Friday, February 27, 2015

Disappearing Chinese Malaysian athletes


 Level Field  

As we usher in the Year of the Goat with our Chinese friends, I cannot help but wonder at the dwindling number of athletes from this segment of Malaysians.
Not too long ago, there was a fair representation of Chinese sportsmen and women in football, athletics, hockey, rugby and tenpin bowling. Today, they seem to feature only in basketball, badminton and swimming, although even this is changing fast.
Malaysia is unique in its multiracial composition and that should be our forte in sports. That is how it used to be when Malaysia ruled sports in this part of the world in the 1960s, 1970s and to some extent, the 1980s.
So, what happened?
According to Census 2010, Malaysia had a population of 28.3 million compared with 23.3 million in 2000. Of this number, 91.8 per cent were Malaysians and 8.2 per cent non-citizens. The former group comprised of bumiputeras (67.4%), Chinese (24.6%), Indians (7.3%) and others (0.7%).
I believe the main reason for the decline in the number of Chinese sportsmen and women is parental focus on education, thus limiting the students from seriously participating in sports at school or in their community.
Independent Chinese secondary schools across the country have about 80,000 students, and counting, not to mention a growing number of non-Chinese enrolments.
These schools don't end until 3pm or 4pm and education is their emphasis - the students are given tons of homework and go for tuition, which leaves them with hardly any time for sports.
The children themselves are preoccupied with their exams and whatever free time they have is spent watching television or playing computer games.
Even if Chinese students show any talent, more often than not, they are stopped by their parents from advancing to district or state-level competitions. Clearly, parents don't see much future in sports for their children.
Of course, the lure of entertainment these days is another factor. Students would rather visit the malls or the numerous cafes, especially in the cities.
Disappearing fields is another factor. Take the Ulu Klang Recreation Club field that is nestled within a Chinese community (it Chinese village project then). It has been taken away by the powers to be, crippling the clubs that served the community.
Many of the Chinese students also go abroad for their higher education, shrinking the group of Chinese athletes for selection even further. And then, there are those Chinese athletes who say they opted out of sports because of favouritism in the final selection of athletes, a problem that seems to exist at the grassroots and school levels.
While this may rankle many, who will deny such a thing is happening, there is no smoke without fire.
Maybe, a fairer process, where the selectors are colour-blind and focus on merit, will see more Chinese athletes come to the fore.
Will the next generation have names like Chow Kwai Lam, Looi Loon Teck, Wong Choon Wah, Chow Chee Keong, Soh Chin Aun, Lim Fung Kee, Wong Kam Fook, Ho Hon Seong, Ong Yu Tiang, Lim Teong Kim, Wong Hung Nung, Mary Lim, Mary Soo, Khoo Chong Beng, Saik Oik Cum, Lee Hup Wei, Lee Chiew Har, Teoh Boon Lim, Ngew Sin Mei, Moh Siew Wei, Wong Choon Hin, Ow Soon Kooi, Foo Keat Seong, Poon Fook Loke, Wallace Tan, Tai Beng Hai, Chua Boon Huat, Ng Jong Pong and Ng Joo Ngan - icons all Malaysians can look up to?
Here’s wishing all Chinese Malaysian sportsmen and women Gong Xi Fa Chai. We hope to see many more of them emerge to be remembered in the future.

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

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