Thursday, March 30, 2023

Major media milestone in Malaysia

Malaysian juniors Siv Sivasangari and Aifa Azman pictured in The Star
Malaysian British Junior Open champions Sivasangari Subramaniam and Aifa Azman pictured in The Star

Major media milestone in Malaysia as juniors make front-page news
By ALEX WAN – Squash Mad Guest Contributor

The front page of any newspaper in any country or even county is usually reserved for high profile breaking news. That’s what we’re used to seeing every day. Sports may get its chance in events like the Olympics or in a couple of months, the FIFA World Cup.

But three Malaysian juniors returning from the British Junior Open defied the odds when they were featured on the front page of the nation’s biggest selling English daily, The Star. 

Mind you, this is not the first time squash has made the front page of a major daily in Malaysia. We have been very lucky to be endowed with the likes of Nicol David, Ong Beng Hee, Azlan Iskandar and Low Wee Wern (and a football team that sucks). Our leading squash players have done the country proud over the years, with many achievements that hit the headlines.  

Malaysian squash coverage took a major step forward in 2005, the year Nicol won her first World Open. The Star had sent their own team to cover the historical moment and it got both the front page and the main sports page.  

starfront1Ever since then, squash coverage in the press has never been the same. The press were (and still are) hungry for more of Nicol. This brought the profile of squash up and over time, it was quite a norm to see squash news featured.

However, I cannot deny that very often, it’s about Nicol and even when it’s not, her name would probably have been mentioned. I’m not saying this is bad or she doesn’t deserve it (how can she not?). But it’s somewhat translated squash to being all about Nicol to the layman.  

But this front page photo of the juniors, and in my opinion, the entire week’s coverage of the British Junior Open, has brought Malaysian squash coverage to another level. No longer is squash all about Nicol David.

Judging from my Facebook newsfeeds, there were plenty of people who actually stayed up just awaiting for matches to end. Considering this was just a junior tournament, it’s astonishing really.

What happened yesterday is not just a milestone for Malaysian squash. It is something which the entire squash fraternity should be proud of. This is not just about making the front page. There are so many things positive about it.

For one, it may attract sponsorship. Just look at the prominence of CIMB Foundation’s logo (though it could’ve even been better had they noticed the flowers were blocking!).

Kids who are curious enough to find out may think squash is a cool sport to pick up. Parents would see positivity that the sport could be a career, given it is receiving so much limelight. 

The local media, particularly The Star, deserves a big mention for the generous amount of articles on squash. The new blood in Zheng Guan Kng, a highly passionate and big fan of squash, meant even more articles. 

We also can’t forget the Squash 2020 team (who also manage Squash Stars) led by Elaine Tan, who has created such a buzz in the social media world. 

I am hoping press in the other countries will follow suit.

The triumphant Malaysian juniors received a warm welcome when they flew home to KL Airport
The triumphant Malaysian juniors received a warm welcome when they flew home to KL Airport


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  1. My daughter played in the under 13 competition at the British Junior Open so I saw a lot of Aifa Azlam when she was playing and I thought she was fantastic.
    Technically sound and tactically brilliant but what impressed me most was her obvious love of the sport – she played with a permanent smile on her face.
    I am looking forward to seeing her develop into a squash superstar

    • I’ve only watched the semi and final videos of her at this BJO. I find a lot of maturity well beyond her age in her game, that she controlled the pace so well with some amazing lobs especially.
      But what struck me most was her court conduct. Like you said, she always wore a smile and was so calm and composed. She’d take decisions in her stride and was never acting in a disgruntled manner, especially if I compare against her opponent in those 2 games.

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