criticisms from all sides, the nation generally never gave up on its footie team, which regained its triumph at the 2010 AFF Championship.

The team revived, and so did its fans. It was reported that the Bukit Jalil National Stadium was filled above capacity for the first time since it was built. As tickets were sold out, people had to trespass onto the cable bridge, aisles and corridors to view the game where Malaysia beat Indonesia 3-0 then.

Today, not only Harimau Malaya is being respected the world over, but also its diehard fans — the Ultras Malaya. The latter was formed in 2007, during the time when the team wasn’t doing so well, but they kept on cheering and today the group has even made it into international news like UK’s The Guardian and US’ Amazon Prime Video Sport.

A Twitter account from UK, @ BestChantsUK, tweeted a video of Ultras Malaya’s chanting during the recent match against Indonesia. Locally, even non-football fans of different skin colours sat at mamak restaurants to watch the game and cheer along with the Ultras.

However, while Malaysian sporting events are now known as a uniting factor, quite the opposite occurred at a recent basketball tournament where a “Malaysian flag” with a five-pointed star and 10 stripes was displayed on a screen during the singing of “Negaraku”.

The Malaysian Basketball Association blamed the contractor for this blunder, but the question is, why was there such a flag in the first place?

The Jalur Gemilang has been used since 1963, surely they can find template images via a simple Google search. Even WhatsApp and Instagram have the correct emojis of our flag.

Because of this, attention was also brought to the organisers of the CK Classic International Open Taekwondo Championship, whose logo also consists of a flag with a five-pointed star.

The chairman in a statement explained that it was not the Jalur Gemilang, but merely the association’s logo but netizens weren’t having any of it, as criticisms and suspicions of racist agendas keep pouring in.

Whatever the reasons behind these two cases are, accidental or otherwise, it is unfortunate that they took place in the sporting arena. Sports — besides food — seems to be the best thing to bring Malaysians together. Let’s clear the air as soon as possible so we can focus our energies back to cheering for our athletes.

It is also a stark reminder to all that as Malaysians who are born, earned a living in this country and who would likely be buried here, the very least we can do to honour our motherland, is to recognise the national flag.

Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.