Friday, December 20, 2013

Sports as a national agenda

Friday, December 20, 2013 - The Malay Mail

GREAT development plans are being put in place or plans are underway for football, hockey and sepak takraw, thanks to the vision of Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
And for once we are not talking about short-term or ‘jumpstart’ programmes, but longterm ones leading into 2020. This is not just talk. The National Football Development Programme is already in motion.
With the recent Junior World Cup hockey team’s fourth place in New Delhi, a long-term programme for hockey, looking at the 2016 Junior World Cup and 2020 World Cup, is also expected to get underway.
Then with the continued dismal performance of sepak takraw, a similar long-term programme but with a different approach is also in the pipeline.
If these programmes are carried out in all seriousness and with the right people at the helm, the future looks bright.
My only concern is what will happen to all these programmes when Khairy is no longer the sports minister. Will they get buried as soon as the sports minister vacates his seat?
We have seen it happen time and again as every new sports minister who takes office wants to leave behind his or her own legacy or trademark. And in all fairness to many of the past sports ministers, several great programmes were launched, but sadly once they left office, these were shelved.
Millions of ringgit have been spent on past programmes, from talent identification and sports culture to mini-stadiums in every parliamentary constituency and grassroots development.
But sadly, there has not been proper follow through after the respective tenure of the ministers.
But Khairy has gone a step further to ensure that the programme he has initiated does not end up the same way.
He is proposing to make the NDFP a national agenda and get the cabinet’s approval to make it a national policy so that there is continuity and its full potential is realised even if he is no longer in the sports ministry to steer it.
It is hoped similar plans are also made for hockey and sepak takraw.
I am not being pessimistic, but even the Cabinet Committee for Sports Development, whose members included 15 Cabinet ministers and was chaired by the then deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, no longer exists.
What was seen as a fast track to developing sports with the involvement of all the relevant ministries and headed by the DPM himself has been derailed.
So I am wondering if Khairy’s proposal to make his plan a national agenda will bear fruit.
I seriously hope so because Malaysian sport needs strong foundations with long-term planning. And if this is not going to be put in place now, we are going to continue to face disappointment after disappointment in the coming years as other nations continue to progress and leave us far behind.
That is why I have always wished that the sports and education ministers were long-term appointments or held by nonpoliticians.
But I suppose that is wishful thinking and for now Khairy’s national agenda looks the best bet.
The National Sports Policy introduced in 1988 by Najib when he was the minister of culture, youth and sports was supposed to drive Malaysian sports, but there have been several calls to revisit the policy and make it more relevant.
The National Sports Council (NSC) is supposed to be the financier of sports in the country, but then again, their policies also vary with each new sports minister and sometimes they go overboard with their own visions and policies.
There is no denying that a policy to streamline sports development on a long-term basis has to be in place and followed through no matter who helms the sports ministry or the NSC.
And the sooner this happens, the brighter the future.

TONY MARIADASS is sports editor of
The Malay Mail. He can be reached at

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