Friday, July 11, 2014

Athletics in the doldrums

Friday, July 11, 2014 - The Malay Mail


THAT one of the oldest sports associations in the country — the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) which has undergone numerous name changes – is struggling to find its footing after a glorious past is indeed shameful.
The governing body was formed as the Athletic Association in Perak in 1906. In 1920, at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, a decision was made to introduce inter-state championships.
The championships were organised by the then Amateur Athletic Association of British Malaya, which was renamed the Amateur Athletic Association of Malaya in 1931.
This association was dissolved in 1952 and a new body, called the Federation of Malaya Amateur Athletic Union (FMAAU), was formed.
With the formation of Malaysia, the FMAAU was disbanded to make way for the Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union (MAAU), which in turn became MAF.
Whatever the name of the association, it is an understatement to say Malaysian athletics has slumped to its lowest ebb.
The recent 91st Malaysian Open in Perlis was a non-affair.
One wonders if any planning was put into organising this year’s meet, which was held two weeks after Perlis hosted the Malaysia Games (Sukma). This means athletes had to peak twice within two weeks, on top of that, it was examination time for schools.
Not surprisingly, the meet was held to a near-empty Tuanku Syed Putra Stadium in Kangar. To add insult to injury, MAF president Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad (below) blamed it on the lack of a local superstar.
Whose fault is that? What has the MAF done to rectify the situation? Look at Thailand. The secretary-general of its athletics association, Surapong Ariyamongkul, and his brother Supanut have been involved for more than 30 years and have kept it flying high through dedication and hard work.
Zainal also complained about little support from sponsors and government. He has been singing the same tune since he assumed the president’s post two years ago.
I remember when the government services, inter-bank and state meets used to attract much attention and publicity. Their organisers did not moan and groan about lack of sponsors or government aid.
If sports in the country is to be totally dependent on the government, why do we need the national bodies?
The National Sports Council (NSC) is an arm of the Ministry of Sports that assists national associations wherever possible, especially in mass programmes, but it cannot be held responsible for the management of all sports in the country.
The NSC seems to have taken over the running of many sports over the years, but this is because the inept national associations allowed it to happen.
What has MAF done to deserve sponsors? When sports like basketball, badminton, squash, hockey, football and tenpin bowling,to name but a few, have managed to get corporate sponsors, why hasn’t athletics when it is a highly marketable sport? Has enough effort been put in to reach out to the sponsors?
MAF’s website has listed the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the NSC, the National Institute of Sports, the International Association of Athletics Federations and the Asian Athletics Association as its sponsors. Its only two real sponsors are Milo and Mizuno.
The MAF wants Malaysia to regain its status as an athletics powerhouse at regional level and eventually at international level.
How does it propose to do so when it will not lift a finger to bring in the funds? Maybe it is time to bring back more of the past athletes to serve. If younger past athletes helm MAF, their fresh ideas will surely move the sport forward.
In the 1997 SEA Games, Malaysia won 17 gold medals. But in the 27th SEA Games in Myanmar last year, Malaysia only managed four gold, six silver and three bronze medals – its worst SEA games showing in history.
The MAF’s appointment of Australian Robert Ballard as technical director of coaching alone is not enough to lift Malaysian athletics out of the pits.
The MAF has to wake up from its slumber and get its act together.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports journalist
with more than three decades of
experience and is passionate about local
sports. He can be reached at tmariadass@ Twitter handle:

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