SRAM – The History of Malaysian Squash

A Brief Introduction

Squash in this country was introduced during the British colonial era. It was played in their private clubs and among the Officer Corps of the British Military bases scattered around the Malayan colonies and at the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar; an institution modelled on a typical English public School. The first organised squash competition was held here in 1939. Two future great leaders of this country were featured in the finals of that event: YAM Tuanku Ja’afar ibni Tuanku Abdul Rahman beat Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein for the title.

 

The Beginnings of SRAM

It was at the Royal Lake Club, Kuala Lumpur that a group of local squash enthusiasts got together and first discussed the formation of a National Squash Association. Thus, was born the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM). It was formed on 25 June 1972. The founding President was the late Dato’ Hisham Albakri who served with distinction from 1972 to 1977. The founding Honorary Secretary was Y.A.M. Tunku Tan Sri Imran Ibni Almarhum Tuanku Ja’afar.

Tunku Tan Sri Imran, who became the first National Champion in 1973 when he beat Dato’ Dr Hood Salleh in the finals, succeeded Dato’ Hisham Albakri as President of SRAM.

Tunku Imran’s successor was the late Tan Sri Alex Lee, under whose astute guidance we achieved the incredible double world junior titles: the World Junior Men’s title won by Ong Beng Hee in Princeton, USA in 1998; and the World Junior Women’s title won by Nicol David in Antwerp, Belgium in 1999.

In its 46-year history, eight different presidents have helmed SRAM. SRAM has evidently grown to become one of the leading national sports associations in Malaysia and produced several leading players in world squash, notably eight-time world champion Dato’ Nicol David, and former world top-10 players in Ong Beng Hee and Mohd Azlan Iskandar.

 

SRAM Presidents

1972 – 1977 – Dato’ Hisham Albakri

1978 – 1989 – Tunku Tan Sri Imran ibni Tuanku Ja’afar

1990 – 1999 – Tan Sri Alex Lee

2000 – 2002 – Dato’ Nik Mohamed Din

2003 – 2004 – Dato’ Mokhzani Mahathir

2004 – 2010 – Dato’ A. Sani Karim

2010 – 2014 – Dato’ Syed Mustapha Syed Ali

2014 – 2018 – Huang Ying How

2018 – current – Nik Razeen A. Daud

Not only did our players make a mark in the international arena, so did some of our administrators/officials.

 

International Appointments

Tunku Tan Sri Imran ibni Tuanku Ja’afar President ISRF/WSF
President Emeritus
Patron WSF
1989-1996
1996-2002
Since 2002
Tan Sri Mokhzani Mahathir President ASF 1997-2001
Datuk A. Sani Karim President ASF
Vice President WSF
Emiritus President ASF
2009-2013
2002-2006
2013-current
Huang Ying How Vice President WSF 2016-current
Prasad Pillai Sec General WSF
Sec Gen ASF
1989-1992
1997-2001
Sivanesen Sec General ASF 2009-2013
Leslie Ponnampalam Hon. Treasurer ASF 2009-2013
Maj (R) S. Maniam Director of Coaching ASF
Director of Coaching WSF
1990-2013
2009-current

SRAM has also been very successful in their junior development programme which has produced a lot of success stories at the world and Asian level.

Since 2006, the introduction of the CIMB Foundation as a partner in the junior programme has seen SRAM ramp up its success with the likes of Ng Eain Yow winning the World Junior Championships in 2016, Sivasangari winning a series of PSA tournaments and the Malaysian junior girls sweeping four of five titles at the British Junior Open, all in 2018 for their best ever achievement to date.

 

Administration

SRAM first started its operations on a volunteer basis. At the start, many of those involved in the operational structure of the association were there helping out the sport that they enjoyed. Eventually, as SRAM grew to become one of the most prominent associations in the country, the need for full-time paid administrators became evident. Today, under the guidance of President Nik Razeen A. Daud, SRAM have seven full-time administrators on their payroll. Their roles range from coordinating development programmes, organising domestic and international tournaments and taking care of the welfare of players and coaches under the SRAM umbrella.

SRAM was the only association awarded the highest rating of five stars for governance by the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) in 2008, and one of three associations in 2010 thereafter. SRAM continued to receive the award of 5 stars, this time awarded by the Sports Commissioner’s Office (SCO) in 2017 and 2018. Besides being a top association in the country, SRAM is also widely recognised as a respected member of the World Squash Federation (WSF), Asian Squash Federation (ASF) and the Southeast Asian Squash Federation (SEASF).

 

State Affiliates

All 14 states in Malaysia – Kedah, Kelantan, Federal Territories, Negri Sembilan, Melaka, Pahang, Terengganu, Penang, Johor, Perlis, Perak, Sabah, Sarawak and Selangor – are the extended branches of SRAM. The state affiliates play a huge role in the development of squash in the country, especially at the grassroot levels. Many of the top current national players, the likes of Nafiizwan Adnan (Terengganu), Ng Eain Yow (Federal Territories), Sivasangari (Kedah) and Low Wee Wern (Penang) all came through the state programme’s scouting and development programmes. In short, the states are essential in bringing players through the pipeline and also to serve as a launching pad for players to potentially move up a level to the National training centre at the National Squash Centre, Bukit Jalil.

 

National Junior Development Programme

This was first launched during the reign of Tunku Imran in the late 80’s and Director of Coaching Maj (R) S. Maniam led the programme. Eventually Peter Chee was appointed as the National Development officer and together with several State Development Officers conducted a hugely successful programme. In the present era SRAM’s junior development programme was provided a fillip when in 2006 CIMB came on board as a partner. Besides sponsoring the top players at the time such as Nicol David, Azlan Iskandar and Ong Beng Hee, CIMB also played a key role in the junior programme. With the CIMB Foundation firmly behind them, SRAM was able to step up in expanding their programmes, especially to the state affiliates. A key component of the junior development was the introduction of more competitions for budding juniors with the CIMB Rising Star and the CIMB National Junior Circuits becoming crucial platforms for juniors to showcase their talents. The support of the CIMB Foundation also allowed SRAM to provide incentives to outstanding juniors a chance to compete at the prestigious British Junior Open and the Asian Junior Championships.

Players who have excelled under the CIMB Junior Development Programme include, Ng Eain Yow, Amir Amirul, S. Sivasangari, Aifa Azman, Aira Azman, Sehveetrraa, Nickeleshwar and numerous others in the pipeline.

 

Tournaments and Achievements

Host

As one of the leading squash nations in the world, Malaysia has been involved in hosting several major tournaments over the years. To date, Malaysia has hosted the Men’s World Championship twice – in 1989 and 1997; and the Women’s World Championship four times – 1996, 2004, 2013 and 2015. Besides that, Malaysia has also played host to several Asian Individual Championships and Asian Team Championships over the years. The Asian Individual meet has been held in the country six times, with the 2011 edition being the last while the team meet has been hosted five times, dating back to 1986. At the junior level, Malaysia has also hosted the boys’ and girls’ World Junior Championships as well as the Asian Junior Championships two times each.

 

Achievements

In terms of achievements, squash has always done the nation proud by never failing to return with a medal at major multi-sport events such as the Commonwealth and Asian Games since 1998. The year 2000 could be hailed as a great year for SRAM when our Men’s Team won the Asian Men’s Individual and Team titles in the 10th Asian Squash Championships held in Hong Kong. Malaysia became the only country to have beaten the Pakistani Men’s team for the two titles since the inception of the championships in 1981.

SRAM’s success story continued into the year 2001 where Nicol David successfully defended her World Junior Women Individual title held in Penang, her home state. The win also made her the first junior to have won the coveted World Junior title twice.

SRAM continued its dominance in Asian squash with Ong Beng Hee and Nicol David successfully defending their Asian Men’s and Women’s titles in the Asian Squash Championships 2002 held in Kuala Lumpur.
Nicol David went on to become the most decorated player in history with a record of eight world championship titles. She also has a proud record of five individual gold medals from six editions at the Asian Games and she is also the only woman to bag the individual gold medal at the Commonwealth Games twice, achieving the feat in 2010 and 2014. The Malaysian men are not too far behind either with Nafiizwan Adnan earning an individual bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games – the first Malaysian man for an individual medal. The men’s team also performed beyond expectations when they bagged their first ever team gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games.

 

National Coaching and Development Programme

Malaysia’s coaching structure was non-existent until 1983 when SRAM first employed a full-time coach – Chris Clarke. The Australian first initiated the Level 1 coaching course in Malaysia and also initiated a structured coaching programme for the senior and junior squads. Clarke’s role was also to mentor a Malaysian to succeed him, and Maj. (Rtd) S. Maniam was chosen for this role. He was appointed as the assistant national coach in 1986. Maniam eventually took over the head coach and Director of Coaching (DoC) role in 1987 when Clarke left for Hong Kong.

Under Maniam, the National Junior Development Programme was launched and talents such as Nicol David, Ong Beng Hee and Azlan Iskandar were found. Maniam held the post until 2002 before leaving to take up a similar role in India.

After Maniam, it was Penangite Allan Soyza who took over as the DOC in 2012, after a lapse of 10 years. Allan held the role for four years before leaving early in 2015 for Singapore as Maniam eventually returned to assume the role as SRAM director.

SRAM currently has a total of 7 personnel in their coaching unit which includes Peter Genever (Head Coach), Ajaz Azmat, Andrew Cross, Shahril Shahidan, Kenny Foo and Lawrence Kwan as the National Development Officer.

 

Recent Programmes

Among the programmes that helped SRAM stand out among others include:
Project 100 – Allan Soyza, during his tenure as head coach and director of coaching, introduced this programme with the intention of exposing the best juniors aged 16 and above to the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour. The idea was to prepare budding players to the life of being a professional so that they will be ready to make the step-up when they finish their junior careers.

World Junior Squad Programme – This is to form the core squads for the boys’ and girls’ World Junior Championships, especially the team event which is held every alternate year for boys and girls. Juniors under this programme receive the training boost and exposure needed to succeed at major junior events. Ng Eain Yow’s feat at winning the World Junior Championship in 2016 was a culmination of the programme’s success. The four gold medal haul at the 2018 British Junior Open was also a milestone in Malaysia’s quest to be a squash powerhouse.

University squash programme – This programme mainly focuses on providing a squash platform at universities in a partnership with the Ministry of Higher Education. The groundwork for the programme was laid in place by former SRAM president Dato’ Syed Mustapha. But it was only in 2013 that the programme truly took off with assistance and funding from the Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia (YR1M). Efforts in the programme saw the University Malaya (UM) promoted to be a Pusat Kecermelangan Sukan (PKS) in recognition of the strides made in squash. Malaysia also hosted the 9th FISU World University Squash Championships in 2016 and finished with a haul of two golds, one silver and one bronze.

The SEASF formation – A move to promote squash in the Southeast Asian region, with one of the goals of having squash feature at the SEA Games. As a leader of the sport, Malaysia has a huge role to play in helping their neighbours progress in squash. Sivanesen the Secreatray General of the Association was a prime mover for the formation of SEASF. The inaugural meeting for the SEASF took place on August 23, 2014 with the Asian Squash Federation (ASF) eventually recognising sub-regional federations after the 2016 ASF annual general meeting. To date, the SEASF has successfully organised four championships – the SEA Cup in 2015 Singapore, 2016 Myanmar, 2017 Kuching and 2018 in Bandung.

District squash programme – This is one of the most important initiatives by Huang Ying How, during his tenure as President. It is an opportunity to work with the Ministry of Education (MoE) for the benefit of ‘Pusat Latihan Daerah (PLD)’ or district level squash programmes. With the CIMB Foundation also coming on board as sponsors, junior coach Shahril Shahidan was appointed to oversee the development programme that is held across eight schools – SK Seri Indera (Perlis), SMK Seri Pagi (Negri Sembilan), SMK Dato’ Haji Ahmad Badawi (Penang), SMK TPP Tengku Muhammad (Pahang), SK Jalan Bintang (Sarawak), SMK Bukit Nenas (Terengganu), SMK Tunku Ismail (Kedah) and SMK Jelapang Jaya (Perak). The first inter-PLD tournament was held on Oct 21, 2017 at SMK Seri Pagi, involving 200 school children. As a result of this programme, squash has since been elevated to a Sukan Prestasi Tinggi Sekolah (SPTS) status under the MoE, thus further enhancing SRAM’s commitment to development at the grassroot levels.

“Squash for Life”

As at 30 Jan 2019