Within the space of just two years, we have seen a huge explosion in the number of teams attending the World Championships of Beach Ultimate, from 24 nations in 2015 to 39 in this year. In honour of all these new additions, over the course the week we will be presenting you the new kids on the block, who we are thrilled to see making their first international outing here in Royan.
And to kick of us off, we start with Malaysia.
The road to worlds
Whilst this is Malaysia’s first appearance on the international scene, this team is not lacking in international experience. In fact, it is distinctly international in origin as #88 Adam Koon explains: “The best thing about Malaysians is, they’re everywhere.”
It was after putting a shout out on ‘the Facebook thing’, that Koon, clearly still revelling in the marvel of such a potent social tool, received around 170 applications for the 15 spaces on offer. From there he explains, the selections were halved and the remaining applications were invited to trial. However, these trials were done in pods, from as far and wide from the UK to Melbourne, as the applicants literally did pour in from opposite parts of the globe.
However, the scene itself in Malaysia is incredibly vibrant within which some quality players were seen to rise up during the selection process. #8 Tze Yuin Tay asserts the growth of the sport in Malaysia has been insane over the last decade or so, recounting that Ultimate was virtually unknown when she left in 2001. Cut to 2017 and Sunway College is famous for its annual game night, where you literally queue up among hundreds of other eager beavers to play under the flood lights:
“You rock and off, its like a conveyor belt of Ultimate Frisbee,” explains Koon.
There has to be a video on YouTube. Please find it.
The opening game
Although Malaysia’s debut didn’t provide any unexpected upsets against an Aussie team that they conceded did physically outpace them, there is a lot to build on among this group of players. Offensively, they had some nice ideas, and were not short of beautifully weighted hucks to the end zone from #50 Jonathan Hunter, ex-Doublewide player, and former resident in Malaysia.
Of the two points they scored the first was patiently walked in, using the width of the pitch in front of the end zone; the second came from a huck, with an athletic take down from #9 Kia Chun Lim and an uncontested foul from the Aussies. They definitely could have had more, including another from #91 Yue Shern Kang who, having lost her mark, was streaking alone into the end zone but unfortunately the disc outpaced her. Nevertheless, teething problems are to be expected, with the full squad never having had a chance to play together until now.
But alongside Koon himself, who has played with numerous national teams, and many others including #23 Emily Hadel and #29 Jason Conrad with high level game experience, this team will undoubtedly find its feet as it tightens up its connections over the course of the week.
So looking ahead to the rest of the week, this is a team with nothing to lose and everything to gain; as such, their goals for the week are clear:
“We are hear to have fun, we are here to show off the best spirit our country can offer and play hard. We know we are the underdogs.”
Of course for a country like Malaysia, financial barriers are huge and will continue to have an influence on the nature of the squad that the country is able to send out onto the international stage. And that’s why their presence here, like for many other debuting nations, is so significant because it is ‘proof of the concept’.
Knowing that they will be going back with a ton of stories and experience, and having stood up and performed with pride at this level, it will be sure to inspire people to commit more time and resources into the game. Since for Koon himself, it is this unreserved faith in the sport’s organic growth that appears to be shaping the future of Ultimate in Malaysia:
“The story of Ultimate is like a virus, you go somewhere and suddenly someone throws you some plastic.”
The money may not be there but the love is:
“If it’s the case that world’s got to come to us maybe thats the solution. But the sport will continue to grow whatever.”
So it may take a while for Malaysia to be a regular on the international scene but it doesn’t stop its explosion domestically. Excluding the need for travel it remains incredibly accessible with swathes of high school and even primary school students taking it up. The South East Asia scene is strong, with a tournament somewhere in the region practically every weekend. More exciting still, Malaysia will be launching its own version of Paganello next May.
So be sure to follow the Malaysians’ progress this week! Regardless of how many upsets they are able to produce, their slick kits deserve some adoration, they’ll pulling out a signature Tiger cheer when things heat up and the question of who will be the victor of the hotly contested ‘my hair product will last this heat longer contest’ between Chun and Ben has us all waiting with baited breath.
By Charlie Blair.