Friday, April 29, 2005

When State FAs call the shots ( 29/04/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 29/04/2005
Headline : When State FAs call the shots

IT'S going to be a laborious task charting the path of Malaysian soccer
for FA of Malaysia president, Sultan Ahmad Shah, on Sunday (which happens
to be Labour Day), when he presides over the association's annual general
For it is on this day the Sultan of Pahang is going to announce one of
the five shortlisted candidates from the 168 applicants for the general
secretary's post of the high-profile association.
The post, and that of the assistant general secretary's, fell vacant
when Datuk Dell Akbar Khan resigned as secretary in February. Assistant
secretary Datuk Yap Nyim Keong also decided to leave.
Another important agenda of the day expected to be discussed is the
proposal of the technical committee to have a full-time national team
managed by FAM.
More often than not, there have been talks that FAM are run solely by
the Sultan of Pahang, with the members - the affiliates - hardly having
much of a say.
FAM are always put under the microscope whenever the national team
fail. And whenever there are discussions on the standards of Malaysian
soccer, there will always be a call for a change of leadership.
In all fairness to Sultan Ahmad, it is simply amazing he has been so
patient in bearing the brunt of the criticisms, as it is the State FAs -
the affiliates - who are actually to be blamed for the declining
standards in Malaysian soccer.
And to say Sultan Ahmad calls the shots on all FAM matters is totally
untrue because he is a man who listens to all views before expressing his
opinions, and then going through the democratic process of putting them
to vote.
If the State FAs are said not to play a role in decisions made by FAM,
it is because they choose to be silent.
The Sultan has never bulldozed any decisions as he always calls for
views, seeks members' opinions and even takes into consideration those
expressed by the media or public.
Like everyone else, Sultan Ahmad certainly wants to see Malaysian
soccer on the rise again.
The problem is the State FAs have their own agendas and are the ones
responsible for the current poor state of the game.
They will voice opinions or even make collective decisions to their
Of course, the FAM Exco make the national body's major decisions, but
they still have to get the mandate from the Council, which are made up of
the affiliates' representatives.
And this is where the real power lies.
Take, for instance, the appointment of the new general secretary, when
the affiliates have made clear their stand by stating they are unhappy
the post is going to someone outside their "circle".
They have even suggested once the Sultan names the candidate, the
appointment should be for a "trial period", where they will decide
whether that person is deserving of the position.
Failing which (a possibility where the affiliates will make life
difficult for the new general secretary), they will then want to appoint
one from their own clique.
There was a case last year when the affiliates closed ranks to support
fellow members Kelantan FA and Armed Forces, who were both demoted to the
Premier Club championship (formerly known as FAM Cup) after finishing as
the last two teams in Premier Two, to remain where they were.
Only upon the insistence of a FAM independent member that rules must be
strictly adhered to and the support from the FAM deputy president, Tengku
Mahkota of Pahang, were the two teams relegated.
This was a rare occasion where the majority decision of affiliates was
vetoed - but for the right reason of upholding the very rules formulated
by the national body.
But more often than not, it is the State FAs who will have their way
when the democratic system is used merely because of their strength in
Of course, the State FAs too have done their part by vetoing some poor
decisions by the various sub-committees, when their proposals were
submitted to the Council for endorsement.
And one such decision is expected to be made on Sunday when the subject
of the national team being managed by FAM is brought up for discussion.
It is certainly going to hurt the State FAs as they will no longer have
control of the national players.
While the idea by the technical committee is noble, it is certainly not
the solution towards building a formidable national team.
The problem is the idea, as a whole, is not feasible because it is
replete with flaws.
Again, the State FAs are going to call the shots, probably this time in
the game's best interest.
But most of the time, the State FAs are the ones responsible for the
low standards of the game. And it is about time they must be bold enough
to face the music instead of hiding behind the Sultan of Pahang.
Any leader is only as strong as the foundation at the grassroots. And
in FAM's case, the affiliates - who are the grassroots - are not making
any contributions towards improving the game as most of them have always
put their own interest before the nation's.

Friday, April 22, 2005

HIRE SPORTS GRADUATES! (22/04/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 22/04/2005

NATIONAL and state sports associations and Sports Councils can do their
bit to reduce the number of jobless graduates.
In particular, graduates whose fields of expertise is related to sports.
The sports science degree course was introduced by University Malaya in
1995 and the first batch graduated in 1999.
Since then, an average of 120 graduates have graduated each year and
UiTM also offer the same course.
These sports science graduates, who major either in sports management,
psychology or coaching, might be a small number of the 80,000 jobless
But with sports being pushed to the forefront by the Government, one
would have thought these graduates would be in demand.
But sadly, they are jobless too.
Many of these graduates have resorted to becoming car salesmen, housing
and insurance agents, while some have tried their hand at business
selling sports T-shirts, trophies and equipment!
One wonders why the national, state sports associations and sports
councils have not made a beeline for them to enhance the efficiency of
their respective administration.
Many of the sports associations still depend on volunteers while many
others have sports officials who are not sure what is expected out of
No disrespect to the volunteers but sports has taken a different
dimension in recent years where professionalism is the key word and
sports is a business.
Sports these days must be managed like a business to ensure optimum
returns both in performance and financial returns.
Thus, sports science graduates, who specialise in sports management,
coaching and physiotherapy can be utilised.
Soccer, which has gone professional, could hire these graduates.
After all, as paid staff these graduates will have to perform or be
In soccer, areas like marketing, sponsorships, finance and publicity,
are still handled by staff who are not experts.
Separate departments for the these areas are non-existence in most FAs.
Sports organisations complain of lack of funds. Have they thought about
hiring sponsorship managers to look for funds?
Some administration of sports organisations could be run more
efficiently with sports management graduates.
Some officials in sports organisations still do not know how to use the
computer in this modern age.
Then, we have physiotherapists whoa are not qualified and in some cases
we still find the so called "physiotherapists" running onto the field
with a concoction of ginger and onion!
The problem is a majority of the sports organisations are very
protective of their respective association and would not want "outsiders"
to come in.
Take for example the FA of Malaysia, who are about to hire their
secretary-general, and State FAs have voiced their concern it will be
someone from outside their circle!
Hopefully, this mind set will change as the country heads towards a
professional approach.
Let's give the younger generation, equipped with the latest knowledge
in sports, a chance to chart a new level of achievement.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Sorry state of schools ( 15/04/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 15/04/2005
Headline : Sorry state of schools

WHAT has become of the annual athletics meet which was the pride and joy
of every school?
These days, more and more schools are just organising the meet as
another item in their calendars, keeping events to a minimum.
The main reasons given by schools for resorting to such actions is they
lack funds and they cannot be wasting too much time preparing for their
athletics meets.
Then of course, some schools have problems choosing a venue because of
the following reasons: they do not have a field, have one which is too
small to host an athletics meet, or lost part or the whole field in the
name of development.
But it is surprising to note that schools even in the Klang Valley,
where stadiums are in abundance, are having venue problems.
One premier institution in Kuala Lumpur, who had lost part of their
field to development, wanted to organise their meet in another school
with a track.
But they decided against it and were also not keen on having the meet
in their premises as their track only covered a distance of 250m.
Mind you, this was a school who not only produced State athletes, but
also national stars some time ago.
Today, a blind boy and a basketball player are their top athletes!
They could not even find a teacher who can coach athletes in schools
and are now seriously seeking assistance from their former students.
This is the sorry state of a school that used to produce top athletes
but are now in the dumps due to the neglect of basic facilities and lack
of coaches.
And in Penang, a school, with the approval of the State Education
Department, have allowed part of their field to be turned into a driving
And we are still hoping for athletes to surface from the grassroots!
At the KL inter-zone level, another interesting event has transpired,
with the athletics meet held in two venues and on different dates!
The field events started yesterday at the National Sports Council
training tracks, and the track competition will be held at Kuala Lumpur
Football Stadium in Bandar Tun Razak from Monday to Wednesday.
And the reason for splitting the two events: their bookings made last
November to organise the meet at National Stadium in Bukit Jalil had to
be cancelled in early February because the stadium board wanted to close
the premises to returf their pitch, which came under flak during the
Tiger Cup in December.
While sympathising with the organisers for the late cancellation, it
was surprising they could not field an alternative venue for both the
track and field events to be held at the same time.
The split in the meet will surely rob the events of the glamour, with
the athletes feeling alienated.
The Selayang Municipality Stadium was available, but the organisers
thought it was too far for the athletes from the four zones - Datuk
Keramat, Sentul, Pudu and Bangsar!
What about the Kampung Pandan Sports Complex? Probably too small and
not a "glamorous" venue.
And there are more than 10 stadiums in Bangi belonging to corporate
sectors, but again probably too far for the KL-based students.
But the Selangor Schools Sports Council, who have NINE districts
(including Sabak Bernam, which is about two hours away from the city),
saw their four-day meet being held at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Stadium in Bangi.
The other districts were Hulu Langat, Petaling, Hulu Selangor, Kuala
Selangor, Kuala Langat, Klang, Sepang and Gombak.
A total of 130 events (both track and field) for five age-groups
(Under-18, Under-15, Under-13 and Under-11 for both boys and girls)
featured 780 athletes and 325 officials, including technical staff from
Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) and Selangor AAA, making it a
successful event.
And the participants made it even more memorable by breaking 24 meet
records, including bettering one Asean schools and two Malaysian schools
It only goes to underline that with a proper environment, facilities
and well-organised meet, athletes will be motivated to perform.
Once again, it has been proven the concerned parties have to get their
act right at the grassroots level regardless of the sport, if they
harbour hopes of seeing schools serve as a nursery grooming the future of
Malaysian sports.

Friday, April 8, 2005

State bodies the extra `arms and legs' ( 08/04/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 08/04/2005
Headline : State bodies the extra `arms and legs'

STATE associations have to play a greater role in the development of
sports, if Malaysia are to produce champion athletes in the international
Though national sports associations also play a part in formulating
development programmes, providing expertise and funding to a certain
extent as well as keeping tabs on progress, it is the State bodies who are
their "arms and legs".
More often than not, State associations neglect their development
duties, counting on the schools to do the job for them.
The schools may be the first platform, but sports associations are
better equipped and have the resources to help them.
After all, it is these associations who have to take over the schools'
role when the athletes complete their studies.
While some sports bodies have good development plans laid out and work
closely with schools, a majority continue to focus on a select group of
sportsmen and women, who normally are State or national material by then.
This trend leaves much to be desired in the development of athletes,
because many young talents are either lost in the process or are
identified at a very late age, thus losing valuable years of grooming and
Take soccer, for instance. A majority of the State FAs concentrate on
their three or four teams in the Super and Premier League, or age-group
But hardly any earnest effort is directed at the development of the game
by providing free coaching clinics during weekends or school holidays.
But in all fairness, there are a few States, such as Johor, Pahang,
Perak, Kedah and Pahang, who hold camps or coaching clinics for children.
These clinics are conducted by qualified coaches, where the participants
may have to pay a nominal fee.
Then, there are private clubs who also conduct similar coaching clinics,
but charge slightly higher fees.
Of late, many soccer academies have been mushrooming in Malaysia, with
some even linking themselves to overseas clubs or even countries.
But these are business ventures and the fees normally range between
RM100 and RM400 a month for each child, with two training sessions a week.
There is obviously a demand for such places to flourish, but these
academies are attended by children whose parents are well-off.
And more often than not, the children who attend these academies are not
the cream of the crop, but who can afford to indulge in a sport they love
or are persuaded by their parents to do so.
What about those whose parents earn an average monthly salary of RM1,000
and have three or four children?
Where are these children going to go to learn their basics skills in any
sport, for the matter?
And with community programmes or clinics for the masses still lacking in
the country to provide for the children sporting needs, this is where
State associations can play a meaningful role.
These bodies can charge a monthly fee of RM2 to RM5, which can cover
administration costs, and they must pay the coaches' allowances to get the
best out of them.
The coaches, provided by State associations, should be qualified and
preferably former State or national players whom the young can look up to
and, more importantly, should be able to impart their skills to the
Huge sums of money have been given to the soccer State associations by
the FA of Malaysia (FAM) over the years, but it has not seen the returns
corresponding to the fund allocations because the money had not been spent
wisely or channeled to other areas.
With the Government now setting aside a whopping RM125 million for
development and mass sports, this gives the State associations more reason
to start grassroots programmes for the young.
State bodies have another reason to double their development efforts,
with the sudden termination of the F&N Tunas Bolasepak programme, started
four years ago with FAM and Malaysian Schools Sports Council (MSSM). This
is due to the withdrawal of the sponsors, who were pumping in more than
RM1 million.
It is sad the programme has stopped because it involved 683 centres
throughout the country with about 47,000 schoolchildren (between the ages
of seven and 12) and 1,500 coaches.
And the reason for F&N's pullout was because of the Ministry of
Education's directive to stop the sale of carbonated drinks, including
Isotonic, in schools. Many schools had requested the drink-vending
machines to be removed from their premises, a move that saw F&N
withdrawing their sponsorship.
However, there is still the Tunas Cemerlang programme for schools,
jointly organised by the National Sports Council, MSSM and FAM. Catering
for the 13 to 15 age-group, this programme involves 21 centres and 41
FAM also organise the First Touch programme, but this centres on a
weekly league for 24 youth teams from the Klang Valley, with a few from
the neighboring States.
But what is more important, is a place for children to go to during
weekends and school holidays to train and develop their skills, for free,
if possible.
Sometimes, having a big number of centres alone is not the answer
because each must have qualified and experienced coaches.
It is pointless just organising coaching courses for teachers to present
them with the preliminary certificates and getting them involved in the
programmes, when many of them might not have even kicked a ball or were
previously involved in sports activities.
But because these teachers are required to attend the courses to fill
the numbers created by the centres and extra allowance incentive, they
make up the big number of coaches.
There has always been a misconception that coaches with minimum
qualifications will suffice at grassroots level because they are dealing
with the young.
On the contrary, it is the best and experienced coaches who are much
needed at grassroots level, because they are the ones who will lay the
foundation as the young need to be taught the correct and proper methods
at an early stage.
It is what the sports-inclined pick up when young, which is what they
are going to apply in later years.
With that in mind, the Ministry of Education and sports associations
should utilise former sportsmen and women at grassroots level to ensure a
concrete foundation is laid at the beginning.
Consideration should also be given on rewarding these coaches every time
they produce State or national material to ensure there is a constant flow
of talent and make their efforts worthwhile.
Since there is big money being channeled into development, let us get
it right from the start, and not repeat the same old story of money being
used for the wrong reasons.

Friday, April 1, 2005

A New Approach Needed (01/04/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 01/04/2005
Headline : A new approach needed

FROM the look of things, dedicated teachers may no longer suffice for the
development of sports.
Professional coaches might be the answer if schools are to produce
caliber athletes.
This was the point raised by former Olympian sprinter Mej Jen (rtd)
Datuk Shahrudin Mohd Ali, who competed in the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Now 64, the former Deputy Chief of Air Force, spoke his mind at the
Olympian Night organised by the Malaysian Masters Athletics Association
(MMAA) last Saturday.
He was among the 24 of 41 athletes from eight Olympics - 1956 in
Melbourne to 1988 in Seoul - who attended the function, the first-ever
organised to pay tribute to these past greats.
Eight athletes could not be contacted, six are deceased and another
three - Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, Dilbagh Singh Kler and Junaidah Aman,
could not attend because of prior engagements.
Those present wanted to meet Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said,
who was scheduled to attend, but could not make it because of other
pressing matters.
Most of them had come to talk about the ailing sports condition and how
best to put it right.
Shahrudin expressed his views when he was asked to speak on behalf of
his fellow Olympians.
He started by saying Malaysia's goals had to be realistic.
"It is pointless to aim high when realistically, we do not stand a
chance," he said.
"After the 1960 Olympics, I quit because I did not know what hit me when
I competed as I was dwarfed in the race," said Shahrudin.
The point he drove home was it is impossible for us to compete against a
field which is not level.
"We Malaysians don't have the physique to match the world's top
"And with inter-marriage a taboo and genetic engineering non-existent
here, we are battling against the odds," he added.
Shahrudin went on to say things have worsened because grassroots
development is virtually zero.
"Schools were the foundation of sports those days. But these days, when
we have coaches in tudongs and sarongs, how do we expect to compete at the
Asian level, let alone the world level?" he asked.
"Gone are the days when we could depend on dedicated teachers to produce
athletes in the various sports.
"These days, we need professional coaches, who know the sports inside
out if we want to have a chance to see outstanding athletes emerge.
"We can't depend on teachers with basic courses in various sports to
churn out the champions of the future."
Shahrudin is sadden that while athletes of yesteryear are willing to
share their experience and knowledge, they are not given the opportunity
to do so.
A look around the room revealed only a handful are involved in coaching
or administration.
It is a sheer waste such valuable knowledge and experience is not being
There are close to 300 Olympians from 18 sports - athletics,
weightlifting, shooting, swimming, hockey, boxing, cycling, fencing,
badminton, soccer, table tennis, taekwondo, yachting, gymnastics,
canoeing, judo, wrestling and diving - from the 1956 Olympics to the 2000
Sydney Games.
Even if only half of them are involved at various levels of coaching and
administration, Malaysian sports would be in better shape.
Of the Olympians, hockey players are the most at 119 while athletes come
second with 47.
Admittedly, the Government are now focused on making sports a career in
an effort to lift its standard, but sadly, these past athletes, have been
Maybe it is not too late to engage the abler of these athletes to help
resuscitate Malaysian sports.
The fact is, the athletes who attended the dinner, came not for the
garlands, token medal, gift and dinner but because they are honoured to be
So, let's stop ignoring this wealth of experience in our very own
Let's use their knowledge instead of spending huge amounts on
FOOTNOTE: Teachers whom I identified as a dying breed in the school
system in my last column, called or e-mailed to express their thanks.
This only goes to underline teachers and coaches alike, could do with a
pat on the back once in a while.
Certainly, it is not money or fame that they are looking for, just
Many names might have been missed out and to them, a big thank-you and
please carry on with the good work.
Perhaps, it is time the relevant authorities - be it the Sports
Ministry, Education Ministry, National Sports Associations, Sports
Councils or even the private sector - made an effort to honour or reward
teachers, officials or even volunteers for playing their part in keeping
the sports culture alive.
Maybe an Olympian night for the 200 odd Olympians from the 18 sports is
in order, probably even to coincide with the National Sportsman and
Sportswoman Awards ceremony.