Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sports Coverage that Shaped My Career - 1

I have gone through many unforgettable moments in line of duty while covering sports events. Many were happy but most were distracting needing patient and self-control to carry through. Here are some of the prominent ones that shaped my carrier and style of leadership.

Being baptised into sports commentating - It was in 1964 when I was a rookie broadcaster being asked by my boss to assist in the live coverage of the Final of the All Blues Final Rugby HMS Malaya Tournament. It was the first time the Malay Service was doing a rugby match. I was picked because the boss read my school activity included Rugby. The main commentator was Baharin Tahir. Being new I have no experience in sports commentating. Baharin introduced the match in the usual fashion. Then he handed the microphone to me to continue as he was answering nature’s call, he said. I did my best. I was lucky I recognised most of the players on the field as most of them were my friends. Baharin turned up at the end of the match for the conclusion. That was how I was baptised into sports commentating. Baharin did not know the game of Rugby. My boss was happy as she received complimentary calls.

Being elevated unofficial team leader - I was assigned the commentator for the Malay Service at an athletic meet in Seremban in 1964. We had the usual unwritten procedure of having someone to be “team leader” among the 4 language services then. As someone new and in learning process I was happy to have my good friend Lee Pak Gong from the English service to be the “leader”, a job entailing to make the necessary arrangements such as line booking (for transmission), liaising the commentary positions as well as getting the necessary information from the local organiser, and accommodation arrangement. I was the most senior in rank from the other services. Right from the start I noticed there were differences among the three fellow commentators. The Indian service commentator was adamant that he wouldn’t take instructions from Lee. Strangely he was supported by our Chinese service colleague. They insisted I should be the right person to lead the coverage. I had to use my wits to diffuse the situation. Lee relented to the pressure to avoid ill feelings. So out of the blue I learnt human relationship in a multiracial society quite fast. The coverage went well without anything amiss. From that day I was always appointed team leader of sport coverage among the services representatives. That was how I learn to be a fair and firm leader.

On the eve of Singapore separation from Malaysia - In early August 1965 I was assigned the commentator for the Malaysia Athletic Championship at Ferrer Park, Singapore. The atmosphere was strange. We were not getting assistance from our counter-part at Radio Singapura. The Singapore Telecom was not helpful when they refused to provide connection for our live commentary to Kuala Lumpur. At the Opening Ceremony by The Yang Di Pertuan Agong, Singapore was represented by its Yang Di Pertua Yusof Ishak. None of the State’s ministers including the Chief Minister attended. We thought that was strange. As for the broadcasts we have no choice but to record the whole events and brought them back to the newly built Studio in Johor Baru for a delayed transmission. We have to stay in Johor Baru and continue the same procedure till the end ferrying the materials. When we came back to Federal House, it was announced on 9 August that Singapore was no longer in Malaysia. I was involved in scripting the announcement of the separation for the Malay broadcast.

Longest Commentary - When I was the Malay Programme Organiser (MPO) of the Northern Region 1966-72 there were many sports events at national level being held in the northern states. One of those unforgettable one was the Malaysian Badminton Championship held at the brand new Syed Omar Stadium in Alor Star. All the great names in badminton of the early days were there, P.Gunalan, Tan Yee Khan, Ng Boon Bee, Abdul Rahman Mohd and many others. The Final started at 6.00 pm. The BAM President then the late Tan Sri Khir Johari expected the whole affairs to be over by 10.00 and the big crowd would get home via the bus service. It didn’t work that way. The old scoring system forced the matches to extend well past 1.00 am. As the commentator I was asked to continue till the end of the last match due to over-whelming demand from listeners throughout the country. It was a harrowing experience commentating single handed for 7 hours without a break. Luckily the technical staff was helpful in getting the good food and drink around the pasar malam surrounding the stadium that night.

Fair and Balance Reporting - The 13 May (1969) incident in KL took its toll on the Malaysia Cup football final between Perak and Selangor which was supposed to have been played at the normal venue, Stadium Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur. It was moved to the Penang City Stadium at Lorong Kulit. I was asked to be the TV commentator. We were placed on top of the lower roof beside the grandstand. It was a nervous experience as we were in full view of the packed stadium and I have not done any TV work for some time. It was an exciting match. I did my best. Somehow the reader’s reactions in the national newspapers were not complimentary to me being accused as being biased against Perak the losing side and my home state where I have some friends playing in the team. I thought I did a fair job not to side any team in local tournament. That thought me a good lesson in being fair in commentating but the perception of audience will always be different.

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