Monday, June 20, 2016

Me, Rugby and Super Mokh

Foreword to

Me, Rugby and Super Mokh


An Incredible Journey Down Memory Lane

Nostalgia excites. Bringing back stories from the past is always pleasant. Going down memory lane is a good pastime for those who have nothing much to do. As one grows older, reflections of days long gone will come rushing back like images from old movies, replete with lots of drama, laughter, and even tears.

Ahmad Mahmud could be just another pensioner at Kawasan Melayu, an enclave in the vicinity of Old Town, Petaling Jaya, in Selangor. He is one of the orang lama (veteran) of the area. He frequents Warung Enaland the stall belonging to Chef Fawzey, the creator of the PJ-famous Nasi Lemak Kukus Goreng. Ahmad is always at two of the most popular mamak outlets at Old Town:Fairoz or Kedai 18 Jam. On Saturdays and Sundays, he will be at Warung Hamdan by the Taman Jaya lake, enjoying nasi lemak with no less than a minister, an ex-IGP, former chairman of a media company, a few senior government officials, bankers, accountants or just folks making their rounds at the scenic lake.

Cikgu Mad, as he is fondly referred to by his friends, is no ordinary bloke. He was a sportsman extraordinaire. He was one of the few athletes who represented Malaysia in two different sports – rugby and decathlon. Back in the 1970s, he was a force to be reckoned with in sports. Even today sportsmen and women of his generation speak highly of him.

He represented Malaysia in the 1965 and 1967 SEA Games and the 1966 Asian Games in triple jump and, later, decathlon. He held the Malaysian record in decathlon for at least two years. He represented the country in rugby, playing against the best and famous in the rugby world. 

Imagine a man of his calibre, who lives and breathes sports, having a near fatal accident – not on the field or the road – but in the porch of his own home, knocked by his own car.

In the freak accident, his car had lurched forward and pinned him against the wall. It smashed his knees. He was never the same again. But many years of training on the field had taught Cikgu Mad a valuable lesson – never say die. He knew he could not move without a walking stick,let alone play rugby again. But Cikgu Mad soldiered on. He was not going to wallow in self-pity. He had lost his legs but not his spirit. He exercised his upper torso to superb fitness.

To me, he is a walking sports encyclopedia. His knowledge of results, highlights and oddments in sports is incredible. Ask him about accomplishments by world-class sportsmen and women, Olympians who made their marks, record-breakers, you name it. Talk to him about football. He knows everyone that matters. Rugby? He’s everyone’s reference book. Rugby, after all,was his domain.

I have lived in PJ since 1982. I have come across almost every Who-Is-Who there. Then I met Cikgu Mad. We clicked immediately because I am a great follower of track and field events. I am also an avid fan of rugby. He awed me with his knowledge of the best rugby players during his time and before, some of whom I have met in my capacity as chairman or board member of companies today. We exchanged news about current rugby greats. We occupied ourselves with news regarding the Rugby World Cups (the last one was in 2015) and every conceivable rugby tournament – from 6-Nation to Sevens. He has lots of rugby stories to tell and many rugby songs to remind me of the good old days.

When he left the teaching profession, he joined the newly established Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in 1974 as a sports officer at its first campus near Universiti Malaya (UM). That was the year I joined UM. That year too was the height of student activism in the campus. In 1979 he joined UM. Our paths didn’t cross back then.

There is another incredible sportsman who used to live in the area – Adnan Osman, the Ironman of PJ. He cycled his way to the Beijing and London Olympics; ran in what is labelled“the world’s toughest footrace”, the Marathon des Sable (Marathon of the Sand); participated in 15 marathons; climbed all 12 mountains above 2,000 metres in the country; reached the summit of Gunung Tahan 15 times and Gunung Kinabalu thrice. He did all that after his 50th birthday! He is about Cikgu Mad’s age, in his 70's, but still going strong.

Cikgu Mad with his adopted father
And there is also Conrad Hector Thalala, the cyclist who should have represented Malaysia at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. He did not, sadly. Politics took away his right to bring glory to the nation. He was one of the country’s best cyclists back then, winning gold at the Asian Cycling Championships in 1963. Like Cikgu Mad and Adnan, he is still passionate about sports. And, like Adnan, he still brisk-walks in PJ.

I am blessed to know them. And happier still to learn from them the secrets of their health.

Cikgu Mad is almost like a brother to me.In fact, among friends, he is my anak angkat (adopted son). It should be vice versa! When Adnan moved to Shah Alam and Conrad succumbed to occasional bouts of asthma, Cikgu Mad was the person I would call late at night for teh tarik together with other friends around PJ. I would take him to my farm in Pagoh, Muar, to enjoy the cool air of Banjaran Muakil or meet friends, mostly of Javanese descent with names like Wak Muji, Wak Mus, Wak Katimin, Wak Selamat, Wak Asan, to name a few.

I always enjoy his company. Dusun Damai, where my farm stands, is far from the madding crowd, almost 12 kilometres from the nearest town. We would talk through the night into the wee hours of the morning. He is a good story-teller. He certainly has a lot to tell. He would regale the waks with his stories on and off the field, and of his association with the legendary Mokhtar Dahari (better known as Super Mokh).

To younger listeners, he would narrate to them about how he grew up in a small village in Sungai Petani, Kedah. And the games he played.  That was long before companies like 

Mattel came out with toys. Children’s games were rough and meant for the tough ones. Toys were made, not bought. Anything can be made into toys – old tires, sticks, pieces of papers, cigarette boxes, rubber bands, whatever. Many of the games he played are strange to modern ears. He even sketched them to illustrate certain points. Many of the illustrations are found in this book.

some of the games Cikgu Mad played-
Cheery Seed Pistol

Some of the other games Cikgu Mad Played-Cigarette Pack Rolled

When he aspired to be a pole vaulter, he had to find the right “equipment” and “tools”. That translated into bamboo poles, nipah palms and lots of lalang straws. Nothing came easy for aspiring sportsmen and women back then. He made his mark in school meets and later at state and national level in pole vault. His love affair with sports had begun. It was to be a commitment of a lifetime.

I encouraged him to write. He had been putting his thoughts on pieces of paper. He still belongs to the old school – no computer and no hand phone, let alone a smart one. I teased him about being a remnant of the dinosaur era – a “fossilised” one!  I hardly know anyone who lives in the suburbs who doesn’t own at least a mobile phone! He doesn’t seem to mind at all. I would call him using the fixed line. When he is on the move, there is no way to contact him. Yes, he is that “fossilised”!

He has been showing me his “book” for many years already. I told him to get it published. 

This is the result.

Cikgu Mad is a contrarian in many ways. He is determined to achieve something in life and he did, proudly representing his country in rugby and decathlon and, in doing so,winning medals too. He is also known for another reason – he famously married one of the daughters of the late Datuk Harun Idris, former Menteri Besar of Selangor. They separated after his accident, but amicably.

Santokh Singh and Soh Chin Aun
More importantly, he has been inspiring young athletes – many of them made their mark later in local sports. They are the ones who looked upon Cikgu Mad as their mentor and father figure. Super Mokh was one of them. Without doubt, Super Mokh was one of the best footballers the country has ever known. He was brilliant on the field, a master in his own right, a scorer that helped change Malaysian football in the 1980s. Those were the glory days of football. Names like Super Mokh, Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, R. Arumugam and Riduan Abdullah are still fondly remembered by football fans. Those were the days! 

His relationship with Super Mokh was special. Super Mokh was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND), a rare but debilitating disease that sometimes afflicts sportsmen and women. When things were going downhill health wise for Super Mokh, he wished to do the umrah. It was Cikgu Mad who accompanied him, his wife and daughter to Mecca. It was an experience unlike any other. Cikgu Mad has an incredible story to share about his experience at the Ka’aba with Super Mokh.

People sporadically come to him when they need information, particularly about Super Mokh. He is, after all, part of the great narrative that made Super Mokh so special. He was featured on the History Channel when they ran a documentary on Super Mokh. When a musical was performed at Istana Budaya based on Super Mokh’s story, there was a bit part for a character called Cikgu Mad.
The Legendary Super Mokh

But this book is basically about Cikgu Mad. It is about a simple man with a dream to excel in life. He is a “nobody” to most people. Not many people today have heard of his sports exploits. He writes eloquently about his experiences growing up in the village, things that he knew, people he encountered and his achievements in sports.

This is not one of those “misery memoirs” in the tradition of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes.

Me, Rugby and Super Mokh is a feel-good memoir that hopes to inspire. It is about the determination of a kampung boy to make a name in the big city. It is also about the manifestation of goodness in ordinary people – how kindness changes people, how good deeds move humans and how sincerity brings the best out of them.

(Seated, from second left) Hung Nung, R. Arumugam, Mokhtar Dahari and Santokh Singh (sixth from left) with Selangor teammates and officials
No one gets killed in this memoir, no gangsters lurk in the dark, no politicians with sinister motives make their entrance. It is a story of friendship and comradeship. It is also a story of how a bloke with a simple life overcame adversity with fortitude.

I have enjoyed this memoir as much as I have been enjoying Cikgu Mad’s friendship over the years!

I hope you will enjoy this book too!

Bukit Gasing, Petaling Jaya
12 February 2016