MENTION lacrosse to people here and you are likely to be greeted with a blank face, a Mean Girls reference, or an anime (no, Macross is not the same as lacrosse).
Played by Native Americans in Canada as early as 1100 AD, lacrosse is well-established there and in the United States, with many schools and universities including it in their physical education classes. In fact, it’s the fastest growing sport in the US.
It can be described as the oddball love-child between American football and field hockey, with players wielding a crosse or a lacrosse stick that has a net on the end. By passing a ball around, the aim is to score on the opposite side of the field, much like other sports. Regina George may have taken advantage of the allowed body contact to help manage her anger, but in reality only men’s lacrosse has body contact, complete with helmets and padding.
So what has this got to do with Malaysia, you ask? Well, it’s here now and it aims to stay. Jake Marr, 24, president of the Malaysian Lacrosse Association started the club a year ago with a handful of members, but now they have over 350 members. They were invited to participate in the Malaysian International Sports Expo on October 10 for Hari Sukan Negara, where Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin took part in a three vs two lacrosse match.
Marr credited social media as being a driving force in getting their name out there.
“Most people find out through Meetup (an app that lets you meet people in your area with similar interests) or our Facebook page. Meetup has been the greater success in exposing the sport – now we have 30 dedicated members and an audience of over 350.”
Marr was inspired to fill a void in the sporting scene here after returning from university in England, where he represented both Edinburgh and City of Stoke.
“Our goal is to introduce it to the university system with the intention of setting up a league in Malaysia. So far we have a few university students who have become regulars. Three even competed in the Asia Pacific Lacrosse Championship (ASPAC) in Bangkok with us!”
Guts to glory
Putra Isyraq, 25, was one of those who competed at ASPAC. He joined through Meetup as a way to get back into sports after playing basketball and table tennis.
“I thought it was just a throw-and-catch game but I was sweating and panting more than I thought I would! My fitness level has since improved,” he said.
Having only become a regular since January 2015, Isyraq was named man of the match after facing Australia during the ASPAC tournament.
“It was such a sweet bonus. I’ve met a lot of wonderful souls who I’ve befriended after the tournament. I’d love to have more local players join us for the next ASPAC in 2017!”
His brother Daniel, 19, added that he’d love to see the club go even further.
“Perhaps Malaysia could become one of the strongest clubs, competing in the 2024 Olympics and Major League Lacrosse (MLL).”
Introduced to the sport only three months ago by Putra, Daniel also played in Bangkok and said lacrosse helped him improve both social and communication skills.
“It’s one of the coolest sports I’ve ever played. You’ll regret it if you don’t try!”
Third musketeer Marco Ong, 22, already represented his university in rowing, but said curiosity led him to join lacrosse.
“I saw it on Meetup and thought the name was cool. Come join before it becomes too mainstream!
For those worried about tackling a new sport, Ong said it’s similar to hockey.
“Hockey is famous in Malaysia. People should have no problem adapting!”
Like the Isyraq brothers and Marr, Ong shared his wish for lacrosse to grow through schools and universities.
“I believe lacrosse is a sport of the future. Representing Malaysia in ASPAC was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had and I hope to see a full team competing in the World Lacrosse Championships (WLC) soon.”
Girls just want to have fun
While the perceived violence of lacrosse may put people off, Marr stressed that the rules in women’s lacrosse forbid body contact.
“The rules state body-checking is illegal between players. Unlike men, women only wear goggles, a mouth guard and gloves (optional).”
Women’s lacrosse is played on a larger field, which means they get 12 players as opposed to 10.
The Malaysian Lacrosse Association boasts regular members of both genders, though there are more male than female players.
Indonesian expatriate Stella Gunawan, 28, said it’s been a good way to keep fit and meet new friends.
“It’s more fun than gym and my fitness level has increased. After I moved here I wanted to do something positive, and this is positive for my health and social life!” she said.
“There’s a good mix of expats and locals. Marco and I even went to a Spanish language Meetup together!”
While Malaysia was not able to send a female contingent to ASPAC, six other countries did, including Hong Kong, Thailand and South Korea.
“To compete in an illustrious competition like ASPAC, (it’s) an achievement. We’re the youngest club too!” said Marr.
He remained positive that with time and support, lacrosse will continue to grow with both men and women representing Malaysia.
“Not only is it a great way to keep fit, you get to meet a wide variety of people and it teaches you to set and accomplish goals. You’ll also learn teamwork and up your game, mentally and physically.”
Regina George would approve.
MLA meets every Sunday, 5-7pm at Padang Merbok. For more information, please visit their website or Facebook page at www.malaysialacrosse.weebly.com or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Malaysia-Lacrosse-Association/