KUALA LUMPUR: In view of recent racially-charged issues like the introduction of Jawi script in vernacular schools and controversial statements by preacher Dr Zakir Naik, two Muslim and Christian leaders organised a charity football match to ease tensions.
Leaders of all faiths, including Hindus, Sikhs and Bahais, took part in the game played at Victoria Institution, the oldest secondary school in Kuala Lumpur.
The friendly held over the weekend garnered the support of Malaysian football legends Santokh Singh, Soh Chin Aun, K Gunalan and N Thanabalan.
Founder of the Association of Nexgen Christians of Malaysia and Christians for Peace and Harmony Malaysia Jason Leong said no politicians were invited to ensure the programme was not politicised by anyone.
“The football legends came willingly when we invited them. This is the beauty, no politics. Sometimes, our country has too much politicking.
“When we’re on the field, no one cares about your rank or status. Everyone is playing to win,” he told FMT.
Leong said unity is an asset to be treasured but warned it can be easily destroyed by racial or religious issues.
“Don’t talk about issues that can tear us apart.
“This is also a message to political leaders: don’t forget that you represent the people. So, do what’s best for the country.”
Global Unity Network president Shah Kirit Kakulal Govindji said the present situation in the country was “reaching boiling point”.
“If we don’t do anything, we can’t hope for peace. Harmony must be maintained.
“When playing football on a field, no one fights for race or religion.
“They just play and, if you observe, do they only pass the ball to one particular race?”
A leader at the Malaysian Organisation for Hindu Knowledge, Science, Heritage and Art, Thurai Chantheran, said most Malaysians respect the differences between the different races.
“As Malaysians, we can talk about anything, including food, culture and even religion. We can learn from each other, but politicians are the ones working to divide us.”
Santokth spoke in support of the friendly, saying sports can restore the unity of the multiracial nation.
He hoped Malaysians would exemplify the unity that was shown by former national footballers Mokthar Dahari, Soh and R Arumugam.
“We can’t equate politics with football. It just cannot be mixed. I just know about sports, football and unity among Malaysians.
“You don’t play alone to win; you play as a team to reach success. Look at what we achieved in 1972 and the 1980s.”
Malaysia had qualified for the 1972 Olympics in Munich and again snagged a spot for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.