By Fasihah Zulkifli
Sport was, is, and will always be a crucial feature in the Malaysian culture. For some Malaysians, sports has a special place in their heart and the love for it is embedded in them from generation to the next unfailingly.
This spectacular activity could bring together one nation of different races and religions as we cheer for our country’s athletes.
I mean, no one will forget how each of us was screaming on top of our lungs, watching Dato’ Lee Chong Wei bet Lin Dan in the badminton semifinals of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, or when we were so proud of our country’s achievement in hosting the South East Asean Games (SEA Games) in 2017, successfully.
Without hesitation, we could say that we Malaysians love our sports immensely either by playing it or by simply watching the games. Who will ever forget Malaysia’s legendary athletes like Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Datuk Nicole Ann David, and the Sidek brothers for their dedication and success in representing Malaysia on the global stage?
Evidently, this spirit is not limited to traditional sports like badminton, football, sepak takraw, squash, or hockey, Malaysians have welcomed emerging sports like dodgeball, volleyball or e-sports warmly. Hence, the number of supporters and fans of these sports are growing rapidly day by day because of the pure spirit of sportsmanship.
It is really exciting to see two teams competing with each other and playing a fair game. The respect that we have for our opponents and accepting that the better athlete shall be the winner shows great professionalism and the great essence of sportsmanship in society.
In a display of great sportsmanship, Coach Hendrawan, Malaysia’s badminton coach lent his shoes to a Jamaican athlete, Sameul Ricket, in the 2022 Commonwealth Games because of the latter’s damaged footwear during the competition against Malaysian player Ng Tze Yong.
Ironically, there also have been unpleasant scenarios that have taken place previously when the athletes were in conflict with each other and even the coaches, managers, and supporters fought on the field. A tragic news came from Indonesia in October 2022 when football supporters invaded the pitch and a stampede ensued resulting to more than 130 deaths. The stampede was claimed to have been caused by the firing of tear gas and is an example of the state sports can degenerate into. It is saddened to read of his incident and its reflections of society, especially of sports enthusiasts.
Respectful sportsmanship takes years to inculcate. It takes more than an athlete with the right attitude. It requires utmost professionalism from all stakeholders involved in sports. We all should learn and re-learn the principles of this spirit to build a healthy sport environment, whether we play sports or cheer from the sidelines.