Malaysian sportsmen and women are indeed a blessed lot.
Thanks to a sports friendly government, sports in the country have not had it better.
Besides, the Ministry of Youth and Sports at the helm to overlook sports in the country, we have the National Sports Council (NSC) who work closely with all the national sports associations and fund programmes, overseas stints, participation in competitions, hires coaches, pay salaries to coaches, managers and athletes, reward athletes and coaches with cash for achievements, handle development programmes, besides providing world-class training facilities.
I have no qualms at all with the support of the government towards sports which runs to hundreds of million ringgit each year.
I only wished that the returns in terms of gold medals, records and honours, come close to justifying the money spent.
The latest Government support to sports was when bowler Shalin Zulkifli received financial aid for her professional stint in the US PBA Women's Tour. (Read this story in the NST today)
Shalin Zulkifli poses with mock cheques from the private sector to finance her participation in the US PBA Women’s Tour yesterday. — Pic:courtesy of NST
A total of nine private companies came to her aid to contribute a total of RM74,000 for her expenses in the US.
Infact, Shalin has been supported to a certain extent by the National Sports Council when she decided to turn pro and head for the US last year.
Really the amount collected for her this time around is not huge if one converts it to US dollars (amounts to US$21,558.63) considering the living standards in the US.
And indeed Shalin fully deserves the support considering the fact that she has been bowling for 22 years and her commitment is unquestionable.
But what puzzles me is that what had the 1Malaysia logo to be used by Shalin in the US, had anything to do with this sponsorship.
Deputy Sports Minister Datuk Razali Ibrahim who witnessed the presentation said that companies have agreed to the proposal to have Shalin use the "1Malaysia logo" instead of their respective logos.
I fail to understand how the 1Malaysia displayed in the America is going to help Malaysians unite here in Malaysia.
The 1Malaysia concept has indeed been stretched to the limits and what started as a political campaign to united all Malaysians, has now become a commercial element and everyone is riding on the 1Malaysia theme for their own benefits rather than the nation's.
Leaving the 1Malaysia aside for the politicians and the commercial vultures to deal with, I would like to address a situation more related with sports.
Agreed Malaysian sportsmen and women need the assistance of the Government to help to launch their sporting careers, especially when it comes to professional level because it can be very costly.
But my point is, where is the accountability from the athletes with all these handouts. Are the athletes required to give back something to the sports from their winnings, or pay back some money when they fail in their pursues.
Without accountability, athletes could well be taking things for granted and their commitment would well be questioned as with no sacrifice on their part to reach excellence level, they could just be there for a joy-ride.
Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) president, Datuk Dr P. S. Nathan, a former national bowler himself, was magnanimous, when he said that sportsmen and women need the Government and private sector support to excel.
"In the case of Shalin, she has a ambition to reach the pinnacle in bowling and bring top honours to the nation. She is a very committed bowler and has brought numerous honours. She fully deserves all assistance. I commend her for burning desire to continuously want to improve herself," said Dr Nathan when I spoke to him this morning.
Dr Nathan said that MTBC had on several occasions considered asking for percentages of bowlers winning earnings to put back into the game, but have decided against it because the total amount will not be much.
"We had decided that the bowlers keep their earnings for all their contribution, dedication and time. We will look for sponsors for our continuous development programmes"
Squash's Nicol David is another athlete who has benefited tremendously through sponsorships to pursue her professional career, while the badminton players have had their fare share of support too.
Indeed, Malaysian sportsmen and women are blessed.
Australia's top three bowlers in recent times - Cara Honeychurch - triple gold medalist at the 1998 KL Commonwealth Games, her teammate Maxine Nable(right) and Jason Belmont - all had go professional in the United States, but went on their own steam.
Cara (left), was the most successful as compared to Maxine where she won several titles in the PBA Women Tour. Cara played for two years and returned , while Maxine was there for four years.
Cara (right) at 37 and a mother of two children, a few months ago was elected as the Chairman of the Tenpin Bowling Australia.
Jason (below), know for his unorthodox of double handed bowling, just turned pro recently and he is doing very well, but again had to fund himself and sought private sponsorships with no assistance from his Sports Ministry or the government.
Most of the pro bowlers in US find their own sponsors. Sponsors are ever ready to sponsor, but with a catch - the sponsor gets anything between 30 to 50% of winnings. That's the price the most of the pro bowlers have to pay to realise their dreams.
Another question on my mind is as to whether the Sports Ministry will sponsor other bowlers like Zulmazran Zulkifli, Siti Amriah Safiyah, Esther Cheah or Adrian Ang to name a few, if they intend to turn pro in the near future.
What about sponsorship for world class rally driver Karamjit Singh who has been crying for help all this while but has fallen on deaf ears. This man has even sold his house to race!
What about the Malaysian A1 team, a truly Malaysian racing team, who also have been knocking the doors for help, but had only received minimal support.
Or let us look closer - the Foundation of Malaysian Sporting Excellence (SportExcel) - an excellent development programme that has produced many Malaysian champions in the 13 sports which come under their umbrella. They are in dire straits for funds because many corporations who supported the programme have pulled out because of the current economic situation.
Is the Ministry of Sports going to get corporations to help them out?
Sometimes one wonders, if it is what one has to offer for sports or who you know, that gets you the funds!
In anycase, congratulations to the Ministry of Sports or is it Datuk Razali, for assisting Shalin.
But in the spirit of 1Malaysia, assistance must be for one and all and not just the selected few. As long as the sports or the sportsmen and women, are world-class, they should be given assistance on a level-playing field.
Especially for athletes pursuing a professional career, either assistance is given to all or none
There has to be a guideline for assistance and cannot be given to the whims and fancies of individuals or as when and when they feel like it.
Professionalism is a career path in sports and one has to earn it on ones own merit, hardwork and sacrifices. Dole mentality is the last thing needed in sports.
Count your blessings Malaysian sportsmen and women and stand up and be counted to bring honours to the nation!