Saturday, December 30, 2006

Looking ahead

AS we usher in another New Year in two days time, sports enthusiasts of the country will look back to see what has been achieved and what the New Year has in store.

A stock check is indeed in order, with 2007 being the nation’s 50th year of independence.

While many efforts are going to be made to reminisce the “good old days of sports in the nation” and to record all the golden moments to celebrate the occasions, it is even more important that the years ahead of us see better moments to be remembered.

After all, that’s what progression all about – to get better with times.

Of course, critics will say that sports over the last two decades have taken a downward trend because of many factors – both internal within in the sports fraternity and external where changing times of the modern society has seen parents and children give less importance to sports.

And there is certainly truth in the views of the critics because it is a fact of the matter.

However, if the critics continue to critisise, without giving constructive solutions, it is not going to help sports one bit.

That is why it is sad to see efforts by parties like the National Sports Associations (NSAs), Olympic Council of Malaysia and the Youth and Sports Ministry through the National Sports Council (NSC) to raise the standards of sports in the country, getting knocked down and being impatient to see the end results.

Nothing in life happens overnight and it is no different in sports. Everything needs effort, planning, execution and continuous effort, planning and execution.

For the New Year, the Cabinet Committee for Sports headed by the Deputy Prime Minister himself, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Are expected to meet in January and top of the discussion will be the Doha Asian Games for it was suppose to be yardstick for review and further stand of Government funding.

While there are different schools of thoughts on the Malaysian contingent’s performance in Doha, the fact that performance generally improved.

Of course, some sports were a down, while others stepped up to deliver.

Maybe the time has come for Malaysian sports not to spread itself thin and wide in their search for success in sports.

It should concentrate on a few sports that have shown potential and delivered in the patch. A few more sports where there is potential to do well at the world class field because physique does not into the picture like archery and shooting to name two, should be given support, but at development level so that the sports can be developed for the future.

Generally, the mandate should be given to work on sports which have been managed well as professionals, have a sound development programmes, have the manpower resources to carry out the programmes effectively, and have a track record of performance like badminton, squash and bowling.

Another group of sports, who are beginning to shown signs of positiveness like athletics, must be assisted by on a selective basis.

Others like hockey and soccer will have to give more emphasis on development.

In any programmes there will be success and failures, but for a continued process, there has to be movement forward using the positive aspects of each programme as a stepping stone.

From the Jaya Program in 1998, all following programs have been continuous programmes for specific events. In addition, along the process, we will have athletes who fall out, while others emerge as newcomers and go on to establish themselves, while we will have the “old faithfuls” who will continue to perform to stay in the program.

Malaysian sports next two events are the December Sea Games in Thailand and next year’s Olympics in China.

Cuts are expected to make the programs trim and lean, but all indications are that sports will continue to get the support it has been getting all this while.

But to make it all worthwhile, there has been a concerted joint effort from the NSAs, OCM and NSC.

There needs to be professionalism on everyone’s part – be it athletes, officials, coaches or even administrators.

There certainly has to be accountability and running to hide when trouble hits the fence or even worse shifting the blame to others will not do.

There also needs to be transparency from all quarters to ensure that everything is above board and that all programs are run effectively and well.

Let us make this 50 years independence a meaningfully one, by having to show some real progress in sports and not just imaginary ones or yesteryears glories we have to fall back to give a pat on our backs.

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