Friday, December 2, 2016

IS FOOTBALL A LOST CAUSE?





COMMENTARY   

 Level Field


IS FOOTBALL A LOST CAUSE?


    

TRANSFORMING MALAYSIAN FOOTBALL was the topic at a National Football Symposium organised last Sunday by students of the inaugural Professional Football Business Management course as part of their syllabus at University Malaya. Speakers included Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Prof Dr Khoo Kay Kim (management challenges in transforming football); Stuart Ramalingam (commercialisation of football); Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz (role of sports science in the transformation process) and B. Sathianathan (coach education and youth development is an investment). For the plenary session, chaired by symposium advisor E.R. Subramaniam (former FA of Malaysia assistant secretary), the panellist besides Sathianathan and Stuart, were former national midfielder Bakri Ibni and Subang Jaya Community Sports Club president Farouk Hashim. Among those present were National Sports Council director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi, Olympic Council of Malaysia general-secretary Datuk Low Beng Choo and her assistant Datuk Sieh Kok Chi and former Asian Football Confederation general-secretary Datuk Peter Velappan. Topics ranged from good governance, management of teams and funds, commercialisation, professionalism, embracing sports science and grassroots, youth and coaching development. These have been discussed many times over with papers presented to the relevant authorities and stakeholders which has since gathered dust. One of the questions asked was whether Malaysian football has a future? The panel except Bakri, diplomatically said they believe there was. Sathianathan bluntly said the set-up needed to be reformed before we talk about transformation. There were almost 200 at the auditorium at the start of the session in the morning but after lunch, only half remained. To top it all, the relevant people who can make a difference in Malaysian football were not present. FAM representatives also skipped the afternoon session! Nothing is going to change Malaysian football because the rot is too deep. Many will argue we cannot give up and must try to make changes. But if the very people who were supposed to make the changes don’t want to, or won’t make way for younger, more passionate and professional people to initiate changes, there is nothing much then that can be done. Just look at our M-League. It began as the Malaya Cup in 1921 and having gone semi-professional in 1989 and fully professional in 1994, we still don’t have a well organised league. Changes happen almost every season and even now as it is managed by a private entity — Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLPP) — nothing has changed. FMLPP are struggling to manage the league smoothly and have triggered a controversy by sending the participation form for 2017 to PKNS — who earned promotion from Premier League to Super League — directly and accepting their invitation. In
accordance with the rules, PKNS’ entry should come through FA of Selangor, but when registration for the 2017 Malaysia Super League closed on Wednesday, Selangor had not endorsed PKNS’ participation.
PKNS have been granted an extra week to get the approval. The strength of the national team lies in the strengths of the domestic league. When we can’t get our act right, how can we expect higher level performances? State FAs and clubs too must take the blame for neglecting grassroots development and ignoring local coaches. Instead of looking for players from Asia, they look to Europe and South America and pay hefty payments to players, coaches and agents. Sadly, most of the time we get half-baked products. Whether a change of leadership in FAM will put Malaysian on the right track is a million-ringgit question. It is about the stakeholders — State FAs, clubs, and schools. Whether they are willing to change their mindset and have the game at heart instead of their own agendas, is something only they can answer. The National Football Development Programme (NFDP) initiated by the Sports Ministry in 2011 — has 123 NFDP centres with 19,252 trainees and 966 coaches — is seen as a redeemer for Malaysian football. But this programme needs to be monitored closely so it doesn’t lose direction and objectivity.
At the end of the day, it is FAM’s council who can make a difference.
But if the members have vested interest and agendas, football will continue to be in the doldrums.
TONY is a sports
journalist close to
four decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
tmariadass@gmail.com

Sunday, November 27, 2016

GREAT AMBASSADOR FOR SPORTS





By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by: Mukhriz Zabidi

JEFFREY ONG, a household name in the 1980s and 1990s is back after 14 years in London and ready to serve sports.
The 44-year-old swimmer who represented Malaysia at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games as a 16-year-old and at the Barcelona Games four years later, still holds the national 1,500m freestyle record of 15:23.16s set at the World Student Games in Sheffield in 1991.
“It is nice but I am surprised no one has bettered it,” said the 1988 Sportsman of the Year.
Asked why he returned, he replied: “My parents and friends are here. I love the food and above all missed home and the weather.”
Jeffrey, who graduated from University of Southern California with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Psychology (1990-1994), where he was a member of the USC Swim Team as well as an NCAA All-American swimmer, left for England in 2002 to be with girlfriend Carolyn Goh.
They are now married and have a five-year-old daughter, Olivia.“It was supposed to have been until she completes her studies, but she then did her Phd and one thing led to another and we stayed on,” explained Jeffrey, who has been appointed CIMB Classic regional commercial director for corporate sponsorship and hospitality.
While in London, he worked in the conferences and events industry, developing commercial partnerships with leading multinational corporations.
Jeffrey also successfully sold sponsorship managed events in the architecture and design, infrastructure and project finance, and travel trade sectors.
Besides swimming, he is also remembered for his appearances on TV3 from 1995 to 1997 where he did news-gathering, reporting, researching, scriptwriting and hosting. He also did freelancing on TV production, hosting, deejay and media work.
As part of his plan to give back to sports, Jeffrey was elected as deputy president of the Malaysian Olympian Association (MOA) unopposed two weeks ago.
“I hope through the guidance of president Karu Selvaratnam and several senior Olympians, we will make MOA more relevant and contribute to the development of sports,” said Jeffrey a member of the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame who was inducted last year.

“MOA will have our first executive council meeting next week and we will discuss and map our plans.”
Jeffrey said the nation has tremendous potential but the talent needs to be nurtured.
“Malaysia can become a sporting hub for the Asean region and we should exploit it.
“I am confident Malaysia’s elusive Olympic medal will come in Tokyo,” he said.
“We reached greater heights compared with yesteryears with world No 1s in Lee Chong Wei and Nicol David.
“We should also use the next year’s Kuala Lumpur SEA Games as a launch pad for further excellence.”
Jeffrey said states, clubs, Malaysian Schools Sports Council are important but urged parents to take a bigger role.

“If not for my parents’ passion, dedication, determination and discipline, my sisters and I would not have been national athletes.”
His parents — Ong Eng Kooi and Rosemary — used to bring him and his sisters to Chinese Penang Club diligently from 4.30am before sending them to school and back to the pool in the evening.
Except for his older brother Steven, who swam at club level, his older sister, Katerina (Sportswoman 1980) and younger sister Angelia were national swimmers.
Jeffrey with Nurul  Huda Abdullah - standing second from left - and national teammates

Jeffrey said an athlete must have ambition, be prepared to make sacrifices, be disciplined and dedicated.
“I train for long-distance swimming and it can be very lonely just like middle distance runners. It takes a lot of patience and dedication but have no regrets.
“It is also important athletes enjoy what they do and not take it as a chore.

Friday, November 25, 2016

DON'T MIX SPORTS AND POLITICS









COMMENTARY   

Level Field

Don’t not mix sports and politics


WHILE the rules are clear about not mixing sports and politics, it has happened one too many times.
It may happen again in Malaysia. The Cabinet will decide today whether the national football team should withdraw from the AFF Cup now being staged in Myanmar and the Philippines.
Malaysia are under pressure to withdraw from the competition as a sign of protest against Myanmar’s “genocide” in Rakhine.
Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin is caught in a difficult position.
He said: “Some people say do not mix politics and sports. But this is not politics, it is a humanitarian issue.”
The Rembau MP said he will stay guided by the decision to be taken.
It is hoped the Cabinet will weigh the situation carefully and also take into consideration the impact it will have on Malaysian sports.
It is generally believed Malaysian football is still reeling from the negative effects of the government’s decision to pull out from the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the football team had qualified on merit.
It was the second and last time Malaysia qualified for the Olympics.
The Moscow Olympics squad team manager, the late Datuk Bakar Daud, had wished he had access to then prime minister Tun Hussein Onn to change his stance on the boycott.
Malay Mail’s Johor correspondent Dan Guen Chin, a sports reporter who was covering the national team then, was told of Bakar’s wishes.
“Datuk Bakar was devastated when told of the boycott. He told me he had tried to see the Prime Minister to personally make a plea for a change of heart fo the sake of sports,” Dan revealed.
“Above all, he said that not going to Moscow was going to affect the future of Malaysian football. He said playing would have left a legacy and served as an inspiration for the younger generation.”
Indeed Bakar was spot on, as Malaysia’s football performance took a slide since then and has not recovered. Malaysia were ranked 70th then; now 156th.
In the past Malaysia’s stance of not entertaining countries with whom we have no ties, has denied us host nation status for international meetings and championships.
Coming back to the AFF Cup, what kind of message will we be sending to the national team and our sports performers at large if they are asked to withdraw?
Surely, there are other ways the government can address the situation in Rakhine — through the United Nations, Asean, directly with Myanmar, or even give assistance for the rescue of fleeing Rohingyas.
Malaysia will host the SEA Games next August, if the pullout from the AFF Cup is executed, what effect will it have on the Games?
Are we going to exclude Myanmar, or are Myanmar going to pull out because of Malaysia’s action?
What happens to Asean and SEA Games Federation solidarity? Are we willing to jeopardise that?
Politics and sports or sports diplomacy describe the use of sport as a means to influence diplomatic, social and political relations. Sports diplomacy may transcend cultural differences and bring people together.
Sport and politics should not mix just as water and oil never can
.

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

TRAILBLAZER DONALD

By Tony Mariadass
Pictures by Azneal Ishak

    


DONALD IGNATIUS MARTIN was born in Malaya but won silver and bronze Olympic medals for Australia.
Affectionately known as Don, he was born on Feb 8, 1940 in Kuala Lumpur but his father sent him to study in Perth in 1950.
“My great grandfather who hailed from Pondicherry (India), came to Malaya with the East India Trading company,” said the 77-year-old Donald who was visiting Malaysia this week with his wife Kerry.
“My father was an electrical engineer with Central Electricity Board (now known as TNB) while my mother who is of Thai-Irish descent, was a teacher. I am fourth of five brothers and three sisters.
“I picked up hockey as my father played it.
“We played at our neighbourhood field in Setapak, before my father was transferred to Kota Baru and during the Japanese occupation, in Taiping,” said Donald who studied at St John’s primary school for three years.
“When I joined Aquinas College in Perth, I took up athletics, cricket and Australian rules football as they didn’t have a hockey team.”
Donald said hockey was introduced in Australian in 1952 with the influx of Asians.
“It was then we formed the school team and a Catholic brother, taught us from coaching manuals.
Seven players including Donald were of mixed parentage from Malaya/Singapore in his school’s first XI — his brothers Rod (centreforward) and Peter (centre halfback), goalkeeper and captain Bill Stevenson, Steve Houghton (halfback), Cliff Cardoza (right halfback) and Lionel Jan (right wing).
Donald said after college where he studied to become a cartographic draughtsman, he played for his college’s Old Boys team from 1957 to 1961 before playing for YMCA.
“I had no ambition of playing in the Olympics because I knew little about it until Australia hosted it in 1956,” said Donald who looks more European than Eurasian.
“I joined the trials for the 1956 Olympics team to train with older and more experienced players. I impressed enough to be selected to the training squad but did not make the final squad,” said Donald who stands 1.79m.
He made the Australian national team in 1960 and went on playing tours to New Zealand and India.
“It was in India I had my first encounter with the Malayan team and met (Datuk R) Yogeswaran.
“Many in the team were surprised to learn of my origin.”
His friendship with the players grew as he met them at the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
Yogeswaran (right) and C. Paramalingam with Don at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics
Yogeswaran showing the above photograph taken during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to Donald here in Malaysia on Friday
Malaysia also played four Tests with Australia prior to the Mexico City Games and won one and drew three in matches played in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.
They were in the same Group in Mexico City and Malaysia lost 3-0.
Australia qualified for the final only to lose 1-0 to Pakistan.
Malaysia finished joint ninth with Britain out of 15 teams. Four years earlier Malaysia were 15 out of 16 teams.
Donald said he was lucky to have played in Mexico City.
“From 1965 to 1967, I was not in the national team because of work commitments,” he explained.
“But I was selected to the training squad and made the cut. It was a great comeback because we won silver,” said Donald, who was inducted to the Western Australian Hockey Hall of Champions in 2010.
He said he owed a lot to his father’s vision to send his children to study in Perth.
“My progress had a lot to do with my exposure in Perth. I remember training on my own after college or work at Wembley Park in Perth at night under the garden lights.
“I was also lucky to have been playing with so many great players like brothers Eric, Gordon and Melville Pearce. I learnt a great deal from them.”
Only four hockey players have been inducted to the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame and this includes Eric and his brother Julian, Ric Charlesworth and David Bell.
Donald said he emerged from an era where the game was about passion and sacrifices.
Don also said his involvement in other sports like cricket and athletics helped him become a better player in terms of coordination and fitness, while his training under poor light in the park, trained his eyes on focus on the ball.
On whether he would have been the player he was playing in present day conditions – artificial turf and changes in the rules – he said: “It is all about adaption. When I played in Australia, the playing style was different from the game I played when in Malaysia, but I adapted.
“It is all about learning basics, playing the game simple and above all enjoy the game.”
“Players must remember money is the root of the fall of many top players,” he warned.
His parting words for young players were: “Passion, discipline and dedication must always prevail and cannot be compromised. Otherwise, their careers will not last long or be able to reach the pinnacle.”



1964 Malaysian hockey team to Tokyo Olympics:
Ho Koh Chye, K. Anandarajah, M. Shanmuganthan, Michael Arulraj, D. Munusamy, Lawrence van Huizen ,Douglas Nunis, C. Paramalingam, Tara Singh Sindhu.Koh Hock Seng, R. Yogeswaran, A Sabapathy, Ranjit Singh, K. Alagaratnam and Lim Fung Chong
·          
1968 Malaysian hockey team to Mexico Olympics
Ho Koh Chye, Francis Belavantheran, Sri Shanmuganathan, K. Alagaratnam, Ammenudin Mohamad Ibrahim, Joseph Johnson, Savinder Singh, A. Sabapathy, Yang Siow Meng, Koh Hock Seng, Hamahal Singh, Koh Chong Jin, Shanmuganathan Jeevajothy, R. Yogeswaran, Kuldup Singh and Loong Whey Pyu

Friday, November 18, 2016

MOA ON THE RISE








COMMENTARY   

Level Field



THE revived Malaysian Olympians Association (MOA) now comprise a combination of experience, young and vibrant Olympians following their Annual General Meeting last Saturday.
The original MOA in 2001 under Tan Sri P. Alagendra were deregistered in 2012 for inactivity.
However, S. Sabapaty and the protem committee of nine members, headed by Lt Com (rtd) Karunakarer Selvaratnam, worked for two years before MOA were re-registered with the Registrar of Societies on June 7.
MOA now have more than 300 Olympians. Membership is automatic and voting members have to pay a one-time RM100 registration.
While 75-year-old Karu, a double international in cricket and athletics competed in the 1964 Olympics Games in Tokyo and 69-year-old Sabapathy who competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics as a member of the relay team will provide the experience and guidance, it is the young executive council members who are expected to be the driving force.
That swimmer Jeffery Ong (Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992 Olympics) returned after 14 years in England to be deputy president is a fresh breath of air.
Together with others like Stephen van Huizen, S. Aanantha Sambu, Datuk Mirnawan Nawawi (hockey), Norseela Mohd Khalid, Roslinda Samsu (athletics), Allen Ong and Khoo Cai Lin (swimming), this committee has visions to help Malaysian sports with their experience, programmes, input and getting involved in sports administration more actively.
The EXCO



Immediately after the election, MOA set up a Facebook page and a Whatsapp group.
Karu, a former naval officer who held many administrative posts, had to make some important changes to get MOA more focused.
Among them included incorporating representatives from north and south of Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia.
MOA too needs to transfer their registration from ROS to the Sports Commissioner’s Office (SPO).
It is still a surprise SPO turned down MOA’s initial request to be registered with them as MOA comprise sportsmen and women who will be involved
in development.
MOA will need to call for an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) to make the necessary changes
MOA should actively engage with National Sports Council, National Sports Institute and Sports, Education and Higher Education Ministries.
MOA are affiliated to World Olympians Association (WOA) and recognised by Olympic Council of Malaysia.
WOA are recognised by International Olympic Council.
Karu said their plans include blending sports with education and culture.
Besides working closely with various sports agencies, they must set up coaching academies in states for various sports, be talent scouts and do development work with selected schools who serve as base of a particular sport.
They should also consider setting up scholarship funds and think about acquiring medical cards.
MOA also should encourage members to work closely with states and national associations and take up administrative posts to be actively involved in charting the direction of sports.
We need sports persons to manage sports as they will understand it better.
It is hoped MOA do become like some ex-internationals associations who are more interested in organising friendlies, going on tours and attending international meetings.
MOA must also start thinking of ways to raise funds.
The last thing they must do is to wait for handouts and go around begging for funds.

MOA EXCO:

President: Lt Com (rtd) Karunakarer Selvaratnam
Deputy President: Jeffrey Ong
Vice-Presidents: Stephen van Huizen and Norseela Mohd Khalid
Secretary: Allen Ong
Treasurer: S. Aanantha Sambu
Committee Members: Datuk Mirnawan Nawawi, S. Sabapaty, Roslinda Samsu and Khoo Cai Lin

Members who attended then AGM with OCM president Tunku Imran and OCM assistant secretary as guest of honours

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

Friday, November 11, 2016

JUST DO THE RIGHT THING!










COMMENTARY   

Level Field

Just do the right thing!

JOHOR DARUL TA’ZIM’S success as stated by Johor’s Crown Prince is a formula State FAs and clubs are aware of.
In fact, what Tunku Ismail Ibrahim said has been tried before.
It has been repeated over and over at seminars by Asian Football Confederation and FA of Malaysia, but State FAs ignore it or have their own formulas which often end in failure.
Will State FAs and clubs pay any heed, it is a million ringgit question.
JDT’s path is similar to the route taken by Kuala Lumpur, Kedah and Johor.
Three men with football vision, passion and heart for the game and considered “Godfathers” of the game — Tan Sri Elyas Omar (KL), Datuk Suleiman Mohd Noor (Johor) and the late Datuk Ahmad Basri Akil (Kedah) — raised formidable teams from scratch and paid emphasis to grassroots to make their teams power houses in the 1980s.
Sadly, after their exit, their programmes and vision were not followed through.
Everything Tunku Ismail outlined for success of a team were:
Have a professional organisation
FA be independent to source for funds and not depend on FAM
Quality players and coaching staff to make an immediate impact and gain following:
Aim high
Emphasis on development programme 
and long term goals
Playing top international teams and overseas stints
Spending money wisely and thriftily
Good governance and accountability
Good foundation to supply quality players for state and national teams.
Proper facilities and manage it professionally
Tunku Ismail was spot on when he said: “We (state FAs) have to change. If not, we are not going to get anywhere and it is going to get worse.”
The problem is a majority of the State FAs have their own agendas and hold post more for their own benefit than the game.
In fact, State FAs are the ones to be blamed for the poor standard.
State FA officials in FAM who make decisions, are more interested in their own well-being.
It is no surprise these affiliates have “pre-council” meetings to decide what they want to propose or pass.
We need officials who have the game and the welfare of players at heart.
It is about time, everyone aims high and stop being satisfied with victories at SEA Games and AFF Cup.
Whoever helms FAM come March, has to be tough and demand nothing less than the best.
FAM should take a cue from Fifa who said they will cut funding to errant national FAs.
In more serious cases, Fifa can intervene and even suspend FAs.
For far too long FAM have been too lenient to affiliates and it is time to wield the sword.
Everything has been in place in Malaysia including subsidies.
In the 1980s and 1990s it was RM1 million with guidelines on how it was supposed to be spent — 50 per cent for the team, 20 per cent for development and youth teams, 10 per cent for administration, 10 per cent for referees’ development etc …
But most State FAs spent their money on M-League teams and foreign players.
Former FAM secretary-general the late Datuk Paul Mony Samuel, told me once when audited accounts were requested for the subsidy, FAs turned around and said how they spend their money was their internal affair!
Until State FAs and clubs change their mindset, Malaysia football will continue to stay in the doldrums.
It is time State FAs shape up, stand up and be counted to save Malaysian football from further embarrassment.

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