This Raya holiday was a needed break for me to stay at home and recharge since we are in another lockdown, so there will be no visiting of some of my close friends and family homes munching their delicious beef rendang and lemang. Having said that, it didn’t take that long for me to realize just how much I miss those visits.

In trying to contain this dejected feeling inside of me, I felt it was best I open up a fresh Google document, and put my thoughts into words. Something that has been bugging me these last few days. I hope it makes sense for you, otherwise, I apologize for taking your time reading this little rant.

As mentioned earlier, we’re in another lockdown. Unlike the first one last year, most businesses alongside those essential ones are operating under strict operating procedures. Fine by me except that as always, sports had to take a back seat. 

Unless you’re jogging or cycling, there isn’t much avenue left for you to go out if sports is on your mind. This is a real shame considering there hasn’t been any Covid cluster related to sports. 

This news really hit me real hard. 

It was only a week before that, I managed to hike two nearby hills. That gave me much-needed dopamine with nature that I’ve been craving for since last year. Then, of course, there is that long-awaited moment after almost a year, the three of us at The BOLA BOLA Show (TBBS) finally have attended a Malaysian Super League (MSL) fixture, KL City vs Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT).

When we started this project, it was just all about projecting our passion in any platform possible. After all, most of  the tools were free. Be it podcast, Youtube, social media, articles, we had a lot of things in mind with regards to this project. 

We wanted to travel to other places where football is played at both the highest and grassroot level. We wanted to indulge in tasting the local food. We wanted to meet the people behind the scene, try to rub some of our passion on them and theirs on us. Unfortunately, everything apart from the podcast was put on hold when the first Movement Control Order was initiated.  

As much as technology was there to keep our sanity in check, it will never come close to the feeling of having your buddies next to you engaging in a conversation about football. The whole idea of TBBS is deep rooted in this concept. 

When the three of us attended the match for the 2022 World Cup qualifier between Malaysia and Indonesia at Bukit Jalil, it reinvigorated a feeling that was once lost inside of us. After the whole experience on that night, we knew already what was missing and what we needed to do. 

And when we got this project underway, we wanted to experience a lot more of that in 2020. Not just for ourselves, but for anyone who is keen to join the ride with us. If things had gone according to plan, our first game as TBBS team would have been the FA Cup fixture between KL Rovers and JDT at KLFA Stadium. Ironically, almost a year later, we are attending a fixture at the same venue against the same team. 

Now about the game, it wouldn’t be a far-fetched thing to say of the many places I’ve been during this pandemic, it was actually in a stadium during a football match that SOPs adhered to the most. People were actually seated only at those designated ones. Everyone was masked all the time. Social distance was followed at the very best. 

I can’t say the same when it comes to shopping malls, office buildings, markets and even some of the restaurants which I’ve visited. Yeah sure people were masked, made sure to scan through their My Sejahtera, took their temperature, fine. But beyond that social distancing was almost non-existent in most of these types of premises. No kidding here!

If you think my experience inside a stadium is perhaps an isolated case? Well just ask anyone else who has attended a Malaysian football recently. If still not satisfied, do also extend the same questions to all the sports facility operators (e.g futsal, football field, indoor games court). 

We have to admit that the powers that be seem to have an imbalanced view on sports. Hence why, for the people who are connected to this industry (be it if they are in business running a facility, customers who rent them or just anyone who is just a mere spectator), it means everything to them. They are more than willing to put in the extra work to ensure their business/activity are allowed to operate with strict SOPs.

Yet despite all this (not to mention to the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been a single case detected or cluster emerge from sports), when things start to get worse, it is sports that are the first to be thrown to jail. A very likely the last to be given its pardon. 

My hope (even if it is bare minimum) is that the government of the day will open its eyes to the importance of sports, both from an economic standpoint and a social one as well. The eminence of both factors is well documented on various social media platforms, clubhouse and Twitter spaces.

if you ‘relooking for figures, here is an excellent tweet by Nadzry Abu Bakar on just how much income is generated from amateur/community based football.

I’m sure other sports too (e.g. badminton, basketball, tennis, and much more) would also be singing to the same tune as the tweet above. I’m sure they are also feeling the same pinch of having their business put on hold for no well-grounded reason.

Allowing sports-related business to continue means people can secure their livelihood and income whether it’s through passive or active means. Allowing people to take part in sports, not only means keeping them physically healthy but also ensuring their mental and emotional health is checked and balanced as well.

While I am happy at least most professional athletes are given the green light to undertake their profession. The social aspect of sports should not be ignored as it also plays a crucial role in developing characters and also creating a sense of bond and camaraderie among a group of people. Just the kind of values that are needed by many these days.

For some of us, the idea of taking part in sports isn’t just about having a kickabout or throwing a ball. It is more about being in the presence and surrounded by a group of friends. That itself is a manifestation that as human beings, we need all the support we can get to go through all the challenges in our life. 

I can gauge this from my own personal experience as a casual hiker. When blazing the toughest trail or terrain, all you need is some word of encouragement and assurance from your friends. That alone will carry you all the way to the peak of any mountain.

Not forgetting all those pre and post futsal session conversations. Often during these chinwag moments (when you’re all sweaty and adrenaline is still running) that tends to give you a better perspective on life in general. God knows how much I have given and taken in all those gabfest situations. 

Taking away sports from us leaves a deep hole in our souls. I hope not just mine but everyone’s plea is heard out there. Hopefully, there will be some light at the end of the tunnel, once this Raya break is over. Fingers crossed.

Till then everyone, take care and stay safe. On behalf of all of us at TBBS, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all our Muslim friends! Wishing you and your family a prosperous and blessing celebration. 

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