Say What: it is undeniable that sport unifies the nation

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WATCHING the Jalur Gemilang fly majestically at the Japanese National Stadium in Kengo Kuma during the Tokyo Olympics last month and now seeing him at the current Paralympic Games has brought many fond memories.

It’s nice to see our athletes wearing the Malaysian flag on their clothes, with great pride as well.

I am happy that these great sporting events of this national month have allowed us to see unity through sport.

There was excitement everywhere as Azizulhasni Awang took a better step to win cycling’s first silver medal at the Olympics and when commuters Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik battled for bronze in their beginnings. And at the Paralympics, Sarawak-born Bonnie Bunyau Gustin made her way to gold in the men’s 72kg powerlifting event.

There were also other athletes – of different races and backgrounds – equally determined to fly the nation’s flag.

At home, it is common to see the Jalur Gemilang floating proudly as Merdeka Day approaches, whether on vehicles or hanging from windows. It is a wonderful spectacle that reminds us of how far we have come after 64 years of independence.

As a child, Merdeka Day meant a school break. But that day, I would get up early on purpose because I wouldn’t want to miss the live screening of the National Day parade in front of the Sultan of Bangunan Abdul Samad on national television.

And growing up with my friends in Perak was also fun, as kampung boys we would organize football, badminton and sepak takraw leagues before the national day.

We enjoyed not only the simple competitions but also the fraternity with friends of different races, which I believe still prevails until today.

I was a die-hard football fan during my teenage years and never missed the Pesta Bola Merdeka, which was always held in conjunction with Merdeka Day.

Malaysians from all walks of life would applaud our national team as they played against other powers in Asian football.

The great thing about sport that unifies the nation is that it doesn’t require any words to be spoken – everything is shown by actions.

We see Malaysians fighting for the country’s top honors in various sports – and their fighting spirit evokes a sense of unity and nationalism among spectators.

How do you maintain this spirit between Malaysians and the “whole” without waiting for another major sporting event to unfold?

As the late Nelson Mandela said, “Sport has the power to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that few others have. “

Sport brings out qualities such as respect, tolerance, moderation and cooperation and it should be cultivated from an early age.

Schools can play a leading role in using creativity and skills to engage students of all races in participating in indoor or outdoor activities that enhance racial integration to build lasting friendship.

Make it compulsory for children to practice sports throughout the year as part of the National Sports Day program and not as part of sports activities by race.

Schools should be allocated more budget for sport in order to foster national unity in the spirit of Bangsa Malaysia. And the Ministry of National Unity should give special grants to parents’ associations for sports unit programs. Hope we can all see how beautiful we are.

We are different in many ways, but we are all the same for so many reasons. We must hold on to our values, respect differences of race and religion, while standing up as Malaysians.

I am happy that the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games took place just before Independence Day.

Now is the right time to show our patriotism. Happy 64th Independence Day, Malaysia. Well done Malaysians. We do good: let’s do better!

The writer is passionate about sports. He retired from the Ministry of Education, was an excellent Director of Tuanku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (Johor), Deputy Director of Bukit Jalil Sports School (KL) and is currently involved in various programs local.

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