Sunday, November 23, 2008

The New Paper: "Does It Pay To Be A World Champ In Singapore"

Been reading the The New Paper in Singapore recently and they wrote something about being an Athlete here.

They wrote about a Singapore Silat fighter who recently won a World Title and how he intends to quit due to the lack of funding and recognition from the Singapore Sports Council.

On top of that,recently Singapore's bowler,Jasmine Yeoh-Nathan won Gold at AMF World Cup in Hermosillo, Mexico and also recieved nothing from the Singapore Sports Council. She did recieve some money that was raised by her association.

You can read the articles here.

"Does It Pay To Be A World Champ"

"No,It Does Not"

"Must It Always Be About Money?"

I actually decided to take time to write to The New Paper over the weekend. I never write in to any papers or magazines but this kinda affects me in a way.

You can read my letter to them here.
(I had to remove a couple of vulgarities to make it sound abit more professional!!)

Dear New Paper,

I'm writing in regards to the articles that I've been following over the last few days, "Does it pay to be a world champ?" Well my answer is NO not in Singapore!

I am a Professional Muay Thai fighter and I've been Professional for the last 5 years. I was a fighter on Mark Burnett's Reality TV series "The Contender Asia." I've fought on the prestigious King's Birthday in Thailand. I won a WMC Muay Thai Against Drugs Challenge belt. I was a Quater Finalist at the Amateur World Championships. I train and fight professionally around the world and I currently run my own personal training business in Singapore.

I know Muay Thai hasn't been in the NSA long, and it's not one of the 'elite' Sports like Swimming, Badminton or Table Tennis for example. Therefore I am not expecting to receive any monetary reward. However, I would like to voice my views on being a Professional athlete in Singapore.

I fully understand where Muhammad Razif Moklas is coming from when he says he is considering retiring. There have been many times when I have thought about hanging up my gloves and calling it quits. Why? Because there isn't any sponsorship or help from the SSC or external companies here in Singapore.

I have placed Singapore on the World Map of Muay Thai. Very few people even knew Singapore participated in Muay Thai. However, when I fought and won my place to be one of the fighters in The Contender Asia, many people on the internet and in the media and sports world were talking about me,"Who's this Singaporean?" "Why is he even in there?" "Do Singapore do Muay Thai?" The Contender Asia aired globally this year and had viewing figures of several million. Many of these viewers had never even heard of Singapore until they saw the show. Now I get hundreds of emails from all over the world offering support, recognising me and congratulating me on my win during the Finals at the Indoor Stadium.

Both before and since The Contender Asia aired globally, I have been featured in numerous local and International magazine and newspaper articles. Sad to say all the exposure hasn't really done much for me. I've approached many sports brands and fitness related companies to sit down and discuss sponsorship deals or endorsement with me but, to this day I've had very little success. Sadly, sports companies would rather give products like running shoes and training clothes to TV Stars (who probably go to slimming centres instead of working out to keep fit!). Instead why not give it to the local athletes like Muhammad Razif, Jasmine Yeong-Nathan, Remy Ong or even me?

Help doesn't have to come in the form of money. Things like running shoes, training clothes or even sports supplements are also a way to help the athletes. I run about 10 -15km a day during training. I change running shoes every 3-4 months and the cost is considerable. I spend hundreds of dollars on Protein and other supplements to help me recover and perform better in training and competitions but when I've contacted some of the Fitness Supplement companies here about sponsorship they don't even reply to my messages!

In regards to Singapore Sailing Presidents comment, "Why must it always be about monetary incentives? Why can't we take part in sports just for the sake of sports?" Not all athletes come from wealthy families. When athletes here have to work 9-5 just to survive and on top of that, train as a professional athlete it is not easy. Athletes have to be in top physical and mental condition to perform at their best. How can they perform at their best if they are struggling to pay bills and make ends meet? I have done and am still doing the sport I love out of Passion. But Passion doesn't pay for my running shoes, my supplements, my medical bills when I get injured. I don't know what injuries you get from sailing but I can tell you the injuries I've got from Muay thai! But, I have never asked for money from the Sports Council and am not about to.

When I was younger I played football for the S-League Youth Clubs and I also played for the Singapore Combined Schools Sepak Takraw team. We were expected to attend training almost every day. What did we get in return for playing for the team? A jersey and a tracksuit. Thinking back I could have bought almost 4 or 5 tracksuits with all the money that I spent on transport to training. Many of the talented players I knew back then have given up professional football and don't play at all anymore. Why? Because there is no incentive here in Singapore. A lack of recognition and incentive kills the drive and passion required to be a professional athlete.

I was once asked who I represent when I fight at tournaments. I replied that I represent Singapore, myself and the gym that I'm fighting for. When asked whether Singapore gives me any incentives when I fight in the way of money, awards or certificates I replied, "nothing." So why do I represent Singapore? Good question! The fact that I am Singaporean is the only reason that I represent Singapore but even that is slowly losing it's meaning. For all I know Singapore could just buy a Thai national and give him P.R status and he could easily replace me as Singapore's best Muay Thai fighter. Kids dreams are dashed when they know that as hard as they try and as much as they train, Singapore could easily overlook local talent and just 'buy' foreign athletes to represent them. If all the money spent on Foreign Talent were used to groom the local youths and even the semi-pro athletes they would be just as good as the imported talent.

In summary, I feel that Singapore does not offer the support and recognition that local athletes deserve. When local companies would rather endorse and promote TV celebrities than athletes is it any wonder Singaporean youths are deterred from chasing their sporting dreams? I am not asking for money from the government or the SSC or from anyone else for that matter. However, I am expecting the recognition and the respect that I deserve for putting my body on the line and representing my country.

So thats just my two cents worth on this whole discussion. One thing that really got me annoyed was the Singapore Sailing Presidents comment. That really annoyed the hell out of me. Maybe he didn't mean it that way? Maybe I was just so angry when I was reading the article I took it thw wrong way? I mean,you would probably have to be wealthy to be able to afford to do a sport like sailing anyways?!! So maybe money isn't a prob to him and his sport...?? But not all of us were born with a silver spoon up the bitching and whining abit for recognition and funds is normal for us middle class athletes.

I hope the new paper read it. There is so much more I would like to say in it,but I reckon I'd just lose my temper.......and just end up getting in trouble!!

So you readers decide if what I have said in the letter makes sense...or am I just a grumpy pissed off Thai Boxer.

LaterZ ppl.

Ohhhh before I forget...!!! On another note...there is an amateur muaythai event on the 29th of November at Jurong Sports Hall. Check the poster out. I should be there that day to catch up with some friends/fighters and all. For more details contact Punch Academy

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hong Kong Contender Event

Late update again....I know sorry!! So I've just edited some of the pics taken from my Nikon S700 and so here is the latest blog update!!!

On Nov 4th I left with Contender trainer Petch from BNM to Hong Kong. This was my 2nd visit to Hong Kong. I was there maybe....some 10 years ago??? I barely remembered anything about Hong Kong except for the street food and the crazy shopping!!

We arrived at at night and the promoter,Jeremy Chan,the Thai fighter, trainer and owner of "King Professional" were already there. We sat down chatted....and while the owner and promoter had a bite to eat and drink....I just stared and drooled coz we needed to make weight the next day!! About 30mins later Jabba, Soren and Zidov arrived,was good to see the boys again!! Jabba and Zidov are like an OLD Couple after being married for 40years or something!!? They have this "Love-Hate relationship". Always cracks me and Soren up to see them take the piss out of each other it's just hours of entertainment!!!!

So as always it's straight to work....We got to the Wunique Gym. Home of Hong Kong Muay Thai Superstar,Heung Pak Wing!!! We had to do a video sorta thing and do some quick photo stuff for the event. We were all hungry and tired....not a good combo!! We finished up quick and we were taken to our hotels where I shared a room with my buddy Soren, and the old couple Zidov and Jabba were put togeher.

Apartments near the hotel we stayed at.

Arriving at night is always dont know where you dont know what to expect. So me and Soren got up the next morning around 9am,we opened the curtains and it was just....grey grey grey..!! I mean HongKong is just a Concrete Jungle!! Buildings all packed in soo close to one another and reaaallly small!!! I can only imagine what the apartments would be like to live in there. So we did a run around the area as we needed to make weight and also just wanted to see what the place was like,and to see what we could get up to later when we've finished with our weigh in. After sweating off the last few kilos,we all met up at the lobby at around lunch and were taken back to Wunique Gym where we all made weight.....and were finally allowed to EAT!!!!!!!!!!!
Streets of North Point,the area we lived in.

The rest of the day we were left on our own to do whatever we wanted. We went back to the hotel and wandered around the area we stayed at called "North Point" for abit before we went to get some rest. Evening came and Soren and me went down to Causeway Bay,Times Square and Sogo!! We walked around and it was SERIOUSLY just BUSY!!!! People EVERYWHERE!! In Soren's own words....."there's so many people its like ANTS!! But even Ants are more organized coz they only move in a straight line!!! Here,they are EVERYWHERE!?!?" haha Me and Soren met my sisters friend,Phoebe for some japanese food and then it was off to beddddddddddddd to rest for the fight tmrw night!!

Sogo at Causeway Bay,Sooo busy!! Me getting hungry!!

After a whole day of just bumming around in the hotel. We were off to the stadium at about 4pm. We were given instructions on the event when we got to the venue and then we were all off to our dressing rooms. The 4 of us and the Thai fighter from King Professional were in the same room. It was very very professional how the Hong Kong Muay Thai ran the show. I mean I've been to some events's just a food....nothing!! We got taped up,oiled and just kept warm by shadow boxing and stretching in the dressing room and watched the fights from our room on the tv screens.

Before I knew it...I was up next!! Got abit more oiled rubbed on my armbands on,put my new shorts that was designed by my buddy Oak at Kombat Gear I love them and they are just awesome!! Had my Arab headdress placed over my head as Jabba and I said our prayers. After that I was ready waiting for them to announce me and was just shadow boxing and trying to keep myself warm!!...It was blooooody cold in the stadium....!!!!

We were told before in the dressing room by the promoter,Jeremy that we can only do Wai Kru for not longer than 3 mins!!! and I roughly knew that mine takes about 5mins!!! And I was considering to cut out Shooting the arrow...but I remembered last time I didn't do that bit I got KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT in a fight so...NOPE!! Gonna stick to it!! Got in said my prayers hurried through the Wai Kru and Jabba was in my corner to help me remove my Arab Headress. Always nice to have my bro in my corner for this part!!

I didn't really know anything about my fighter...!!?!? So the fight started slow and we both started out just trying to get a feel of each others style. I remembered him coming at me with hard punches. And I thought to myself.."Right gotta keep my guard up!!" close to the end of the first round I caught a pretty good knee from him in the grapple...and as the ref said break I relaxed and he pushed my head down and I kinda got caught with his knee to the side of my face! Unintentinonal so not too bothered about it. And that was it.... End of Round 1!

Went back to my corner, and for the first time ever I had Petch in my corner. And I must say he is a reallly good corner man to have. Matsuer (who fought Yodsaenklai in Singapore) was also in my corner and the two of them were really good. I listened and I followed exactly what they told me to do and it was perfect!!

I found it hard in the first 2 rounds to get my judgement with Roel. He would hit and stay out of distance alot of the time. Made me miss my kicks a fair bit at the start.... but soon I got my rhythm and my distancing right.....and I managed to get a few left kicks to his body and right leg kicks...and in the grapple locked him out and managed to slip in an elbow on him.

Roel landed a couple of good bodyshots and knees again on me in the later rounds and also caught me with an elbow!! Thank god it didn't cut!!! I gotta say he had some pretty strong punches!! But I just stuck to the game plan that Petch and Matsuer had and it worked a treat!!! Experience in the corner make a difference!! Between them they would have had 800 fights maybe!?!?Nothing like having a great corner men on your side!!!

Soon it was end of Round 5!!! And I was declared the winner!! =) I got on the microphone and said a few words in Cantonese and then spoke in Mandarin..haha Being in HongKong the few days before I reaaaaaally had to use my mandarin alot..Ordering food for everyone and asking for directions. hahah The crowd loved the speech and I think alot of people prolly were wondering what the hell is this guy!?..Singapore,comes out in the Arab headress but speaks cantonese mandarin?? Just abit more info on me that many people dont know....I studied Mandarin in school and my mom's dialect is Cantonese! Just incase you're wondering!??!!!

All fight photos here on this site were taken by Thomson Wong,check them all out at his album

After the whole event I stayed on a few extra days to catch up with some good friends who were living in Hong Kong,Derrick and Sarah!!! They housed me for the weekend and they took me out partying and it was AWESOME!! Hong Kong has such a good nightlife!!! We met a brazillian friend of mine who is based in Hong Kong,his name is J.P and he who promotes DJs in the region and he hooked me up with the very talented resident DJ Fabio Moretts from Brazil (Who also happens to train Muay Thai!!) So we chatted and he later offered me to jam with him on Sat night at the famous club VOLAR in Lan Kwai Fong!!!

Fabio and Me played the 3am - 6am slot and we ROCKED the dance floor!!!!!!! We played back 2 back....playing 2 songs each on the decks! It's really hard to play back to back especially if it's the first time playing together!!! But me and Fabio got along well and kept the clubs vibe up all night!! It was so much fun to DJ again!!!! I realllly missed DJing!! So after another late night of partying in the city that never sleeps.....I got home from DJing at 8am packed my bags and was straight out the door to catch my flight back home to Singapore!!

I had an AMAZING time in Hong Kong this time round. I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to Jeremy Chan for giving me the oppurtunity to fight in Hong Kong and for taking such good care of us during our stay. To my buddies Derrick and Sarah,thanks for having me over on the weekend,you guys know how to P A R T Y!!! Love you guys!! J.P and Fabio Thank You Sooooooo Much for letting me DJ at Volar on such short notice. It was a FUN night!! And now I can add VOLAR to the list of cool places I've DJed at!!!! Hope to be back there again soon!!!!

The last look at the magnificent view from Derrick & Sarah's apartment in HK before I headed to the airport!!

LaterZ everyone am off to O.P.R.C to see my miracle man Jose to get rid of some pain!!!!