WITH the final selection of athletes for the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games less than two weeks, officials must ensure the best athletes are chosen.
Selection involving timing, distances, heights and qualification based on previous results will leave little to debate.
It is team sports and sports where performance judgement is subjective, where some athletes may suffer the disappointment of missing out.
While the primary responsibility of officials is to make choices and understand the impact of decisions on athletes, sometimes it is ignored to grant favours, show favouritism and to safeguard their position in the associations.
Officials are expected to model positive sport ethics based on the moral guides of justice, honesty and responsibility.
They are not supposed to initiate actions which would prevent prejudice and discrimination against individuals or groups.
Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has stated he is counting on Malaysia emerging champions by surpassing 111 gold medals.
He expects the best athletes to be selected but because Malaysia are the host, there is going to some flexibility to field athletes in all events.
This is where some genuine athletes who are the future of their sports and borderline cases, could be overlooked.
Senior athletes whose performances are declining could be selected to reward them with a swansong appearance or athletes or parents who have influence with officials in the association are picked.
Then we will have athletes who are training overseas and qualified for the Games, who are conveniently forgotten or ignored, for local or “favourite” athletes.
We also have officials who have served their shelf life and but still want to cling on to their post by granting favours to influential people in the association to ensure they hold on to their positions.
They have to let go of their posts for the younger generation of who may have fresh ideas and are more relevant to current day situations.
We have officials who sit in international or Asian federations who would even go out of their way to tailor competition formats to suit other nations as favours to remain in these bodies to enjoy the trips and competitions.
If any Malaysian official, whether intentionally or influenced, fails to adhere strictly to the code of ethics, it will not be wrong to call them “traitors”.
Officials are present to serve their athletes and should never betray the trust the athletes place in them.
They must remain humble and serve with dignity and pride.
If for any reason they feel that they cannot serve impartially, they should vacate their position or the people who are responsible for putting them in place, have an obligation to remove them.
For the sake of the nation and an honourable performance at the KL SEA Games, let’s hope it will be fair play and true sportsmanship displayed by all officials to put up the best possible contingent to bring honour.
TONY is a sports journalist with close to four decades’ experience and is passionate about local sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org