As local field hockey fans awaited the start of the annual Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Ashley Morrison was glad to have been engaged by Astro SuperSport for the sixth consecutive year to commentate the games. For Morrison, 51, the job simply means one more chance to be in Ipoh, even though most of his time would be spent at Stadium Azlan Shah, his ‘office’ during the tournament.
“I first heard about Ipoh from my wife’s friend,” explained Morrison. “She regaled us with childhood stories from her hometown and also her wedding, before moving to Perth, where we live.”
“I found that the impression I had of Ipoh folk being friendly and welcoming to be true, when I finally stepped foot on Ipoh soil. They are happy to stop and chat. It is amazing how this friendliness has such an impact on how one feels about a place. I always feel at ease in Ipoh and extremely relaxed. I also like the fact that unlike the big cities there is very little of the hustle and bustle. Don’t forget, I am a country boy at heart and so, I like the quiet easy paced life,” added Morrison who was born in Salisbury in the United Kingdom but grew up in a village outside of Swindon in Wiltshire.
After so many years, the Astro team is like family for Morrison when he is in Ipoh. Due to his reason for being in Ipoh, all his best memories are related to hockey. He said, “I have called many games but the ones that stood out for me were the final of the Asian Cup when India were trounced in the dying minutes by South Korea, and the 2013 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final when Australia defeated a gallant Malaysia with four seconds left on the clock.
“When local fans come to the stadium and pack it out, they create such a brilliant atmosphere it is one of the best experiences one could have. I have been fortunate to attend major sporting events around the world and I have to say that when Malaysians get behind their team in hockey it is up there as one of the great sights to behold.”
Still, as someone who likes to discover the history of the places that he visits, Morrison hopes that more could be done to celebrate the past, such as why Ipoh was built where it is now and also its rich tin mining history.
“I would also like to find out how the Japanese Occupation affected the town and its people. There are many Westerners who do not appreciate that Malaysia was occupied by the Japanese or know to what extent. This is part of the town’s history and I believe it is important not only for visitors from overseas to be aware of it but also fellow Malaysians. I am sure that there would be stories of brave men and women who stood up to the occupiers, and I feel it is important that those acts of courage are remembered, even though this episode could be painful to some,” he added.
This curiosity in Ipoh’s past isn’t surprising since Morrison describes himself as a storyteller. Besides being a freelance broadcaster and commentator, he has written three books and produced documentaries, apart from emceeing at events and doing voice-overs.
Note: An edited version of this article [Back in the Booth] was published on 16th April, 2016 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.