Friday, December 30, 2005

My New Year wishes (30/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 30/12/2005
Headline : My New Year wishes

AS we usher in the New Year one second after midnight on Sunday, there
are not one but 12 wishes - one for each month of the year - that I hope
will come true for the sake of sports in the country.
For far too long, we have been trying to revitalise sports, with the
hope of relishing their achievements, and thereby justifying the big sums
of money spent.
Of course, we have had our moments of success in squash, bowling,
badminton, wushu and recently, the SEA Games in the Philippines.
But there is much more to be achieved, especially in all the other
sports that are still struggling to make an impact.
And for that to happen, I believe these 12 wishes, or at least the
majority of them, have to be fulfilled.
Indeed, 2006 will be a busy year for sports where Malaysian athletes
will be involved in a number of major events, except the World Cup in
Germany in June.
These include the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, World Cup hockey,
Thomas Cup, World Badminton Championships, Men's World Bowling
Championship, World Squash Championships and Doha Asian Games.
If success is achieved in these competitions, all will be fine. If not,
there is going to be witch-hunting.
So, looking at sports in the country on a long-term and sustainable
perspective, it is best if sports associations, athletes and the public
try to make these wishes come true:
staff of the association, from the leader right down to the office boy,
are held accountable and work for the sport, and not their personal
agendas. Ensure professionals are hired for the respective jobs in the
set-up because in modern-day sports, leading positions cannot be filled
by volunteers.
2. HAVING A VISION: Set targets and realistic goals and always start
development at the grassroots level for natural progression. Conduct
checks and balances from time to time. Forget about short-term goals.
3. EMPHASISE SCHOOL SPORTS: This point is important because schools
form the foundation of any sport. The Education and Sports Ministries
have to work hand in hand, while the National Sports Associations and
State Sports Associations have to play their role in helping schools by
setting up bases there.
4. NURTURE THE PASSION: Be it an official, athlete or the public,
unless they embrace sports, we will be fooling ourselves to try and
achieve targets.
5. FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY: With millions of ringgit being spent by
the Government on sports, the funds given have to be accounted for to the
last sen, and proposals closely scrutinised before they are approved.
6. SELF-RELIANCE: Sports associations cannot depend on the Government
to fund their programmes forever. They have to start standing on their
own two feet, and also begin behaving like business organisations by
seeking sponsors for their own survival.
7. RESPONSIBILITY: Sports associations have a social and cultural
responsibility besides playing a part in education and national
WORLD: Unless sports associations are in tune with the international
scene, we are going to be left behind. This is especially so with sports
going increasingly hi-tech.
9. INTERNATIONAL EXPOSURE: Sports associations cannot remain in their
shells, but instead should meet international challenges and compete
against the best, if they want to close the growing gap in many sports
between Malaysia and their neighbours. Athletes should be exposed to the
highest levels of competition. It is not just about winning medals each
time we compete.
10. SPORTING FACILITIES: Sports associations should work closely with
the State Governments or town councils to ensure there are more playing
fields, gymnasiums, halls and courts throughout the country. Without
proper infrastructure and, more importantly, nor public access, sports is
not going to make any big leap in the future. Stop building ultra-modern
stadiums, which become white elephants or are not easily accessible to
the public.
11. LIMITED GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION: It is great the Government are
fully supportive of sports in the country and genuinely want to see
sports reach a higher level. But they have to be careful not to take over
the responsibilities of the sports associations because the latter also
have an equally important role to play. It would be better to teach the
sports associations to fish rather than supply them with the fishes.
12. MEDIA COVERAGE AND UNDERSTANDING: The media play a vital role in
the development of sports and it is important that reporting is
objective. There should be no cover-ups, biased reporting nor favours
granted. There will always be the good, the bad and the ugly and every
aspect should be reported to help sports in the country reach the peak.
These may be one too many wishes to be achieved in a year when we have
failed for so long. But there is nothing like taking a bold step to try
and achieve it for the sake of Malaysian sports, which has tremendous
potential that has never been fully realised because of all the
Have a Happy New Year and let's hope for a prosperous 2006 for
Malaysian sports.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Bumpy ride ahead for State FAs (23/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 23/12/2005
Headline : Bumpy ride ahead for State FAs

THIS is the season to be jolly - but not for sports associations who
haven't spent their money prudently.
One such body is the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).
Things do not look rosy next year due to the cut in sponsorship - which
has resulted in a drastic reduction in subsidy for State FAs.
In the last 20 years, the State FAs have been handsomely aided through
the centralised sponsorship secured by the national body.
The FAs were getting as much as RM1 million in annual grants, but the
standard of the game did not reflect it.
It was obvious the money was not well spent.
For this Christmas, if there is a wish I want from Santa, it would be
to rewind the clock 20 years and let Malaysian soccer start all over
The FAM have claimed they are transparent but it is obvious there are
many grey areas, especially when it comes to finance.
The National Sports Council or even the Sports Ministry need to step in
to ensure all is well in FAM, because the State FAs have more often than
not, worked to keep everything a secret.
In fact, it has come to a stage where FAM are sometimes afraid of their
own shadow.
There were speculations FAM have a paper loss of RM1 million through an
investment made by a fund manager.
FAM are keeping it close to their chest and the treasurer's report at
the last Council meeting was collected after the meeting as they didn't
want it to fall into the media's hands.
The State FAs can lift the standard of the game through development but
are more interested in the Super League, Malaysia Cup, League Cup and
FA Cup.
FAM have better put on the brakes and spend prudently, or they could
end up as paupers.
An example is the recent SEA Games in the Philippines where FAM paid
US$600 (RM2,220) for the players and officials' excess baggage.
It may be small change to FAM and perhaps they wanted to show their
appreciation to the bronze medal winning squad, but why should they pay
when the goods are personal belongings?
Recently, there was a hiccup over a television recording in Myanmar
where the Malaysian team played the return leg of the Asian Youth
Championship qualifier.
Due to some hitches and miscommunication, FAM were sent a hefty bill
for the recording.
While FAM rightly refused to pay the bill, the point is everyone seems
to take them for a ride because of their generosity.
FAM have to get their act together, put the State FAs in their places
and start acting professionally.
It is certainly not sweet pudding during this Holiday Season, but as I
wish all Christian readers a Merry Christmas, it is my hope for a better
and prosperous 2006 for soccer.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Shalin and Sarah get three-month ban

21/12/05- The Malay Mail
P._S._Nathan_1524.jpg MTBC (Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress) president Dr P.S. Nathan speaks to Mailsport's Tony Mariadass on allegations of misconduct during the Women's World Championship in Denmark. 
Appointed disciplinary board met to discuss reports by national coaches Chris Batson and Bill Rowe as well as team manager, Sidney Tung, on allegations of misconduct by bowlers Shalin Zulkifli and Sarah Yap during the Women's World Championship in Denmark.
Apparently, a decision was taken by the committee, which was eventually endorsed by the MTBC Council, but no news was forthcoming from the national association, because their constitution did not allow them to reveal disciplinary decisions to the media.
However, there has been speculation that Shalin and Sarah were banned for three months and it is learnt the Asian Bowling Federation (ABF) and their member association have been informed of it.
MTBC, on the other hand, have applied to the Sports Commissioner's Office for the constitution to be amended, which included incorporating the clause to reveal decision to the media.

MTBC president Datuk Dr P.S. Nathan was approached by Mailsport on the status of their constitution and Shalin and Sarah. This is what he has to say ...

Mailsport: Datuk, it has been more than a month since the appointed disciplinary board met, and were said to have taken a decision. But yet, there has been no statement from Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC)?
Dr. Nathan: We were not at liberty to reveal anything on the outcome of the proceedings because the constitution barred us from doing so.

Mailsport: But this is a sports organization and all sports associations in the country announce whatever decisions taken, be they disciplinary or council decisions to the media.
Dr. Nathan: Though we are aware of that, we were merely complying with the international sports bodies' rules. We have since amended the constitution which has been duly approved by the Sports Commissioner's Office.

Mailsport: Thus, MTBC can now finally reveal the decisions taken against Shalin Zulkifli and Sarah Yap?
Dr. Nathan: Yes, we can. The committee, after studying the case carefully and interviewing the bowlers concerned and the officials, decided they had violated their contract with the MTBC and National Sports Council (NSC) and thus have decided to ban them for three months, with effect from Nov 1.

Mailsport: What were the factors taken into consideration for the ban to be imposed?
Dr. Nathan: From our findings, it was clear the duo had violated the code of conduct where they had behaved in such a manner where they thought they were bigger than the sport and the association. Their refusal to heed the coaches' instructions was a clear violation of not adhering to the latter's judgments. If Shalin and Sarah were unhappy or disagreed with anything, they could have had discussed it with the coaches (Chris Batson and Bill Rowe). Besides, this is not the first time such an incident had happened and we had to put our foot down once and for all to ensure no prim donnas existed.

Mailsport: What is the consequence of the ban?
Dr. Nathan: The two have been dropped from the elite squad and lose all benefits, including their monthly allowance of RM2,500. They also cannot bowl in any MTBC-sanctioned tournaments. However, once the ban expires end of next month, the bowlers will be eligible to fight for a place in the squad where they will have to go through the selection process. If they do not meet the mark or their form drops, they will be replaced. And if they make it back into the squad, they have to sign contracts with MTBC and NSC again. The current contract is without doubt even more stringent.

Mailsport: Now that the matter has been cleared, how do MTBC see the whole episode?
Dr. Nathan: We are not here to punish anyone or make it difficult for others. But like in every other sport, discipline is a key factor and we will not compromise on it. No bowler can hold us to ransom. We are here to serve the sport, and all the bowlers must abide by the rules and procedures. We are among the eight core sports and naturally, we want everything to go smoothly. Not only are we concentrating on developing the sport further, we also want to continue producing results in the international arena. We hope all the bowlers realize this by continuing to work hard at the game. In the meantime, we will do our utmost to provide them with the best in terms of financial and technical assistance, coaching, equipment, facilities, international exposure, competitions and a sound administration.

Friday, December 16, 2005

World feats must be given their just dues (16/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 16/12/2005
Headline : World feats must be given their just dues

NICOL DAVID (right) deserves all the accolades and rewards she has been
showered with since winning the World Open title in Hong Kong earlier
this month to be ranked World No 1.
She worked hard for it, made sacrifices, took the bold step to leave
her home in Penang to be based in Holland for training, was pushed to the
limits by her coach Liz Irving and personal trainer, Alistair McCaw, and
beaten the world's best to be where she is today.
In short, there was no short-cut to her success.
But Nicol remains that modest young woman despite her being the world's
top-ranked player.
I had the opportunity to meet her this week and in our conversation,
she proved to be a very level-headed and modest person who knows what she
wants. And the success has certainly not changed her simple ways.
In fact, she said: "This victory, all these rewards, recognition and
attention have not sunk in yet.
"And I am sure when they have, they are not going to make me a
different person either as I know there is still a great deal for me to
learn and achieve in the game, as well as stay on top."
Indeed, Nicol has her feet firmly on the ground.
For she knows, with all the praises comes the pressure for the new
She will no longer be the one chasing the rankings, but others will be
out for her scalp.
But she is not thinking much about it because she admitted she was not
gunning for the title this year.
"I just wanted to keep my ranking and take it from there. When there
was an opportunity for me to go for the title, like everyone else, I went
for it. I did not know if I was ready for it, but I gave my best shot and
achieved it.
"Thus despite being the world's top-ranked player, I still have a lot
to learn. And I know there are also going to be ups and downs which I
will take in my stride as I try to be more consistent."
Wise words indeed, because no matter what she says, the same writers
who shower praises on her feats are also going to crucify her whenever
she loses.
The truth is Nicol needs to be given room to breathe and progress
Fine, she has won the world title, but she is only 22 and there is
still a lot for her to learn, as she has admitted.
During our conversation, Nicol proved she was more than capable of
standing on her own feet, especially in managing the media.
She knew what to say, how to tackle "pressure" questions and above all,
she could converse, unlike most of her peers who only give curt replies
or totally shun the press.
Basically, it is her overseas exposure and having to fend for herself
in a foreign land that has helped build her character.
But while Nicol is basking in her glory, I cannot but help think of
another world champion - bowler Esther Cheah.
The 19-year-old won the World Championships gold medal earlier this
year in Denmark and is eligible for the RM80,000 award for a world title.
I am not talking about the monetary rewards, but the recognition where
Nicol was presented with a Trophy of Appreciation from the Queen, Tuanku
Fauziah Tuanku Abdul Rashid, at the official opening of the inaugural
National Women's Games on Monday at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
Nicol will also be honoured by the Olympic Council of Malaysia at their
Olympian Awards tonight.
Should Esther also be accorded similar recognition?
She was one of the torch-bearers at Monday's opening ceremony, and one
wonders what might have been running through her mind when Nicol was
And tonight, Esther could be having those same thoughts again.
It is indeed rare to find Malaysian sportsmen and women attain
world-class status and when they do, because we have been starved of
success, we go overboard at times.
There is nothing wrong with that, but we must look at all achievements
alike and accord the same recognition to them. Otherwise, we can be
accused of being biased in our judgment.
Likewise, four gold medals - two by Ho Ro Bin and one each by Chai Fong
Ying and Pui Fook Chien - were won at the just-concluded World
Championships, and they too deserve the same recognition to make a
level-playing field for all and sundry.
And ironically, wushu, bowling and squash are non-Olympic sports.
While squash and bowling are fighting hard to get into the Olympics,
wushu - being a combat event - will probably have a harder time making a
case for it to be included.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Medallists must not rest on their laurels (09/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 09/12/2005
Headline : Medallists must not rest on their laurels

NOW that the dust has settled after the euphoria over Malaysia's 61-gold
medal haul in the 23rd Philippines SEA Games, which ended last Monday, it
is time to take a reality check.
The results must now be seen from a clearer perspective, instead of the
contingent going overboard with their best ever achievement in an "away"
SEA Games.
Instead, athletes must use these results to spur them on to better
performances in higher-level competitions.
Undoubtedly, a round of applause is in order here, for Sports Minister,
Datuk Azalina Othman Said, the National Sports Council (NSC), Olympic
Council of Malaysia (OCM), chef-de-mission Low Beng Choo and her two
deputies, supporting staff (both administration and logistics), medical
crew, officials, coaches and team managers to most important of all, the
athletes who won medals in the Games.
It was a job well done with tremendous teamwork and there was also a
fiery display of the Malaysia Boleh! and Harimau spirit.
But instead of still having our heads in the clouds, let us get our
feet back on the ground and start striving for better things.
Malaysians have a bad habit of resting on small laurels, and not
noticing the big picture.
Let us not forget the accomplishments are only at South-East Asian
level - which is the lowest level of international recognition.
It is about time we look at Asian level, and maybe to a certain extent,
the Commonwealth and ultimately, the Olympics and world honours.
Let us not forget that Nicol David is proof that Malaysians are capable
of winning world titles.
The badminton players and bowlers have also achieved that.
The 61-gold haul was no small feat, as they were from 441 at stake, as
compared to 444 in the Vietnam Games two years ago.
But there were 392 gold medals in the 2001 Kuala Lumpur Games, and only
233 in Brunei two years earlier. At the Jakarta Games in 1997, there were
448 gold medals.
Based on statistics over the years, the 61-gold haul is relatively a
good figure.
However, one must take into account that Indonesia, power-houses in the
SEA Games fared badly this time around, raking 49 golds and finishing
fifth behind Malaysia.
In Vietnam, Indonesia won 55 golds and in KL, 71.
It is quite obvious that some of the medals Indonesia were earlier
expected to win were eventually won by other countries.
The rise of Vietnam and the Philippines' exceptional performances also
saw a shift in the medals tally.
All things considered, Malaysia's haul deserves an ovation. And now, it
is time to move on.
Apart from overseas training, what these SEA Games medalists also need
are top-level competitions if they are to improve.
Most athletes, in their moments of triumph, have voiced the lack of
local competitions as blocking them from improving further.
Azalina, in an immediate response, had said she would be looking into
the problem and it is hoped it would be resolved soon because this is the
direction most of the other countries are heading.
For instance, the Philippines' overwhelming success has been attributed
to their overseas stints, which included training and competitions, and
they do not intend to stop with the SEA Games.
The Filipinos are looking at similar preparations for next year's Asian
Games in Doha.
There are plans to build a a major one-stop training centre in Subic
Bay, to ensure the SEA Games medalists continue their training.
Vietnam are no different and so are Thailand, whose athletes are sent
for training not only in Asia, but also the United States.
Without doubt, there is an urgent need for Malaysia's top athletes to
venture out of the country if they want to excel.
They have to leave the comfort zone, make sacrifices, work and train
hard, compete against the top athletes and, above all, adopt a
professional culture if they are to become the best.
For as long as our athletes remain cooped in their home nest, they are
not going to achieve much success.

Monday, December 5, 2005

So, this is my swansong (05/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM

Date : 05/12/2005

Headline : So, this is my swansong

IT is no longer possible for me to savour every single moment of covering
the biennial multi-sports festival called the SEA Games.
I came to this conclusion as the 23rd edition in the Philippines comes
to a close this evening in Manila. After enjoying the privilege of
covering 12 successive SEA Games including this one, Manila is no doubt
my swansong.
The Games, I believe, has grown into a monster, a far cry from my first
encounter with the Games in Singapore in 1983.
The Games is no longer held in one city and there was no Games Village
this time.
My mind harks back to 1991, when the Manila edition was more organised
while the venues were easily accessible. It is no longer possible for me
to enjoy the Games and cover the events first hand.
A good number of journalists have been reduced to camping in the Media
Centre, watching the events in the live feeds available at the Centre,
collecting results and then making phone calls to get their stories.
But as a firm believer of field reporting, I wanted to soak up the
atmosphere, and share the joys and the tears of an athlete to help me
produce a good story.
I have done my bit trying to be at various venues, including flying
from Manila to Bacolod City to cover the football matches.
In the past 11 Games, some of which went on for a full two weeks, I
lasted the pace. This time I feel I have spread myself thin. I have
bitten more than I can chew, so much so my nocturnal activities had been
Even a young first-timer like Ghaz Ramli is showing signs of fatigue,
preferring to stay in the room to regenerate himself instead of spending
a late night exploring Manila.
For me, my knees have given up on me. When I came down with a bad bout
of flu, sore throat, body aches and fatigue from Day 3 until this exact
moment when I'm toying with the keyboard, I know this must be my last
Certainly I am going to miss covering the Games, but like an athlete,
one has to call it quits when the going is good.
The SEA Games has been an integral part of my life, an aspect of
reporting which helped shape my career as a sports journalist.
I'm glad that I'm bidding the Games farewell in Manila. I will always
have fond memories of my time in the Philippines, thanks to their
pleasant inhabitants.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Same old tired story ruining the Games (02/12/2005)

Publication : MM
Date : 02/12/2005
Headline : Same old tired story ruining the Games

THE script gets eerily familiar as one tires from the common theme of
biased judging when host nations grab the lion's share of gold medals in
the SEA Games.
Thanks to the medal harvest, the norm is for the host country to emerge
as the overall champions in the medal tally.
More often than not, the perception is they garner bountiful medals
through biased judging, which has become a common topic in subjective
sports like combat sports, diving and now, dancesport.
It has been no different at the 23rd SEA Games in the Philippines.
The turn of events has even prompted the Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin
Shinawatra, to cry foul.
Short of naming the Philippines, he was quoted as being disappointed by
the controversy in the SEA Games and might raise the issue on the
sidelines of the Association of South-east Asian Nations summit in
Malaysia this month.
Earlier, the Vietnamese delegation were purported to have made similar
complaints through their Press reports but later claimed their comments
were misconstrued by Vietnam's chef-de-mission, Nguyen Hong Minh.
Vietnam, who hosted the Games for the first time two years ago, emerged
champions with a total of 156 gold medals while Malaysia scooped 111 gold
in KL 2001.
The Games has turned into a farce and the blame should rest on the SEA
Games Federation (SEAGF), who always say they want to restrict the Games
to Olympic events to keep them manageable.
But it never happens as politics rule the day with the hosts given the
free rein to include traditional sports which favour them.
There appears also some unwritten agreement among some combat sports,
or sports where a certain nation or only a few dominate, to ensure the
medals are equally distributed with the host given a slight edge.
It even occurred at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, where Malaysia were
denied several certain gold medals in the first few days of the taekwondo
events, but won a few after a Malaysian team official disclosed that day
was Malaysia's turn to pick up the medals.
The international judges, who are brought by the respective sports, are
not exactly free from affiliations as well.
These so called "neutral judges" are well looked after by the hosts and
naturally they would give something in return.
In all fairness it would be grossly unfair to say the hosts are doing
well just because they are given preferential treatment by the judges.
On Wednesday, Filipino long-distance runner Eduardo Buenavista, was
disqualified in the 5,000m for illegal manoeuvring on the home stretch
against Thai rival Boonthung Srising.
Perhaps, there is still honour in the Games, which is fast becoming a

Friday, November 25, 2005

SEA Games changes for the worse? (25/11/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 25/11/2005
Headline : SEA Games changes for the worse?

THE SEA Games have seen a lot of changes since I made my debut as a
sports journalist in the Singapore edition in 1983.
I am into my 12th consecutive Games in Manila, which start on Sunday,
and without a shadow of a doubt, changes that have taken place over the
last two decades include the burgeoning number of athletes.
The rising statistics also include the travelling party by virtue of
being members of the support services.
There are "other officials" joining as "observers", who usually exceed
the number of actual officials in the contingent.
Many of these "officials" come from the respective State Sports
Council, sports bodies, statutory bodies, supporters, family members and
The Games have over the years become more of a carnival rather than a
sporting event, an endeavour intended to unearth talent in the region, an
arena of competition for budding athletes and a stepping stone for
established ones to push themselves beyond their boundaries.
These days, the Games have grown so big that leisure activities and
traditional sports have joined the fraternity.
Gone are the days when the Games were held at one city of the host
nation. The new tradition dictates that the venues are scattered all over
the host nation, making the Games a nightmare not only in terms of
logistics but also media coverage.
While the International Olympic Council (IOC) take the trouble to
protect their extravaganza by making resolutions to limit the number of
sports, the SEA Games family seem to be adopting a different approach.
For the Philippines Games, a total of 41 sports will be competed with
441 gold medals at stake!
While Malaysia have been vocal about the increasing number of sports
and medals and the number of cities the sports are held in the Games
these days, they themselves are equally guilty.
In 2001 when Malaysia were the hosts, some events were held in Penang
and Johor. Vietnam followed suit two years later with Ho Chi Minh City
and Hanoi the two venues
Perhaps it's time the SEA Games Federation have a rethink on the actual
It is worth considering limiting the Games to the Under-23s or at
worst, the Under-25s, so that it will serve as a stepping stone for young
Indirectly, it will force the countries from this region to work harder
to discover and nurture new talent.
Filipina Elma Muros (left), who made her Games debut in 1983, is still
competing in her favourite event - long jump.
How that's going to help the development of sports in this region is
beyond me.
But having said that, the Games still have a special touch to them.
They came about because of the vision of one man, Luang Sukhum
Nagapradit, vice-president of the Olympic Committee of Thailand, who
initiated the South-East Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games in Bangkok in 1959.
Many stars have been unearthed since, including Datuk Nashatar Singh,
Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, the late Mohktar Dahari, Patricia Chan, C.
Kunalan, Jennifer Tin Lay, Rabuan Pit, Suchart Jaesuraparp, Purnomo,
Marina Chin, Nordin Jadi, Jimmy Crampton, Fandi Ahmad, Zainal Abidin
Hassan, Reawadee Watansin, Nurul Huda Abdullah and Lydia de Vega.
The Games, however, are not just about athletes and officials. The
Malaysian media jamboree are also looking forward to the challenge of
providing first hand news with a local slant to the reports.
By my side in Manila are my two colleagues - one a veteran in Mustapha
Kamaruddin, and the other a rookie, Ghaz Ramli.
While the Games will definitely provide a sharp learning curve for
Ghaz, Mustapha is making his "debut" at a late age!
He missed the boat in the earlier Games due to problems with his
travelling documents.

Friday, November 18, 2005

State FAs must change mindset (18/11/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 18/11/2005
Headline : State FAs must change mindset

MALAYSIAN soccer is not just about the M-League.
The sooner this sinks into the mindset of State FAs, the better the
chances Malaysian soccer has of rising to a respectable level.
Even FA of Malaysia (FAM) have made this admission, whereby they have
started to pay more emphasis to a more professional set-up in line with
the requirements of the world governing body, FIFA.
FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who is also the
Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, was the first to admit there should be more
focus on the development aspect, which can be achieved only with the
State FAs' support.
After last week's three-day FIFA.Com-Unity workshop, where experts in
their respective fields discussed relationship management, communication,
media and marketing, it was evident these areas were severely lacking in
Malaysian soccer.
This only prompted Tengku Abdullah into giving an undertaking that the
situation will change for the better.
For once, FAM have decided on a long-term goal instead of their normal
short-term targets, most of which have ended in disappointment.
The fact that Tengku Abdullah is dead-serious on establishing a road
map to lead the country to the World Cup by 2022 is a positive sign.
Acknowledging the massive task ahead, Tengku Abdullah has decided to
form a joint consultative committee to be chaired by the Deputy Prime
Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
However, neither FAM nor any committee alone can be responsible for the
resurrection of Malaysian soccer.
The game is not only dependent on the national body, but also State FAs
- the legs and arms of FAM.
For starters, it is about time State FA presidents, the majority of
them being Mentris Besar, Chief Ministers, governors or political
figures, should attend FAM Council meetings.
But most of the time, State FAs are represented by their
secretary-generals or nominated officials.
While some secretary-generals are hands-on in virtually running their
State FAs, many are just figure-heads with all decisions made by their
And this is where the problem lies because State FA heads are not
involved in implementing the decisions and visions of the national body.
It is about time these presidents take a more serious view of the game
in their respective States, than just attending M-League matches from
time to time, giving help in securing financial aid and attending several
State FA Council meetings in a year.
If they cannot find the time because of their hectic schedules, then
they should vacate their seat for someone who has the time and interest
in the game.
At the last Council meeting, three State FAs did not send
representatives, and of the 11 State FAs in attendance, none had their
presidents present. In addition, several independently-appointed members
and Exco members were also absent.
Another startling observation was that Datuk Anifah Aman, the football
team manager for the Manila SEA Games, has not been spending much time
with the players
And indications are the Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy
Minister will not be present in Bacolod City for Malaysia's opening match
on Monday as he has to attend to some urgent matters.
Soccer no longer holds amateurish or part-time status. Professionals
are required to run it at all levels in each association.
We need a chief executive, a financial director, marketing managers,
sponsorship managers, media manager and technical staff to head the
various departments of the game, while administration and a building they
can call their own to work from.
FIFA have clearly stated that an association these days cannot expect
to effectively meet the demands of modern football if their leading
positions are filled by volunteers.
Malaysia soccer is indeed blessed because the Asian Football
Confederation and one of FIFA's 12 Goal Development Offices are based in
Other countries are also gaining much from the offices here and it is a
pity they are not being made full use of by local bodies in boosting the
game's standards
It's time all soccer administrators realise the national game needs an
urgent injection of professionalism. And if these individuals do not
accept this fact and change their ways for the better soon, the visions
of Tengku Abdullah in seeing Malaysia in the World Cup before 2022 may
just remain a dream!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sponsorship: Over to you, FAM (The Sunday Mail)

EVERYONE can fly with AirAsia, but not everyone gets funding without the
proper marketing proposals.
This more or less summed up AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer, Datuk
Tony Fernandes' response last Friday to questions as to why they have not
sponsored Malaysian soccer.
Fernandes said last Friday he has had only verbal queries about AirAsia
sponsoring Malaysian football.
He was attending the marketing aspect of the Fifa Com-Unity Workshop, a
three-day event organised by the FA of Malaysia (FAM) which ended last
"Neither FAM nor any of the State FAs have formally forwarded a proposal
to us," said Fernandes.
"How can we sponsor anyone without any proposals?
"Of course, we are keen on associating ourselves with Malaysian soccer,
but we have to look at the proposals first."
Fernandes added funding these days is no longer a situation where the
sponsors just donate the money and do not get involved thereafter.
"Sponsorship these days is a business deal between parties, for the
mutual benefit of all concerned," he said.
Earlier this year, AirAsia signed a sponsorship deal with Manchester
The Red Devils, arguably the best-known football club in the world and
The fact that the English Premier League club, arguably the most well-
known in the world, wanted to tie up with Air Asia speaks volumes of how
professionally the airline operate their business and, despite being a
low-cost carrier, have had achieved international recognition.
The deal allows AirAsia, among other things, to share the perimeter
board advertising at Old Trafford, United's home ground, besides giving
the airline the right to use the club's name for promotional, advertising
and merchandising activities.
The tie-up, is believed to cost AirAsia about RM14 million
At the marketing workshop, Clare Kenny, Fifa marketing instructor in her
presentation on marketing and sponsorship, had said that entering into a
sponsorship is a commitment on both parties to achieve professionalism,
transparent and trusting partnership, open communication and client
"Sponsorship these days is a professional area and it has to be
approached in a formal manner," said Fernandes.
"We are open to proposals and will study all of them before making any
It is little wonder many State FAs are complaining about not securing
sponsorship. This is because they have been going about it the wrong way
without any clues on how to approach the issue in a professional manner.
It was sad the "right people" did not attend the workshop because it
would have helped Malaysian soccer be managed more professionally.
While there were a few State FAs who had their secretary-generals or
executive secretaries attending the workshop, others sent their committee
members or administration staff while some even got their coaches to be
Those required at the seminar were policy- and decision-makers in their
respective associations so that they could return and make immediate
changes for the better of Malaysian soccer.
The other areas discussed at the workshop were relationship management,
communication and media.
FAM, through their deputy-president, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah,
have made a firm commitment at the end to place Malaysian soccer on a
better platform by taking a more professional route in all aspects of the
But whether the arms and legs of the national body - the State FAs -
will also provide the same commitment and take the road is the million
ringgit question.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Global need for a strong foundation (11/11/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 11/11/2005
Headline : Global need for a strong foundation

THE lack of emphasis on physical education (PE) and sports in schools is
a global problem.
This was the shocking revelation at the International Conference on
"Sports and Education" in Bangkok last week, held in conjunction with
this year being declared by the United Nations as the International Year
of Sports and Physical Education.
Malaysian delegates to the Conference from the Ministries of Sports and
Education, Olympic Council of Malaysia, National Sports Council,
Malaysian Association for Physical Education, Sport Science and Fitness
and senior university lecturers were flabbergasted to learn it was a
global problem.
However, the problem prevalent in other countries should not be any
small comfort for Malaysians, as they must join forces to find a solution.
It is without doubt the Malaysian delegates could relate to the global
problems, such as lack of playing fields in schools, lack of equipment
and facilities, shortage of qualified/quality PE teachers and the limited
time allocation for PE in schools and lack of prominence given to sports
in general in schools.
In addition, there were other concerns like lack of parental
involvement, children not interested in some sports, the lack of
maintenance of facilities, time taken to repair or replace the wear and
tear of facilities and equipment.
Professor Ken Hardman (right), from University College Worcester,
England, said it is recognised worldwide there has been a decline in PE
provisions in the 1990s, which has exposed deficiencies at a time when
there are reported widespread increases in obesity and sedentary
lifestyle-related illnesses and associated rising healthcare costs.
Adolf Ogi, special adviser to the Secretary-General of the United
Nations on Sports for Development and Peace and the former President of
Switzerland, in his address at the conference, had said that "sports is
the best school of life".
As such, with sports playing such a vital role in shaping a nation, one
wonders why it is still not given the importance it is duly accorded.
The Malaysian Government, through the Ministries of Sports and
Education, have in-deed been placing importance on PE and sports.
But is enough being done, especially at schools level, which is the
grassroots and foundation of sports?
The Sports Ministry's involvement, however, only begins at a later
stage, although recently, there has been significant progress made with
the Sports Culture and Sports for All concepts.
It is obvious sports has not found a proper footing in schools, and the
Ministry of Education need to work hand in hand to ensure a two-prong
attack. Maybe the Health Ministry should also join in for a more serious
attempt at setting things right at the grassroots level.
Millions of ringgit can be spent on sports, but as long as the
foundation - PE and sports in schools - is weak, the end product is going
to be handicapped.
A Bangkok Agenda on Sports and Education was adopted at the end of the
three-day Conference and among the 12 points were:
* THE significance of physical education and sports be recognised;
* PHYSICAL education and sports should be recognised as integral parts
of quality education and should be made a national priority;
* IT should be mandatory for every school to provide students with at
least 120 minutes of curriculum education and sports time each week and,
in the longer term, 180 minutes.
* THE public, private and voluntary sectors should ensure their sports
facilities and human resources are accessible to the public;
* THE Conference invited all countries to establish a 10-year strategy,
starting next year, to enhance quality physical education and sports,
comprising two five-year medium term plans.
* THE process of identifying the national strategy and developing the
plans should include research, current knowledge, strategic planning with
clear outcomes, management and a monitoring evaluation system;
* THE national strategy should be implemented at the highest level in
the country; and
* PROFESSIONAL preparation of PE and sports teachers should be an
important topic of the national strategy.
The agenda is very relevant to Malaysia's hopes in seeing their
athletes soar to world-class level, and what better way than to start
from the grassroots.

Friday, October 28, 2005

With the right mix comes success (28/10/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 28/10/2005
Headline : With the right mix comes success

MULTI-RACIAL Malaysia should have reached the highest levels in sports by
We are a unique nation because no where in the world can you find three
major races - Malays, Chinese and Indians - living harmoniously and
working to further develop the nation, which already made milestone
achievements in almost all fields.
We have also the ethnic groups from Sabah and Sarawak to further add
colour to the rich culture.
And with inter-marriages come off-springs with their own characters.
What I am driving at is with such a diversified culture, comes the
strong points of each race.
If only these qualities can be moulded to form a winning formula,
Malaysian sports will certainly be in much higher grounds.
The Chinese, Japanese, Indians or Koreans all have one race and the
qualities lie in each one of them.
But Malaysia has the best of so many worlds and if we can combine all
that, we can probably be world beaters!
Generally, the Malays are known for their artistry, the Chinese for
their analytical nature and the Indians for their industrious nature.
Combine the three characters in a team game and we will have the best
of three worlds.
And add the athletes from East Malaysians or the mixed parentage
athletes and we will have an "international" team.
This was been proven in the early years of Malaysian sports especially
in team sports which had a multi-racial composition.
Lately, however, the multi-racial characteristics in our sports has
been disappearing.
There are many reasons for this: the selection process is flawed, some
ethnic groups are putting less emphasis on sports and more on education
and other more rewarding pursuits, and not enough opportunities are given
to all the races.
I believe we should try and bring back the multi-racial spirit in our
sports teams.
With the different races living so harmoniously and understanding one
another's feelings and beliefs, I don't see why this spirit cannot be
transferred to our sports.
Observe the fans at any stadium where a Malaysian team is playing and
we'll see that no matter what ethnic background the players are from, the
fans of all races come together to cheer as Malaysians. Even when
Malaysia plays teams from their own ethnic background!
Just watch next week when Deepavali is celebrated when the Muslims are
still fasting, as Hari Raya is expected to fall two days later.
Open houses by the Hindu families have mostly been scheduled after the
break of fast. That, if you ask me, is tolerance and understanding.
Observe the young children of all races going to their friends' home to
celebrate the festivity and one wonders how this togetherness is diluted
when it comes to sports.
Perhaps, as we celebrate the festivals, we should all consider the
reasons why we are not there, yet, at the highest levels of sports. And
then join hands to give Malaysian sports an uplift and enjoy the "luxury"
we have in our multi-racial country.
On this note, I wish one and all in advance "DeepaRaya" greetings to
the sports fraternity of Malaysia.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Need for a strong set-up (21/10/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 21/10/2005
Headline : Need for a strong set-up

THE FA of Malaysia (FAM) may be open to proposals on improving the
quality of the game and strengthening the national team, but they must
draw up a policy that will point Malaysian soccer in the right direction.
Heeding proposals from the various quarters is good, but this has been
done in the past. And more often than not, like all seminars and
workshops held by various sports organisations, they bore little fruit.
FAM, as guardians of the game, should know better after all these years
- what it takes to get the game kicking to lift it to a decent level the
country can be proud of.
There have been numerous overseas study trips, with talks given by
experienced and foreign soccer administrators on how to raise the
standard of the game and, above all, to run it in a professional manner.
But again, all the notes and information seem to be stored away in FAM.
It does not take a rocket scientist to provide the answers for a
healthy soccer environment because like everything else, a well-planned
permanent infrastructure is all that is needed.
Sad to say that for the years of soccer behind most State FAs and the
game itself here having gone semi-pro in 1989 and professional since
1994, the set-up is still amateurish in many aspects.
Any football structure basically has six major components:
* THE policy makers/decision-makers - executives;
* ADMINISTRATIVE - daily functioning of the club and ensuring smooth
operations with professional staff;
* THE infrastructure - facilities (stadium, training grounds,
gymnasiumS, hydro-treatment facilities, medical room, recreation
facilities, administrative block, etc);
* TECHNICAL - the football/ game people/development;
* MEDICAL - doctors, physiotherapists; and
* ANCILLARY - support staff, vital necessities (often manual labour).
While most of the Malaysian organisations meet a number of components,
such as having a policy maker, administrative staff and ancillary, a
majority lacks the basic facility: the infrastructure.
Many State teams are known to train and play at the same venue.
Even the administrative staff of many State associations are
part-timers or personnel who do not have a good grasp of the game.
Almost all State associations do not have professional personnel to
manage the various aspects of administration - such as an accountant,
commercial/ marketing manager or a media director.
Then most of the teams hardly do any development work and the only work
they call "development" is managing the Under-18 (Youth Cup) and Under-20
(President's Cup) sides for a specific period.
Those countries, whose soccer is at world-class level, all have youth
teams of age groups from as young as under eight years old to Reserve
League Under-21 sides. And these teams train all-year round.
They also have full-time technical staff, specialised coaches, fitness
experts, equipment steward. scouts, full-time youth development officers
and managers.
But in Malaysia, these are non-existent as the State teams only seem to
be harping on the M-League.
Only when the foundation is laid for proper soccer development to take
place and a conducive environment for the game to grow can we expect not
only to see results, but also continuous growth as new talent will always
be unearthed.
This will ensure the competitiveness of the local league, as young
footballers would have been brought up in such a high-intensity
environment. And the situation will only improve as these footballers
make progress.
It is no secret the strength of national teams is drawn from how
established the domestic league and soccer structure in their respective
countries are.
And the sooner FAM take the bold move - that all State FAs have the
complete infrastructure to be involved in the game, failing which they
would not come under their jurisdiction - the faster Malaysian soccer can
Though there will be no overnight results, FAM can look forward to
something significant, say in eight to 10 years' time.
The truth always hurts and the longer we run away from it, the longer
Malaysian soccer is going to remain in the rut.
Cosmetic changes to Malaysian soccer are not going to help, and it is
time for FAM to take the first move of being cruel to be kind.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Why club sides failed in M-League (14/10/2005 - The Malay Malay)

Publication : MM
Date : 14/10/2005
Headline : Why club sides failed in M-League

IT is with a very heavy heart I have to admit that club-based soccer has
no place in the professional M-League.
Having managed the Kuala Lumpur Malay Mail FC (KLMMFC) - who were the
first club-based team from the Klang Valley to play in Premier Two - from
2000-2002, I was a firm believer that club-based soccer was an
alternative to State-based sides and at worse, thought clubs could
co-exist with State teams.
And my involvement with KLMMFC was not restricted to that short period,
but rather for 15 years - from the time the newspaper team made their
debut in the Kuala Lumpur FA Dunhill League in 1988.
As the team progressed from the local league to the national clubs
league - FAM Cup - and eventually emerge as FAM Cup runners-up in 1999 to
earn their place in the professional league in Premier Two, I honestly
believed there was a place for club sides who worked their way up to be
among the elite teams.
But as KLMMFC bowed out of Malaysian soccer at the end of 2003 after
playing in the FAM Cup - following their relegation to club soccer again
at the end of their third season in Premier Two - I was resigned to the
fact that club soccer was for the mega-ringgit teams only.
KLMMFC, who did not have the luxury of being financed by the newspaper,
had to source for funds from sponsors. This was not an easy task and even
when sponsors were secured, some did not fulfil their obligations.
KLMMFC did not harbour hopes of winning the Premier Two title, as their
goal was different: to be a club where fringe players who had failed to
land contracts with State teams and bigger clubs, had an opportunity to
still play in the "big league".
At the same time, they also wanted to give young budding players the
opportunity to play at a high level.
The newspaper team had many young players who left for better-paying
teams the following season, while some experienced ones used the team as
a "transit" before securing more lucrative contracts.
Some of the club's young players went on to don national colours - R.
Surendran (current) and Mohd Imran Ahmad (former). Several made it to the
national youth teams. This is an achievement which some State-based
teams may not be able to match.
Even coaches hired for the club were either those who did not have such
an opportunity earlier, or were pursuing their university studies or were
friends of the club who wanted to help out.
Although it was made clear to one and all from day one that the club
could not afford to pay hefty salaries and bonuses because they were not
rich, it still boiled down to ringgit and sen at the end of the day.
There were players and coaches who left the club with ill-feelings.
But for so long as KLMMFC existed solely for the passion for the game,
they played their role of a club - being part of the foundation of
soccer development in the country.
With Malacca Telekom, Negri Sembilan Cempaka and Johor FC among the
pioneer club sides to play in Premier Two in the late 90s, and who were
the "rich" teams, followed by sides such as Public Bank, MPPJ and MK
Land, I still felt there was hope for club-based soccer.
Cempaka were the first to opt out three years ago and now, two club
big-wigs - Public Bank and MK Land - have withdrawn after a couple of
years in the top flight.
This only underlines the fact that clubs do not have the financial
clout, which is one reason for their early withdrawal from the M-League.
Lack of fan support could be another reason why these clubs failed to
stay on in the M-League despite their efforts to boost crowd turnouts at
matches. Since Malaysian soccer is State-based traditionally, the income
from gate-collection was minimal.
The clubs' stint in the M-League also depended on who ran the clubs or
their financial backers.
More often than not, when there was a change of guard, so did the
clubs' policies.
Unlike State teams, it is rare to see club sides getting the support of
State Governments.
Clubs themselves have to take the blame because they go overboard with
their big budgets and at times, have been known to spend more than what
the State FAs do in a season.
Soon they could not sustain their big-spending ways and start
accumulating debts or cannot garner the same financial support for the
following season.
The FA of Malaysia too have to accept part of the blame for club-based
soccer failure, for imposing all sorts of conditions on the clubs. These
included a compulsory number of professionals (full working contract
players), minimum wages, and deposits for foreign players, which deprived
the clubs of much-needed management funds.
Lastly, State FAs from the start were against club-based soccer and
instead of assisting their club counterparts, they did everything
possible to "kill" them off.
But now it has been established that club soccer should only be
played at FAM Cup level, State FAs - instead of seeing this as a victory
over clubs - should take a hard look at themselves and realise they are
the sole saviors of Malaysian soccer and buck up to get their act
together to be truly professional in every sense of the word.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Reaping fruits of overseas stints (07/10/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 07/10/2005
Headline : Reaping fruits of overseas stints

THE country's top sportsmen and women need to leave their roost for
long-term overseas stints if they harbour hopes of excelling in their
respective sports.
For far too long, Malaysian athletes have been getting cosy and
comfortable at home, not prepared to venture out into the world where the
real competitions are for them to improve.
This has caused the athletes to remain contented with performances at
Asean or South-East Asian level, and it is no surprise that results are
not forthcoming when competing at Asian or world level.
However, those sports, whose athletes have been sent abroad to train
and compete, have more often than not become the creme de la creme in the
Overseas stints not only expose the athletes to the latest training
methods under top and experienced coaches, but also open their minds to
different cultures and traditions. But more importantly, they get
top-level competitions almost week in and week out.
And with the Cabinet Committee on Sports Development this week agreeing
to convert the Tun Razak Research Centre in Herdfordshire, United
Kingdom, into a High Performance Sports Centre for Malaysian athletes
abroad, an opportunity has been created for more top sporting individuals
to train overseas.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said he hoped to see
the centre operational by year-end, with the first batch of athletes sent
there to prepare for next year's Asian Games in Doha.
However, it is hoped that those selected to train there exploit the
golden opportunity to improve themselves, instead of complaining about
the cold weather, harsh training sessions and hectic schedules, or for
that matter, about the food.
In the past, we have had athletes, especially footballers, who have
overseas stints, but returned griping about the weather and food.
This has been one of the weaknesses of Malaysian athletes in general:
being too soft and pampered.
In contrast, athletes like hurdler Noraseela Mohd Khalid, squash
players Nicol David, Ong Beng Hee, Azlan Iskandar and Sharon Wee,
cyclists Josiah Ng, and Ng Yong Li, and snooker player Moh Keen Ho have
all stuck it out in countries such as Germany, Holland, the US, Spain and
In addition, they are also improving by the day, with several of them
achieving commendable results.
Another two - squash player Tricia Chuah and cyclist Uracca Leow - will
soon head for Holland and Switzerland. And indications are there probably
will be more.
To these athletes who have left the comfort of home, family, and
familiarity to strive for excellence in foreign lands, they should be
We need more such individuals who are prepared to make sacrifices and
possess the burning desire to achieve high standards and bring glory to
the nation.
However, the respective associations recommending their top athletes
for overseas stints must be thorough and judicious in their choices,
while the National Sports Council (NSC), who approve the names, must be
Especially now that Malaysia will have a training centre in England,
they should not be sending athletes overseas just for the sake of doing
At the same time, NSC must also look at deserving athletes who may have
been overlooked or neglected by their respective associations, and they
should be given the chance to achieve their goals.
One who springs to mind is walker Mohamed Shahrulhaizy Abdul Rahman, an
outstanding example of a dedicated, disciplined and diligent athlete, but
has not been given many opportunities to compete against the best.
The defending 20km SEA Games gold medallist had to virtually beg to
qualify for this year's Games in Manila.
As walk events are not very popular in the local athletics circle,
Shahrulhaizy did not have many opportunities to meet the Games qualifying
He finally did so at the Asian Track and Field Championships in
Incheon, South Korea, last month, where he finished sixth. And this only
materialised after he actually boarded the plane at the eleventh hour
following an appeal from his mentor and coach V. Subramaniam.
And the irony was if Shahrulhaizy had not gone to Incheon, he probably
would not have qualified for the SEA Games, because the national meet in
Penang last month did not have the 20 walk in its schedule!
Shahrulhaizy is one who deserves better for his dedication to the
sport, which includes training under Subramaniam even during Ramadhan,
where he is also fasting like other Muslims.
There may be many more like Shahrulhaizy who should be recognised and
duly rewarded. Otherwise, they may just fade away one day.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Professionals must earn their keep (30/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 30/09/2005
Headline : Professionals must earn their keep

TWO capacity-crowd stadiums in as many weeks is ample proof that
Malaysian soccer is alive and kicking.
The FA Cup final between Selangor and Perak last Saturday saw Shah Alam
Stadium almost filled to the brim with 72,000 fans paying RM1.2 million
in gate collection.
The Malaysia Cup final between Selangor and Perlis at National Stadium
in Bukit Jalil tomorrow night is not expected to be any different.
Though Perlis are a small State, they have shed their minnows tag since
winning the Malaysia Cup last year, and this year's Super League title.
And with Selangor being the Premier League champions, a battle royale
is on the cards.
The Cup finals in the last few years have never enjoyed the support as
it has this year. In addition, stadiums in the country have also seen an
increase in fans turning out to support their respective teams.
There surely must be some good developments in local soccer for the
crowds to be flocking back to the stadiums. And State FAs should do
everything possible to keep them coming back for more.
The fact is there is a bigger following for English and European soccer
in this country - no thanks to the neverending and countless number of
matches televised - than local soccer.
But we have been able to fill stadiums, which even even the top English
Premiership clubs cannot boast of. This bears testimony to the fact that
local fans will back their teams, provided they have something decent to
Of course, there is no denying the "foreign factor" in the Malaysian
teams, especially Selangor, whose "Indonesian connection" of Bambang
Pamungkas and Elie Aiboy has lured Indonesians in the Klang Valley to add
to their fan-base.
The quality of performances by the top teams has also been
entertaining, as was evident in the FA Cup final, which Selangor won 4-2.
Perak's never-say-die attitude, which saw them fight till the final
whistle and even scoring a goal two minutes from regulation time when
they were 1-4 down only underscored the entertainment value.
But that goal by Mohd Nor Ismail for me, not only demonstrated Perak's
fighting qualities and offered a fitting end to an exciting match, but
was more of a face-saving goal for Malaysian soccer.
Yes, Mohd Nor's goal was the only one of the six scored that night by a
local player!
And this is where the relevant authorities have to decide what they
want from local soccer.
Fine, the crowds are coming back. Is that all Malaysian soccer wants?
Isn't the local league supposed to be the breeding ground for future
national players?
Fine, there were a few new talents unearthed this season, but
Malaysia's perennial problem at international level has been scoring
goals, or rather the lack of it.
If all the teams in the M-League are going to opt for foreign strikers,
who are dominating the League, where are we going to find our local
Yes, we have Khalid Jamlus, Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Liew Kit Kong, K.
Rajan, Fadzli Saari, Mohd Nizaruddin Yusof and Rudie Ramli to shout
about, but they are all playing second fiddle to the foreign strikers.
With the rising local strikers and new finds not getting the exposure
because of the 'foreign legion', how are they going to improve and excel
at international level?
The fact that the foreigners are not utilised to the maximum in
boosting the game in the country, such as conducting clinics at schools
in their respective States, especially with them being paid high wages,
is disheartening, and the fault of their employers who are only keen on
the silverware and the glory the State will get.
Malaysian soccer is not just about winning the FA, League and Malaysia
We have to think beyond that and, for starters, start conquering the
region, maybe kicking off at the Asian club level and then, seeing our
national teams win matches at South-East Asian level before venturing out
into Asia.
It is even sadder State FAs do not demand the maximum from their
so-called local "professionals" who earn between RM4,000 and as much as
RM15,000 per month.
But all these players do is train two hours a day - four or five times
a week - play a match or two a week and even get paid bonuses for winning
This is nothing compared to professionals overseas who are required to
put in at least six to eight hours' work daily.
They are also involved in coaching clinics, working with their junior
players and doing charity projects.
If there is anybody to be blamed for the current state of the game, it
is the State FAs for not demanding what is required of professional
Coaches and managers are also responsible for not professionally
executing their duties. And then there are the management who are only
interested in seeing their sides do well in the local scene but are not
keen on the overall development of the game and progress of the national
State FAs should also immediately demand their professionals, be them
locals or foreigners, deliver what is expected of them, which is to help
the game improve in the country.
FAM alone cannot raise the standards of the game in the country. They
need the help of State FAs and clubs, who are considered the arms and
legs of the national body.
And if FAM or State FAs have any fears there will be empty stadiums if
they work with more local players, this should be dispelled because the
local fans will always be there to support a good cause.
After all, the stadiums used to be packed in the past, when we only had
the locals playing.
And our national team then were also doing much better, even qualifying
for the Olympics, and were rated among the best in Asia.

Friday, September 23, 2005

WALKING THE TALK (23/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 23/09/2005

IT'S about time to walk the talk in Malaysian sports.
Otherwise, accept the fact that Malaysians may have the knowledge about
the ills befalling sports in the country with the solutions in hand. But
it's a big flop on the implementation aspect.
Having attended two seminars in a week, with both related to sports
culture, development and improving the standards of Malaysian sports, I
have come to the conclusion we are not short of ideas on this issue.
The first seminar was organised by the Olympic Council of Malaysia
(OCM) and the other by the Malaysian Association for Physical Education,
Sports Science and Fitness.
Having discussed the first seminar in last week's column, and sharing
my disappointment on how the right people were absent, the second was no
different with the "right people" (policy- and decision-makers) also
shying away.
That the seminar on the National Sports Policy did not attract the
"right people" only bore testimony to the fact that the majority are not
interested in raising the standard, but only want to be involved in
sports for their own personal agenda.
It was the seventh seminar on the policy held since 1994, and I left
the half-day seminar, feeling that like the other six - it did not serve
any purpose in changing the course of Malaysian sports.
Do not get me wrong. It was an excellent seminar with Datuk Dr Ahamad
Sipon, director-general of Education, who spoke on "High-quality
physical education and schools sports in Malaysia, the way forward",
hitting the nail on development of sports in the country.
And what Ahamad mentioned was virtually a fool-proof way to get
Malaysian sports soaring to great heights.
He pointed out that Education Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein was
dead-serious on meeting his department's programme's target of 95 per
cent participation by students from ages five to 18 in high quality
physical education and schools sports by 2010.
But whether this becomes a reality, or just plain planning, is left to
be seen.
To achieve the goal, the Education Ministry are supposed to focus on
two key areas - Sports for All (SALL) and Sports for High Performance
For SALL, they are looking at improving school facilities, increasing
the pupil participation rate and involving more teachers in PE (physical
education) and sports.
For SHIP, they are to focus on co-organising competitions and the
development of the two sports schools (Bukit Jalil and Bandar Penawar).
The strategies for success based on the two concepts included under
SALL are:
* PROFESSIONAL development of PE teachers;
* IMPROVING school programmes for PE and sports;
* IMPROVING curriculum for PE and sports;
* INCREASE participation of pupils in PE and sports;
* SCHOOLS as part of the local community; and
* IMPROVING initial teacher training in relation to PE and sports.
And under SHIP, the strategies for success are:
* SHARING of best practices and developing research in PE and sports;
* ENGAGING the services of sports specialists.
As for the combination of SALL and SHIP, they are:
* IMPROVING facilities for PE and sports; and,
* LEADERSHIP in PE and School Sports with the focus on developing the
eight core sports (badminton, football, hockey, bowling, gymnastics,
squash, athletics and aquatics).
While Ahamad must be commended for his lecture, it was sad that those
present were not State Education Department directors, school headmasters
and all those responsible for implementing all the aforementioned points.
Directives probably have been issued to these officials, but whether
they are going to be implemented effectively is left to seen.
And to make matters worse, Ahamad had to leave immediately after his
address to attend to urgent matters.
As such, he could not listen to the responses from Dr Ramlan Aziz
(director-general of National Sports Council), Associate Prof Dr Teoh
Heng Teong (director, Sports Centre, Universiti Malaya) and Sheikh
Kamaruddin Sheikh Hassan, (senior physical/health education lecturer)
from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
Teoh and Sheikh Kamaruddin, in particular, reiterated that as long as
implementation of programmes does not take place, everything will be back
to square one. And the duo cited many such examples.
Though Dr Zuber Hassan, a deputy director at the Ministry of Education,
was present, whether he got the right message conveyed by the respondents
to the director-general, is not known.
That the hall was packed with students, with a majority of them
chit-chatting away and not showing any interest in the discussion, made
it even more sad.
That the national sports associations were not present to absorb the
ideas being offered and ensure they do their part to see them implemented
by the schools, further underscored the apathy towards development of
sports in the country.
I hope I will be proven wrong that what ever plans revealed will not
just remain on paper. This is because I believe if they do come to
fruition, they will be the long-awaited answer to reviving Malaysian
It may take more than the five years targeted by the Ministry, but if
it is effectively executed by all concerned,we are bound to reap rewards.
Whether this becomes a reality, or merely talk, only time will tell.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Doctor With The Midas Touch

A LATE starter in bowling, Datuk Dr P. S. Nathan, has gone on to create a
number of firsts both as a player and official locally and
internationally. He has the distinction of having bowled the sports into
world recognition.
Son of a clerk, a consultant dermatologist by profession, Nathan, a
product of St Paul's and Victoria Institution who hails from Seremban. He
speaks to Mailsport's TONY MARIADASS.
MS: Datuk, you were stung by the bowling bug at the age of 35. How did
that happen?
PSN: Age is only a chronological number. What is important is the
biological age. I was very fit those days having played games all the
time during school and then during my doctorhood. I was pretty serious in
badminton and played very regularly. As to how I got into bowling, it was
my wife. She had been going bowling for some time with our American lady
neighbour in a morning tea league and she impishly suggested I try this
new game in town.
I did it to satisfy her and found that it was challenging but I had a
knack for it.
My very first game was 127 which I was told was not bad considering it
was a house ball. And the rest is history.
MS: What were your highlights as a player and then as an official?
PSN: As a player I was the first National Masters champion in 1974. It
was also the year I founded the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC).
When I took up bowling seriously in 1972, I found there was no national
body. As I wanted to compete, I got a few bowling die-hards and we formed
the MTBC.
As a player, my fulfilling moments were winning the national finals
three times in a row in 1975-77. (My wife won the ladies event the same
three years, thus creating a record of sorts) to represent Malaysia in
the AMF World Cup.
The singles gold at the SEAP Games in 75 (the first gold for Malaysia
in bowling in the SEA Games) and then the Asian Games team gold in 1978
(again the first gold for Malaysia in the Asian Games in bowling) were
memorable moments. The singles gold was a record that stood for more than
20 years.
I hung up my bowling shoes in 1981 after winning the national finals to
represent Malaysia in the first World Games. This was particularly
memorable as once again, my wife won the ladies finals with me.
As an official, I was the president of the Asian Bowling Federation
from 1984-1987. Then from 1987-2003 I was the president of the WTBA for
three terms of four years each. As the first Malaysian and the first
Asian to be the president of a world governing body of a sport it was
very challenging.
MS: How much has changed since your playing days and where is the game
heading these days?
PSN: A massive amount. In my playing games until 1981 we were only
allowed one bowling ball and they were all either rubber or plastic.
Since 1981, a urethane group of bowling balls have surfaced. Bowlers are
allowed any number of balls during competition. In golf, the number of
equipment is limited to 14 but in ours, there is no limit. The pins have
also changed. Lane maintenance has become very scientific leading to more
uniform playing condition. The net result is that score worldwide has
gone astronomical.
The number of perfect games used to be a rarity in my days. But these
days, every tournament sees at least one perfect game bowled a day.
Everyone would agree, by this I mean all those in the government body of
sports that the technical specifications should be tidied up.
Unfortunately, this is being resisted by the ball manufacturers. When I
became president first in 1987, that was my focus to try and bring back
credibility to the sport by tidying up the technical specification, to
create a more level playing field particularly for the smaller and newer
I managed to limit it to six balls and until powers that be bring down
this number to two or maximum three, the developing nations will always
be at a disadvantage in tenpin bowling.
MS: Do you think there should be more leaders who have been involved in
their respective sports and why?
PSN: Yes, indeed if they have the time and inclination. Why?
Principally to be guardians of the rules and regulations of their sport.
The present climate and culture in international sport federation is for
leaders to try and manipulate the rules to get, what I called unfair
advantage for their country or their region. Additionally, it will put
Malaysia on the world sports map.
MS: What's your advice for athletes to succeed in both sports and
PSN: If an academic has a talent in a certain sport, he would by nature
be inclined to get competitively involved. As to whether he would take it
to international level, is a function of his passion for the sport. To do
this of course, time management comes into play. There is no question
that one cannot excel in the library and in the field. In my case, I took
up competitive sport after graduating. This placed an even greater
emphasis on time management.
MS: You are also active in social work?
PSN: I have been the secretary of the KL Home Nursing Service
Association since 1974 when I was a Rotarian. This charity organisation
was founded by Rotary Club of KL and as a medical man, they asked me to
take over. My social work involves fund raising and I do this by bringing
in world renowned Indian classical musicians. Since 1991, I have raised
more than a RM1 million for this society.
MS: What is your hope for bowling in general?
PSN: My hope for bowling in Malaysia is we continue to go forward by
maintaining our position as a team to beat at Asian or world level. For
this, we must continue to have and implement our development programmes.
This requires funding and human resources. The human resource has to be
of world calibre as far as coaches are concerned.
We have a bunch of excellent councillors in MTBC and in general an
excellent group of bowlers in our elite programme. I do hope that the
council, the coaches and the bowlers work as a team to focus on winning
At the world level, I hope the new administration that has taken over
since my resignation will be apolitical and also non parochial. In the
last congress that I attended, politics was rampant and everyone was
scrambling like in musical chairs for name and fame. This does not bode
well for the future of international bowling.
MS: What message do you have for the present Malaysian athletes?
PSN: My message would be "go for it". Go for the red carpet that our
Minister of Sports Datuk Azlina Othman Said has laid out for the elite
athletes. All your needs will be taken care of including your education
and your future. This has the potential to take you to fame and fortune.
There are millions of PhDs but few millionaires and household names. In
sports, there be few millionaires, but those who have excelled are
legends and icons for life.
Profile: Datuk P. S. Nathan
Born: 3rd Nov 1933
Family: wife Datin S. Malathy and two children - son Ruben and daughter
Current Position: Consultant dermatologist, President MTBC.
Playing career:
1974 Malaysian National Masters champion
1975 SEA Games singles gold Medallist (Bangkok)
1977 K.L. SEA Games silver medallist in doubles; five-men team silver
1978 Bangkok Asian Games five-men team gold medallist
1974-1987 Captain of Malaysian National Tenpin Bowling Team
1975-1977 Malaysian AMF World Cup National Champion
1977 9th in AMF World Cup Championship in London
1981 World Games Malaysian National Champion
1981 9th in World Games, Santa Clara, USA
1974 Founder President of the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress - now
(31 years).
1977-1988 Member of Presidium of the Asian Bowling Federation - 11 years
1978-1983 Vice President of Asian Bowling Federation - 5 years
1984-1988 President of Asian Bowling Federation - 4 years
Since 1978 Executive Committee Member of Presidium of World Tenpin
Bowling Association - 27 years
1987-1995; 1999-2003 President of World Tenpin Bowling Association - 12
years(1st Asian to become President of a World Sports Organization.)
Since 2003 Life President WTBA
1991 Awarded the Golden Pin by the World Governing Body of Bowling
Other sporting activities:
1979-1980 President of World Bowling Writers Association
Since 1975 Member of Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) - 30 years
1991 Member of the 1998 Commonwealth Games Bid Committee
1991 Chef-de-Mission to the Manila SEA Games
1993-1998 Director of SUKOM - 6 years
1996-2000 Vice President of OCM - 6 years
Other societies:
Since 1975 Honorary Secretary of KL Home Nursing Service Association -
30 years
1975-1987 Member of Rotary Club - 12 years

Friday, September 16, 2005

EXERCISE IN FUTILITY (16/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 16/09/2005

IT was a noble effort by Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM)
vice-president, Low Beng Choo, to keep the international two-way exchange
programme on youth management alive, but how much was benefited from the
exercise, is a big question mark.
The programme, with the visit of five sports leaders from Iowa this
week, funded by the Bureau of Culture and educational Affairs of the US
Department of State, was introduced in 2003, with Iowa Amateur Athletic
Union (Iowa AAU) and the OCM as principal partner organisations with the
assistance from various sports organisation and agencies.
The purpose was to share information on how youth sport are managed in
both Malaysia and the US, especially by NGO's, clubs, schools and local
authorities at grassroots level.
The seminar was to show how various bodies in youth sports can be
coordinated and integrated, so that the educational, behavioural and
economic benefits of grassroots participation in sports is maximised.
While the turnout for the seminar on Tuesday at the National Sports
Council was encouraging with about 60 people from various sports
associations, agencies, schools, universities, departments and sports
councils were present, the question that needs to be answered is whether
the right people were present.
While some sports associations like bowling, cricket, shooting,
bodybuilding, snooker and billiard, table-tennis, volleyball and
basketball were represented by their senior officials. They were also
many junior officials present, who had no say in their respective
Above all, policy-makers were not present and whatever was imparted by
the delegation, really had little bearing because nothing was going to
This was clear when some of the participants decided to skip the
remaining sessions after the first hour. And they were from the Education
The aim of the seminar was to study how the sports programme, as it
exists in the US, involves the whole community - schools, parents, clubs,
sports organisations, local councils, parks departments etc - and how
they fit into an overall programme.
It was also to gather ideas on how Malaysians can get the whole
community moving as efforts are being made to develop a national sports
The delegation, with the husband and wife combination of Teresa and
Neil Parmenter (President Greater Des Moines Sport Authority and
chairperson Iowa AAU, and past President Iowa AAU and currently national
chairman for AAU - baseball, respectively), Troy Dannen (executive
director, Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union), Steve Duncan (director
of athletics, Valley High School) and Vicki Comegys (director of sales,
Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau), took pain to explain
their system to the best of their ability.
They focussed on actual examples of club, school, local authorities and
community programmes and how they developed, implemented, managed and
But from the start, it was a lost battle, because their concept is
based on voluntarism, self funding, family commitment, support of local
councils, developing facilities and fund raising.
Malaysians generally want to be spoon-fed, want monetary rewards, have
no time for family recreation, do not have the support from local
councils, want hand-outs and are not prepared to go the extra-mile.
And above all, the basic facilities - field and arenas - are not in
place and that instantly cripples the growth of sports.
There were a lot of good ideas which surfaced from the seminar, but
whether it is applicable, is left to be seen.
The seriousness of the American community towards community sports and
grassroots development is underlined from the fact that less than two per
cent of these programmes succeed.
But they still continue with their programmes and continue to expand,
because it has far more benefits than just attaining excellence standards
as its benefits include shaping the lifestyles of their youth, a healthy
mind and body, a productive society and character building, to name a few.
In all fairness to Malaysians, there are some communities like the one
in Subang Jaya, who organise the Subang Jaya Community Youth Football
League, which is a purely community effort, who are a independent lot
with great vision.
The delegation were in Penang yesterday to conduct a similar
seminar/workshop hosted by the Penang State Sports Council for the sports
fraternity in Penang and neighbouring States and it is hoped they will
use the ideas presented.
Changing the Malaysian mind-set towards sports development is going to
be tough task, but the efforts of OCM in collaboration with NSC should be
applauded, because without an effort, nothing can be achieved.

Friday, September 9, 2005

UKRC SHOW THE WAY (09/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 09/09/2005

IT is good to know that volunteerism, camaraderie and community values
still exist in today's punishing rat race.
And it is even more heartening to note there are sports clubs who
practise these values and they have proven that they can manage their
activities better than some of the more established institutions.
Ulu Klang Recreation Club (UKRC) are one such prime example.
Last weekend, the club - which have stood test and time to keep the
field from being acquired in the name of development - organised their
5th International Soccer 9s.
The tournament saw 12 teams competing. Two sides were from Singapore,
of which one - Garden FC - won the inaugural title.
It was not just about some veterans still trying to play football, when
their legs would certainly have been begging otherwise.
It was the manner UKRC orga nised the tournament, which had an air of
togetherness, friendship and warmth as well the spirit of competition,
all in the name of sports.
The fact the club - under the able leadership of Andrew Gopal - managed
to raise RM60,000 from the tournament and even secured a coup (by getting
Astro to be the title sponsors) speaks volumes of the efforts that went
towards the organising aspect.
What made it more remarkable was UKRC only spent RM20,000 to organise
the event.
The club did not engage any PR firm to publicise their event, nor any
management company were hired to raise funds and run the tournament.
The members of the club and residents of Ulu Klang all had a hand in
ensuring the tournament's success.
It was a common sight during the tournament to see club officials in
their distinctive attire, scampering the premises carrying out their
tasks - from filling drink containers, setting out chairs and tables,
decorating the VIP tent and keeping the area spick and span, ensuring
everything looked its best for the guest teams.
Instead of holding the welcoming dinner for the teams at a fancy hotel,
UKRC just arranged the tables on their field with light supplied through
oil-lamps placed in strategic points.
Only about RM7,000 was spent on the dinner for about 300 guests,
including community residents who used the club facilities.
And the food was fit for royalty.
The highlight of the event was a 10-minute-long fireworks display,
which saw the guests giving a standing ovation to the club for a splendid
show, one they least expected of such an insignificant tournament.
And no, before anyone starts accusing the club of "burning their money"
on the fireworks, it did not cost the club a single sen as it came
courtesy of the residents. They only spent RM1,000 - a 50 per cent
discount - to purchase the fireworks from a dealer-friend.
The club even had a hi-tea party at the end of the tournament on
Sunday, again with tables laid out on the field for about 100 guests.
All - winners and losers, spectators, supporters and visitors - left
UKRC with a heavy heart as they knew they would be missing the club's
warmth and hospitality.
For a club who only collect a monthly membership fee of RM20 from those
who play soccer in order to cover field maintenance costs, they certainly
have a lot to show.
It is free for others who join UKRC but they have to pay minimal fees
to use their other facilities, including a community hall and a
basketball court.
Over the years, UKRC have done renovations at minimal cost. And most
times, the members buy equipment on their own for the renovations, hire
part-time workers and they themselves also help out in areas whenever and
wherever possible.
For instance, a recent addition to the club premises are the rock
garden terraces, which the members built for only RM4,000 instead of the
normal fee of RM10,000.
Among the other club projects included the upgrading of the changing
room and store-room, tiling of the hall, regular upkeep of the field,
installing lights for basketball courts, clearing up surrounding areas of
the field, renovating the caretaker's house.
Apart from soccer, the other activities offered by UKRC are basketball,
a junior soccer development programme, karaoke sessions, Indian classical
dancing, line dancing and yoga lessons as well as quarterly medical camps.
Rest assured that when the same 9s tournament is held next year, there
will be further improvements to the club facilities from the funds raised
this year.
What a small community club can do, many sports associations with
better means and bigger budgets have failed to equal, all because there
are many with personal agendas.
The fact the UKRC land, approved for recreational use in 1958 but yet
to be gazetted to be under the club's control even though they have done
so much, should see the matter resolved once and for all by the
authorities concerned, so that such a strong community presence is not
The spirit at UKRC is similar to the one I experienced at the Maxis-NPC
Merdeka Rally for Humanity, where 66 cars and 25 bikers turned up to
support the cause.
Though the participants did not expect anything in return, they gave
their time and support to bring cheer - through gifts and donations - to
some 100 orphans from five homes.
The bikers, especially, braved the heavy rain to not only complete the
seven-hour rally, but also risked their lives to act as marshals in
guiding the cars.
It is such spirit and UKRC's, which offer hope to the sporting culture
to strive again, and hopefully, this will ignite the spark to seek
excellence in the field of sports in the near future.
But for as long as many still practice politicking in the world of
sports, have personal agendas, undermine one another, back-bite, are
selfish and are always looking for opportunities to manipulate situations
for their own gains, sports will continue to suffer and be dragged
through mud and slime time and again.