Friday, April 14, 2017

FIX IT ONCE AND FOR ALL






    

WILL match-fixing be completely eradicated?
No — as long as all parties concerned do not cooperate to the fullest to clean up the game.
Match-fixing reared its ugly head again with arrest of three Premier League players, an alleged bookie hauled up and another linked to fixing matches asked by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to surrender to help investigations.
This came after MISC-Mifa coach Jacob Joseph disclosure to a national daily, he suspected several of his players being “dishonest” in losing a Premier League match 7-2 at home to UiTM where Mifa conceded all goals with only 15 minutes left.
Kudos to Jacob for the disclosure and MAAC for acting swiftly and making inroads.
But FA of Malaysia (FAM), state FAs, coaches, managers and team management officials, cannot just rely on MACC or the Police.
As owners and governors of the teams and game, they have to make the first move to eradicate the menace instead of sweeping it under the carpet, pleading they have no evidence, turning a blind or even being in denial mode.
It is refreshing Selangor and Perak FAs have taken the initiative to have MACC conduct anti-corruption seminars for players and officials and even have officers from MACC and Police sit in their monitoring committee.
However, if only more coaches like Jacob raise the alarm each time they suspect something amiss, it will not only keep players in check, but assist authorities.
Match-fixing has plagued Malaysia even way before the 1994 episode when an investigation saw 21 players and coaches sacked, 58 players suspended and 126 players questioned over corruption.
After that:
Negri Sembilan FA lodged a police report over alleged match-fixing activities involving their President’s Cup players in 2011.
There were talks of eight Kedah President’s Cup players caught with RM90,000 the same year. They were apparently sacked by Kedah FA.
Nine Perlis Premier League players admitted having contact with a bookmaker who offered them up to RM100,000 each before they lost 7-2 against MP Muar in 2012.
A Singaporean bookie was charged with fixing President’s Cup matches.
Former T-Team President’s Cup goalkeeper coach was also charged for a similar offence in Kuala Terengganu.
In 2009, FAM were stung by match-fixing bug by playing two friendlies against a fake Zimbabwe national team. Malaysia won both friendlies against what turned out to be a club side instead of the national team, with Fifa later revoking the status of the games.
Other recent cases involve the Negri Sembilan President’s Cup team players ad coach and Kuala Lumpur Premier League team players.
We have even had referees implicated.
It is a clear indication match-fixing is very much in existence and even more alarming at youth level.
Among the questions to be asked: are FAM and the integrity committee doing enough?
FAM issue licences to local and foreign players, coaches and team officials each year and one wonders if proper vetting is done?
Questions need to be asked how players who have been on FAM or MACC radar for alleged fixing have been issued with licenses.
What about the one-season cooling period for foreign players who have played in an Asean country before he can play in Malaysia. Has this been strictly observed?
Coaches and team management must also stop hiring players who come as “package” of three or four players.
A senior coach revealed these players were suspects of match-fixing.
Statements like those below cannot hold water anymore:
“Corruption in football is a criminal offence and is under the jurisdiction of the police and MACC.”
“FAM can only punish the offenders after the court has sentenced them.”
Authorities will have to closely look at betting and get the “real fixers” because only eradicating the “runners” is not going to make much impact. New ones are recruited and “business” will go on as usual.
Authorities will also have to keep tab on former players who have been implicated as many still may have links to syndicates and could be “runners” as they have easy access to players.
FAM president Tunku Ismail Ibrahim has to give his personal attention to the “cancer” to ensure it is removed completely.
Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat, who was appointed FAM’s integrity committee chairman last Saturday, has his plate full and needs to act fast and furiously to make a difference.
TONY is a sports journalist with close to four decades’ experience and is passionate about local sports.
He can be reached at 
tmariadass@gmail.com


Friday, April 7, 2017

SCHOOLS AS SPAWNING GROUNDS









    
NEW FA of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Ibrahim wants every state to have development programmes.
He would be doing a great favour not only to football but sports in general, if he gets the Education Ministry involved.
The Education Ministry do their bit for sports, but this is far from adequate.
The government allocates RM52 billion to education, which is one fifth of the annual budget, but funding for school sports is a pittance. Malaysian Schools Sports Council (MSSM)’s annual budget is only about RM6 million. 
MSSM organise 24 sports, catering to the Under-12, Under-15 and Under-18 age groups.
In 2010 when there was a cut in budget, the allocation was a mere RM1.5 million!
In contrast, the Sports Ministry received an allocation of RM1.2 billion in the 2017 Budget. This included RM450 million for hosting the 29th SEA Games and the 9th Para ASEAN Games.
In addition, several sports development programmes will be implemented.
A sum of RM50 million was allocated for the construction of Football Academy Phase II in Gambang, Pahang; RM122 million was allocated for constructing and upgrading sports facilities, including states youth and sports complexes and 1Malaysia Futsal Complex and Community Sports Complex; RM70 million was allocated to continue the Elite Sports Podium Development Programme to prepare our elite athletes for international sports events; and RM54 million was allocated to continue Sportspersons Development Programmes, including Athlete Preparation Programme and Paralympic Athlete Preparation Programme.
If only the same priority were given for grassroots development, Malaysian sports would surely have a bright future.
The issue of disappearing fields and those in atrocious conditions needs to be urgently addressed, together with time allocated for physical education and the lack of qualified teachers for sports.
A quicker remedy would be to engage ex-internationals to help out but they have to be given some remuneration.
The other day I ran into a group of ex-internationals, all members of Malaysian Olympian Association (MOA), who meet every Wednesday to keep in touch.
All of them were looking at on how they can be involved in schools.
“It has to be a policy decision to allow ex-internationals to be involved,” said R. Pathmarajah, a World Cup and Olympic hockey player.
“I was involved with my son’s school indoor hockey team. But it only lasted a few days. No reasons were given. Either the teacher-in-charge felt threatened he may lose the limelight or the school did not welcome parents’ assistance.”
Fellow former Olympian and former national hockey coach Datuk R. Yogeswaran said schools should make use of ex-internationals as they are facing a shortage of qualified coaches.
“MOA have more than 300 members and 40 to 50 per cent will be available to coach in the respective states in schools,” he said.
“Those years many of the us attended teachers’ training and as teachers coached our sports in our schools. But those days no longer exist,” sighed Yogeswaran, who started his career as a teacher after training at the Malayan Teachers College in Penang in 1961. 
Following that, Yogeswaran did a one-year course at the Specialist Teachers’ Training Institute in Cheras.
“Sports and the teaching background were the foundations of my life. It is little wonder I dedicated my life to sports and enjoyed every minute of it,” said the Sungkai-born Yogeswaran who had sport embedded in him in Tapah.
Tapah in the 1950s was a hub for Olympians. The Government English School (presently known as Buyong Aidil Secondary School) was a famous hatchery of sports talent.
Another member of the Wednesday group, 1975 World Cup hockey captain N. Sri Shanmugnathan said: “A concerted effort needs to be made to engage ex-internationals to work closely with the Ministry of Education and schools.”
Sportexcel executive director C. Sivanandan, offered this view: “School teachers played a key role in yesteryears and it was the reason we had a steady supply of athletes coming through the schools.
“But those teachers are a dying breed. We need to look at other ways to put emphasis in school sports and ex-internationals could play the role effectively.”
The group believe Tunku Ismail, with his passion for football, could pave the way for ex-internationals to be actively involved in schools and even with the state FAs and academies.
TONY is a sports journalist with close to four decades’ experience and is passionate about local sports.
He can be reached at
tmariadass@gmail.com

Friday, March 31, 2017

TMJ'S WAY OR NO WAY






NEW FA of Malaysia (FAM) president, Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, the Tengku Mahkota of Johor (TMJ), wasted no time making decisions that might have ruffled feathers, especially of those vanquished in the elections.
Tunku Ismail’s decisions — the replacement of national team coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee by former Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) coach Mario Gomez; Kim Swee’s demotion to the Under-22 squad; and the removal of Frank Bernhardt — made before any council or team management meeting, caused a shock to some quarters.
But a majority, especially those who were elected to a new term of office, had no qualms because it was what they had bargained for.
When he was approached to head FAM by several affiliates, Tunku Ismail had said he would manage the body as he deemed fit.
In fairness to Tunku Ismail, he had met the new council briefly after the elections before he announced a slew of decisions to the media.
Eighty per cent of the delegates at last Saturday’s election comprised of young and new faces who had given the mandate for sweeping change, underscored the reality that change was what they wanted.
As one senior official observed: “For far too long FAM have been managed by consensus and sometimes good proposals have been thrown out by previous presidents because state FAs opposed for reasons best known to them.
“This has affected the development of football and brought us to our current situation.
“It’s about time we tried something new and with Tunku Ismail being young and having proven himself with his stewardship of JDT, we need to give him full support.
“It may look dictatorial, but what has common consensus with agendas attached, brought us to? Let us allow Tunku Ismail to work his way. What have we to lose?”
It’s important Tunku Ismail gets full backing and not back-biting from the state FAs.
Anyway, Tunku Ismail is a man who won’t tolerate nonsense. The non-compliant will probably have no place in his leadership team.
But still the state FAs play a big role in determining whether changes in football’s governance will succeed or fail.
States FAs will be expecting the new regime to put many things right for them, especially in terms of funding from broadcasting rights.
If they get the allocations they are seeking, they will have to spend wisely.
Tunku Ismail is passionate about development and wants the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) to come directly under the jurisdiction of FAM which includes funding (presently under the Sports Ministry) and rightly so.
He believes grassroots development, which is non-existent among a majority of state FAs and clubs, must be priority.
Indeed, exciting times are on course for Malaysian football, but state FAs must not buck the national interest.
Tunku Ismail has to change the mentality that allows state interest to take precedence over national interest.
Tunku Ismail must be careful not to be over reliant on foreign expertise. Even if he does, he must make sure the foreigners are the best and have locals as understudies.
The Exco must be prepared for an earful when they meet for the first time under TMJ in Kota Kinabalu next week.
Tunku Ismail is expected to outline his style of management. More sweeping changes are expected.
However, judging from the positive feedback, there seems to be hope for change. However, only time will tell.
Quality long term programmes, patience, hard work, dedication and concerted effort are the pre-conditions for light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

TONY is a sports journalist with close to four decades’ experience and is passionate about local sports.
He can be reached at
tmariadass@gmail.com


BLOG VERSION 


TMJ’s highway or no way

NEWLY elected FA of Malaysia president, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, the Tengku Mahkota of Johor (TMJ, wasted no time in taking immediate decisions which might have ruffled some feathers in the football family, especially among the anguished in the elections.
TMJ’s decisions among them included the removal of national coach Ong Kim Swee to be replaced by Mario Gomez, Ong given the task to handle the national Under-23 team and the removal of Frank Bernhardt, before any Council or team management meeting, saw some shocked faces.
But a majority, especially those who were elected in for the new term of office, had no qualms because it was what they had bargained for.
TMJ when he was approached to head the national body by many affiliates, in his meetings with the representatives of the State FAs had clearly outlined that if he was to head FAM, he has to be given the mandate to manage the body he deems fit and all of them have to support him.
He has made it crystal clear that they will have to follow his momentum and pace as he likes to do things fast and get it done. He had also said that he has his style of working and the Exco will have to follow him and his style.
In fairness to TMJ, he had meet the new Exco briefly after the elections before he met the Media to take centre stage with his announcements of immediate action. He has asked them to support whatever decisions he has to announce.
FA of Malaysia’s ways of common consensus through Council decisions and the various committees may have seen its last days.
The fact that 80 percent of the delegates from the states for last Saturday’s election comprised of young and new faces and had given the mandate for a sweeping change in the new Exco line-up, underlines that they wanted changes.
And they knew fully well what they were bargaining for with TMJ helming the national body.
One senior football official said: “For far too long FAM have been managed by common consensus and sometimes good proposals have been thrown out under their previous presidents because State FAs opposed for reasons best known to them.
“This has affected the development of football and brought us to our current status.
“It is about time we tried something new and with TMJ being young and proven himself with his club JDT, it is about time we tried something his way and need to give him full support.
“It may look dictatorial, but what has common consensus with agendas attached, brought us to? Let us allow TMJ to work his way. What have we to lose?”
However, it is important that TMJ gets full backing and not back-biting from the State FAs.
Anyway, TMJ is a man who tolerates no nonsense and non-compliants will probably have no place in his team.
But still the State FAs play a big role in success or failure.
It is important that all in State FAs Council are in the same page of TMJ’s vision and style.
States FAs will be expecting to the new regime to put many things right for them, especially in terms of funding coming from broadcasting rights.
But the State FAs if they get their windfalls need to spend wisely and channel it to the right areas to ensure a bright future for Malaysian football.
TMJ is passionate about football development and wants the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) to come directly under the jurisdiction of FAM which includes all funding (presently under the Ministry of Sports) and rightly so.
He believes that grassroots development which is non-existence among a majority of State FAs and clubs, should buck up and take the matter seriously and make it their priority agenda.
However, a word of caution though – in the past FAM had tried to ensure all State FAs give importance to development and specified substantial funding from the grant through previous sponsors (Dunhill), was to go towards development, but it never happened.
The allocation went to other areas, especially the management of the M-League teams and acquisition of foreign players and coaches. When questioned by FAM, they turn around and say it is up to them to spend the money how they deem fit!
Maybe this time around, State FAs should only be given their development allocation after putting the programme in place and payment to come direct from FAM. This way, it will ensure that the development programmes are in place, up and running and monitored.
Indeed, exciting times are expected for Malaysian football under the new regime, but the State FAs are a notorious lot with their own agenda and national interest is their lowest priority.
TMJ has to change this mentality and maybe his way of doing things is the only way to shake up Malaysian football.
But TMJ must be careful not to rely totally on foreigners and even if he does, he gets to get the best and at the same time given emphasis to have locals as understudies.
The Exco must be prepared for an earful when they meet for the first time under TMJ in Kota Kinabalu next Saturday.
This already is a change from the norm of FAM’s administration, as TMJ wants to have meetings in the States rather than at the headquarters all the time.
TMJ is expected to outline his style of management and more sweeping changes are expected.
Some may be difficult to absorb or swallow, but it is going to be TMJ’s way and the sooner they get used to it, the better it will be for a smooth transition.
If resistance persists from some quarters, TMJ might even take the road to throw in the towel, for if changes for the betterment of Malaysian football cannot gain support, then he is merely wasting his time, effort and energy.
However, judging from the positive feedback and support, there seems to be hope for change.
But whether it for real or just being in number for the sake of it, time will tell.
It must be underlined that the face of Malaysian football cannot be changed overnight.
Damaged has been done over two decades and any resurrection will take time.
The national team cannot become a champion team overnight either because we still have the same crop of players. We may improve slightly under a new management with new ideas, but we cannot turn old horses to championship breed, while our young breed have still a long way to become classy players.
Quality long term programmes, patience, hard work, dedication and a concerted effort by all will be hallmark to seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel.  
 



Sunday, March 26, 2017

GOLFER P. GUNASEGARAN PASSES ON - A TRIBUTE TO HIM



‘JACK NICKLAUS OF MALAYSIA’
    

MALAYSIAN golf shed a tear yesterday.
One of its pioneering heroes, P. Gunasegaran died at Selayang Hospital at 10am. He was 53.
Gunasegaran’s son Yogendran, said his father passed away from multiple organ failure due to a stroke that he had suffered a few days ago.
Fellow professional Airil Rizman, said Gunasegaran suffered his first stroke a few years back.
Popularly known as P. Gunasegaran or Guna, he was best remembered for his heroics in the 1994 Malaysian Open at Royal Selangor Golf Club.
He played the best final round of his life when he got into an epic eight-hole playoff with Frank Nobilo and Joakim Haegmann.
In an exclusive interview with Golf Digest Malaysia in 2011, Gunasegaran finally told the nation what had happened that fateful Sunday.
“People were asking what’s going on, what happened to my life and how could I have missed that crucial putt in the playoff to lose the Malaysian Open title and where did I go from there,” Gunasegaran recalled.
“I had two chances to win during the playoff but I missed putts from 12 feet. I made some mistakes.”
He added: “At the end of the day, I could honestly say I had given my best shot, went all out in that tournament for the country and for myself.
“I kept my cool for that final putt but sometimes in golf, just like in life itself, things do not work out the way you planned and I missed the putt. Disappointed? Definitely.
“That was a big miss indeed. But, I wouldn’t cry over spilled milk and feel miserable my whole life.
“I shunned the media spotlight, because there was nothing to be told or glorified about that missed putt. To me, it’s just another game which I didn’t win.”
Together with former pro M. Ramayah, Gunasegaran brought golf into the forefront by regularly performing well on the local and international circuits.
They were the top two golfers in the country and were the go-to guys when the national team came calling.
During the 1990s when on the rare occasions golf events were televised, Malaysians loved to tune in and watch these two gentlemen play alongside the world’s best golfers.
Gunasegaran rarely disappointed.
Coming from a modest income family, Gunasegaran had to fight all his life to make a decent living.
He started as caddie in his hometown of Kuala Kubu Baru in 1972, earning a mere RM0.80 before getting a raise to RM2.50.
He turned pro 20 years later, but not before winning a SEA Games gold medal in 1989.
He was also planning to open an academy at his old club as a way of giving back to the game.
Before his death, there was uncertainty and confusion among the golf fraternity as it was initially reported he had died on Friday.
It turned out to be untrue as he was still on life support but by which time, many had paid tribute and expressed their condolences.
It all started on Tuesday when a relative went to check on him after friends and family were unable to reach him for almost three days.
They noticed he was alone at home and in distress. He could not move and had probably not eaten anything for the three days he was unreachable.
Paramedics were summoned and they rushed Gunasegaran to Kuala Kubu Baru Hospital on Tuesday night where he was placed under observation.
At 4am Wednesday morning, they moved the 1989 SEA Games gold medallist to Hospital Selayang where he had a stroke the following day.
He hung on for two more days before taking his last breathe.
Gunasegaran leaves wife N. Nalina, 38, son Yogendran, 21, and daughters, Thanusha, 18, and Thanushini, 14.
 Patrick Ho is editor of
Golf Digest Malaysia

TRIBUTES
    
R. Nachimuthu (former national golfer)
“We have been travelling together the past two years since his health started deteriorating. He couldn’t handle the long drives alone. We shared a lot about golf and how we could improve our game. He was a very quiet person and kept mostly to himself. I enjoyed our trips as he was someone I looked up to as a senior. He always had time to give me advice when I needed it. I’ll miss him.”
M. Ramayah (former national golfer)
“He was someone who had strong beliefs. If he felt he was right he would not budge and always stood up for his friends. When he was Malaysia’s No 1, he didn’t look for sponsors. He was a fierce fighter on the course and a gentleman off it. He had been taking medicine for kidney, diabetes and high blood pressure. Two years ago he stopped taking medicine as it was getting too expensive. Guna said he was doing fine without it after a year of not taking medicine regularly.”
B. Rajkumar (former national athlete)
“He was my childhood friend. He was a quiet person, very confident in his abilities. Guna never hurt anyone and would lend a helping hand if needed.”

Gavin Green
(professional golfer)
“He was a legend and his success paved the way for many! I see him as the Jack Nicklaus of Malaysia. He was hard working and determined and most importantly, he truly did love golf.”
Danny Chia
(professional golfer)
“Guna was a quiet person but when he talks, it’s straight to the point. He inspired me a lot, especially when he almost won the Malaysian Open. He has done so much for professional golf in Malaysia. He will be missed.”
Airil Rizman
(professional golfer)
“He was definitely a great man and an idol to all of us. True definition of hard work pays off. RIP.”
Nicholas Fung (professional golfer)
“It’s a loss for Malaysian golf. His presence and contributions will always be remembered.”


By Tony Mariadass

Guna’s green, green grass of home

[Interview conducted May, 2016 in Kuala Kubu Baru]

Golfer Periasamy Gunasegaran is still staying relevant in the game thanks to his club – Kuala Kubu Baru Golf and Country Club (KKBGC) – and close friends from this town.
Born and bred in this small town, Gunasegaran, who is still best remembered as the closest to being the first Malaysian to win the Malaysian Open in 1994 when he lost in an epic eight-hole play-off to Sweden’s Joakim Haeggmann, is still making a name for himself at the game.
At 53, Gunasegeran won the Asian Senior Master 2016 at the Tering Bay Golf and Country Club in Batam in early April to book the only ticket from Asia to compete in the PGA Senior Tour champions event – the Insperity Invitational (May 2-8) - at the Woodlands Country Club in Houston.
Playing in a field of 81 golfers which was rated as one the strongest field of the Tour, Gunasegaran had for company the who’s who list of golfers with the likes of 2015 champion Ian Woosnam , seven other past winners of the event—Larry Nelson (2004), Mark McNulty (2005), Jay Haas (2006), John Cook (2009), Brad Faxon (2011), Fred Funk (2012) and Esteban Toledo (2013) and in addition, five World Golf Hall-of-Fame members - Tom Kite, Mark O’Meara, Curtis Strange, Colin Montgomerie and Sandy Lyle.

“I was simply amazed at field. It was a lifetime dream come true as the field had a combination of golf’s legends, new PGA tour champions members, Hall of Fame members and the best players in the world age 50 and over,” said Gunasegran who finished 48th.
“You say anything about these legends, but they were a friendly lot who had time for everyone. I was not only rubbing shoulders with them, but had them giving words of encouragement and having conversations with them. It was an experience of a lifetime for me.”
Guansegeran said that he had to thank his club, where he had started off as a caddy in 1972 to have become an amateur golfer, a professional and still playing.
“I owe it to my club members who have very supportive in me making golf a career. Without their financial support I will not have achieved all I have till date,” said the resident pro of KKBGC.
“Besides my club, another hometown friend, S. Gopi, a successful businessman has been very supportive and if for his substantial contribution I would not have made it to Houston,” said Gunasegaran who had to spend about RM17,000 for the US trip besides another RM5,000 for the qualifier in Batam.
“I am also indebted to my equipment sponsor – Srixon – who have supported me for the last 20 years.”
Gunasegran started caddying with his childhood buddy, B. Rajkumar – the Asian Track and Field championship 800m gold medallist in 1985 in Jakarta and who still holds the national record with his winning time of 1.47.37
“Rajukumar was an excellent golfer too and a single handicapper. But he choose to take up athletics, while I decided it was golf for me,” said Gunasegaran who still plays with Rajkumar at the club course.
Gunasegeran who was a member of the Sea Games gold medal winning team at the 1989 Games in Kuala Lumpur and individual silver at the 1991 Manila Sea, turned professional in 1992 winning his first title as a pro at the Singapore PGA the same year. There has been no looking back since then winning numerous titles.
KKB has been a haven for top golfers for besides, Gunasegaran, it has had two other professionals – R. Narchimuthu and late A. Dorairaj.
Guansegaran is hoping that a fourth golfer from KKBGC will do the small town proud, but said that things have changed from the time they used to play.
“We hardly get any local boys playing here. Almost everyone has left for the brighter city lights. Those days, the golf course was our source of extra income as schoolboys. We caddied and earned starting with 80 sen and in the later years, about RM2.50 for a round of 18 holes.
“Today we have no caddies. The golfers use the buggy.”
But Gunasegeran still remains very relevant at KKBGC as he is looked upon by the members for tips in the game and also to have him play a round of game with them.
“I do conduct coaching course to individuals who approach me. Tried to start a gold academy here, but there was little response.”
Gunasegaran said he is just happy with what he is doing and playing in senior tournaments from time to time, while KKBGC will remain his home forever.