Sports journalism’s Sifus continues to light the legendary flame
Inspiring Malaysians (from left) Lazarus Rock, Fawzi Omar, George Das and R. Bell.

PETALING JAYA: For the past few decades, four newspaper reporters have run with the ball when it comes to leading the stories in the sports world.

But George Das, R. Beru, Lazarus Locke and Fawzi Omar admit that the increase in coverage would have been slower without the support of players, coaches and officials.

Through the power of sport and the bond of trust, these pioneers became friends and put each other’s interests first.

Together, these contributed to the building of a national sentiment in which people felt connected to a common sense of purpose and pride.

Soccer greats in attendance at the 3rd Sports Frame (from left) Chau Chee Keong (goalkeeper), Soe Chin An (defender) and Santok Singh (defender).

It is this friendship that has created something so sportingly bonding, humane and glorious through an event called Sports Frame.

The event aims to give back to the many years of joy former journalists have had writing about their role models from the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.

“They were like the bow that launched our careers. Without them, we wouldn’t have had the work to do,” Das said.

He said Sports Frame is also a matter of pride for achieving dreams at the highest level, overcoming the challenges that come with it, and bringing glory to Malaysia.

Former national 400m hurdler P Selbarani (left) and former racing and rally ace Hanifa Yun Ying-Fa lit the fire of the sport for the fourth time.

Sports Flame first tapped into its nostalgic appeal in 2011. The latest edition, supported by FMT, will be performed as pure theater on December 9 at the Concorde Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

Approximately 120 well-known clubs, most of whom we don’t hear, see or read much of anymore, are united by their love for the sport and each other in this extraordinary catch-up. Participate in

ignite the flame

Sports Frame was an idea that Wer proposed to Das following the passing of hockey legend and sports administrator Ho Ko Che, who will celebrate his 15th death anniversary on December 3rd.

What was supposed to be a monthly dinner reunion with 10 different sports luminaries turned into a casual, warm and inviting event held once a year for seven events.

It was attended by around 100 icons, including well-known names among local fans in Singapore, Indonesia and India.

What was fun was seeing teammates and rivals for the first time in a while, some wearing blazers from the Olympics, the Asian Games, and the 1975 Kuala Lumpur Hockey World Cup.

Malaysia’s R. Pathmaraja (left) and S. Balasingham (right), rivals at the 1975 Hockey World Cup, and India’s Aslam Sher Khan (centre) at the inaugural Sports Frame tournament in 2011. .

In the first edition, the Malaysian national team at the 1975 Hockey World Cup faced India’s Aslam Sher Khan, the fullback who effectively eliminated the hosts from the finals, for the first time in 36 years.

The men of Sports Flame want the event to have aesthetic value rather than commercial merit, and they are lining their own pockets to host the reunion.

Mr Das, 77, said: “We started ‘Sports Frames’ specifically to pay homage to famous people from the 70s, including some from the 60s to the early 80s. “I did it,” he said.

“They made our coverage fun, and this is our way of showing our gratitude to them and showing that the sportswriters of their era haven’t forgotten about them.”

“Sports brought us together,” said Ver, 73. “These weren’t people you could just interview and then forget about.”

“The Sports Frame provides a platform for renewing friendships and some have been keen to do this and have offered to donate the cost,” he said.

Das and Vel left journalism in the 1980s and rose to the forefront of the golden triangle of sports, sponsorship and media.

Mr Locke, 68, said: “As sportswriters, we couldn’t afford to cover just one sport, so we learned a lot from them.

“Even though we weren’t experts in some sports, they taught us well and provided us with news that made for great copy.”

Fauzi, 68, said the history of the legends was “a rich tapestry of a sporting life and for them a means of expression, loyalty to sport and duty to the nation”.

“We built our friendship on the bond of common experiences in our personal and professional lives,” he said. “Without them, we would be nothing in the world of sports journalism.”

Das and his gang set out to immortalize the sacrifices and greatness of Malaysia’s glorious sporting past heroes.

In 2018, they published a book called Sports Flame – Stories Never Told Before, in which several legends and prominent sportswriters wrote about their experiences.

The most interesting part of the book was what the wives wrote about their deceased husbands.

4 amigos

The four amigos (from left) George Das, R. Ver, Lazarus Rock, and Fawzi Omar.

If Sports Flame can be described as a gang, they have found the perfect leader in Das. Das is an informal and straightforward man who has lived his life by his two pillars: friendship and loyalty.

As reporters, columnists and editors for the New Straits Times, Malay Mail and Sports Mirror, Das and his colleagues brought thoughtfulness and humanity to sportswriting.

They were influential, imaginative, focused, driven, and fighting for what was right and necessary.

At times, their sharp opinions have landed them in conflict with sports figures and associations.

In 1992, Locke published an article that to some extent incited a constitutional crisis.

The incident involved Abu Bakar University hockey coach Douglas Gomez, who was allegedly assaulted by the then Sultan of Johor.

Gomez was protesting against the governing team’s withdrawal from the National Schools Hockey Tournament.

The order came after the king’s son, Tunku Majid, was suspended for five years by the Malaysian Hockey Federation for assaulting Perak state goalkeeper Mohamed Selvaraja during a Malaysian tournament.

Then-Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had to intervene to resolve the issue, and the law on the relationship between the monarchy and the people was reviewed.

Locke, Fauzi, and another prominent journalist, Johnson Fernandez, were central figures in exposing match-fixing in semi-professional football during the 1993-94 season.

The scandal led to the arrest of 230 players and officials and ravaged Malaysian soccer, but stopped short of journalists receiving death threats.

Mr. Fauzi received a bullet in the mail, Mr. Rock received a razor blade with a picture of a tombstone with his name on it, and Mr. Fernandez received threatening phone calls.

Undaunted, they provided vital information to the National Sports Council for the creation of the White Paper.

Mr Fawzi, a former editor of Malay Mail, retired as a sportswriter in 2000. In his last column he wrote: “After 25 years of showcasing so many great and not so great aspects of Malaysian sports, I have decided to step down because it was not my choice.” Complicit in the complete politicization of sport, and its complete corruption. I will do it.

“From football to cricket, the game has been in jeopardy. Sold out, lock, stock and barrel, and I’m worried that if it stays like this, I too will be tainted.

“The last straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back is the creeping viciousness of racism.”

Like Fauzi’s candor, Locke’s sharp words still resonate in the context of forgotten athletes.

Rock had to apply for a pass to watch the 1992 final in Kuala Lumpur, where the badminton stars won the Thomas Cup in Malaysia in 1967, but he was unable to get a seat. I was furious when it turned out there wasn’t one.

The former sports editor of the New Straits Times wrote a scathing column saying, “Memory loss sets in sooner than rigor mortis.”

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