On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Canaries have it in them for the top flight

That dinner was held in honour of Norwich
(pronounced as noh rich) City players and officials who were making their first
visit to Malaysia.
The following day, I watched the team beat our Malaysian side at the National
Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

At the dinner, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who admitted he
knew nothing about football, could not resist taking a swipe at the Malaysian
team: Previously, the Malaysians used to beat the Japanese during the Merdeka
Cup matches but the Japanese are now performing so much better.

A lot of us will surely nod in agreement. The former
prime minister also said Malaysians were so soccer mad that they could rattle
off the names of soccer personalities but not local politicians. More so now
with the many newly created ministries.

Football is big in Malaysia,
especially the EPL which kicks off its season next month.

Proton has certainly scored by sponsoring Norwich
City. It means a global audience of
450 million in 150 countries watching Proton's Tiger logo on the team's
yellow-and-green jersey.

I may be biased but I think the sponsorship of Norwich
City is an even better investment
than Petronas' Formula One commitment because the audience spread is bigger and
we don't have to keep watching the same driver winning most of the time.

Proton's association with Norwich
City began when it bought over Lotus,
the international sports car maker. Norwich
City is the home of Lotus, which
employs almost 1,400 people.

Said Proton CEO Tengku Mahaleel Tengku Arif: "Norwich
City is certainly an underdog and
so is Proton. Both of us are challenging the top players in our respective
field. Not many know us outside of our home base.

"Both of us do not as yet have top names, but as a team
we work and support each other to succeed. This, I believe, is the key factor
for the success of both Norwich City
and Proton.''

Outside the hotel lobby during the dinner, a few cynical
journalists remarked that Norwich City
sounded like "Nowhere" and "No way."  One
of them was a Manchester United die-hard.

I was more sympathetic. I really hope that Norwich
City will stay in the premier
league and not just be a one-season wonder. That should be the realistic target
of the team; I don't think they are thinking of lifting any silverware this

Norwich City's
opening match is against Crystal Palace,
another Division One team that won promotion to the premier league. A victory
would be a morale booster, although Norwich
will have to face Manchester United and Arsenal in the subsequent matches.

The club has had its glory days. It has reached the FA
Cup semi-finals three times in 1959, 1989 and 1992. The team won the League Cup
in 1962 and 1985 and were runners-up in 1973 and 1975.  As for the UEFA Cup, they were champions in

The team had been languishing until Proton-Lotus entered
into a sponsorship agreement with the Canaries during the 2003-2004 season.
Since then, it has gone places.

I was impressed by the attitude of the Norwich
City players when I met some of
them on Thursday night. Unlike the prima donnas of the bigger teams, they were
polite and unassuming.

I could see the young lads having a good time during the
dinner, especially when they saw the lovely Malaysian models in their
tight-fitting kebaya, but their joy was cut short when team manager Nigel
Worthington ordered them to retire for the day at 10.30pm.

The team had chosen the home of its sponsor for
pre-season warm-up. It's only right for us to consider Norwich
City as our home team.