Thursday, January 26, 2012

Past Sports Commentators on RTM

I have posted on my past experiences on sports commentary way back on March 7, 2010. I am continuing on the subject – this time on past luminaries in sports commentating over the Malay Service Radio broadcasts as well as the early Television Malaysia days whom I could remember.

In fact there were legendary figures in sports commentary in the other language services (English, Chinese and Tamil) of the then Radio Malaya and later Radio Malaysia. I will just concentrate on the ones in the Malay broadcast that I was more familiar with.

Radio broadcasting came late to Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia). The colonial British concentrated their broadcasting headquarters in Singapore. It was only after Malaya gained its independence that Kuala Lumpur became the focal point of broadcasting with regional stations in Penang (North), Kota Bharu (East) and Melaka (South) serving as transmission stations and feeder services in the country. Before the formation of Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak had their own radio broadcasts centred in Jeselton (Kota Kinabalu) and Kuching. It was only after the formation of Malaysia that all the radio centres were integrated under one Department known as Radio Malaysia and expansion began in earnest, even at regional level. Later every state has its own radio station with regional headquarters changing from Kota Bharu to Kuala Terengganu for the Eastern Region of Peninsular, and Melaka to Johor Baru for the Southern.

Sports programme on its own was non existence in the early days of broadcasting when transmission was limited to certain hours of the day. The only sports programme in those days was the weekly half-hour of sports round-up “Arena Sukan” during the week-end. The News mentioned prominent events only, giving the result without details.

The earliest sports commentator over the Malay broadcast was the late Murtadza Zaaba who came from a family of broadcaster in Singapore. Murtadza was interested in motor sports, and himself a prominent motor bikers in the class of the legendary Bulldog Kwan. Murtadza’s voice was crisp and confident describing in details matches “lives” – listeners were endeared to his well know voice.

I had the opportunity of meeting him as a schoolboy when he was commentating on a key football match of the Malaysia Cup at the Yuk Choy School field in Ipoh. My late father who was a keen follower of the Perak team took me there and had a strategic seat quite near the commentators’ area. I was more ears to Murtadza’s commentating while watching the match on the field. I felt he described the match aptly. At the end of the match we met and the little schoolboy was in awe. He advised me to do well in my study and joined the radio department and be a sports commentator. I never gave that a thought.

Murtadza went on to cover the multi events sports at the Olympic in Rome. His career as a sports commentator was cut short by the department’s expansion. He rose in rank from heading the Malay broadcast to be the department no 2.

 In the meantime in 1959 Rahim Razali came into the scene to take over the mettle of sports commentating from Murtadza. Rahim just completed his Sixth form study at Anderson School, Ipoh. While his classmates were busy looking for temporary teachers job back in Perak, Rahim travelled to Kuala Lumpur to be with his uncle Ir Ghani of Tenaga in Bangsar. He was taken in by the then Malay Service of Radio Malaya as a Temporary Broadcasting Assistant Grade III. He was busy doing his job, but was interested in sports and spent most of his leisure hour watching sports around the city. He was at Stadium Merdeka commentary booth as a spectator when Murtadza Zaaba was covering the Malaysian Athletic meet. Murtadza called him to take over as Murtadza was having stomach problem and had to leave the post. That was how Rahim was baptised into sports commentary. He never looked back. When I came to study in Pantai, I used to be his guest in the commentary box watching the football matches at Stadium Merdeka, the Mekah of Malaysia football, the Merdeka Cup tournament. That was the time I watched with keen interest Rahim’s ability at sports commentating. It was unfortunate he has to leave broadcasting to continue his study in Australia the early 1960.

The void was filled by newcomers like Aziz Ibrahim, Zulkarnain Hassan and Baharin Tahir who just joined the Radio Department as Broadcasting Assistant Grade III, better known as BA3. Their jobs entail them to be all rounder, being announcer, news reader, script writer, programme producer, commentators, and many other chores. These three have good voices and were good in sports coverage, while others were proficient in other areas.

Aziz hailed from Penang. He was involved in all sports discipline while at Penang Free School the breeding ground of sportsmen in Penang. Zulkarnain Hassan was from Johor, while Baharin Tahir who hailed from Melaka was more of a local from Klang. Departmental expansion led them to regional stations leaving the sports commentary scene to the younger set that didn’t really raised to the occasion. Whenever there were prominent events, sports or ceremonial, they would be recalled to the scene.

I joined the Radio Department at the end of 1963 as a Temporary BA2; job entailment was no different from the junior post except I was expected to be in supervisory capacity. Opportunity to do sports commentary came in 1964 when the Malay broadcast decided to cover the HMS Malaya Cup Rugby final between the Asian players (All Blues) for the first time in its history between Selangor and Perak. The commentator was Baharin Tahir. I was called by my boss the late Jamaliah Long to assist as Rugby was in my dossier. Everything was fine when Baharin did the lengthy introduction to the match and started the commentary. Then he passed the mike to me for further description. Baharin then disappeared from the scene with nature’s call as the reason. I have no choice but to continue in my own style. I was actually at a lost not knowing what to do except to describe what was going on in the field. I was lucky; I recognised most of the players without referring to the players’ list as most of them were my friends.

I was ready for the firing Range next morning but was happy the boss was satisfied with my performance from the calls she received, including Murtadza. From that day I was saddled with sports commentary beside other chores.

I too had my fair share of taking charge of the regional broadcast when I was transferred to Penang 1966-72. I didn’t stop doing sports commentary as some of the big national level sports events were held in the northern states. The power that be at headquarters asked me to take charge of the coverage as well as commentated. I consider it an honour to be selected, and was happy to keep in practice my interest in sports commentary.

When I came back to KL in 1972 the expansion was in earnest. We were placed in specialised departments. I was in the Public Affairs Department. Sports were under its purview. As a supervisor I find it tedious in the selection of commentators who were not my staff but interest among the others saved the day. I managed to rope in Aziz Ibrahim and Zulkarnain Hassan who was back from the region but was placed in “siaran” (broadcasting) section of the Malay broadcast. I did manage to recruit new comers as part time script writer and compeer.

The unexpected happen in 1974 when my colleague and good friend Manaf Abdullah passed away at a young age. His demise left a void at the Voice of Malaysia (VOM) where he was the no.2. I was transferred to take over the post doubling up as the supervisor for the Indonesian broadcast. I thought that was the end of my part in sports commentating. I find the job in VOM very light and had plenty of time in hand. I used to be invited once in a while to compeer and do television commentary (sports and other events) prior to my transfer to VOM. Then Kassim Aris who was the TV Sports producer at that time invited me to be his compeer and commentator for his programme. With my boss permission I was quite happy to perform the job without extra remuneration except the allowances for outstation trips which was borne by the television section. At the same time I was helping out the VOM’s language broadcasts in their sports coverage.

It was a happy arrangement. People not in the know of the arrangement thought I was a TV staff. Till today the television sector of RTM do not have a permanent commentator or script writer on its payroll.

In 1980 I was transferred as Head of the Public Affairs broadcast for radio and TV. From the Radio building my office shifted to the second floor of the glamorous Angkasapuri tower. Dato’ Abdullah Mohamad the Director-General at that time saddled me with the task of writing working papers on the upgrading of posts and getting new ones. At the same time he asked me to apply for the formation of a Sports broadcast department which at that time was under the purview of Public Affairs. By 1982 the Sports Department at RTM was officially operational. I was asked to be its inaugural Head.

Among my staff at Radio who did sports commentating was Zulkarnain Hassan himself (the Sports Programme Organiser over Radio, my deputy). He doubled up for TV sports commentary.

The others were the late Ismail Long and Jamaluddin Alias, the Keroncong singer who was famed in delivering the patriotic songs during "konfrantasi" days. We recruited casual workers who were keen in sports.

My first task was to spot talents. In my travel all over the country covering sports events I was fortunate to mix around with the local radio staff, part time included: 

In Kuantan I was taken in by the booming voice of Hasbullah Awang who was a part time. In Ipoh I spotted Abdullah Hasim who has good voice for commentating. In Johor Baru there was the reluctant Taroni Khalid, preferring to be in Johor than KL. From Penang there was Jahaya Mahmud who was quite withdrawn. From Kota Bharu were Husin Ibrahim and Rahim Mohd. in the early days. Later came the good looking Suhaimi Mohd who anchor our TV competently during SUKMA. From Sarawak we had the fast talking and versatile Hashim Lazim. There were others whom I can’t recollect.

Whenever big multi events such as the SEA Games and SUKMA being held we would seek the assistance of the regional and local stations of their staff who were involved in sports programming. They were of immense assistance.

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