2009 World Cup Preview: Meet me in Melaka

By Keith Hale

THE 2009 QUBICA AMF WORLD CUP will be the 45th edition of the tournament, and the first for one of the greatest bowlers in the history of the sport: PBA Hall of Famer Walter Ray Williams Jr.

Williams and Tennelle Milligan will be Team USA’s representatives when the Cup takes place in the Malaysian city of Melaka — a locale that may well set a benchmark for a wonderful and historic host site.

Situated just south of Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Melaka — a.k.a. Malacca — dates back to the 14th century when it was just a tiny fishing village, supposedly named by a Sumatran prince after resting under a pokok Melaka tree while hunting with his dog.

The city became the center of the flourishing spice trade and was conquered by the Portuguese, who stayed for 130 years before being ousted by the Dutch in 1641. Although the Dutch ruled the area for 154 years, they did not develop the port, and trading spread further around the region.

Melaka was handed over to the British under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, an exchange for the Sumatran area of Bencoolen, and the British influence remained until 1946, except for the Japanese occupation during World War II. The early government from 1826 was provided by the famous East India Company and became part of the Straits Settlements.

Today, the city’s economic engine is fueled by a mix of industry and tourism. Some 40 years of attracting foreign investment has provided many industrial estates and some 500 factories run by companies from the United States, Europe, Japan, Chinese Taipei and Singapore.

There are historic sites aplenty, including the famed ruins of the Fort A Famosa, and there is a wonderful museum displaying artifacts gathered from the diverse history of Melaka and its foreign rulers. The city’s official slogan: “Visit Melaka and you visit Malaysia.”

Local markets abound and there are several shopping malls, a nearby hypermarket and even a Safari and Theme Park, so there will be plenty for World Cup players and coaches to do with their free time away from the lanes.

The Malaysians have a wonderfully diverse cuisine, reflecting the many countries involved in its history, so nothing dominates the menus in the hundreds of great local restaurants. One national dish, nasi campur, is a wonderful blend of coconut rice served with many delicious curries and satays, atop a banana leaf. There is not much call for the Western fast food joints given the incredible array of seafood fresh from the harbor and a range of cuisine to suit every taste.

Bowling action will take place Nov. 16-19 at the brand new, 52-lane Melaka International Bowling Center, which opened on Aug. 1. The center — the largest in Malaysia, according to Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress Vice President George Heng — has 26 lanes on each side of a wide and roomy central concourse, with plenty of ancillary facilities for all to enjoy. Construction was completed in the summer, and the center is equipped with the latest state-of-the-art QubicaAMF lanes, pinspotters and scoring systems.

“It is 22 years since the Bowling World Cup was in Malaysia,” said John Walker, Chief Executive Officer of QubicaAMF, “and it is high time that we came back to a country that holds bowling in such high esteem.”

That assertion is indisputable, which makes it difficult to believe that a Malaysian player never has won a World Cup title. That could change this year, however, as the country’s contingent is both strong and experienced.

Zulmazran Zulkifli, who rolled a perfect game and also made it to the semifinals in last year’s tournament in Hermosillo, Mexico, will be back to take on Williams and the rest of the men’s contingent. Representing Malaysia’s female bowlers will be Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman — there’s a name that should be a challenge for the scoring monitors at MIBC! — who is the reigning Malaysian national champion and World Ranking Masters champion.

Winning could be extra sweet for either of the home country players, since coverage on Malaysian television is anticipated.

QubicaAMF World Cup Manager Anne-Marie Board added her delight, and said, “I am really excited about the prospects for this year’s event. Bowling is such an important sport in Malaysia — many of us remember that it was part of the Commonwealth Games in 1998 — and I know that all competitors, officials and supporters can expect a warm welcome from knowledgeable crowds.”

Long-time BJI contributor Keith Hale will be covering his 25th World Cup tournament in Melaka. Daily reports will be available online at bowlersjournal.com, and a special feature story will appear in the January issue of the magazine.