The Covid-19 pandemic has affected sports in a big way. How have you been holding up as a sports fan?
Good question, it has been challenging. Sports is not just the ultimate entertainment product for its fans, but it is a way of life. Even though we are not part of the teams we support, we are very much the soul of the team. Every morning, sports fans check our favourite sports websites to find out what is going on with our favourite team or sport. With the pandemic shutting down sports, all we’ve been looking at is repeated content. So, I not only miss the matches or games, I miss the constant news and updates that surround my favourite teams in the lead up to the matches.
What was the last event you worked on as a commentator?
Fortunately, I was lucky that RTM obtained the rights to broadcast the 2019/2020 Chinese Basketball Association basketball games from last season. So even though the content is a bit delayed, it gave me some games to commentate on and some much needed extra income. But my last tournament, commentating-wise, before MCO was in February 2020 for the Asean Basketball League. Also, every year for the last few years, I have been fortunate to be flown overseas by FISU (World University Games) to do commentating for football and basketball, but Covid froze that project this year. I won’t lie to you guys, Covid has crushed not just my rice bowl but my big sporting dreams as well.
Just to share also, over the last two years, I was working with Global Rapid Rugby to set-up a Malaysia-South Africa Rugby team called Malaysia Valke. Alhamdullilah, my South African partners and I put it together and this year we played one match against the Western Force in Perth on 14 March 2020 in the inaugural Global Rapid Rugby competition. I am the General Manager for the Malaysia Valke team. On the way back to KL on 15 March, our season and competition were cancelled until the international geographic borders can open again.
What do you miss most about TV broadcasting?
I miss the thrill of the spill. I miss the rush. I miss talking to players and coaches and using that content on air. I always go up to the players before a game, regardless of what team they are from, and I say, “Let’s make some basketball music, you jazz it up on the floor and I will make sure everybody can hear it cause there ain’t no mountain high enough that my voice can’t go over.” Then they will fist-pump and hug me and say with a pumped-up voice, “Hell yaaaaah brother, let’s do it.” That gives them the extra lift to go out and make big dunks, shots and blocks. I love it, I miss it.
Tell us about your new online show.
My new show was created because of the pandemic. Many people have always told me to do my own show, but I am such a traditional TV presenter that I always rely on the TV station and producers to call me to do a show. In that way, all I have to do is research, interview and host and get paid for it. But those days are almost gone. So, I said to myself, “I am an international commentator and presenter. Come on, I have worked with Foxsports, FIBA and FISU. I have got to make use of my contacts.”
I also love learning and education. After all, I am also a part-time lecturer, which something not many people know about. I love to share. So, I put together a fortnight show called ‘Sunday Learnings with Ben Ibrahim’ where every two weeks, I will interview sports stars on their career, and also ask them to not only share about their milestones, but mistakes that made them better. I am a firm believer that mistakes make us better professionals, but our culture sees that word as almost like a sin. So, I hope my show can change that mindset.
Who are some of your guests so far?
Thus far I have interviewed John Barnes from Liverpool, Toutai Kefu from the 1999 World Cup Winning Australian Wallabies, Bec Allen from the Women’s national Australian basketball team, Springboks Rugby physiotherapist Rene Naylor, Noel Donaldson and Paul Thompson from Rowing and how they have coached multiple Gold Medal winning crews, and Jimmy Alapag, Ariel Vanguardia and Brian Rowsom who are all Asean Basketball League Championship coaches.
Soon I will interview other people from entertainment, corporate and government. So, my sports stars are the HERO series, entertainment will be ACTORS series and corporate/government will be the LEADERS series. I am working very hard on the Business Development aspect of this, but it’s good fun and sometimes meh fun (laughs), but that is life.
The real motivation behind starting this show was the inspiration I got from watching the ‘Last Dance’ with Michael Jordan. I can’t beat MJ in basketball, but I am going to try and beat him in content creation. I asked Michael Bublé to come on my show but his people politely said no. My whole family laughed at me and I said, “Why are you laughing? You don’t know if you don’t ask, and this job is all about asking, and I will always ask.”
Catch all the previous episodes of ‘Sunday Learnings With Ben Ibrahim’ HERE