Saturday, January 4, 2014

Move forward or be doomed

Friday, January 03, 2014 - The Malay Mail
ANOTHER new year has been ushered in and at the rate time flies, before you know it, we will be ushering in another new year.

The point is, there is no time to waste these days. One has to keep up with the fast pace of life or be left behind.

It is no different for sports, which is progressing at lightning speed and true to the Olympic motto of ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, sports standards have risen with each passing year.

While the majority of sports personalities have worked hard to improve their standard, there are some who resort to shortcuts, using performance enhancing drugs, but they eventually get caught and punished.

In Malaysia, though, we are still battling to make an impact at regional level. However, the money allocated to sports — for ultra-modern facilities and expertise — is second to none.

This year is going to be a busy one for sports, culminating in the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.

Among the international events Malaysia will feature in this year are the XX Commonwealth Games (July 23 — Aug 3, Glasgow, Scotland), 2nd Youth Olympic Games (Aug 16 - 28, Nanjing, China), 17th Asian Games (Sept 19 to Oct 4, Incheon, South Korea) and 4th Asian Beach Games (Nov 14 -23, Phuket, Thailand).

These are besides the individual international events for sports like badminton, squash, swimming, archery, athletics, cycling, billiards and snooker, to name a few.

But it is the Games — Commonwealth and Asian — that will be used to gauge the overall standard of Malaysian sports.

While in individual sports the likes of Lee Chong Wei, Nicol David and Pandelela Rinong are expected to carry on Malaysia’s challenge — although Chong Wei and Nicol could be feeling their age — elsewhere, we will scrapping the bottom of the barrel for new champions.

The archers have given new hope lately and are certainly a breath of fresh air in Malaysian sports while the hockey fraternity has been improving and hopefully will rise to the occasion and give us something to shout about. Squash has a few upcoming players while motorcycling is showing some promise and of course the divers raised the bar each time they compete. The bowling community continues to deliver with its proper administration and development programme.

But generally, most of the sports are expected to continue to disappoint.

Just look at Malaysia’s performance at the recently concluded Sea Games in Myanmar — a regional affair. It gives an indication of what to expect at higher level competitions.

Yes, we met the 40 gold medal target — many of which came from subjective sports and from low level performance. But at Asian and Commonwealth Games level, this will mean nothing.

Have preparations for the Asian and Commonwealth Games been ongoing since the last Games four years ago? Yes and no. While the core sports have their continuous training programmes, many other sports have been in hibernation.

How much of preparations have been made by the national sports associations (NSAs) is a million-ringgit question.

Depending solely on the National Sports Council (NSC) will not help Malaysian sports reach new heights. Yes, the funds come from NSC, but the NSAs have to be equally committed, raise their own funds and have their own programmes.

Starting preparations six months before the Games is not going to help. In fact, overseas trips, hiring foreign coaches, holding camps and so on is just money down the drain.

Until and when the NSAs come to terms with the fact that they have to work allyear-round on long-term programmes, nothing is going to work for Malaysian sports.

Sports like athletics, swimming, sepak takraw, football and even badminton have to double their efforts to regain their past glory.

Infighting among officials, the power struggle to hold office and personal agendas all have to stop. We need dedicated officials and more exathletes to return to head or be part of their associations to steer them in the right direction.

But then again, we also see ex-athletes who become officials quickly change and become a part of the system to survive. They then neglect the welfare of the athletes and progress of the sports.

More associations need to take their cue from Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who set up the National Football Development Programme (NFDP), which is a long-term development programme to see Malaysia qualify for the Under-17 World Cup in 2019.

We need more programmes like this for other sports. It is about time we stopped thinking of plans today and expecting results yesterday! It does not work that way.

Proper programmes with the right people helming and managing them professionally with long-term plans is the only way forward for Malaysian sports.

Every time we return from a Games, we come up with postmortems and plans to rectify the situation, but more often than not, these reports remain in the filing cabinets gathering dust.

This has to stop and if we are really serious about sports, let’s go back to basics. This is going to take time, patience, passion, dedication and determination, but this is the only answer to the woes of Malaysian sports.

Otherwise, we will continue to sing the same tune that Malaysian sports is ailing as we usher in a new year until kingdom come.

Happy New Year. 

TONY MARIADASS is sports editor of The Malay Mail. He can be reached at tonym@ Twitter handle: @tmariadass

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