February 27 2018
By Haresh Deol
ON Feb 21, Mani Djazmi from BBC World Service sent me an email asking if I would be able to talk about legendary Malaysian goalkeeper Chow Chee Keong.
I replied saying my former colleague at Malay Mail Tony Mariadass, a veteran sports journalist who was friends with Chow and had interviewed the former goalkeeper in an exclusive interview in 2014, would be the best person to speak about the ex-international.
Chow died earlier that day at the age of 69. He was known as one of Asia’s finest, having won the Asian Football Confederation best goalkeeper award five years in a row (1966 to 1970).
Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post paid tribute to the former South China goalkeeper. The report read: “And when he (Chow) first arrived in Hong Kong to play professionally, he was treated like royalty, earning a salary of HK$2,500 – more than popular British stars such as Derek Currie and Walter Gerrard.”
Chow’s death got the attention of global media establishments. Even France’s L’Quipe paid tribute to the man who was also known as the ‘Asian Steel Gate’.
A former international athlete told an acquaintance: “Foreign sports writers appear to know more history of Chee Keong than our locals.”
The same was said when footballer Majid Ariff died on Feb 4.
In my article ‘Malaysia should also shed a tear for football great Majid Ariff’ published in The Mole (http://mole.my/malaysia-should-also-shed-a-tear-for-football-great-majid-ariff/), I wrote that the legend played for Perak and donned the colours of Malaya. He also coached Kelantan FA in 1989 – albeit for a short period.
Majid’s former Malaya teammate Datuk N. Thanabalan told me: “Technically, it should have also been a sad day for us in Malaysia.”
But as ex-Singapore international Ho Kwang Hock was quoted by the Singaporean media as saying:
“Majid was worth his weight in gold – as a footballer and also as a coach. We must honour him, and sportsmen like him from that era, who have done so much for the country.
“Many of these sporting greats are old and forgotten now. We must honour them and remember their contributions before it is too late.”
These legends don’t belong in the “muzium” only to be forgotten. These legends put smiles on the faces of their countrymen through their exploits. These legends united us in many ways.
They have contributed in more ways than politicians have.
We should never forget history – and those who made history. This does not mean we should be stuck in a particular time zone and continue to harp about the “good old days” but we should learn from these illustrious athletes to move forward.
The same fate could befall the likes of our current stars – Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Datuk Nicol David and Azizulhasni Awang. If the same attitude is adopted, they too will be brushed aside as “oldies”.
Our heroes deserve respect and dignity from all Malaysians. Don’t pretend to shed a tear for a day only to forget tomorrow.
My sincere condolences to Chow’s family. And to Chow, may you rest well sir.
Haresh Deol is a multi-award winning journalist. He can be reached on Twitter (@HareshDeol) or email him at [email protected]