Dina Rizal mustn’t walk alone


By Lee Yew Meng

Wednesday January 13, 2016


Dina with wife Shireen and children Sherga (front), Sheena and Shahmeez

I think I first met Datuk Dina Rizal in 1984 when I was the organising secretary of the first Kuala Lumpur International Marathon, which was held in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of KL being a federal territory.

For some quarter century, Dina had been the face of Milo as Nestle’s sports marketing manager. The Milo truck is expected to be at all school grounds on sports days and at all other sports events. It is as if the brand’s presence endorses these occasions, like a charter sanction would.

Naturally, the nation’s first international marathon had Milo as its official drink.

We were One-Malaysian, united and strong

He joined Nestle in 1976 and by 1980, he was assigned the sports marketing job, promoting Milo, until his retirement in 2004. For the next 10 years, he was contracted as the sports marketing adviser until last year.

Although he tremendously enjoyed the environment his career had put him through — i.e. youth sports development and sporting events — he also noted with sadness the increasing polarisation in schools and sports, evident from the mid-80s onwards. It really bothered him.

He was born in 1950 of Sinhalese extraction in Brickfields with the given name Dinabandhu (“friend of the needy” in Sanskrit). He was able to fulfill his passion for sports when he was accepted into the Victoria Institution (VI) in 1963 for his secondary education.

He represented VI in the under-15 football tourneys in lower secondary, and the school team, from Form Four. The school won the inter-school championship Khir Johari Cup in 1967 and 1968 when he was in Form Five and Lower Six. In 1969, when he was in Upper Six, he was appointed the team captain.

He can still vividly recall, like it was yesterday, when Headmaster Murugasu summoned him before the finals against the Royal Military College (RMC), and said: “We must do it (win the cup for the third consecutive time)!” Oh boy, did Dina feel the weight!

VI beat RMC by a solitary goal, scored by Dina.

In the Higher School Certificate exam, he only passed with a Statement, which meant he didn’t qualify to apply for admission to Universiti Malaya (the only other university then was the fledgling Universiti Sains Malaysia, which was opened in 1969, on borrowed premises in the Malayan Teachers Training College). Murugasu wrote a strong appeal letter to Universiti Malaya emphasising Dina’s valuable contributions in bringing honours to VI at the expense of his scholastic achievement. He was accepted.

He had experienced first-hand how sports could instil discipline, commitment and unity in purpose when he was growing up. And during his Milo years, he was privileged to be in a position where he could influence and encourage organisers and participants to think and act Malaysian above all.

He reminded me how our football team made it to the 1980 Moscow Olympics, together with Kuwait and Iran (Malaysia and Iran supported the US- led boycott and were replaced by Iraq and Syria). Yes, we were once among the top three in Asia, beating South Korea and Japan. Dina thought the composition of the Malaysian team then said it all. We were One-Malaysian, united and strong.

SportsUnite

From 2005, Dina decided to devote the rest of his life to unite Malaysians through sports. His vehicle – SportsUnite Sports Club (SportsUnite) — was registered with the Sports Commissioner in 2007.

The club organises various sports competitions like hockey, football, basketball, badminton, netball and squash for under-12 boys and girls. He focussed on catching them young.

Last year was the fifth year in a row the Hockey Carnival was held. A total of 27 teams took part in the boys’ six-a-side and girls’ seven-a-side for the Piala Mirnawan. In football, they got the support from Datuk Soh Chin Aun in Malacca to organise the seven-a-side where 32 teams took part. In Selangor, Datuk Santokh Singh assisted and 48 teams took part while in Penang, Datuk Shukor Salleh’s “Penang Kickers” helped in the 32-team event. Aren’t these football legends great?

The Basketball Carnival is in its fourth year and the Squash Carnival in its third year. The Mother’s Day Bowling joined the carnivals the last two years.

The requirement for participating teams is that a minimum two ethnics are represented. After eight years, there is no doubt of solid parent support and Dina could see the mood and camaraderie like that of the ‘60s and ‘70s Malaysia.

This absolutely necessary effort should remain in the hands of SportsUnite. But couldn’t our Education Department’s sports division lend a hand? How about the National Unity and Integration Department within the Prime Minister’s Department?

Just imagine if the programme were extended to new villages and kampung. Neighbouring kampung folk could participate in basketball carnivals in new villages, followed by reciprocating football carnivals, etc.

In all the events, SportsUnite has the loyal support of four anchor sponsors — Milo, Nestle Breakfast Cereals, Permanis and the National Sports Council.

Postscript

“VI and Hong Chin (Football Club) days were some of the best days in my life. We were one, all brothers, Chinese, Malays, Indians or others. I was considered an Indian (Sri Lankan) but coached by a Malay and played for a Chinese club,” Dina said.

He became Dina Rizal when he married (the best decision in his life) Pakistani-Malaysian Shireen Marufah Khan in 1978. Now, the family comprises sons Sherga Reza and Shahmeez Reza, and daughter Sheena Ayesha.

He was awarded the Datuk Paduka Mahkota Perak in 2001.

SportsUnite must be a wholly Malaysian effort. Dina Rizal mustn’t walk alone.