SPORTS IN MALAYSIA: SOCCER, OLYMPICS, FORMULA AND TRADITIONAL SPORTS

SPORTS IN MALAYSIA

Sports teams in Malaysia often include Chinese, Indian and Malay members. In 1998, Malaysia became the first Asian nation to host the Commonwealth Games. The Tour de Langkawi is third richest bicycle race in terms of prize money after the Tour de France and Giro de Italia. The ATP Tour’s Malaysian Open tennis tournament is played at Putra stadium in Kuala Lumpur. Among those that played in the event in September 2012 were David Ferrer of Spain and Kei Nishikori of Japan. The event was won that year by Juan Monaco of Argentina.

Traditional Sports of Malaysia

Kite-fighting known as wau is enjoyed in northeast Malaysia. A wau is a traditional kite that is especially popular in the state of Kelantan, on the East Coast of Malaysia. Traditionally flown after the rice harvest season, these giant kites are often as big as a man - measuring about 3.5 metres from head to tail. It is called wau because its shape is similar to the Arabic letter that is pronounced as 'wow'. With vibrant colours and patterns based on local floral and fauna, these kites are truly splendid sights.

Sepak manggis is a unique outdoor game played by the Bajau and Iranun men of Sabah. Forming a circle and facing each other, players aim to strike the bunga manggis floral carrier that dangles from a 10-metre high pole. The winner will be rewarded with money, gifts or edibles, which are in the carrier.

Silat

Silat is a Malay martial art, also regarded as an international sport and traditional dance form. Existing in the Malay Archipelago for centuries, it has mesmerising fluid movements that are used to dazzle opponents. It is believed that practising silat will increase one's spiritual strength in accordance with Islamic tenets. Accompanied by drums and gongs, this ancient art is popularly performed at Malay weddings and cultural festivals. [Source: Malaysian Government Tourism]

Silat is a style of ancient dance of self defense in which people try to throw each other while engaging in tai-chi-like movements. It is often accompanied to music to aderams (long drums), and serunai (an oboe-like instrument). The first person to throw the other to the ground wins.

Dr. Jukka O. Miettinen of the Finnish Theatre Academy wrote: “A genre of martial arts which is usually called pentjak silat has been practised all over the Malay world and the Indonesian archipelago. Its history is believed to be over one thousand years old. Its roots may lead to Sumatra, although it also clearly reflects Indian and Chinese influences. It includes forms in which various weapons are used, but it is often practised with bare hands, without weapons. [Source: Dr. Jukka O. Miettinen,Asian Traditional Theater and Dance website, Theatre Academy Helsinki |~|]

Its technique is characterised by an extreme open-leg position, which makes it possible to lower oneself and to move the weight of the body from side to side. The silat technique aims at extreme elasticity of the body and the limbs, especially the hands and fingers. Silat may also be performed as a form of dance, and in recent decades several dancers and choreographers have used it as material for their contemporary creations.

Sepak Takraw

Sepak Takraw, also known as sepak raga, it is a traditional ball game in which a ball, made by weaving strips of buluh or bamboo, is passed about using any part of the body except the lower arms and hands. There are two main types of sepak takraw: bulatan (circle) and jaring (net). Sepak raga bulatan is the original form in which players form a circle and try to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible. Sepak takraw jaring is the modern version in which the ball is passed across a court over a high net.

Sepak Takraw is an interesting sport that you see played all over Southeast Asia. Essentially it is volleyball played without using your hands and arms. It is very exciting to watch a good player leap high into the air, flip around and spike the ball with his foot at 60 miles per hour and then fall on his head and shoulders without hurting himself.

Sepak Takraw is played with a special rattan bag in a badminton court. It is known by different names in different countries: sipak in the Philippines, takraw in Thailand and sepak raga in Malaysia. Sepak Takraw was coined in 1965 at the Southeast Asia Games by combining the Malay word for kick (“speak”) and the Thai word for ball surprisingly “ takraw”). Malaysia has lobbied to get sepak takraw accepted as an Olympic sport

The origin of Sepak Takraw is not known. Malays claim it was invented in Malaysia while Thais claim it was invented in Thailand. The game was reportedly played in royals courts in feudal Malaysia an is associated with the great Malayan hero Hang Tuah. In this version of game participants gathered in a circle and tried to keep the ball from hitting the ground. During the British colonization period, it was played mainly in villages as a s lunchtime pastime by working boys.

Competition sepak takraw is played with three players on a team and has rules similar to volleyball and badminton. Play begins with a served (kicked) and each side is allowed three hits (the same as volleyball) before it is delivered over the net to the other team. The scoring is like badminton. The first team to 15 wins. In the street version of takraw people stand in a circle and kick the ball around and try not to let it touch the ground. Sometimes points are scored for their fanciest tricks.

Three Malaysian sepak takraw were sent home form the Asian Games in 2002 after they tested positive for morphine, a drug that can bring the death penalty in Malaysia. One newspaper headline called then the “Nation’s Disgrace,.”

Top Spinning in Malaysia

Top spinning is a competitive sport in northeast Malaysia known gasing A gasing is a giant spinning top that weighs approximately 5kg or 10lbs and may be as large as a dinner plate. Traditionally played before the rice harvest season, this game requires strength, co-ordination and skill. The top is set spinning by unfurling a rope that has been wound around it. Then it is scooped off the ground, whilst still spinning, using a wooden bat with a centre slit and transferred onto a low post with a metal receptacle. If expertly hurled, it can spin for up to 2 hours.

Top Spinning is a sport taken very seriously in Kelantan in the on the northeast coast of Malaysia. In Kota Bahru demonstrations are shown in back of the Cultural Center. The frisbee size tops are very heavy, weighing about five kilograms, and a rope is wrapped around the top of them. With a wind-up like a baseball pitcher a man throws the top onto a platform of clay. The top is then quickly scooped up and placed spinning on a metal platform.

A winner is determined by the top that spins the longest. The longest I saw when I witnessed the demonstration was about 20 minutes. Tourists are allowed to try spinning the top. I tried it and missed the clay platform completely and almost hit some poor German woman. They wouldn't let me try it again.

Malaysia in the Olympics

Malaysia first participated at the Olympic Games in 1964, and has sent athletes to compete in every Summer Olympic Games since then, except when Malaysia participated in the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics. Malaysia has never participated in the Winter Olympic Games. The National Olympic Committee for Malaya was created in 1953 and recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1954. This subsequently became the National Olympic Committee for Malaysia. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Federation of Malaya (now the states comprising West Malaysia) competed as Malaya (MAL) in the 1956 and 1960 Games. The present day state of Sabah sent an independent team to the 1956 Games as North Borneo, and Singapore also competed at the Olympics from 1948 to 1960. After these British colonies formed an independent Malaysia in 1963, the nation competed under that name for the first time at the 1964 Summer Olympics. Singapore would subsequently regain independence from Malaysia in 1965 and compete once again as Singapore from 1968 onwards.

Malaysian athletes have won a total of six Olympic medals (three silver and three bronze) in badminton and diving (Medal, Name, Games, Sport, Event): 1) Bronze, Razif Sidek & Jalani Sidek, Spain 1992 Barcelona, Badminton, Men's doubles; 2) Silver, Cheah Soon Kit & Yap Kim Hock, United States 1996 Atlanta, Badminton, Men's doubles; 3) Bronze, Rashid Sidek, United States 1996 Atlanta, Badminton, Men's singles; 4) Silver, Lee Chong Wei, China 2008 Beijing, Badminton, Men's singles; 5) Silver, Lee Chong Wei, United Kingdom 2012 London, Badminton, Men's singles; 6) Bronze, Pandelela Rinong Pamg, United Kingdom 2012 London, Diving, Women's 10 metre platform.

Malaysian Badminton, Squash and Cycling

Malaysians are good in badminton. They often dominate badminton tournaments. Their biggest competition comes from Indonesia, China and South Korea. Malaysian tennis player Lee Chong Wei won the Japan Open badminton tournment in 2007, 2011 and 2012. See Olympics Above.

As of 2006, Nicol David, then 22, won six professional titles in squash and the World Games gold medal in Duisburg in July. At that time she was ranked No. 1 in the world. The tournament victories include her completion of all the titles at the prestigious British Open squash championships.

The Star reported: “There have been stumbles along the way ' when she lost in the Asian Games final to Hong Kong's Rebecca Chiu in 2002 ' she took a sabbatical, but returned with a vengeance in 2003. She was ranked # 53 then, but by the end of the year, she was world # 13 and broke into the top 10 by January, 2004, climbing up to # 3 by May this year, # 1 was a mere matter of destiny, it would seem, but even now she's not resting on her laurels.'There is still so much more for me to learn and I will need to train harder to face up to the challenges next year. I will take one step at a time and plan carefully,' said Nicol. [Source: The Star, January 2006]

Since 2003, she has been training in Amsterdam under Liz Irving, who is full of praise for Nicol's high level of discipline. 'She is a delight to work with. She is a very dedicated player. Nicol has improved a lot mentally as well as tactically. 'But there is still a lot to work on,' added Irving. In a country starved of sports heroes, Nicol has already made her mark ' on the world stage, no less. She has already been tagged as a role model for Malaysian youth. She has already galvanized a national movement of sorts, with more young Malaysians trading in their badminton racquets for squash. And speaking of racquets, Nicol has held on to that wooden, makeshift racquet all these years ' proof that the mark.

Mohd Azizulhasni B. Awang (born 5 January 1988) is a Malaysian professional track cyclist. Azizulhasni, was the winner of gold medals in the keirin and 200m sprint events at the Asian Cycling Championships in April 2008. He was a flag bearer for Malaysian team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. He was the highest placed Asian cyclist at the Olympics, finishing eighth in the keirin. He is among 2012 London Olympics gold medal prospects. In 2009, Azizul became the overall winner of the Keirin event in the 2008–2009 World Cup after obtaining two gold medals. Azizul became the first Malaysian to win a medal at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, when he won silver in the men's sprint event at the 2009 World Championships in Pruszków, Poland. He is referred to as Azizul the pocket rocket due to his small stature. Contents

Azizul began his career after watching his brother racing. He was coached by the Dungun Cycling Team before entering the Sport School. He was thankful to his late father for giving him Among Azizul's greatest achievement is winning the silver medal at the 2009 World Championships in the sprint category and the silver medal at the 2010 World Championships in the keirin category. In February 2011, Azizul was involved in a crash during the final of the keirin event in the World Cup leg in Manchester where he suffered serious injury when a 20cm wooden splinter pierced through his leg.

Malays Learning Chinese Martial Arts

Wushu is a Chinese martial arts that is promoted as form of exercise, a sport that is beautiful and fun to watch and a method of self-defense. Huang Yao Ming, a Chinese martial arts association founder, told the Sin Chew Daily that the association was founded in 2006 and is currently having about 1000 of students of which 30 percent are non-Chinese. Huang said that their coaches also teach Chinese martial arts in over 60 schools nationwide. Since they teach in English, many non-Chinese students have joined them. [Source: Sin Chew Daily, October 16, 2011]

The Sin Chew Daily reported: Malay “Secondary school student Ahmad Bokali, 14, said that he likes watching kungfu movies since he was young and he only started to join Chinese martial arts classes when he started studying in secondary school.At that time, there was a confrontation between some Malay and Chinese students and therefore, some Malay students laughed at him for joining Chinese martial arts classes. "They asked me why I wanted to learn Chinese martial arts and they laughed at us when they saw us practising. In fact, I was not enraged as I know they did not represent the whole community. My parents and friends understood it and were very supportive of me," he said.

He said that they did not bully him but just made some provocative acts. He kept his father's words in mind that learning martial arts was meant for self-protection and it should not be turned into violence to make troubles, and thus he just ignored them. "I like Chinese martial arts not only because it is a good exercise, but also because it allows me to make more Chinese friends and understand Chinese culture better. In fact, many people nowadays agree that it is an exercise good for health and a kind of disciplinary training. More importantly, I can protect myself, as well as people around me," Ahmad said.Under the guidance of his coach, Ahmad has reached the intermediate level in two years time. He even won two gold medals in a national inter-school competition.

Fourteen-year-old Naomi, who was of Chinese-English ancestry, started to learn Chinese martial arts since she was in Year 3 of primary school. She has reached the red belt level in five years time. Naomi, who looked gentle and delicate, was actually an active athlete since she was very young. In addition to Chinese martial arts, she was also good at skating, athletics, table tennis and badminton. "Basic skills are very important and thus, it is crucial to master them," she said.

She said that compared to her schoolmates, she did not get mentally tired as easily as them and her immune system was good. "Most importantly, I know how to take care and protect myself after learning many self-defense tactics. I believe that I can handle it if I meet a robber. It is also why I like to share with others. I hope that other girls are able to protect themselves," she said.

Soccer in Malaysia

In 2006, Malaysia was ranked 146th in the world in soccer, behind Seychelles, Antigua and Bangladesh. The rankings are a far cry from Malaysia's glory days in the 1970s and 1980s, when it qualified for the Olympics and was ranked ahead of current Asian powerhouses South Korea, China and Japan. [Source: Associated Press, July 18, 2006]

Soccer is Malaysia's most popular sport. Despite this the quality of Malaysian club soccer is very low. Monthly wages for players can be as low as US$500. English Premier League clubs such as Manchester United and Chelsea have played friendly’s against Malaysian teams before sell-out crowds in packed stadiums.

In July 2006, a vice president of Malaysia’s soccer association said Malaysia could qualify for the World Cup finals if the government offers citizenship to talented foreign players Associated Press reported: “Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Haji Omar said Malaysia should grant citizenship to nationals from other countries to strengthen its national squad, the national news agency Bernama reported.

Match Fixing Allegations and Death Threats in Malaysian Soccer

There are a number of allegations of match-fixing in Malaysia. In May 2013, AFP reported: “Malaysian football authorities have promised to investigate claims of match-fixing and urged police to protect players amid death threats from bookies, reports said. Fears of match-rigging surfaced especially during the recent second-tier Malaysian Premier League match between Kuala Lumpur and Sime Darby. Angry fans waved banners with slogans such as "Bookie detected" and "Bookie 5 - Fans 0", at the start of the match. The final result was a shock because Sime Darby won 5-0. [Source: AFP, May 22, 2013]

Malay-language daily Harian Metro said Tuesday that several players are living in fear after receiving death threats from bookies for ignoring their instructions. "We have to look into this allegation of match-fixing seriously," Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper Wednesday. "The police need to keep a close eye regarding the (death) threats," he added. FAM officials could not be reached by AFP for comment. FAM officials, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and appointed sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin have met to discuss the match-fixing menace. Aseh Che Mat, FAM's integrity committee chairman, urged players immediately to report any death threats to police.

Allegations of match-fixing have long tainted football in Malaysia. In 2012, FAM suspended 18 youth players and banned a coach for life for fixing matches. Back in 1994, 21 players and coaches were sacked, 58 players were suspended and 126 players questioned over corruption. In early 2013 year it was revealed that hundreds of games worldwide, including in China and Lebanon, were being targeted by Asian-linked gangs. According to Europol, 380 suspicious games have been identified in Europe and the European police agency linked the problem to a criminal syndicate based in Singapore, which borders Malaysia. Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble recently said match-fixing generates hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Malaysian Goalie Cleared of Match-Fixing: He Just Made a Bad Play

In September 2012. Malaysian international goalkeeper Sharbinee Allawee was cleared of match-fixing allegations after passing a lie-detector test, the country's anti-corruption watchdog has said. AFP reported: The Terengganu keeper was questioned by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) after he clawed a high ball from a corner into his own net in a 1-1 Malaysia Cup draw with Kedah on September 1. Terengganu's English coach Peter Butler, a former West Ham United midfielder, substituted Sharbinee after the flub and was seen angrily berating the 25-year-old and shoving him off the field. [Source: Agence France Presse, September 20, 2012]

The anti-corruption agency launched a probe following media reports that the match may have been fixed. Sharbinee has denied wrongdoing, and welcomed the investigation as a way to clear his name. Mohamad Yusoff Mohamad Zin, Terengganu director for the MACC, said investigations determined Sharbinee was not involved in any corrupt activities, citing evidence from witnesses and the polygraph test. "The polygraph test revealed no significant reaction that could be linked to corrupt practices as alleged," the MACC official said in a statement on Tuesday.

However, Terengganu FA fined Sharbinee 1,000 ringgit ($327) for throwing a water bottle at Butler after being pulled. But Butler has faced even stiffer sanctions from the club. The team on Monday imposed a one-month 15-percent cut in salary on Butler for shoving Sharbinee. Butler has also been suspended for six months and fined 4,000 ringgit for airing alleged disciplinary problems at the club. He has claimed that two other players brought female guests to their hotel rooms -- one of the players is married, according to media reports -- but a probe revealed there was no evidence to back the allegation.

Malaysian Coaches Charged with Match-Fixing

In June 2011, Associated Press reported: “Malaysian authorities have charged a second soccer coach in a widening scandal over match-fixing at a domestic youth tournament. Sufiah Ngah is the third suspect to be charged this month amid intensified efforts to combat sports corruption. The Star newspaper reported Thursday that Sufiah, 41, pleaded not guilty at a district court with giving bribes totaling 5,000 ringgit ($1,649) to six members of his team in northeastern Terengganu state while competing in Malaysia's President's Cup for under-20 players last year. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine if convicted. Coach Yusarman Yusof was charged on June 6 with allegedly paying bribes totaling nearly 25,000 ringgit ($8,000) to 11 players of his team in southern Negri Sembilan state competing at the President's Cup. A Singaporean man this week became the second suspect charged after it was alleged he paid bribes totaling 1,200 ringgit ($400) to four players. [Source: AP, June 15, 2011]

In August, 2006 AFP reported: “The former coach of Malaysia’s national soccer team was charged with match-fixing by a Singapore court. Kwai Lam, 63, faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, a $63,400 fine, or both if convicted of offering money to one of his players to help fix a game in Singapore’s S League in 2005, according to his court charge sheet. Chow’s bail included a surety of $10,000 to allow him to leave the court’s jurisdiction, a court official said. He is scheduled to appear for a pretrial conference on August 24. The charge sheet said Chow, while coach of Singapore’s Paya Lebar Punggol club, offered $125 to $190, plus “a further unspecified amount of cash,” to his goalkeeper Zulkifli Zainolabidin to allow a few goals by the opposing team. [Source: AFP, August 17, 2006]

Israeli Soccer Player Subjected to 'Antisemitic' Abuse in Malaysia

In July 2011, The Guardian reported: “Chelsea have lodged a formal complaint with the Malaysian Football Association alleging that the club's Israel midfielder Yossi Benayoun was the subject of antisemitic abuse during a friendly in Kuala Lumpur. Large sections of the 84,980 crowd at the Bukit Jalil national stadium booed and jeered Benayoun's every touch in Chelsea's 1-0 victory over a Malaysian XI. The 30-year-old, one of the first Israelis to play in the country, did not complain at the time and was substituted at the interval along with all the starting XI. Malaysia, which is 60 percent Muslim and strongly supports the Palestinian people, does not recognise Israel and maintains no diplomatic ties with the state.[Source: The Guardian, July 28, 2011><]

“Chelsea had initially been uncertain whether the abuse was antisemitic, with Benayoun having committed a foul early in the game which might have provoked some level of reaction among the crowd. They had therefore not pursued the matter immediately after the game. The Israeli's team-mate José Bosingwa, a Portugal international, was also jeered following a bad tackle later in the first half. ><

“But, having since conducted inquiries into the nature of the chants, Chelsea have determined that the abuse was antisemitic and have written in complaint to the Malaysian FA. "Notwithstanding most fans behaving appropriately on the night, we believe Yossi was subjected to antisemitic abuse by a number of supporters at the game," a spokesman said. "Such behaviour is offensive, totally unacceptable and has no place in football. "The club did not make representations at the time as it was initially unclear as to the nature of the abuse Yossi received, as several players from both teams experienced similar treatment, sometimes louder and longer. However, having taken time to consider the issue fully, it has become apparent that a formal complaint was necessary. ><

"Our stay in Malaysia was on the whole a very positive experience for all the team on the tour. It is a shame, therefore, that the behaviour of a minority of supporters is also a memory we take away." The former Malaysian FA official Peter Velappan, who was once a general secretary of the Asian Football Confederation, was quoted last week admitting the abuse was regrettable, if hard to prevent. "It is of course unsporting," he said. "This is quite rampant in many of the European countries ... [but] especially in [multiracial] Malaysia we are supposed to set an example." ><

Earlier AFP reported: Malaysia “is standing by its decision to allow the Israeli coach and player from English Premier League side Chelsea into the country, a report said, despite planned protests by Muslims. Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, whose ministry oversees visas for foreigners, said coach Avram Grant and defender Tal Ben Haim will be allowed into Malaysia in July despite warnings of demonstrations by Muslim groups. [Source: AFP, April 28, 2008]

According to the Jerusalem Post, “Malaysia has a policy of not issuing visas to Israelis. It has no diplomatic ties with Israel and Israeli citizens require special permission to visit. Chelsea had indicated it may have to abandon the Malaysian leg of its tour if the two men were not allowed into the country. Syed Hamid said the government does not consider the visit by Chelsea's Israelis' as a threat, stressing that the issue should not be politicized. Some Malaysian Muslim activists have warned they might stage demonstrations if the government allows the visit. "We have not recognized Israel [diplomatically] as it does not fulfill its international obligations," Syed Hamid was quoted as saying by Bernama. "But in sports, we can allow their athletes in. I'm a Chelsea supporter too." Malaysia allowed Israel to play in an international cricket tournament in 1997, but it led to demonstrations by Muslim groups. [Source: Jerusalem Post, April 28, 2008]

Formula One Car Racing in Malaysia

Malaysia has hosted Grand Prix Formula One car races and Grand Prix motorcycle races. The Formula One events are held at the Sepang racetrack near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Launched in 1999, the $75 million track is 5.5 kilometers long. The race is 56 laps (310.4 kilometers). The fastest race lap for 207.256 kilometers per hour was set by Michael Schumacher in 1997. FIA-sanctioned racing in Malaysia has existed since the 1960s. From 2011, the race has changed its name to the Malaysia Grand Prix.

Alex Yoong is the only Malaysian to have raced in Formula One, with Minardi between 2001-02 without scoring a point.

Sepang hosted its first Formula One car race in 1999. The circuit is official 5.548 kilometers (3.447 miles) in length and 25 meters wide, with five left corners and 10 right corners: The longest straight is 920 meters (0.572 miles). Constructed in 14 months in 1998, Sepang covers 2,300 acres and houses a hotel, shopping centre, golf course and other sports facilities. With four slow corners following two long straights and ten medium to high-speed corners, the wide track is particularly favourable to overtaking manoeuvres and plenty of open throttle. Sepang is located around 50 kilometers south of Kuala Lumpur city.

In 2007, Malaysia secured a contract to host the race from 2011 to 2015. At that time the Sepand facility was called “shabby” and needed to be updated. There was some discussion of holding the race at night but the idea was shelved due to the high costs. Afterwards the race started at 5:00pm to allow European audiences to more easily watch it and allow spectators in Malaysia to watch the race in cooler temperatures. The 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix adopted a late afternoon start time with disastrous results. Due to heavy rainfall and the race not being able to be restarted due to the low light level making it through the clouds, the race ended on Lap 33, and with the rules requiring 42 laps for full points, so both driver and constructor results were halved in relation to points.

In 2000, the Malaysian Grand Prix was the last race of the Formula One season, In 2001 it was one of the earliest. Tickets for the finals cost upwards of $200. For their money fans not only get to see a car race but also see a performance of the navy band and demonstration by the Malaysia air force.

Malaysia initially lobbied hard to obtains the rights to hold the Formula race for seven years. Being able to host the race was seen as personal victory for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who wanted to host the race to elevate Malaysia’s stature abroad. The race has generally heralded as a success. It has attracted millions of tourist and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Stormy Weather Conditions Often a Feature of Formula One Car Racing in Malaysia

The World Championship Malaysian Grands Prix have seen a good deal of action on and off the track, whilst the weather—furnace heat one minute, tropical storm the next—adds extra spice. The most notable Grand Prix at Sepang to date was the inaugural event in 1999. It saw Michael Schumacher return to the sport after his absence due to a broken leg sustained at that year's British Grand Prix, dominating the race and handing the victory to title-hopeful team-mate Eddie Irvine, only for both Ferraris to be disqualified due to a technical irregularity, handing the title—until the steward's decision was overruled—to Mika Häkkinen. [Source: Wikipedia]

The 2001 event was hit by a heavy rainstorm in the middle of the race which made conditions very difficult. Conditions were so bad that the two Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello spun off almost simultaneously at the same corner. Remarkably, they both recovered to score a Ferrari "1-2", because for a long time they were nearly 5 seconds faster than anyone else on the field. Elsewhere, the race was even led by Jos Verstappen, surprisingly. However, as the track begun to dry, he fell back to 7th, but his efforts to keep positions were memorable.

Since 2001, the Malaysian Grand Prix has moved from the end of the schedule to the beginning, which has seen some topsy-turvy results as teams and drivers get to grips with their new equipment, with many races heavily influenced by the winners and losers of the scramble for position into the tight double hairpin bend at the first corner.

In April 2007, shortly before the 2007 Malaysian Grand Prix, Formula One president Bernie Ecclestone was quoted as stating that the circuit was getting "shabby" and "a bit tired" from the lack of care, describing it as "an old house that needs a bit of redecorating". He noted that the circuit itself is not the issue, but rather the surrounding environ; rubbish is said to be littered all over the place, potentially damaging the circuit's good reputation when it was opened in 1999.

The day before, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had met Ecclestone to discuss an extension of the Formula One contract beyond 2010. While the government had been given an additional extension to host the Grand Prix until 2015, the government was still mulling the offer at the time.

Alonso Storms to Victory in Rainy Malaysia in 2012

In 2012, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso scored a dramatic victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix when the Spaniard denied Sauber’s Sergio Perez a first Formula One triumph in a race turned on its head by the weather. It was the second race of the F1 season. Reuters reported: “The race started in torrential rain and was stopped for 51 minutes after eight laps but Alonso took charge on its resumption to register a shock 28th career victory in a car that had been outpaced in qualifying in the opening two rounds. [Source: Reuters, March 25 2012]

“We maximised the potential in our hands,” said Alonso. “The team deserve this win. It’s a tough time for us at the moment but this is a Sunday we will remember.” Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton repeated his third place finish from the opening race of the season in Melbourne last weekend, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber in fourth and 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen fifth in his Lotus.Australia race winner Jenson Button and current world champion Sebastian Vettel, who was running fourth at the time, both suffered mid-race collisions with the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan and finished outside the points.

Alonso started the race in eighth place but worked his way up to fifth by the red flag, passed Webber soon after the resumption and capitalised on a well-timed pit stop to get past Hamilton. He overtook Mexico’s Perez on the 17th of the 56-lap race and after initially dropping back, the Sauber closed to within a second of the Ferrari in the late stages and was on course to secure an unlikely victory. His dreams of becoming the first Mexican to record a Formula One win since 1970 were shattered with five laps remaining, however, when he ran wide on turn 13 and slipped too far behind Alonso to catch him before the chequered flag.

“I knew I had to get him soon because in all the high speed corners I was losing my front tyres running behind him,” said the 22-year-old Perez, who was ordered by Ferrari-powered Sauber to “be careful” just before the error. “Then I ran wide in the quick left hander. I touched the kerb and I went onto the dirty side of the track. It was completely wet and I lost the win.”

Sebastian Vettel Ignores Team Orders to Beat Mark Webber in 2013

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders in the Malaysian GP to win an intense battle with Mark Webber in 2013. The BBC reported: “Webber led after the final pit stops and the drivers were told to hold position to the end of the race but Vettel passed Webber after a tussle with 13 laps to go. Lewis Hamilton took third ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, who obeyed an order to stay behind. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso crashed on the second lap after breaking his front wing.

“It was a race full of drama as the intra-team battles at Red Bull and Mercedes played out live. The battle between the Red Bulls was resolved in an intense scrap as Webber rejoined from his final pit stop. Vettel was warned by team boss Christian Horner that he was being "silly" but the two then battled wheel-to-wheel around Turns One and Two onto Turn Four, where Webber appeared finally to yield to his team-mate despite having the inside line.

Webber said: "After the last stop the team told me the race was over and we turned the engines down and go to the end. The team made their decision. Seb made his own decision and he will have protection as usual." Vettel was told over the radio after the race: "Good job, Seb. Looks like you wanted it bad enough. Still you've got some explaining to do."

Webber had initially taken the lead at the first stops as the drivers came in to fit dry-weather tyres following a wet start. He had led the race throughout, with the two Red Bull drivers using the two available tyre compounds in different orders. Vettel chose to end the race on the softer 'medium' tyre while Webber was on the hard. Vettel said: "Obviously it is very hot and if there is something to say we need to say it internally." Red Bull motorsport chief Helmut Marko, a powerful champion of Vettel, admitted the battle had "got out of control".

BBC analyst Andrew Benson wrote: “"The Malaysian Grand Prix team orders controversy at Red Bull is only the latest episode of a long-running drama between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. It goes right back to 2010, when the two crashed while Vettel tried to pass Webber for the lead of the Turkish Grand Prix. Since then, there has been a litany of further incidents at the team as the two men, both intensely determined and tough but very different in other ways, have battled for supremacy. Adding spice to it is Webber's belief that, while they profess to allow them to battle it out on the track, the team is more behind Vettel than him. The belief - widely shared within F1 - is founded on the way the team have responded to the various situations between their drivers. In their battle in Malaysia there may even have been a bit of residual revenge on Vettel's part - the German and his champion at Red Bull, motorsport chief Helmet Marko, felt Webber was obstructive in last season's title-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix."

Malaysian Teen Jeffri Is Youngest F1 Test Driver

In September 2010, Malaysian Nabil Jeffri became Formula One's youngest test driver at the age of 16 after being driven to the track by his proud father. Reuters reported: “Jaffri, still too young to take a driving test in Britain or drive on the public roads, conducted a day of straight line aerodynamic testing for F1 newcomers Lotus on an airfield runway in Duxford, eastern England. The Malaysian-owned team's regular race driver Heikki Kovalainen and Malaysian reserve Fairuz Fauzy were also present to advise the teenager. "I have had an incredible day, one of the best days of my life," said Jaffri, a member of the AirAsia ASEAN driver development programme who competes in the Asian Formula BMW series. [Source: Reuters, September 1, 2010]

"I have to admit the first time I went out it was pretty scary. Everyone told me the acceleration would be unbelievable and the braking would be so much greater than anything I've ever experienced, and it took a while to get used to that," he added in a team statement. Kovalainen said he told the youngster to just enjoy the experience and not get stressed about trying to impress. "He did a great job today, he quickly picked up the correct procedures and was working well with the whole team," said the Finn.

Team principal Tony Fernandes, who also runs the AirAsia airline, said the test was just a first step on the path to the top. "When I first offered Nabil the chance to drive our car he couldn't tell if I was joking or not," he said. "But I was very serious about giving a young Malaysian the chance to step up to the big time. "He's repaid my faith in him and has performed incredibly well." The youngest driver to take part in a grand prix is Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari, who made his debut for Toro Rosso in Hungary in 2009 aged 19 and 125 days.

Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix

The Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix is also held at Sepang. One of the longest laps in MotoGP is made all the more gruelling for riders by intense heat and humidity. In 2013, the race was held in October with the Moto3FP1 at 09:00 - 09:40; the MotoGPFP at 09:55 - 10:40; the Moto2FP1 at 10:55 - 11:40; the Moto3FP2 at 13:10 - 13:50; the MotoGPFP2 at 14:05 - 14:50; and the Moto2FP2 at 15:05 - 15:50.

Marco Simoncelli Dies after MotoGP Crash in Sepang

In October 2011, Italian rider Marco Simoncelli was killed in a horrific crash at the Malaysian MotoGP in Sepang. The BBC reported: “The race was stopped on lap two when Simoncelli's bike veered across the track at turn 11 into the path of Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi. The 24-year-old had his helmet knocked off and was hit by both other riders. American rider Edwards also fell and dislocated his shoulder - while Simoncelli's fellow Italian Rossi was able to return to the pits. [Source: BBC, October 23, 2011]

Simoncelli lay motionless on the track after the impact, while the race was immediately red-flagged. Medical director Michele Macchiagodena said Simoncelli suffered a "very serious trauma to the head, to the neck and the chest". At first officials were looking to restart the race before the extent of Simoncelli's injuries became clear. The race was cancelled amid confusion in the grandstand, with fans throwing bottles to show their initial displeasure.

The death is the first fatality in MotoGP since Japan's Daijiro Katoh died from injuries sustained at the 2003 Japanese GP while, last year, Japan's Shoya Tomizawa died in a similar crash to Simoncelli in a Moto2 race in San Marino . Matt Roberts of the BBC said, “Marco was flamboyant on and off the track. When someone dies, everyone always says they loved life. But he had a very vibrant personality. He already had a huge fanbase around the world, partly down to aggressive riding - but also because he was just a cool guy. He didn't take himself too seriously and would have been a big star for next year.”

"Marco lost his helmet in the crash.” Roberts said. “The officials said that, when the track medics got to him, he was in cardiac arrest. They tried to resuscitate him in the ambulance and the medical centre. Both riders collided with him and the impact corresponded to him losing his helmet. The saddest thing is that Valentino [Rossi] and Marco were very close friends. Colin [Edwards] has a dislocated shoulder and is in a lot of pain. He and Valentino are absolutely devastated." A MotoGP statement read: "On Sunday, 23 October, during the MotoGP race at the Sepang International Circuit, San Carlo Honda Gresini's Italian rider Marco Simoncelli suffered a serious accident wherein he sustained critical injuries.

The race was stopped immediately with the red flag and Simoncelli was transported by ambulance to the circuit medical centre where the medical staff worked to resuscitate him."Despite their efforts, Marco sadly succumbed to his injuries at 4.56pm local time [0956 BST]. "Everybody involved in MotoGP extends its deepest condolences to Marco's family, friends and team at this tragic loss." Sepang circuit chairman Mokhzani Mahathir added: "This is a one-of-a-kind freak incident where the helmet came off and I am sure FIM [International Federation of Motorcycling] and MotoGP will be looking into this."

Simoncelli entered MotoGP for the 2010 season and won his first pole position at the Catalunya race in June this year. Simoncelli's first podium finish came in the Czech Republic in August when he finished third but he bettered that with a second-place finish at the Australian GP . World champion Casey Stoner said: "As soon as I saw the footage it just makes you sick inside. Whenever the helmet comes off that's not a good sign."

AFP reported: “The Sepang circuit will take a hard look at safety after the death of MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, but the notoriously tricky track was not to blame in the tragedy, its chairman believes. The Simoncelli tragedy will likely add fuel to questions being asked about the dangers of racing, and Sepang International Circuit chairman Mokhzani Mahathir said the track's first-ever fatality would prompt a new look at safety. "Sepang race organisers have to re-look at safety from every angle again," he said. Mokhzani said the International Motorcycling Federation would investigate the crash, which occurred early in the race and resulted in its cancellation. "We will see from it (the investigation) if there is anything we could have done differently," he said.

The Sepang circuit outside the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur is considered a challenging track due to the high heat, humidity, and frequent rain. However, despite the usual sweltering tropical temperatures, conditions on Sunday were dry. It was not immediately clear what prompted the crash. In footage of the accident, Simoncelli's bike veers in from outside the frame, with the 24-year-old Italian appearing to be sliding off. With his head at track level, Simoncelli ploughed into the oncoming front tyres of racers Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi. Despite the tragedy, Sepang, which also hosts the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix and other races, was "a safe track", Mokhzani said. "It is a sad and unfortunate racing accident but the circuit is designed to the highest safety levels," he said, adding it was inspected by motor sports' governing bodies. [Source: AFP, October 24, 2011]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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