Friday, November 25, 2016



Level Field

Don’t not mix sports and politics

WHILE the rules are clear about not mixing sports and politics, it has happened one too many times.
It may happen again in Malaysia. The Cabinet will decide today whether the national football team should withdraw from the AFF Cup now being staged in Myanmar and the Philippines.
Malaysia are under pressure to withdraw from the competition as a sign of protest against Myanmar’s “genocide” in Rakhine.
Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin is caught in a difficult position.
He said: “Some people say do not mix politics and sports. But this is not politics, it is a humanitarian issue.”
The Rembau MP said he will stay guided by the decision to be taken.
It is hoped the Cabinet will weigh the situation carefully and also take into consideration the impact it will have on Malaysian sports.
It is generally believed Malaysian football is still reeling from the negative effects of the government’s decision to pull out from the 1980 Moscow Olympics after the football team had qualified on merit.
It was the second and last time Malaysia qualified for the Olympics.
The Moscow Olympics squad team manager, the late Datuk Bakar Daud, had wished he had access to then prime minister Tun Hussein Onn to change his stance on the boycott.
Malay Mail’s Johor correspondent Dan Guen Chin, a sports reporter who was covering the national team then, was told of Bakar’s wishes.
“Datuk Bakar was devastated when told of the boycott. He told me he had tried to see the Prime Minister to personally make a plea for a change of heart fo the sake of sports,” Dan revealed.
“Above all, he said that not going to Moscow was going to affect the future of Malaysian football. He said playing would have left a legacy and served as an inspiration for the younger generation.”
Indeed Bakar was spot on, as Malaysia’s football performance took a slide since then and has not recovered. Malaysia were ranked 70th then; now 156th.
In the past Malaysia’s stance of not entertaining countries with whom we have no ties, has denied us host nation status for international meetings and championships.
Coming back to the AFF Cup, what kind of message will we be sending to the national team and our sports performers at large if they are asked to withdraw?
Surely, there are other ways the government can address the situation in Rakhine — through the United Nations, Asean, directly with Myanmar, or even give assistance for the rescue of fleeing Rohingyas.
Malaysia will host the SEA Games next August, if the pullout from the AFF Cup is executed, what effect will it have on the Games?
Are we going to exclude Myanmar, or are Myanmar going to pull out because of Malaysia’s action?
What happens to Asean and SEA Games Federation solidarity? Are we willing to jeopardise that?
Politics and sports or sports diplomacy describe the use of sport as a means to influence diplomatic, social and political relations. Sports diplomacy may transcend cultural differences and bring people together.
Sport and politics should not mix just as water and oil never can

TONY is a sports
journalist close to
four decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at

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