SOH Theng Sai is 79 years old, but looks younger and more alert.
He is the longest serving official in a state sports association with a record 40-year stint as Sarawak Badminton Association (SBA) treasurer.
Born in Miri on Feb 4, 1939, Soh completed Form 1 at St Thomas’ Secondary School in Miri and continued his education at BSB Shell Petroleum Trade School, where he did a three-year electrical course.
After graduating, Soh worked with Shell Petroleum for three years before joining Sarawak Electricity Supply Company (Sesco).
In 1964, he was promoted to supervisor and stationed at Sesco Bintulu until mid-1976, when he was transferred to Kuching as warehouse controller/officer in charge of purchasing and contract.
He retired in 1994 at 55, but continued to work at Sesco Engineering Sdn Bhd until 2014.
Soh was president of the Bintulu Basketball Association and Bintulu Ping Pong Association for a short period.
His contributions included helping to secure funds for an open air basketball court and a covered badminton court for Bintulu Recreation Club.
He also served as Bintulu Badminton Club secretary.
Soh became SBA secretary in Kuching in 1977. A year later, he was appointed treasurer, a post he still holds today.
“I have served under five presidents, including Ting Ing Chiew, Sim Tok Kui, Leonard Linggi, and Tan Sri Datuk Amar Abdul Aziz Husain (the present president).
“It’s not easy being treasurer. First, it’s a voluntary job and secondly, it takes a lot of my time. I’m still hoping to find a successor but it seems nobody is interested,” said Soh, who has managed teams for Sukma and other zonal and national competitions.
In recognition of his contributions to sports in Sarawak, he was conferred the Ahli Bintang Sarawak (ABS) in 1987.
An ardent shuttler, he still plays regularly with friends at the Sesco Indoor Stadium in Bintawa.
“I don’t have health problems like diabetes and hypertension but I’m quite careful with my diet and I also exercise,” he said.
He added that when he was in Miri, he had the great opportunity to play with the late Wong Peng Soon, the 1956 All-England men’s singles champion.
“At that time, there was no badminton hall in Miri, so we played at the Miri Rice Mill store along Yu Seng Road,” he recalled.
Over the years, Soh has seen Sarawak produce calibre players like Sukma champions James Chua and Pei Wee Chung, as well as Mary Wong and Wong Mee Hung.
He is happy to have played a part in building them up.
Four decades is a long time to be serving in any sports association. Soh feels it’s time for someone younger to take over as SBA treasurer.
He tried to resign many times but has always been persuaded to stay on until a replacement can be found.
As of now, it seems the search for a successor still has some way to go before Soh can call it day.