Remembering past athletes will inspire future champions, says OCM president

There should be a concerted effort to document stories of athletes so they can be an inspiration for future generations, Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria said.

Norza, who is also president of Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), said the lack of biographical books of national athletes and the lack of proper records needed to be addressed.

“Not many associations keep proper records of their athletes. I’m not talking about achievements or national records but rather the stories of athletes.

“How they came up, the obstacles they overcame. Such tales can be an inspiration for up and coming athletes,” said Norza, after receiving a signed copy of ‘Legend’ the biography of golfer V. Nellan by co-authors Bob Holmes and P.C. Shivadas.

“We need to digitalise the records and feats of the athletes. We should have records of every athlete from the time they join state or national training – don’t wait until they become world-class or legends.

“We need a proper database, this is what is lacking in Malaysian sports.”

Several veteran sports journalists, including Datuk Geroge Das, Datuk Lazarus Rokk, Datuk Fauzi Omar and R. Velu, had published ‘Sports Flame: Stories Never Told Before’ in 2018. The books were given out to former national athletes during the 6th Sports Flame annual gathering at Concorde Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The articles, which were also contributed by other journalists, spouses of past athletes and former sports personalities, have also been published online at mysportsflame.com.

Former international and national football coach Datuk K. Rajagobal is in the midst of penning his autobiography while other notable sports personalities who have published books include iconic shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei (Dare To Be a Champion) and football administrator the late Datuk Peter Velappan (Beyond Dreams: The Fascinating Story of the Blessed Life of Peter Velappan S/o Palaniappan).

Norza, who met Nellan a year ago, remembers fondly the colourful character, who passed away on May 16. He would have been 71 on Sept 30.

Nellan was a well-known figure not just in the golfing fraternity but also among royalty, politicians, and celebrities at home and abroad.

He played in two World Cups, achieving 11th place in the Philippines in 1977 with his close friend Bobby Lim Yat Foong and was a regular in the Malaysian Open from 1969 to 1989.

“Nellan truly deserves the moniker ‘legend’ as not only did he caddy for prime ministers and coach kings, but showed his spirit by surviving a plane crash (1983) and colon cancer (2006). What a fighter,” said Norza, an avid golfer.

“I’m looking forward to reading the book and will pass a copy to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah) as I understand Nellan coached him too.”

Norza has ordered copies of the book to pass to OCM affiliates.

“It will be good for them to read and they can appreciate an athlete who gave his or her all for the country.”

Norza also reiterated he would propose Nellan be inducted into the OCM Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, Holmes said he and Shivadas spent nearly a year writing the book.

“Although he was 70, Nellan was still coaching all over Asia. He would be overseas or in East Malaysia for months on end so that delayed the release of the book,” said Holmes.

“He really was a fascinating character and at times would stop regaling us with his stories by saying ‘I can’t believe I did that’.

“He rubbed shoulders with celebrities – Engelbert Humperdinck is among them – and athletes from other sports.

“He really was one of a kind,” Holmes added.

The book is priced at RM40. To get a copy, contact Holmes at holmes.rw@gmail.com.