Sunday, February 5, 2012

Badminton - the Sidek Era.

The other night my TV set was tune to RTM-TV1. It was well into midnight – RTM has got the knack of putting on nostalgic archival sports programme late at night. This time they brought the badminton scene into the era of the famous badminton family of Dato Haji Sidek Kamal from Kanchong Darat, Banting.

I paid full attention to the documentary on the exploit of the Sidek brothers. I was very interested in the recollection of the era as that was the time I was at the peak of my career as sports commentator in the early seventies.

The older Sidek, the father was a keen sportsman specialising in badminton. He rose to be Selangor Malay state champion in the single. He was motivated to mould his children to be champions at international level. He had badminton courts built in his kampong house compound to accommodate his will. Badminton then as of now was considered an elite and expensive game as there was the need to purchase the nets, rackets and shuttlecocks, together with cemented court. Very few Malay family could afford a court in their compound. Dato’ Haji Sidek was determined.

There was distraction from other sports in the kampong such as football and sepaktakraw which were gaining in popularity as they involved less cost and played by many.

His eldest child Misbun was getting his full attention. Later to be followed by Radzif, Jailani, Rahman and Abdul Rashid. His daughter was also involved but she did not make it to the national level. He gave them the necessary training, beside skill, he stressed on mental strength, physical strength and stamina. At the beginning they were moulded to be champion in the single. They were at forefront of the age group when they were in schools, becoming champions.

Misbun and later his brothers continued their secondary education in Kuala Lumpur at the prestigious Victoria Institution where they continued their badminton career. It was here that they came under the influence of Shuib Kasa and his wife Normah who treated them like their own children. This made life easier for the brothers, just like being at home. Shuib was a senior teacher at VI and also the hostel master. At that time he was the Secretary of the Badminton Association of Malaysia under the Presidency of the late Tan Sri Khir Johari.

It was during this time that Misbun won various international accolades in many countries. He missed to be champion of the prestigious All-England, being its runner-up. It was a difficult period in Malaysian badminton as the Indonesian and the Danes were producing very good players. Later the South Korean appeared, followed by the Chinese badminton army.

In the meantime Radzif and Jailani formed a double combination that went on to capture prestigious titles all over the world. The brothers were in the forefront in the campaign to bring back the Thomas Cup.

Later Rashid rose to be champion taking over the vacuum left by his elder brother Misbun who retired as a player to concentrate on coaching. Rashid and his double pair brothers were able to capture the Olympics Bronze when badminton was introduced into the Games.

Now they have retired from playing, they are still involved in badminton as coaches with BAM and club level. Their place as players has been taken over by new talents.

I came into personal contact with them through Shuib as they were in his house most of the time especially prior to tournaments they participated. I find Misbun very serious and difficult to communicate but Radziff and Jailaini were more playful and jovial. I used to park my car in his compound which was behind Stadium Negara, the country’s badminton arena. Rashid came into the scene much later after Shuib has left BAM.

When Misbun was capturing titles and winning, RTM wanted to interview him on the air live. I did a test run with him. He was a shy young man and fined it difficult to express himself. I told him not to worry, and just say whatever came to mind. I noticed he was nervous for his first live interview but when he was lost for words I interjected with explanations that he was able to join in. After the show I gave him guidance on the art of interviewing. I am happy to notice in the recent documentary he was a very articulate personality able to philosophise his way of life.

When the lighting at Stadium Negara was upgraded to fit international standard as needed for television coverage, BAM asked me to approach Misbun to test the lighting. I was bewildered as it should have been BAM’s job to get him into the act. I approached Misbun and explained to him the need to upgrade the lighting as Stadium Negara would be his home ground. He was too happy to assist in the company of the other national players. RTM has its camera ready for the test with the presence of a full crew. It was a step by step test with Misbun hitting the shuttle high into the roof of the stadium, and I was there to enquire his feeling and sight of the bright light. We reached the maximum. Misbun came out with a smile giving a thumb-up, saying “Bagus”. That was how Stadium Negara was floodlighted for badminton.

It has been a long time that I last met the brothers. They must have forgotten about past commentators.

As for Radziff and Jailani they were always driving cars and gave me surprises using their car-horn as speaker saying “jalan tepi lah” (walk on the side). We ended laughing because the antics jolted me.

The last time I met Rashid was when he played the single slot at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada 1994. We had a good chat about his life as a badminton player.

I feel the brothers would have achieved more for the country had they been given better coaching facilities like the present set of players in the national team. I feel they were more on their own with their father Dato Haji Sidik Kamal motivating.

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