Saturday, March 5, 2005

Renewing hopes for Malaysia (04/03/2005)

Publication : MM
Date : 04/03/2005
Headline : Renewing hopes for Malaysia

ONE woman has the vision of Malaysian sports being taken to a higher level
in the near future, while another is proving it can be done, even if it
means beating the men.
They are none other than Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said and
bowler Shalin Zulkifli respectively.
While Azalina, since taking office 11 months ago as the first woman
Sports Minister, has been all action with her fervor and passion,
believing Malaysian sports no longer need to remain in the doldrums but to
rise and shine again, Shalin has been continuing with her international
exploits to reignite hopes for Malaysian sports.
Azalina, even at the expense of being accused she was biting off more
than she can chew, is committed towards achieving what she has set in
Both Azalina and Shalin may be considered the fairer sex, but they have
proved a thing or two, prompting the men to sheepishly admit the duo have
done better.
Probably, it is about time for athletes, officials, schoolchildren,
parents and Malaysians at large, to believe there is indeed hope for
Malaysian sports and they must get cracking.
The time certainly cannot be better with Azalina playing a key role in
getting the Government to support sports in an unprecedented big way.
While it was left mainly to the Sports Ministry in the past to chart the
path of Malaysian sports, the recent formation of the Cabinet Committee on
Sports Development - headed by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib
Razak - only underlines the fact that the Government mean business.
There are athletes like Shalin and the other bowlers, squash players and
occasionally the shuttlers, who bring honours, injecting a ray of hope
into Malaysian sports.
And Shalin's feat of overcoming even the world's top men, not just last
week when she beat Ahmed Shaheen Al Muraiki of Qatar, double gold
medalist in the 1999 AMF World Cup and World Championships, on his home
ground in the H.H. Emir Cup, but on two other occasions in the last four
years, only reinforces the fact that Malaysian athletes, with the right
attitude, approach and guidance, can excel in the international arena.
Maybe, it will be too far-fetched to say Malaysian athletes can do well
in all sports, because the reality factor has to be considered, where in
some, Malaysians don't stand a chance due to the physical aspect.
But then again, when Asians like the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese, have
proved they can compete against the world's best, maybe it is not an
impossible task after all.
This brings one back to Azalina, who from day one has been preaching
what the national athletes' mindset and sports culture should be.
Without doubt, one of the main reasons for Malaysian sports slipping
into a slump is the sports culture has slowly but surely eroded.
But every effort is being made to revive that spirit, with the onus now
on parents and teachers, who are the foundations of Malaysian sports, to
be ably supported by the various sports associations.
The grassroots have been neglected for some time by many sports
associations, which are now paying a heavy price.
But the few, like bowling and squash, who still give emphasis to
development, are the ones who are standing tall.
Of course, many blame the changing times where emphasis is more on
studies, tuition, computer games and the temptations of the entertainment
But an earnest effort is being made by the Government to change all
that, and the fact 15 Ministers have been named to the Cabinet Committee
for Sports, only goes to show the seriousness given to sports, so that
there is a concerted effort from all quarters.
No one can now turn around and point at another Ministry because all
have to work hand in hand to make the plan work.
However, the only worry is with all the promises that Malaysian sports
are on the upswing due to the importance placed on them now, this could
raise false hopes that results can be expected soon.
And poor results in the Manila SEA Games at year's end, and next year's
Melbourne Commonwealth Games and Doha Asian Games, may see many joining
the bandwagon to brand all the efforts as a failure.
What has been set in motion currently to restore the Malaysian sports
image is going to take time, and patience, persistence and perseverance
will be the vital ingredients of success.
If there are going to be any notions of having launched the programme
today and expecting results tomorrow, we are certainly not heading

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