Like India, Malaysia occupies the backwoods of world sport — with strong performers in some disciplines, but by no means with even a long shot at being a sporting power. It is perhaps this common legacy that evokes a kindred spirit in the Malaysian sports minister, who has specific plans for bilateral sporting ties between the two countries.
Dato’ Ahmad Shabery Cheek, a fit-looking 52-year-old and an active squash player, believes the time is ripe for cementing diplomatic ties based on sporting exchanges. “We need to enhance a proper relationship,” Dato’ Cheek told DNA.
“I’m very happy (to be here); after this I can sit with the Indian minister of sports. Our current relationship is very loose. We have not come up with MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) in terms of what kind of co-operation we need. Sport is something that can enhance the diplomatic relationship between the two nations, we have to look at the diplomatic value-add.”
Cheek is a sports enthusiast. Apart from squash, he plays tennis and golf, and fondly remembers having watched Prakash Padukone play in Malaysia. Not surprisingly, he readily offers Malaysian expertise intwo sports it has world number ones — badminton and squash. In return, he says,
he expects Indian help in other sports that Malaysia is interested in, but without a high level of performance.
“There are games we have to learn from India, like cricket, tennis… you even produce good golfers. In Malaysia we have plenty of golf courses, but we don’t produce as many top golfers as you do. At the same time we can share our experience in badminton and squash. So there are a lot of areas (of co-operation).”
But apart from the question of medals and performance, Cheek thinks the relationship between the two countries should extend into other terrain, like the business of sports. “Today sport is one of the big industries,” he says.
“You have to think of your country’s products and our products. China has Li Ning… so you have to think of your branding, and our branding and so on. Even in organising, that’s another area we have to look at. Tomorrow the sports ministers of all countries are meeting. I’m looking forward to a stronger relationship between India and Malaysia.”