MCO turns national shooter into food entrepreneur

by BERNAMA / pic by BERNAMA

KUALA NERUS – Alia Sazana Azahari (picture) is a national shooter, but the implementation of the first Movement Control Order (MCO) last year and cancellation of the many sports meets and tournaments due to the global COVID-19 pandemic have left this 30-year-old athlete idle.

Driven by her desire to try something new, she took the bold step of venturing into entrepreneurship by opening her very own Vietnamese food restaurant with RM200,000 from her savings and tournament prize money as the startup capital

Now, Alia Sazana or better-known as Sasa, is a proud owner of Sasa Vietnamese Coffee House located at Jalan Rimba Square in Gong Badak here, which has been receiving overwhelming response since it was opened in March last year.

“The idea came about when I took a three-month leave in late 2019 and helped my aunt who runs a Vietnamese restaurant in Chendering (in Kuala Terengganu). It was then I got the idea to do the same (running a restaurant).

“Instead of spending my tournament prize money on something useless, I decided to open the restaurant as an investment for my future,” the holder of Business Administration degree from Uniworld College, Sydney, Australia, said when met at her restaurant here.

Alia Sazana said she learned various original Vietnamese cuisine recipes from her parents Azahari Abdul Talib, 56, and Saidah Salleh, 48, who hailed from Vietnam.

“This restaurant is open from 11.30am to 10pm daily except on Tuesday. Currently, I have 10 workers who help with the operations. We are also available for delivery via Foodpanda,” she said while expressing gratitude for having many loyal customers.

When she puts on her shooting athlete’s hat and out for training in Kuala Lumpur, she would continue monitoring her business online while her parents would be at the restaurant to monitor the operations.

When asked on her sporting career, Alia Sazana, who speaks fluent Vietnamese, said she aimed to qualify to Tokyo Olympics 2020 scheduled for July this year.

“If I qualify, I will go all out as the Olympic Games are the epitome of sporting competitions. No amount of money can buy an athlete a ticket to participate in the Olympics, they have to qualify for it,” she said.

As several competitions and tournaments had to be postponed due to COVID-19, Alia Sazana continued to train by participating in online tournaments, including the friendly competition organised by the Singapore national team.

“Alhamdulillah, various tournaments have been organised online to keep the competitive spirit alive. Being an athlete is not just about training, it is also about facing the opponents to bring out our fighting spirit,” she said.

Alia Sazana began her career in 2007 and bagged her first gold medal for Terengganu at the Malaysia Games (Sukma) 2008.

She also clinched the gold medal at both Singapore SEA Games 2017 and Kuala Lumpur SEA GAMES 2017, as well as a bronze medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018 in the 25m air pistol event.