George Das: It was blazing hot. The sun was unkind on this mid-afternoon in November of 1979. I stepped on to the Ipoh Municipal ground, a picturesque ven- ue nestled in the centre of this once-rich tin mining city of Ipoh in Malaysia.

Walking beside me was the late Jamaluddin Yusof, a sports journalist colleague from Bernama, Malaysia’s national news agency.

As we arrive within hailing distance of the hockey pitch, we could see a large crowd of fans, numbering about 5,000. They were  there to watch the Malaysian Under-23 final. The match was between Malaysia’s Junior World Cup side and Perak Under-23. I was uneasy as I felt that many were glaring in our direction while snide remarks were being hurled.  At that moment I wasn’t sure if it was me they were after.

Suddenly, I didn’t know which was worse: the scorching sun or the invective emanating from a partisan crowd.

Sniggering, derisive laughter, and caustic remarks told me something was not right and that I was the brunt of their ire.

Then Jamaluddin pointed to the banners being displayed directly opposite from where we were standing.  There were several held high by the Perak supporters.

All of them had  the same wording: “George Das — get lost from Perak.”

I did not know whether to be proud of the recognition or disturbed by it, but that’s when I knew that I was the butt of their animosity.

All this was due to a story I wrote for the New Straits Times, calling on the Perak players to play hockey instead of trying to “maim” their opponents.

The Perak fans did not like my article one bit. I learnt very much later that this was an organised protest to vent their displeasure on me.

Several years later I had to run for my life. It was a different scene altogether. This happened in Alor Star when nearly the whole Kedah team made a beeline towards me after the match.

On this occasion, I was with M.Bala of  The Star when the players with flaying hockey sticks dashed towards us outside the venue.

The quick thinking Dasheer Noh, an umpire, bundled us into his car before any harm befell us.

All this was part and parcel of our working life. I continued covering hockey at these venues, meeting the same supporters and players, some of whom became friends and they would joke about those incidents with a laugh.


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