Pasar Road English School’s office building | Source: yekazahari

Pepper recounts his primary school’s race based football matches.

In the 1970’s my parents were transferred to teach in Kuala Lumpur. As a result, my brother and I found ourselves in a new primary school in Jalan Pasar, Pudu, Kuala Lumpur. I have many memories of this wonderful school, but the one which stays clearest in my head was when my class played football during P.E.

“P.E.” (Physical Education) were the most wonderful letters to hear during the week. My classmates would change into their P.E. singlets while chanting, “Pee eee, pee eee, pee eee!” Then we would troop down to the school field where the P.E. teacher would be waiting for us with a football in his hand. He would toss the ball to us and walk off. We would then automatically form two groups – what else can you do when there was only one football?

Pasar Road English School’s office building | Source: yekazahari

The Chinese boys would be in one team while the Malay and Indian boys formed the other team. Wait, this is not as racist as it sounds! Pasar Road was a predominantly Chinese area so half my class was Chinese boys. Malay and Indian boys made up the other half.

In our young minds, we thought it was easier to divide ourselves into teams based on our skin colour. The yellow skinned boys in one team while the brown skinned boys in the other. You see, it was not a matter of race but for reasons of practicality – we thought it was easier to spot our own teammates by skin colour. We were children and we had no notions of racism. We were only interested in playing football.

On the other hand, I always joined the ‘Malay and Indian’ team. Why? Because I could not speak Cantonese which was what the Chinese boys in Kuala Lumpur spoke. Being raised in Penang, I spoke Hokkien. When the Chinese boys shouted instructions in Cantonese, I was lost.

“Thek! Thek kor pin!” I would hear them shout at me without me understanding what they meant. So, it was simply easier for me to join the other team who shouted instructions in Malay which I understood.

I was not the only Chinese boy there. My best friend, How Chee Hong, also played in the Malay and Indian team. He was the goalkeeper.

Our team included Arif (the fastest runner in the school) and Juvinder Singh (a striker for the school team) whose jobs were to score the goals.

In defense were the worst footballers in the team:  Nessie (a very large Indian boy), Chandran (a boy who disliked getting dirty), Rizal (an overweight softie) and me (another overweight softie). Our job, as our teammates instructed us, was to “kick the ball away from the goal”.

Kick it as hard as you can, they told us. Don’t worry about where it goes as long as it goes away from our goal, they said.

We did this to the best of our abilities. I learned new Malay words on the football field. “Rembat aje” means to kick the ball hard. “Alamak, bodoh!” means I just did something wrong and stupid.

I know stories of racism are often heard today but back when I was a child, we just played football and did not know what racism was.

Pepper is the father of two adorable children named Paprika Lim and Saffron Lim. "Dear Paprika" is a series of letters written for posterity. When Paprika is 20 years old, he will be 61. He prefers to...

17 replies on “Pasar Road School’s Football Follies”

  1. Nazrin here. Pasar Road 1977.. any of my friends from 1977 appreciate could call me at 019.3270467..

  2. I was from PRS (1) from 65 – 69, then moved to Cochrane. Some memories, still lingers at PRS. I was quite naughty at that time and we are not allowed to go up to the class before the bell in the morning. Me with a few would sneak up the building and the guard would chase us. I still remember the little grocery store on the slope that sell fish too.

  3. I was in PRES 2 from 1959-1964. Mr Joginder Singh also taught us intelligent test. Although he was v strict and we were real scared when he came in to teach but we did learned lots of things. I m sure this kind dedicated teacher is hard to find nowadays. Too bad n sad our beloved school is flattened all in the name of redevelopment.

  4. I was from PRS 1 and then to Cochrane. I remember the guy sitting behind me in Std 6 – Hong Yip Kow. Those were the days. Fast forward to present day – forget it!!!



  7. Pepper, I was in the same class. I was the kid no one passed the ball to, cos I was so hopeless! Being Baba, I never knew which team I should play for – PE was always difficult for me.

  8. It is a good article and true. I was in a school where we, the Malays, Indians, Chinese, Singh etc were eating together in school canteen without having the halal and non-halal section. What is not in your bowl is vital instead of the place. Sigh, those days were gone. Can they be revive ?

  9. I am from Pasar Rd 1 and subsequently to Cochrane. Pasar Rd. school is on its way to extinction and Cochrane already gone for good, most likely IKEA may be built on that land.

  10. I was from Pasar Road School [II], having schooled there from 1958 to 1960. The building in the picture was only completed in 1961 when I have moved on to SMK Jalan Cochrane. During the time when I was in PRS, the building was made out of wooden structures which looks more like an army barrack. It stretches from the front to the back which I believe was almost half a mile long. I have fond memories of teachers like Mr Sahadevan who taught us Georgraphy, Mr Joginder Singh – Maths and Mr Karpal Singh, English. Believe me, these guys did not spare the rod when coming to their respective subjects. When Mr Joginder Singh taught us maths, we did not count using ringgit and sens, but pound, shilling, pence, guineas and crown.

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