Tomorrow is Hari Sukan Negara. In our second of four stories, Star2.com celebrates how participating in sports keeps Malaysians healthy and fit. More importantly, sports also brings communities closer, breaks down barriers and encourages the pursuit of excellence.
For the past two years, Andy Chong and his teenage son Amos have been playing badminton together every Tuesday evening.
They are part of a community badminton group in Subang Jaya, Selangor that has been meeting weekly for close to nine years.
Their father-son weekly ritual has not only improved their game but also brought them closer.
“We began to communicate more and I think we understand each other better too. And when we partner each other, we always win,” says Chong.
Chong is unofficially the leader of the group that call themselves the Elite Badminton Club. To keep challenging the players, Chong introduced friendly matches each week, with prizes for the weekly champs. He then records the results and attendance and disseminates it to the others on their very active WhatsApp group chat.
“Today our prize is a crate of 100 plus,” says Gavin Gomez, 39, one of the original members of the group pointing to the table where the “trophy” stood. Gomez’s toddlers, Dominic, two, and Sam, one, tag along, watching their father play in between playing with the other children.
“This is a good avenue for families to take part in something together and also meet others,” says Chong, gesturing to the mixed group of about 16 who were on court last Saturday for an impromptu game.
Cheng Ken, 60, is another who comes to the weekly sessions with his son.
“It’s nice to be able to play with my son, Ekin. When we’re not playing together, we cheer each other on. On top of that, it’s also a good way for me to stay fit and healthy and catch up with friends. And, it’s so close to home,” says Cheng.
When Gomez and his friends started the badminton group some nine years ago, it was a much smaller group of childhood friends and some of their chums.
“We’d been playing together for a few years in different courts around Subang. One night, we invited a few of the others playing around us to join us and slowly the group grew. Now, it’s so much more than just meeting up to play badminton. We have formed friendships, we help each other out and our children have become friends too,” says Selwyn Ng, 43, also one of the early members.
The badminton club now has 28 players aged between 10 and 60. Since joining the group, Amos has roped in some of his school friends. The boys – many of whom play on their school teams – keep the adults on their toes.
But Chong makes sure he matches strong players with those who are still improving on their game to ensure the teams are as evenly matched as possible.
“It’s challenging for us too,” insists 16-year-old John Woo who plays for Sri Kuala Lumpur. “It’s always good to play with different groups of people as it tests our skills. Everyone plays differently and it’s good to be challenged.”