Nine Sukma boxing athletes surviving on “paku” and rice

Nine Sukma boxing athletes surviving on “paku” and rice

By Lian Cheng and Nancy Nais

This is a sad story.

Nine young Sarawakian athletes from rural areas have been neglected and left to fend for themselves, surviving on the very minimal of food consisting of wild fern and rice. Sometimes, even such fare is considered a luxury.


Hailing from different parts of Sarawak – Sri Aman, Sibu, Tatau and Saratok – these nine youths, the oldest being 21, are all boxing athletes who had been summoned to Kuching and placed at a house at Sungai Maong for training under a Filipino coach in preparation for Sukma.

Sukma, however, which was supposed to begin July 11 until July 19 has been postponed due to Covid-19.

Before the movement control order, life was already hard for them although still manageable when the older among them tried their best to look after the younger ones by sharing what little they had.

Among the athletes is a gold medallist for boxing (under 60kg) in National Youth Games 2019. He also won the gold medal of the same category in Johore Bahru Mayor Cup as well as National Malaysia Cup. Being a gold medalist, he was given RM300 per month as his allowance.

There are also two silver medallists who are given RM200 in allowance per month respectively. The three senior athletes thus have a total income of RM700 – the amount all of them survived on.

It was meagre, but with them looking after each other, life managed to look less bleak for these boxing lads.

Then, in February, their allowances suddenly stopped coming.

Life became much harder, pushing one of the older ones to seek a part-time job in town. The Filipino coach, who is not responsible for their daily subsistence, found himself having no choice but to assist them with his own salary.

So for many days, the menu on the table was rice fried with onion and anchovies, plus a dish of paku which these boxing athletes collected from the nearby swamp.

Then came the MCO. The only one among them who had a part-time job was forced to stop work, and thus began the days when there was really nothing to put on the table.

Every now and then, kind-hearted people who knew of their predicament would cook something and send it to them. Those were the times they could enjoy a proper meal. Other times, it would be either fried rice and paku or no food at all.

Despite the circumstances, they continued to train consistently twice, and sometimes, thrice a day. Those in the neighbourhood would see them jogging along the road outside the house or sparring with each other in a make-shift ring at their porch.

From afar, they look like any other lads except for the athletic build.

Upon being approached by DayakDaily journalists, they did not complain although there is a quiet and sad look in their eyes.

It is a sorrow that travels without needing to be spoken.

When our athletes are training hard for the glory of the state, should they be left doing it on an empty stomach? —DayakDaily