Friday, June 3, 2005

RISING TO THE SURFACE AGAIN ( 03/06/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 03/06/2005

CULTURE in any society is a permanent entity as it is part of tradition,
a link to the past and a reference to serve as a guiding force to stay on
the right path.
Culture is often associated with race and religion, which only means it
has good values regardless of its background or origin.
Of late, another new culture - sports - has been much talked about, and
in Malaysia, it has become a national agenda.
The fact is sports culture in Malaysia is nothing new as it has been
part of our multi-ethnic society from an early stage.
Once, Malaysia were kingpins in soccer where they humiliated the
current powers in Asia - Japan and Korea. Malaysia also had athletes in
the Olympics, and we reigned supreme in badminton and were also a force
to reckon with in hockey.
For a small growing nation, these were indeed a big feat.
Thus, it is indeed ironic now there is talk about the need to instil a
sporting culture to bring back the values of sports, which have always
been part of every Malaysian.
But poor performances in the international sports arena, lack of
emphasis in sports in schools over the years, changing times in modern
society where education takes priority, scarcity of public fields, and
joining the rat race have seen sports in the country take a backseat of
However, while Malaysia are trying to revive the sporting culture
through the hiring of foreign speakers to extol its virtues and the vital
role it plays, several countries have acknowledged its part in moulding
societal values here.
Recently, Australian Alexander Paul Roper, who is a PhD candidate at
the School of Human Movement Studies at the University of Queensland,
contacted me, requesting for a discourse on Malaysian sports.
He is to arrive here soon and as a precursor, as a gesture of courtesy,
sent me his colloquium to explain his area of interest.
The 60-page document, a socio-political analysis piece, touched on the
Malaysian Government's policy and the process of nation-building.
However, much of his paper had to do with sports and nationhood in
Malaysia as well as sports and national integration .
Given that sports extends to broad sections of the population more than
perhaps any social activity and being able to transcend social,
educational, ethnic, religious, historical, political and language
barriers, Malaysia were portrayed as an example for others to follow.
Roper quoted the late Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, as saying in
1967 that sports not only helped build the nation's youth to be good
athletes and better Malaysians, but also helped in the "the task of
building a harmonious and unified nation".
And how true it is, because though flags, anthems and uniforms can all
serve these purposes, but sports - as a popular culture - cuts across
class, caste and ethnicity which make them multi-faceted.
That sports helps to consolidate nationalism and patriotism, makes it a
possible instrument of national unity and integration, provide a safety
value or outlet of emotional energy and reinforce national consciousness
and cultural nationalism. This only underlines why sports culture in
Malaysia has to be part and parcel of everyone's lives apart from just
attaining international honours.
A clear example was how the 1998 Commonwealth Games, hosted by
Malaysia, not only saw our athletes rise to the occasion for their
best-ever performance in the series, but how it also rallied all walks of
people together to support their sportsmen and sportswomen with the
Malaysia Boleh cheer.
The Games saw many facilities built which led to the overall
modernisation of the country.
Not to mention how the multi-sports festival saw international
attention focused on Malaysia, that till today the country, as the hosts,
are still the talking point.
But Malaysians cannot wait for the Commonwealth Games, SEA Games,
soccer or hockey finals to show their support for sports or be part of
the action.
Roper is not the only one who acknowledges Malaysia's close association
with sports, but the many authors he referred to in his paper, also
readily admit Malaysia as an example for other countries to follow.
Thus, Malaysians do not need constant reminders that sports must be
part of their lives, but instead sports should not remain "buried" in a
person but instead should be drawn out because they are a part of
Malaysian culture and tradition.
Do not bury something which has done so much good for the nation and
has been part of a character-building process that Malaysians should be
proud of.
Just eliminate the politics, personal agendas and selfishness when
dealing with sports and Malaysia will be back on the right track in no
time to regain past glories.
With so much money being pumped in by the Government, who acknowledged
sports is an important ingredient of the rakyat, Malaysia should be
moving forward on the path to excellence.
Just take a step back when things do not look right to see where
Malaysia have gone wrong to get back on track.
Sports, at its best, is linked to passion and it can do no wrong when
it brings out so many good values in an individual, instead of being
"buried" in him/her.

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