Saturday, December 7

Hitman Safee nets Astro Arena award

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Safee Sali

Top scorer among sports personalities to be recognised for their achievements in 2010

KUCHING: Malaysia’s AFF Suzuki Cup hero Safee Sali got on the score sheet again to bolster his footballing resume with another well-deserved goal — but off the pitch this time around.

The top scorer secured 52 per cent of the votes cast by sports fans to win the ‘Favourite Male Athlete in a Team’ award in a poll organised by Astro Arena, the country’s first sports channel.

The presentation was held at glittering ceremony at JW Marriott Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

It marked the culmination of Astro Arena’s month-long anniversary celebration and was staged to recognise the achievements of the country’s sports heroes, ambassadors and legends.

Safee’s victory was based on his performance in the Asian Football Federation Suzuki Cup and his contributions to the national team in 2010.

As he was away playing in the Indonesian Football League, his father received the award on his behalf from Malaysia’s sports legends Ishtiaq Mubarak and Datuk R Yogeswaran.

The other nominees included Safee’s teammate Safiq Rahim, hockey players S Kumar and Amin Rahim and national doubles shuttler Koo Kien Keat.

The winners in the five categories on offer were decided by 12,582 voters, invited by Astro Arena to pick their favourites from April 11 to 21.

National shooter Nur Ayuni Taibi, a member of the squad that clinched the team event gold medal in the New Delhi Commonwealth Games last year, received 35 per cent votes to win the ‘Favourite Female Athlete in a Team, award.

She was chosen ahead of teammate Nor Suryani Taibi, squash player Low Wee Wern, diver Leong Mun Yee and kegler Sharon Koh.

In the ‘Favourite Comeback’ category, weightlifter Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim received 42 per cent votes to beat four other nominees, comprising Sarawakians Josiah Ng (cycling) and Bibiana Ng (shooting), women’s beach volleyball team and women’s table tennis team.

Amirul bagged a gold medal in last year’s Commonwealth Games after a long hiatus.

The ‘Favourite Newcomer’ award went to national footballer Khairul Fahmi based on his emergence as rising star in the senior squad and contributions to the team’s achievements in 2010. He polled the highest percentage of votes — 83.

Other nominees were weightlifter Arrico Jumith from Sabah, wushu exponent Yeap Wai Kin, gymnast Elaine Koon and the national junior netball team.

Kosmo received 35 per cent votes to bag the ‘Special Award Favourite Sportsdesk – Print media.’

Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek congratulated Astro Arena on its successful first year in bringing local sports to Malaysians, and promoting the government’s policy to inculcate a healthy sporting lifestyle.

“Astro Arena has, through its contents and on-ground events, helped to further develop a strong local sports identity among the younger generation and motivate them to take up sports,” he said.

Shabery also commended Astro for incorporating Astro Arena as one of its channels, and organising, through its corporate social responsibility programme, several activities such as clinics and camps for youth football and cricket to further develop sports in the country.

“Astro Arena has also helped to foster the spirit of patriotism among Malaysians who come together to support their compatriots in international competitions such as the national football team in the AFF Suzuki Cup, Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Datuk Nicol David in various badminton and squash championships,” he added.

Astro chairman Badri Masri said it was Astro’s privilege to deliver a strong sports value proposition to its customers through the best of international and local sports.

“We began with a vision to develop and celebrate Malaysian sports and athletes and it is from that vision that Astro Arena was born.

“Today, we take a leading position in the country’s sports environment via a holistic offering of live coverage of major local, regional and international sports and on-ground events with the aim to inspire young Malaysians to excel in sports,” he added.

He welcomed national sports icons Datuk Nicol David, Sarawakian Mohd Azlan Iskandar, Alex Liew, Safee Sali and S Kumar as Astro Arena’s ambassadors who will be playing an active role in the channel’s sports clinics and road shows across the country.

Badri also thanked Malaysian sports legends Marina Chin, Tan Sri Dr M Jegathesan, Datuk Misbun Sidek, Datuk Rahim Razali and Datuk Soh Chin Aun for playing a proactive role in helping Astro Arena to foster local aspiring athletes and local sports.

Other ambassadors include Sarawakians Pandelela Rinong, Bryan Nickson Lomas and Daniel Bego, Leong Mun Yee, Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Zamri Baba, Azizulhasni Awang, Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Low Wee Wern, S Kumar, Yamini Gapalasamy and Zandra Aziela.

The sports legends, who also include Mirnawan Nawawi and R Puvaneswaran, received a medal and plaque each.

Astro Arena is Malaysia’s first and only 24-hour local sports channel focusing on Malaysian sports and athletes and being delivered predominantly in Bahasa Malaysia.

Astro not only passed another milestone with the launch of the channel in March last year but also completed its offering in the Family Package on entertainment, education and sports with access to 15 million viewers in over 293 million homes in the country.

Signature programmes on Astro Arena includes Nadi Arena, a half-hour news bulletin at 7.30pm and 11pm; Kafe Sukan, a talk show encompassing various topics on Malaysian sports and athletes; Formasi, a programme focusing on latest happenings of upcoming Malaysian football league matches and Aktifpedia, a lifestyle show bringing audiences closer to various sports in the country.