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Why associate race with sports?

The following is a letter by Mr Rafiz Mohyi Hapipi sent to the New Paper in response to its report, “A new generation”.

Dear Siang Yee and NP Sports Editors,

I wish to raise a response to your article featured on page 38 of The New Paper on Sunday, 25 April 2010 in the Sports Section, sub-section “Singapore at Large”.

Your article begins with a header: A NEW GENERATION in caps. Following which a byline: “More and more youths are defying tradition and taking part in various sports that are not normally associated with their race.”

At first glance, I thought this report was a build up to the upcoming YOG. I was drawn then to the names bolded in red across the page spread. I saw names such as Muhammad Danial Zheng Yi, Seth Han Xiang Chou and Haafizh Mohd Noor. It does seem that the issue here is more about ethnicity than sports.

Reading on, this line captured my attention: "So what is making these young atheletes challenge convention and defy tradition?"

The statement really made me think and I began to question: Is this true? What do we mean by tradition here? What is the relevance of race here?

So you highlighted that Rahman Noor was the last bowler to wear Singapore colours in the 1980s to early 1990s. Isn't a decade of representing Singapore worthy enough to be accorded the credit of contributing to the tradition, if not starting it? Mardan Mamat defied all odds with his successes in the game of golf which is a ball game that requires intense focus, just like bowling.

I'm not too familiar with bowling but surely, for badminton, the tradition began decades ago. In the early 1990s, 1992 to be exact, the shuttlers representing Singapore at the Summer Olympics were Zarinah Abdullah, Abdul Hamid Khan and Donald Koh. At the1996 summer Olympics, Zarinah was the only representative for badminton. Hamid Khan's son, Muhammad Imran Khan, is a featured prodigy for badminton in 2008. In another racket game, squash, Zainal Abidin was most exceptional through the 1980s. Ismail Marjan is another name to be cited if the local badminton scene is to be mentioned. Across the causeway, through the 1980s to the 1990s, the Sidek brothers, were phenomenal worldwide.

Contrasting your article with the facts as presented above truly puzzled me. This is especially when trying to comprehend the intent behind the sports feature associating youth and race with the choices of sports. In my mind, the question, "Why was it that the 1980s and 1990s, the local sports scene were colourful with representation across all ethnic groups, even at the highest level?" kept appearing.

To think about it, Singapore's Malay and Indian population is small to begin with. Additionally, the cost of participating in sports is not all the same. Some sports activities, even in leisure, cost more than others.

Therefore, is race really the issue here? I doubt so.

However, associating youth, sports and race together definitely is a demonstration of a mental model that is unable to look at life events beyond the racial lens.

With regards,

Rafiz Mohyi Hapipi