Mr. Alex Yuan Hua is the Director of the sport of Sepaktakraw in the Multiball Games Administrative Center of the General Administration of Sport of China. Under his leadership and support, the 2019 Asian Sepaktakraw Championship was hosted in China for the first time, and a record number of 27 teams from 17 countries competed in this tournament. Yutang Sports interviewed him regarding its current status and the potential of the sport of Sepaktakraw in China. This is the first part of the interview.
Yutang Sports: On the eve of the 2019 Asian Sepaktakraw Championship, the Multiball Games Administrative Center of the General Administration of Sport of China held an awards ceremony themed ’30 people in 30 years’ to pay homage to those who have contributed greatly to the growth of Sepaktakraw in China. What were the objectives of this ceremony?
Yuan Hua: The sport of Sepaktakraw actually has a relatively long history compared to other sports that are also not an official sport in the Olympic Games, such as bowling and squash. In 1987, Thailand and Malaysia worked together to form two exhibition teams that visited China to promote the game. That was over 30 years ago.
At the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, Sepaktakraw became an official sport. Since then, we have witnessed 7 Asian Games. During such a long period, we have had different organizations working to promote the sport, first the government sports bureaus, then universities. For 30 years, these people worked tirelessly with passion to promote the sport, and Chinese Sepaktakraw does have some glorious moments.
Many people have contributed to and sacrificed themselves for the sport. Some of them have passed away. So, on this occasion, the first time that China is hosting the Asian Sepaktakraw Championship, and inspired by Mr. Halim, the President of the Asian Sepaktakraw Federation, we decided to hold an awards ceremony to pay homage to the people that have contributed greatly to Chinese Sepaktakraw.
We went through several rounds of discussion, and finally decided to hand out awards to 30 people, consisting of 10 referees, 10 coaches and 10 players. For referees, we mainly considered their résumé such as whether they have been refereeing the game since 1990. For coaches, we mainly considered their influence, if they have helped the sport of Sepaktakraw grow significantly in a region. For players, we mainly looked at their achievements. Of the finalists, 7 have passed away, 4 of them after I took charge of the management of the sport and after speaking with them. That’s why during the ceremony, my eyes were full of tears as the video reviewing these people’s contribution was played.
As Director of the sport of Sepaktakraw, I, on behalf of the management, thank them for their contributions over the past 30 years, and I hope that we in the future will be able to hold another ceremony like this, maybe ’50 people in 50 years’, or ‘100 people in 100 years’. On this occasion, where both Mr. Chen Yingbiao, Director of the Multiball Games Administrative Center of the General Administration of Sport of China, and Mr. Halim, President of the Asian Sepaktakraw Federation, are present, we commemorate them, pay them a tribute, and give them the respect and recognition they truly deserve.
Yutang Sports：China hosted the International Sepaktakraw Federation World Cup in Inner Mongolia in November, 2018. Now, with your support, the Asian Sepaktakraw Championship has come to China for the first time, being hosted in Kunming. In July, Qingdao will host the Asian Sepaktakraw Beach Championship. By introducing all these international events in China, does this mean you are confident in the growth potential of Sepaktakraw in China?
Yuan Hua: Last year’s Sepaktakraw World Cup was our first attempt at hosting a top level international Sepaktakraw event. This year, we are doing it again in Kunming and Qingdao. To be honest, we do not have a good environment for Sepaktakraw in terms of policy and some other factors. However, as the Director of the sport of Sepaktakraw, I think we must take on the challenge. It is our responsibility and obligation to persist. Not only for the 30 people that we have just honored, so their dreams could be continued, but also because the sport is highly entertaining.
Sepaktakraw is a traditionally popular sport in Southeast Asia. With China actively promoting the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, developing Sepaktakraw in China will prove helpful to strengthening the relationship with Southeast Asian countries. Despite the insufficiency of policy and funding support from the government, we are confident that the sport of Sepaktakraw will grow by our commercialization of the sport, building professional clubs and attracting sponsors. Of course, cities close to Southeast Asia will be our first choice because of their geographical advantage. We have pooled together a group of people who are willing to work hard and sacrifice themselves for the sport of Sepaktakraw, and we are confident in the potential of the sport.
Interview continued here.
Proofread by Raymond Fitzpatrick