On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Thank you for uniting Malaysians

Malaysians of all races, from the kampung to the new villages and cities to the longhouses, wanted so badly for him to win so that, for a while at least, the nation could come together. It would have been the perfect National Day gift.

It was so good to hear someone shouting loudly “Malaysia Boleh” as the pace of the game kept everyone quiet and on the edge of their seats. Certainly, all of us cheered along.

Race, religion and politics were discarded for an hour. If only we could do the same every day. If only we could see each other as fellow Malaysians all wanting to make Malaysia a better place. If only we all understand and accept that Malaysia is our home.

And how we wished that the Jalur Gemilang was the flag that was hoisted after the match that night. Then all of us could have stood up and sung the Negaraku. It would have been truly magnificent.

It was a case of being so near yet so far as Lin Dan staged a strong comeback, winning 20-22, 21-14 and 23-21. It was that close.

Chong Wei may have lost but he has nothing to feel ashamed of. He fought the fight of his life. His right foot was so badly blistered that when the match was over, it was covered with blood. But he did not moan about it. He put up a brave front and accepted his loss.

That’s what a champion should be like – magnanimous and humble in victory, dignified in defeat. We will support Chong Wei at his next fight.

As for how Lin Dan celebrated his victory, I believe most Malaysians would not want our heroes to rip off their shirts or jerseys in the frenzy of winning.

Speaking to reporters after his victory, Lin Dan said he wanted to “quickly end the game” because he wanted to “go sight-seeing in London, and shopping”.

“The match was going on too long and I wanted just to win it. Fortunately, I did not make as many mistakes as Chong Wei did,” he was quoted as saying.

I do not know the tone of his statement but his behaviour and his words certainly do not reflect well on him. To put it bluntly, he sounded cocky.

It’s a far cry from the days of the late Mao Zedong who preached about using sports for friendship and used it in the ping-pong diplomacy that paved the way for US President Richard Nixon to visit Beijing in 1972.

But sports now seems to be all about winning and sponsorship, which is fine except that sportsmen are role models. We cannot imagine Chinese schoolkids from Guangzhou to Inner Mongolia ripping off their T-shirts to show off their muscles after snatching the winning point.

Then there is the Malaysian football team, which almost created history by entering the third round of the World Cup qualifiers. But we were held 1-1 by Singapore during the return leg of the Asian Zone second round qualifiers.

No doubt Singapore was the better team but, at the risk of sounding like a sore loser, I do not think there is much honour in the victory for the island republic. The team was made up entirely of foreigners. Their best striker is a 41-year-old Bosnian, Aleksander Duric, and God knows how many years – if not months – he has left playing football for Singapore.

Duric has an incredible story. He was previously an Australian citizen playing for the Sydney Marconi team. If another country comes along offering him more money, would he give up his Singapore citizenship?

Really, can these naturalised citizens even sing Majulah Singapura and really understand the meaning of the lyrics? Surely there can be no real national pride when the players would not have Singapore in their hearts, as their minds would always be in Eastern Europe or Africa or China.

There’s really no difference between mercenaries at war and naturalised footballers. They are just hired hands. They would probably not be able to find their way out of Geylang or Katong if they cannot get taxis.

Every year, Selangor plays Singapore for the Sultan of Selangor’s Cup with both sides playing in alternate venues. Well, since these imports appeared, the Cup has remained solidly in the trophy room of the FAS. That’s the Football Association of Singapore, not Selangor.

It’s a farce really. There must be FIFA rules that require a naturalised player to be resident of a particular country for a specific number of years before he can play for that country. Such short cuts to success are unacceptable.

The situation cannot be compared to players in football clubs like those in the English Premier League (EPL) because they are there on a temporary basis. They also need to apply for work permits.

We agree that the EPL would not be as exciting if these foreigners were not playing, but they are not representing England.

Chong Wei, Harimau Malaya and, certainly, squash world champion Datuk Nicol David – you have all made Malaysians proud. You have our support and admiration.

Businessmen like Tan Sri Vincent Tan and Tan Sri Tony Fernandes who have acquired football clubs Cardiff and Queen’s Park Rangers respectively also deserve kudos from all Malaysians.

Thank you for bringing Malaysians together!