Tan Sri Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja’afar On His Love For Sports, Defining Moments, And Maintaining A Positive Outlook

The second son of the late Tuanku Ja’afar ibni Almarhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the Yang Di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, Yang Amat Mulia Tan Sri Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja’afar stands out as a key royal figure who has actively shaped the landscape of sports in Malaysia. With a high regard for education, Tunku Imran’s father enrolled him in boarding school at a very young age, which has been foundational in shaping his path as an illustrious businessman. He graduated from The King’s School, Canterbury, one of the oldest co-educational boarding schools in the United Kingdom, and has received several honorary degrees, including from the United States Sports Academy, University of Nottingham, and University of Glasgow.

An afternoon of excellence – Mr Alexander Tito, General Manager of Nobu Kuala Lumpur, expressing his excitement on the unique initiative with SportExcel, and the shared passion for sports and food at the Nobu Kuala Lumpur Olympics Luncheon.

Among Tunku Imran’s notable ventures is Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar, an institution co-founded by him and two of his siblings back in 1989. The establishment is characterised as a British-style international boarding school, echoing their formative years of studying abroad. “Seventy-five years ago, I entered this world on a serene afternoon between 3pm and 4pm on 21 March. When I asked my mum how she remembered such details about me, she revealed that it was because my father was out playing cricket at that time,” Tunku Imran reminisces. “It seems everyone assumed I’d follow in my father’s footsteps as a cricketer and sportsman, which, as it turned out, I did.”

Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Tan Sri Imran, Chairman of SportExcel, enthrals the crowd with a motivational and inspiring speech at the Nobu Kuala Lumpur Olympics Luncheon.

The prince has held numerous significant positions in the sports world, including former president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, president of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, and honorary member of the International Olympic Committee. He’s also the founder and current chairman of the Foundation for Malaysian Sporting Excellence (SportExcel) as well as other directorship roles in various public companies. In an effort to foster Malaysia’s sporting potential, Nobu Kuala Lumpur and SportExcel have recently teamed up in a novel initiative to foster dialogue towards Malaysia’s sporting potential, ahead of this year’s 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. The roundtable session featured former and current Malaysian Olympians, alongside a presentation of exclusive Olympic-inspired menu items.

How do you think this partnership between Nobu Kuala Lumpur and SportExcel reflects the connection between sports and culinary arts?

I’ve always maintained that Malaysia’s number one sport is eating. It’s fantastic to have Nobu involved, as it’s not only great for our culinary scene but also adds a new dimension to our ongoing sporting movements. I think it offers a refreshing take on creating a supportive ecosystem that will benefit our upcoming and future Malaysian athletes.

(left) Mr Alexander Tito, General Manager of Nobu Kuala Lumpur, presenting Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Tan Sri Imran, Chairman of SportExcel, with the first book authored and signed by Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, titled “Nobu: The Cookbook” as a token of appreciation for his valuable contributions towards the Nobu Kuala Lumpur Olympics Luncheon.

How did your upbringing and education influence your passion for sports?

During my time in the UK, sports were an integral part of daily life. If you didn’t participate, you were missing out on a fundamental aspect of the institution’s offerings. With schools in the UK having three terms—each focusing on different sports—I learned a great deal on allocating physical activities that contribute positively to my personal development. The school provided ample opportunities to engage in diverse sports, which I really enjoyed and benefitted from.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?      

I’ve certainly encountered many throughout my career. With my involvement in multiple businesses and charities, I’ve learned to approach big or small challenges head-on—whether it’s strategizing, problem-solving, or talking my way out of it. My background in law and extensive international experience have helped me to think creatively and adapt to any situation.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt in your career?

It’s important to adopt a positive outlook. While being realistic is crucial, I believe that dwelling on negativity serves no purpose. I always strive to see the bright side of every situation, knowing that things will improve eventually.

(from left) Yang Berbahagia Datuk Marina Chin, Director of SportExcel Ms Noraseela Mohd Khalid, Former Olympian and President of the Malaysian Olympian Association Mr Alexander Tito, General Manager of Nobu Kuala Lumpur, Ms Nurul Izzah Izzati, National Paris 2024 Track Cycling Debutant Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Tan Sri Imran, Chairman of SportExcel Yang Berbahagia Dato’ Azizulhasni Awang, National Track Cyclist Chef Philip Leong, Executive Chef of Nobu Kuala Lumpur Chef Renante Dominguez, Head Sushi Chef of Nobu Kuala Lumpur Mr Jeffrey Ong, Two-Time Malaysian Former Olympian.

Do you have any favourite sports?

Growing up in a family passionate about sports, I was exposed to all sorts of activities. My father’s influence meant we were all well-versed in many sports. But if I had to choose, I’d say rugby and cricket.

Who was your sports hero growing up?

I had plenty growing up, but one that stood out for me in cricket was always Sir Garfield Sobers. He was a Barbadian cricketer who represented and captained the West Indies team. In my eyes, he remains one of cricket’s greatest all-rounders. What made it even more special was the opportunity to share a field with him. In fact, I had the honour of captaining the team in that particular game. As an idol of mine, playing alongside him was truly a dream come true.

(left) Yang Amat Mulia Tunku Tan Sri Imran, Chairman of SportExcel and Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dr Mani Jegathesan, World-Renowned Flying Doctor sharing a light-hearted moment during the Nobu Kuala Lumpur Olympics Luncheon.

How do you personally define success?

It’s a fluid concept that has evolved over time. Sometimes, you don’t even realise you’ve achieved success until someone points it out. I’ve been fortunate in life, and things seem to fall into place when needed. Perhaps my upbringing and involvement in sports taught me resilience; I’ve learned to accept defeat gracefully and move forward to the next point.

How do you like to be remembered when your time on Earth is up?

I hope to be remembered as someone who put a smile on people’s face.



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