SEA GAMES: MALAYSIAN CONTINGENT ÖN FIRE"

ZURIATI ZULMI

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 (Bernama) -- “Malaysia! We are on fire!”

This roar by 554 athletes of the national contingent to the 2019 Philippine SEA Games rocking the hall during the its final rally shows how excited they are to bring glory to the nation at the Games which will officially open on Nov 30.

The sound of the trumpets was deafening as the three-day rally ended yesterday in Bangi, describing how passionate they are to fight for Malaysia.

Their struggle is none other but a common goal of ensuring the Jalur Gemilang (national flag) flies high and the Negaraku (national anthem)  echoes loudly in the Philippines, regardless of their skin colour and religion.

In this era, although social media might be the best medium to connect them with each other, but nothing better than the opportunity to meet in person and forged an extraordinary friendship says it all.

Especially, as a national athlete, their schedule has always been packed with training and meets both local and overseas.

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National lawn bowler Siti Zalina Ahmad highlighted that they have no issue about mingling despite having  different backgrounds in sports, race, religion and culture.

She has participated in six Sea Games since the 1999 edition in Brunei and described the final contingent rally organised by the National Sports Council (MSN) as a platform for a reunion of senior athletes and a ‘booster’ for debutants.

She reckoned that its objective was achieved, not just to boost the team spirit but also for them to get to know each other.

“There are over 300 first-timers, so this gathering helps us to meet each other as before this we only knew them through the Internet… some of the seniors are even the idols for the first-timers.

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“I think, the objective of this camp has been achieved because everyone, the officials, athletes and team managers get to know each other, even if we can’t recall the names but by wearing the contingent shirt, we will address each other,” she told Bernama.

Malaysian Wushu Federation president Datuk Chong Kim Fatt opined that in sports, the issues of race and religion were on the "backburner” because "passion and enthusiasm in sports is the root that unites the athletes".

Chong, who is also an executive committee member of the international wushu sporting body, said wushu is no longer monopolised by the Chinese but has become a global sport and that an Iranian woman with a hijab was crowned as the world champion of the Sanda category recently.

“In sports, there is no race. We have the same passion and the same spirit, no matter who wins, we will celebrate. It doesn’t matter who you are, we’ll embrace each other.

“Malaysia is a beautiful country with a very special diversity of races. We live together, play and talk together,” he said.

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National bowling athlete, Muhammad Rafiq Ismail, who will be the flag bearer at the opening ceremony, said they (the athletes) are like one big family and they will face whatever struggles in the Philippines together for Malaysia.

“I always treat others as my own family. Even in the bowling team, we are very close, like family,” he said.

National sprint coach M. Balamurugan has never felt awkward while training athletes from different ethnic groups including national sprint queen Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli and sprinter Jonathan Nyepa.

In fact, he said, although Zaidatul Husniah is a Malay, Jonathan is a Dayak and few of his junior athletes are Chinese, the difference had never limited their friendship and that they had no problems hanging out and share a joke or two.

“In our sports team, we have a close-knitted relationship. Husniah and I, for instance, are like siblings, we eat together.

“Prior to going overseas, Husniah would hold a "doa selamat” and "tahlil prayers which we will attend together. While during “the Deepavali celebration, I would bring  muruku for us to share, we are happy to celebrate all kind of festivals too.

“On the track, I am their coach but other than that we are friends,” Balamurugan said.

-- BERNAMA