Year Inducted: 1993
He is fondly remembered for orchestrating the nation’s independence from the British. But what most people often overlook, is that Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s “Father of Independence”, was also a great contributor and lover of sport.
Football was always his favourite, and while studying at the University of Cambridge his love and involvement for the sport deepened. Upon his return to Malaysia in the late 1930’s, he was elected Vice President of the Football Association in his home-state, Kedah. In 1949 Tunku was elected President of the Selangor Football Association, and a couple of years later, the President of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), a position that he served in for twenty years. He also loved horse racing and was a regular at the Selangor Turf Club.
Tunku supported the development of sport and encouraged Malaysia’s foray into the international sporting arena, and introduced many new initiatives in the sport of football. As the President of FAM, he introduced competitions such as the FAM Cup (“Piala FAM”) and the Rahman Cup (Piala Rahman), which was for those under-18 years. Spurred on by the love for the sport, he then mooted the idea of building a football stadium to commemorate and remember the struggles of the country in achieving its independence. Thus, in 1957, the Merdeka Stadium was built, and it was here that the famous cry of ‘Merdeka!’ (Freedom) by Tunku was made, signalling the end of the British reign in (then) Malaya. He then initiated the Independence Football Festival (“Pestabola Merdeka”), an international football tournament which inspired many other similar tournaments in Jakarta, Thailand and South Korea. His abilities were also recognised regionally when he was elected President of the Asian Football Confederation the following year.
The nation achieved many great successes during Tunku Abdul Rahman’s term as the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, and sport was one of them. He always believed that sport was a great catalyst to bring about social unity among people of different races and religions. It cannot be denied that his love for sport certainly created a strong foundation of sporting success in this country, one from which we continue to build on even to this day