Friday, January 2, 2015

Here’s hoping for a better future

Level Field in today's Malay Mail

Level Field  

 Here’s hoping for a better future

Another year has passed and the second day of 2015 has already dawned upon us.
Before you know it, we will be ushering in 2016. Yes, time flies.
For Malaysian sports, 2014 brought little glory. In fact, our outing at two major games of the year – the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and Asian Games in Incheon – was disastrous.
Yes, there were some glittering moments with the Nicol David (squash), Sazali Samad and Lilian Tan (bodybuilding), Syakilla Saini Jefry Krishan (karate) and sailing pair Faizal Norizan ad Ahmad Syukri Abduk Aziz standing tall.
The M-League and Malaysia Cup drew great support and were seen as a success. Meanwhile, Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin took some drastic steps to elevate sports in the country, including naming Ahmad Shapawi Ismail the new director-general of the National Sports Council (NSC).
Last year, I wrote 53 columns on the various ills affecting Malaysia sports, on development programmes and on the roles of the national sports associations (NSAs), praising and criticising where necessary.
In this first column for the new year, I will summarise those columns in the hope that we do not make the same mistakes.

High on my list were:
NSAs have to clean house
It is about time the majority of NSAs took a hard look at themselves and made the necessary changes to act more professionally.
Leaders who have been with the associations for far too long with nothing much to show for it have to make way for young blood.
NSAs have to stand on their own feet and not wait for handouts from the government to manage their sports.

Emphasis on development
Besides the government’s National Development Football Programme and SportsExcel set up by the Olympic Sports Council, there must be programmes by all other national and state associations.
The results will not be immediate and a lot of patience, dedication and hard work will be required, but development programmes are the only way Malaysian sports can have a future.

School sports
The Education Ministry may claim it has the 1 student 1 sport programme, excellence sports schools, sports schools and state and national school sports meets. But the majority of the students do not benefit from these programmes or the duration is too short for talent to be nurtured to the full.
Let’s not forget about the dwindling number of school fields that have been sacrificed in the name of development. And even the schools that are lucky enough to have full playing fields do not maintain them. Barren fields are a common sight.
Then, almost 75% of the teacher population is ladies, most of whom are not interested in or trained for sports.
Like it or not, the school situation needs a more serious and practical approach if Malaysian sports is to flourish.

Malaysia is not lacking on sports facilities. It is just that it does not know how to manage them.
There are countless stadiums that are in a deplorable condition because of poor management. Millions of ringgit are spent but on sub-standard equipment or poor playing surface.
This has to stop and professionals who know the job should be allowed to handle matters relating to sports equipment. It is not about getting the most expensive or state-of-the-art equipment but acquiring what is practical for use in our climate and for the required purpose. We do not need any more white elephants.

Serve sports, not rob it
We need officials who can make a difference to the sports. We do not need hangers-on or yes-men who just want to make up the numbers, warm the seats and enjoy the perks.
More often than not, we blame the presidents of associations for any shortcomings. But it must be remembered that associations comprise the affiliates and they are the ones who make the council – the decision-making body.
If the representatives of the affiliates do not voice their views or displeasure at matters to be decided, they cannot blame the president.
Thus, we need officials who will stand up for sports and not the president.
Sports is sacred, don’t blemish it.

All-Malaysia team
Like it or not, the racial issue exists in Malaysian sports. Be it in the schools, universities, clubs or associations, it is there.
Many will not want to admit it and want to sweep it under the carpet.
The sooner this issue is addressed and it is ensured there is fair play and colour, creed or race does not come into play, the better for Malaysian sports.
We have a winning formula of many races to form an all-Malaysia team with different qualities and it was the reason for our success from the 60s to 80s.

Past sportsmen and women who have become icons of Malaysian sports should play a key role in its development. They should be the role models, coaches and even leaders of the associations.

Athletes of this era are a pampered lot. Many have attained professional status yet they do not behave like professionals on and off the field. They need to improve their character and be committed to training.

It is great that there are more Malaysian fans today. However, the hooliganism that has been displayed by a small portion has to be nipped in the bud.
Throwing flares and smoke-bombs and beating up rival fans is certainly not Malaysian culture.

Media has to be responsible. It has to act professionally, not like fans. It has to report what it sees and not take sides. Comments can be critical but they must be fair too.
Keep the journalistic ethics flying high.

Always strive for excellence and do not settle for second best.
It is about time Malaysia aimed for the top in as many sports as possible in Asia first, and then the world.
They say the Year of the Sheep will be inspiring and maybe it is a blessing in disguise that it will be a less hectic sporting year. There is only the Singapore Sea Games in June, the World University Games in Korea in July, the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa in September and BWF World Junior championship in Peru. So, we should concentrate on building our youth power.
Happy New Year and let us all work towards a better future for Malaysian sports.

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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