Friday, January 10, 2014 - The Malay Mail
Meeraj had gone for a competition in China in the hope of winning the prize money to pay his mother’s hospital bills that had risen to RM90,000. His mother, a diabetic, had undergone an appendectomy at a specialist centre last month. Sadly, her wound became infected and the single mother passed away on Jan 3.
But why did a national exponent, who has brought honours to the nation, have to resort to the media to seek funds? This was what a doctor friend of mine from Sabah, who has been involved with national athletes, asked me.
She also wanted to know why did Meeraj’s mother went to a private hospital when there are so many government hospitals with top class facilities and doctors.
Probably, Meeraj wanted the best for his mother.
Her all-important question was: “Why didn’t anyone advise the athlete when he was facing these problems?”
Indeed, where were the Wushu Association and the National Sports Council (NSC), which has a welfare department, when Meeraj was facing such a dilemma?
The convenient answer would probably be that the athlete did not come forward with his problem.
Does this mean there is poor communication between the officials and athletes?
We boast of having top-class supporting staff for our athletes.
But are they just for pre-competitions and competitions?
Basically, the majority of athletes — unless you are in the top league — are on their own.
They are assets to their respective sports associations as long as they can perform. Once they are injured or show a drop in form, more often than not, they are left to fend for themselves.
When the athletes encounter social or domestic problems, they do not know who to turn to. No wonder they appeal to the media!
It becomes an embarrassment to the respective sports associations when the problems of their athletes are highlighted in the media, but who is to blame for it?
Meeraj has, so far, received RM14,000 in donations, including RM10,000 from an anonymous donor and RM2,000 from a retiree.
The Malaysian Wushu Federation (MWF) has started a fund-raiser while the NSC has promised to offer Meeraj some assistance.
Don’t the sports associations set aside some funds for such situations? The NSC has a welfare department and assistance should be readily available. So why make promises?
While sport is said to be on the national agenda and billions of ringgit are spent on it, it is disheartening that the welfare of athletes is still back-burnered.
Sports associations must not forget that they exist because of their athletes, although they will say the opposite is true. This is debatable, but for sport to progress, sports associations and athletes need each other and the welfare of the latter must take top priority.
All we have to do is to look at past athletes who had brought honour to the nation in their heyday living in poverty, distress or illness with little or no help coming forth.
Yes, we have Yakeb (Yayasan Kebajikan Atlet Kebangsaan/Welfare Foundation for National Athletes), but there is only so much they can do. National sports associations must have their own welfare and counselling units for their athletes.
Here’s hoping for better treatment of athletes — both present and past — and not hearing of athletes turning to the media for help.
TONY MARIADASS is sports editor of
The Malay Mail. He can be reached at
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