It was an off-the-cuff speech with a good mix of laughter, appreciation and motivation at the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Annual Dinner and Awards Night in Kuala Lumpur last night.
And it was evident that Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah is still passionate about Malaysian sports.
After all, Al Sultan Abdullah was involved in sports in various capacities for decades – from being part of the polo team that won gold in the 1983 Singapore SEA Games to playing leading roles in the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), Malaysian Hockey Confederation, Asian Hockey Federation, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and even sitting in the FIFA council, among others.
Right after receiving the OCM Special Award 2019 from OCM president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria, Al Sultan Abdullah addressed the 400-odd crowd in the ballroom at Shangri-La Hotel.
“I’m surprised that I’m receiving this award as I’ve only been Agong for barely a year. But I’ve been involved in sports for a long time. In fact, I’ve been married to sports even before I married my wife,” Al Sultan Abdullah said in jest while acknowledging Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah who was seated at the main table.
“Sports is part of my flesh and blood.”
“There will be times when we will be disappointed. But it is important that we quickly rise and do better. I hope our national athletes continue strengthening their (physical) fitness and mental fitness.
“I also hope to see our national athletes do well at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”
The night was indeed memorable for the royal household as earlier, Al Sultan Abdullah’s father, the late Sultan Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah, was inducted into OCM’s Hall of Fame, joining the likes of ex-national water polo athlete and long-time administrator Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, BA of Malaysia’s former vice-president Datuk Roland Wong Choon Tat, ex-hockey official Lt-Jen (R) Datuk Seri Panglima Abdul Manap Ibrahim and former tennis player S.A. Azman.
Sultan Ahmad Shah, who is said to have ushered in a modern era of football development in Asia, was FAM president, Asian Football Federation president and AFC president. He was also instrumental in bringing the FIFA World Cup to Asia for the first time as Japan and South Korea co-hosted the 2002 edition.
Al Sultan Abdullah added: “I am touched by the recognition given to my father … it is beyond words, for me and my family.
“Congratulations to all the winners.”
“Together with the Raja Permaisuri Agong, we will continue to motivate, advise and assist to ensure the success of sports in the country.”
The King later presented the OCM Olympian of the Year awards to decorated wushu athlete Loh Choon How and star gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi. They each received RM10,000 and special gold medals sponsored by Coca-Cola.
Former national athletes including Datuk Soh Chin Aun, Datuk R. Yogeswaran, Datuk Seri N. Sri Shanmuganathan, Nurul Huda Abdullah, Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Datuk Rashid Sidek and Cheah Soon Kit and current stars such as diver Pandelela Rinong Pamg were among those present at the event.
Full list of recipients
Olympian of the Year:
Loh Choon How (wushu)
Farah Ann Abd Hadi (gymnastics)
OCM Hall of Fame Inductees:
The late Sultan Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah (football)
Datuk Sieh Kok Chi (water polo and OCM)
Datuk Roland Wong Choon Tat (badminton)
Lt-Jen (R), Datuk Seri Panglima Abdul Manap Ibrahim (hockey)
S.A. Azman (tennis)
OCM Special Award 2019:
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah
Perbadanan Stadium Malaysia
OCM Women and Sports Award:
Toh Puan Zainon Hussein (hockey)