Uniting Communities Through Sports and Traditions
By Beh May TingMay 2023 FEATURE
FEW ACTIVITIES can transcend ethnic, cultural, religious and language differences the way sports can. Team sports, in particular, relies heavily on esprit de corps and cooperation among teammates. The organisation of groups of people with similar goals have long been a key aspect in human interaction and social functions – it is also what sports clubs are founded upon. (See feature in Penang Monthly April 2016)
Sports clubs serve communities by giving them the space and platform to engage in activities that interest them. Sports clubs with European founders, such as Penang Sports Club, generally offer more English sports, such as cricket and tennis. Meanwhile, the Chinese Recreation Club (CRC) and the Chinese Swimming Club, both of which are more local-oriented, offer Tai Chi and yoga.
Penang Forward Sports Club, founded by Penangites who bonded through their love for running, also has a dragon boat team with diverse members from Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines and South Korea. It is a longstanding tradition for prayers to be done before every dragon boat race and during festive seasons. Though members are not required to participate, it is a spectacle to see non-ethnic Chinese members of the team join in an essentially Taoist practice of praying with joss sticks.
According to Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, Ti Lian Ker, lion and dragon dances are in the final stages of approval to be included to the list of recognised sports under the Sports Development Act.
Apart from dragon boat races, Penang Forward Sports Club is one of the few sports clubs in Penang that also hosts practice sessions for lion and dragon dance troupes. The younger generations in these troupes play crucial roles in ensuring the longevity of a treasured but fading tradition.
Note: The author would like to thank Lim Choo Hooi, Chairman of Penang Forward Sports Club for the invaluable information he provided for this article.
Beh May Ting
is an urban anthropologist and a senior analyst in Penang Institute. She draws professional and personal inspirations from the finer things in life.