In the early part of last year, the Malaysian dodgeball team participated in the Dodgeball World Cup in Manchester, where the men’s team won a silver.
Not only did our nation do well in that event, but it was also an achievement for Asia as a whole, as dodgeball has always been a sport which is dominated by the West.
With the Asia Pacific Championship coming up this weekend, we caught up with the captains of both the men’s and women’s teams.
They broke down what motivated them to push themselves forward and the challenges that accompanied them on their journey to victory.
Dodgeball is not seen as a major sport in Malaysia, so it is an achievement that both teams managed to make it to an international level and do so well.
“9 years of experience playing dodgeball certainly helped me cope in the championship last year,” said Nurazleen Naquiah Abdul Razak, captain of the women’s dodgeball team.
“2 weeks before we were supposed to head to Manchester, I had an accident where I broke my finger. That didn’t stop me, though, and even after removing the 33 stitches, I still played.”
Muhamad Heidy Mohd Yusoff, captain of the men’s dodgeball team, added that the pressure they faced felt unreal once they realised they weren’t just playing as a club anymore, but for the country as a whole.
“It meant too much to us to make our country proud, and it was worth every hardship that we’ve been through.”
“We do our best to remind ourselves that we are not in this alone but as a team, as well as our country’s backing and support.”
They described it as a roller coaster ride, and didn’t see much support.
“But the Malaysia Dodgeball Federation has truly changed that in my opinion, and this win has proven that we underdogs can make it as long as we train hard and believe in the team,” Heidy said.
Although they’re part-time athletes, they still train 4 times a week after work hours, in their quest to push Malaysia’s standard to a whole new level.
Having grown up playing football, basketball and many other sports, Heidy felt that none appeal to him as much as dodgeball, because of the bond and teamwork involved.
“Dodgeball teams move as one unit and the sport demands you to work together as a team in order to be good at it, hence the culture we create is very family-oriented. Therefore, we often hang out together for retreats, team-building activities, and yumcha sessions.”
However, it isn’t easy to balance their aspirations with real life.
Even after all the success they gained in dodgeball, our captains still need to go back to work, pay their bills, and arrange their schedules.
“Juggling between work that pays and passion that doesn’t is probably the most challenging task of all,” Heidy admitted.
“In short, time management is the key. There are times where sacrifices had to be made, but I believe being having a vision and being focused on your goal played a crucial role in our success.”
“It helps since I have full support from my company and fellow colleagues,” Nurazleen added.
“My store director Dong Dai and CEO Tom Meng (Decathlon Malaysia) are fully aware and supportive that I’m in the team. Therefore my work is quite flexible and I can plan my schedule ahead. It’s quite tiring, but I love my job!”
Their families are very supportive towards their passion in dodgeball as well, as both of them have expressed their desire to pursue dodgeball as a full-time career.
“I am a self-development coach by profession which is aligned with the sport, so yes, I do hope to pursue dodgeball as my full-time career sometime in the future,” Heidy said.
“I choose to do what I love most and fuel this dream of mine while making our country proud.”
Both men and women’s dodgeball team will be participating at the Asia Pacific Championships 2017 in order to qualify for the World Cup 2018 at New York, Madison Square Gardens.
The Asia Pacific Championships will be held at Axiata Arena Bukit Jalil Indoor Stadium on this coming weekend from September 29 to October 1.
10 countries will be participating, namely Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Iran, Pakistan, Singapore, Philippines, Brunei, and our very own Malaysia.
We asked Nurazleen how she’s feeling about going up against the Australian female team, who are ranked world number 1.
“Kan cheong, haha! Actually I’m quite pumped up and looking forward to face them!”
You can get the tickets to support our Malaysian teams here.
Editor’s Note: This article has been amended to correct information about the Dodgeball World Cup, which is organised by a separate body as opposed to the Dodgeball World Championships. We apologise for any confusion this may have caused.
Feature Image Credit: Malaysia Dodgeball Federation