Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year blues


Level Field

Year in year out, the Malaysian sports fraternity make New Year resolutions and vow to take the level of sports to the next level.
But at the year end, we’re just faced with more disappointments than reasons to celebrate.
After each disastrous outings there is a big hue and cry and promises with promises made to make things better.
But have we really mastered anything at all?
Every year we find inept and good-time officials being the root cause of much of the disappointments.
In 2014, Malaysian outings at two major games – the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and Asian Games in Incheon – were disastrous.
After the London Games in 2012, there was talk of being better prepared.
The XXXI Olympic Summer Games 2016 is from 5th to 21st August 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – seven months away.
The much talked about Podium programme for the Games which was supposed to be launched last year is still not in place. It is learnt that it will finally launched later this month. How much can be done in a short time to be fully prepared for the challenge ahead is left to be seen.
We will continue to bank on national shuttler Lee Chong Wei to deliver the elusive Olympic gold medal. The divers are hopefuls too.
Only five athletes – divers Ooi Tze Liang, Ng Yan Yee, Pandelea Rinong (bronze medallist last Games) and Nur Dhabitah Sabri and archer Khairul Annuar Mohamad – have qualified for Rio.
Two golfers are said to have qualified by Olympic Council of Malaysia has not made any official announcements yet.
The other athletes, namely our cyclists, archers and badminton players have up to July to book their berths.
But the chef-de-mission for the Games has already been named in Deputy President of Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), Tan Sri Dr. Ir. Mohamed Al Amin Abdul Majid.
And chances are another Olympics will come and pass with probably no significant achievement. This will be followed by the same old tune that the powers-that-be will start early preparations for the next Games in 2020 in Tokyo.
Short term and last minute preparations have been part and parcel of Malaysian sport.
We will continue to be short-changed unless we look at long term development programmes with at least two Olympic cycle in mind.
As for next year’s Sea Games which Malaysia is hosting, the Kita Juara Kita (We are champions) programme was been launched in September.
More than 842 athletes - 577 full-timers and 265 part-timers – from 37 sports have started training for the Games under the National Sports Council.
Malaysia emerged overall SEA Games champions for the first time when the 2001 edition was held here. That was the only time Malaysia had topped the medal standings in the biennial regional multi-Games since its inception in 1965.
It is hoped that this programme will kick start the ambition to aspire for higher standards, for starters to make an impact at the Asian level and not suffer a natural death after the 2017 KL Games.
Elsewhere in sports, there is more negativity than positiveness bogging Malaysian sports. 
Football went semi-professional in 1989, professional in 1994, and next season the league is going to be privatised – but has anything changed for the better?

The new trend of crowd violence, firing of flares and smoke bombs onto pitch is further destroying the image of Malaysian football.

We continue to slide in the Fifa rankings (currently 170 out of 204 - from 80 in 1993)

That two foreign coaches who failed to complete their stints with Johor DT and Sarawak respectively state level – Bojan Hodak and Rober Alberts (who had a stint as FAM’s technical director without much success but bringing down Malaysia’s ranking) are in consideration for national coaching job must be a joke.
If the two are the best from 70 candidates applied, one wonders what the quality of the coaches who applied was.
But if the selection panel were considering familiarity of Malaysian football and affordable wages, they might itself give the job to Datuk Ong Kim Swee.
If we are going to compromise on wages and settle for lesser coaches, it does not speak well of the ambitions to aim high.
If we cannot afford the best and hope that some miracle can happen with coaches “who have been floating in this region’ let us not waste the tax payer’s money.
Hockey had done well to inject new and young blood with my ex-internationals in the set-up and doing some good job to see the game rise again. But there is still some bickering and agendas by a few which is threatening to derail the game.
Athletics too has given some fresh hope with a young set of athletes on the rise, but blunders like verifying the new 100m record of 10.29 set Badrul Hisyam Abdul Manap ‘set’ at the 7th Asean Schools Games in Brunei is not helping the sports one bit. There is also personality clashes which is bogging the sports.
In badminton, there is already move to discredit Badminton Association of Malaysia’s technical director Morten Forst after he has been here only for nine months. It is good that BAM have come forward to say that they stand by him.
This is Malaysian mentality where they expect to hire personnel today and want results overnight.
Doping has marred its ugly head with ten-time Mr Universe, Sazali Samad failing an out-of-competition doping test in September and has been slapped with a four year suspension.
Sazali is perfect gentlemen and a great sportsman, but he has been found guilty and has to pay the price. But to shower sympathy and make him a hero in his moment of shame, certainly does not send the right message to young budding sportsmen and women.
Cycling is left without a velodrome to train and it is certainly a case of poor planning. The Kuala Lumpur Velodrome in Cheras is set to be demolished this month as the land it sits on has been sold by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to a private developer.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin suggested to build a replacement for the Kuala Lumpur Velodrome while waiting for the Class One velodrome in Nilai to be built and completed in two to three years’ time.
What about the Velodrome Raykat in Ipoh which is rotting away? Any chance of repairing it or is there politics involved here too?
Until and when we can get rid of all these ills from poor management, planning, wasting of funds, internal bickering, politicking, lack of professionalism, lack of development programmes, failing to educate athletes and fans and failing to have at heart of sports above everything else, Malaysian sports is going to continue to face disappointment after disappointment.
Of course there has been some good news last year where in badminton and squash Chong Wei and Datuk Nicol David showed that they made of sterner stuff to rise from their respective drop. The rise of Delia Arnold in squash and the many young athletes in athletics is a fresh breath of air
The Singapore Sea Game achievement where Malaysia won 62 gold medal must applauded but it must underlined it was at the lowest level of Games and it must be viewed in the right perspective.
Other sports who have given reason to be optimistic of Malaysian sports include badminton, archery, wushu and diving.
Malaysia are miles away from reaching it’s true potential in sports, and the sooner everyone gets their house in order and perform their duties professionally without any abuse of position, funds and management, there may better things to say when we review the year 2016.
Happy New Year and have a sporting year.

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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