Victory Ceremony during Platforms Men Final Diving at National Aquatic Center on 27 August 2017. Photo by Mohammad Nur Ridzuan / MASOC

Kuala Lumpur has been soaked through with intense rain lately, but no obstacles were solid enough to dampen the spirits of hungry Malaysians, who were waiting the SEA games to arrive in full swing, and when the torch was finally passed – so did the spirit.

You can’t really avoid the hype for the KL SEA games. Malaysians were already pumped for it since the organisers released monoloQue, Lan, and maliQue’s ‘Tunjuk Belang’ despite the mixed reviews, with some even to the extent of calling for rock princess Ella to make a return with her hit ‘Standing In The Eyes of the World’. Regardless of comments, the music moves symmetrically with the efforts in showcasing true sportsmanship and bravery, but little did everyone know that this year’s SEA games might have show more than that.

At the end of the tournament, our beloved Ibu Pertiwi scored 145 gold, 92 silver, and 86 bronze, beating Thailand who had 246 medals on the second place, and our southern brothers Singapore placing fourth. Many have commented on the methods of how Malaysia managed to keep the gold at home, but you can’t deny the sweat and tears that the athletes have shown throughout the competition. Yes, winning medals is one thing, but surprisingly, we won something bigger than polished ingots.

Let’s admit that the racial tension in Malaysia has become a bit alarming these days. Stemming all the way up from the soap opera that is our Malaysian politics, it’s difficult to achieve unity if the problem starts at the very top. On the street level, seeing a coffee table comprised of three different races is difficult to come by these days, especially in suburban areas. It is as if there are walls of ego, insecurities, and misconceptions separating us from sharing a cup of tea and maybe, schools of thought. But temporarily or not, something incredible occurred during the SEA games. Take a look at the video below:

The video shows a bunch of Malaysian supporters dancing to Punjabi beats while celebrating the Harimau Malaysia’s win in the earlier legs of the football tournament. In an unexpected turn of events, the percussionists in the video were reported have to missed out on the final due to the ticket-purchasing issue that thousands of Malaysian fans had to endure. Despite that, many fans, even the ones who were still queueing at the time, pleaded to the authorities to let them in for the work that they’ve put out so far.

Funnily, you don’t see this sight in a regular, politically-fuelled JDT vs Selangor game. Even when we lost the game over a careless blunder by the young and promising Malaysian goalkeeper Haziq, most Malaysians opted to back him up rather than abuse him in typical green street hooligan fashion.

What’s more surprising is that the sport also brought together two youth head honchos of the Malaysia’s biggest clashing political parties:

If the SEA games can unite the likes of Khairy Jamaluddin from Barisan Nasional, and Nurul Izzah from Parti Keadilan Rakyat in one night, the ripple effects of that abrupt shift can transcend age groups. A good example of unity, sportsmanship, and professionalism, even if it means we have to see them go against each other again on another field. The fact that the trickiest and toughest of rivalries were temporarily absolved that night is already a signal of what these kind of events can do to people, and the nation.

Truthfully, it was never about the gold. The medal is just a measure of how far discipline can get you, but the waves of positive energy you produce and the virtual pats in the back you receive just by giving your absolute best is something not even the most privileged can experience. To be frank, most people don’t even keep track on how much medals we’ve won so far, but they keep track of the iconic moments throughout the games. The games are just a reason for the youth to push aside old folk-mentality and in the shyest of ways, become one with the crowd, wrist to wrist, whether it’s accessorized with the tasbih, the cross, or just a watch.

It may be sad to know that we, a multicultural country, need a billion-ringgit event to be organised for us stand together, but a reason is a reason, and if we can give and explore more reasons for the youth to start being colorblind, things might just change.  

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