Monday, December 21, 1998

Still a long way to go (The Malay Mail)

DON'T overdo the backslapping. Don't go overboard with the praises.
Compliments aside, we need a self-critical approach to complement the
country's sporting evolution.
Malaysia should keep their feet on the ground and look at the Asian
Games success in the proper perspective.
As the 13th Asiad ended yesterday, the statistics look good for the
Malaysians. They have done better than '94 Hiroshima (4-2-13) with an
overall haul of five gold, 10 silver and 14 bronze medals. It also
exceeded the NSC forecast of four golds, eight silver and 18 bronze.
But we were expected to ride the Commonwealth Games momentum to Bangkok.
Did we do that?
Of the five golds won, only two - through Lim Keng Liat (swimming) and
Nicol David (squash) - were from sports that Malaysia featured in the
Commonwealth Games.
Karate and snooker, which provided three golds, did not benefit from the
RM129 million that NSC injected into the four-year training and
development programme for KL `98.
In retrospect, the Malaysians went through a trying time in Bangkok and,
in fact, there was much uncertainty before the cheers came.
From Day One, it was a struggle meeting the NSC target. Many had given
up when the gold medal tally seemed fronzen at three until karate
delivered two golden chops.
When the dinner parties and other celebrations are over, the powers-
that-be should analyse how these medals came for Malaysia and that is
needed for the athletes to be Asian class, let alone world beaters.
How many of the sports that shone for Malaysia in Bangkok are in the
Olympics? Do they include karate, snooker and squash?
In this perspective, Malaysia should then concentrate on swimming and
"backstroke whiz kid" Lim Keng Liat in particular.
Only 18, the Sabahan is bursting with potential and prospect for
Malaysia who never had an Asian swimming champion before. In Bangkok, the
US-trained Sabahan broke the stranglehold of the world class Chinese and
Japanese aces to bag the 100m backstroke gold and setting an Asian Games
record of 55.53s. He also won the 200m backstroke silver.
With Keng Liat now ranked among the world top 10, he is definitely an
asset for Olympic glory and the leading star of NSC's training and
development programme.
Hockey and badminton, the mainframe of Malaysian sports, have vast
potential though they did not strike gold in Bangkok. But they are in good
hands and the NSC can expect them to be reliable performers.
But athletics, though having no lack of talent, looks hazy with no one
really able to stamp his or her class in Asia. That's a big poser for the
Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union on why Watson Nyambek and Co can't make
the quantum leap.
It is no coincidence that the hosts always do well. Thailand proved that
"homeground advantage" does help - ballroom dancing and all that - by
winning 24 golds, 26 silvers and 40 bronzes for their best ever finish in
the series.
And Malaysia also achieved their best ever performance when the country
organised the Commonwealth Games.
But can we go on organising Games for the sake of improving medal tally?
Malaysia, who are bidding for the 2006 Asian Games, have to look beyond
Do we have wait for the Asiad to be staged in our own backyard in order
to achieve a major success? Even if Malaysia get to host the 2006 Asiad,
the national sport bodies still cannot be procrastinating in their
preparations and expect medals to drop onto their laps.
Judging from the progress of Malaysian sports over the years, there is
still a lot of catching up to do. We cannot go on forever having short-
term programme for particular competitions like KL `98.
For the Asian Games, the NSC spent about RM 2.8 million over two years
in training and preparing the athletes for Bangkok.
A sad scenario in Malaysian sports is that more often than not, we
neglect development and long-term planning. Our knowledge is also lacking.
Firstly we have to identify the sports that we are good at.
We actually have sports officials in the dark about the rivals - who are
our neighbours - because they did not do their homework.
Malaysia could have managed to get a medal or two in certain events if
only team officials have been up to date on the tactics of the other
Selection to the Malaysian team based on the third placing of the
previous Games is not good enough taking into consideration that
performances generally will improve.
Coming to long-term planning, we should hire people to act more as
advisors to local coaches. This means the foreign coaches are not here
just to train our athletes but also at the same time impart their
expertise to local coaches.
For the money and effort spent, these foreign coaches should leave
behind a sport foundation or a network of qualified and experienced local
Some of our coaches do not actually know where to start or what to look
for in identifying talents.
We should study Malaysian sports by the individuals and earmark the
talents. It is not difficult as most of the sports do not have outstanding
It is not a surprise that sport associations like squash - who are
professionally managed and backed by sound development programmes - are
doing well.
We can't be content with second or third best or "compromised targets"
anymore. No longer do we accept the "mediocrity is not bad" mentality.
We have to make a decision. If we are to be dead serious, go for it in a
big way with proper planning and management.
If mediocrity or flash-in-the-pan performances are accepted, we
shouldn't be wasting taxpayers' money and corporate funds especially more
so in these bad times.
Malaysia have the potential to become a force in sports, especially when
we are multi-racial country with diverse talents. We can find talents from
the various races for each discipline to match the requirements of the
different sports.
And that has made Malaysia the envy of other countries.

Sunday, December 20, 1998

Money for nothing! (The Sunday Mail)

THE National Sports Council (NSC) should stop throwing money around if
they are to keep Malaysian athletes competitive and ambitious.
The ringgit for results carrot, under the present NSC monetary incentive
scheme, can be a double-edged dagger as it has the tendency to kill
It can lead to "short selling" by the athletes who, after getting a
substantial reward, quit trying or giving their best.
While it is fine to reward successful sportsmen and sportswomen, with
the incentive scheme as a motivating factor, NSC should look more towards
helping them when they retire.
The present system, where large amounts are paid to athletes for winning
medals, is no security to their future.
There have been many cases of athletes running out of money as they are
unable to manage their funds.
NSC should study the South Korean system where bringing honours for the
country earns an athlete merit points. The total points accumulated at the
end of the athlete's career will determine the monthly pension he or she
will receive for life on retirement.
Inevitably, the argument against this will be that money diminishes in
value as time goes on. When we have to take factors like inflation into
But it is still better for an athlete to have an assured income for life
rather than money to spend for the moment and nothing to fall back on in
later years.
Another plus for the pension scheme is that athletes will be committed
to striving for success for as long as they can in order to maximise their
merit points.
At present, Malaysian athletes have been known to call it a day well
before their peak after receiving a big payoff from the NSC.
This is counter productive to the NSC, who would have spent much time,
effort and money on developing these athletes.
National bowling coach Sid Allen is all for the idea of a pension scheme
for sportsmen and sportswomen who achieve excellence.
"It's about time the NSC incentive scheme is looked into again to see
how best it can be restructured.
"I'm not against rewarding athletes, but to flood them with huge sums of
money can be counter productive,
"For starters, athletes will be looking at short term success where they
tend to quit early after getting the cash.
"Secondly, it is hard to motivate athletes who have tasted success
because they have already earned enough.
"Without a doubt, it is much wiser to set up funds for athletes to fall
back on when they quit or for them to start a new life when they retire
from sports," said Allen.
Of course, immediate or tangible rewards can still be given, but the
quantum should be much smaller.
However, given the manner in which they are generally pampered, the
athletes themselves will be the first to oppose the retirement scheme as
most of them would prefer to lay their hands on hard cash first.
It is no wonder that Malaysia have such an unusually high turnover of
athletes and this, in turn, has led to the country performing
inconsistently at international level.
That South Korea are one of the world's top nations in sports is partly
due to their pension scheme.
For the 13th Asian Games, South Korea are only paying athletes who win
gold medals token sums. There is nothing for those who win silver or
But the athletes are still very committed and motivated as their main
objective is getting the merit points.
While some get just a few hundred dollars and a pat on the back, the
athletes from the richer countries get a passport to a millionaire
In contrast, Singapore are paying S$250,000 (RM585,000) for a gold,
S$125,000 (RM293,000) for silver and S$62,500 (RM146,000) for a bronze in
the Games.
Hong Kong have dangled a HK$500,000 (RM244,000) carrot for a gold while
Taiwan offer US$85,000. Hosts Thailand are giving one million baht
(RM105,000) for a gold, 300,000 baht (RM31,550) for a silver and 200,000
baht (RM21,000) for a bronze.
China, who on Thursday, surpassed the century mark in gold medals, are
paying just 4,000 yuan (US$480) for a gold while Kuwait have promised
their gold medallists a car each.
On the other hand, athletes from India came to the Games quibbling that
their US$3 (RM11.50) daily allowance was hardly sufficient.
It's all relative of course, but the idea surely is to keep the athletes
hungry and driven to perform.

Wednesday, December 16, 1998

Pin it on the OCM (The Malay Mail)

CIA or agents from Salt Lake City? Whatever it is, some unauthorised
Americans are traipsing around the Asian Games Village in Bangkok.
And they are flashing Asian Games Identity Cards issued by the Olympic
Council of Malaysia (OCM).
Someone could have procured these tags somewhere between the nightclubs
of Patpong to the Games Village at Thammasat University.
The thought of some Yankees masquerading as Malaysians is not amusing
when even Malaysian media personnel have faced difficulties in getting
The OCM should do some snooping around on their own to find out how
people from the other side of the world get to be "Malaysians".
Fortunately, these "fakers" are not agents of foreign powers sent to
destabilise the Malaysian team.
They are just fun-loving collectors who scour the planet for pins that
to them are the badges of conquests.
An American pin collector was spotted in the International Zone at the
Games Village wearing an ID card stating NOC of Malaysia while another
American, also a pin collector, said he got his accreditation through the
The tags of both the pin collectors were listed under `O' that
classified them as observers.
One wonders how the OCM actually approved accreditation for foreigners
who are not involved in Malaysian sports or the Games in any way.
One of the Americans with the OCM-issued tag, said he obtained his card
through another friend who knows a top Malaysian sports official.
The American, a retired aerospace mircochip engineer who has never been
to Malaysia, said: "In fact, there are four of us here. It was this friend
of mine who helped us get the IDs."
He got his Malaysian ID tag when he arrived in Bangkok from Los Angeles
on Nov 30.
"It was a last minute plan to come here. When this friend of mine said
he could arrange for an ID, I decided to come.
"This is the first Asian Games that I am attending although I have been
to several Olympics," said the American, who has a collection of 20,000
Although the American has an observer pass which gives him access to
venues and the Games Village International Zone, he said two of his
friends have passes which allow them into the Games Village itself.
OCM secretary-general Sieh Kok Chi expressed surprise when asked about
these pin collectors.
"We have several foreigners with Malaysian accreditation but they are
all involved with our sports.
"As far as I can remember, I have only authorised five foreigners,
including Peter Thumm (a NSC consultant) and his Swiss friend."
Whatever it is, the OCM have been pinpointed as being responsible for
the presence of these American pin-hunters.

Tuesday, December 1, 1998

Weigang may take charge (The Malay Mail)

KARL WEIGANG, Malaysia's best-achieving foreign soccer coach, may soon
walk back through the doors of FAM again.
The German is tipped to renew an acquaintance with FAM that started 18
years ago when he steered Malaysia to the finals of the Moscow Olympics.
Though Abdul Rahman Ibrahim is the new coach of the national team,
Weigang could be new supremo of the Olympic 2000 squad who are without a
coach following the "removal" of Hatem Souissi.
Weigang is expected to be interviewed by the Olympics 2000 new
management committee.
Weigang, who has just led Perak to the Malaysia Cup final, has said he
will be leaving Perak at the end of the season.
However, whether Weigang wants to accept the national job or just become
a technical adviser with a local coach handling Olympic 2000 is left to be
But at this stage, Weigang seems to be the leading candidate as the
successor to Hatem.
FAM president Sultan Ahmad Shah said they had no intention of sacking
Hatem after yesterday's exco meeting but the Tunisian will be redesignated
as a technical adviser.
On the question of the coaching job, Sultan Ahmad Shah said it is up to
the management committee to decide on the needs of the team.
Apart from Weigang, the other names that came up during Saturday's
Technical Committee meeting were Pahang's Jorgen Larsen and Sarawak's Alan
Although former Sabah coach Ronald Smith of Australia was mentioned by
the media as one of the candidates, it is learnt he was not considered.
The shortlisted coaches are expected to be called up for an interview
where they will outline their plans for Olympic 2000 and what can be done
to turn the team around.
The coach who can convince the management committee, headed by FAM
deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, on how he can change
the fortunes of Olympic 2000, will probably get the job.
But at the same time, the committee will give consideration to those
familiar with Malaysian soccer.
It is learnt that Hatem, during his meeting with the Technical
Committee, was asked to give his views on improving the team following
their recent poor performances but he apparently did not have much to
The technical committee felt it was best that someone is brought in for
the betterment of the team.
It has been established that the Olympic players could not get along
with Hatem because of his strict discipline and rigid training.
They wanted Hatem out and there have been indications the players held
back in matches recently to make Hatem look bad.
The "removal" of Hatem seems like FAM are bowing to the demands of the
Hatem's "ouster" at this stage is debatable because there are only six
months to the Olympics qualifier in June.
Hatem has earned good reviews as a coach and maybe his only fault was
not getting the players behind him.
But a decision has already been taken and all indications are Hatem is
history. The Tunisian is not going to sit around and see another coach
handle the team while he does paper work.
Everything points to Weigang taking over.