Friday, May 27, 2005

LURING BACK THE FANS (27/05/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 27/05/2005

MALAYSIANS' passion for sports is unquestionable.
However, the issue is raised over whether sports are worthy or
justifying of their support.
At Shah Alam Stadium last Sunday, the 80,000-odd fans who thronged the
venue to watch the fourth edition Sultan of Selangor's Cup, indeed proved
sports are still very much alive here.
Sports, soccer in particular, may not be at their best now, but that
Sunday, soccer fans turned up in full force hours before the first match
at 8.30pm between the Selangor veterans and their Singapore counterparts,
followed by the Selangor and Singapore League Selection game.
The roads leading to the stadium were jammed with buses, cars and
motorcycles. With the car parks full, vehicles were seen parked in every
nook and corner, while the fans were painted in the famous yellow-and-red
This festive atmosphere was a scene missing in Malaysian sports for
some time now.
If my memory serves me right, the last time Malaysians came to support
one team in droves was in 1989 for the SEA Games soccer final-cum-closing
ceremony at Merdeka Stadium, where the national side - coached by
Englishman Trevor Hartley - beat Singapore 3-1.
Even the rain that evening did not deter fans from cheering the
Malaysian team to victory.
But last Sunday, it was not only the Selangor fans who packed Shah Alam
Stadium to the brim, but also other Malaysians who were there to
reminisce about the old rivalry between Selangor and Singapore dating
back to the early 1900s and also to watch the stars of yesteryears who
have given them so many memorable moments.
And they were not disappointed as not only the veterans entertained
them, despite being much slower now, the regular match also saw Selangor
beat Singapore 3-1.
Though many may argue that more than 30,000 tickets were given free and
Indonesian fans also made up the number - as they came to cheer their
countrymen Elie Aiboy and Bambang Pamungkus - Malaysian sports have for a
long time not seen something like what transpired last Sunday.
Yes, there were about 90,000 at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil for
the Malaysia Cup final between Terengganu and Perak in 2001, but the
support then was divided.
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman, who was present for
Sunday's match, must have surely got goosebumps and left wondering when
she will see another packed stadium again, but this time cheering for a
Malaysian team.
But one thing is for sure, Malaysian fans will be there to lend their
support when they know a good thing is about to take place because they
are a passionate lot when it comes to giving their backing.
Malaysian fans have one too many times been faced with disappointment
after disppointment that they have become sceptical of Malaysian sports
in general.
But last Sunday provided a ray of hope the fans will be there if a
decent performance can be expected.
The publicity and promotions generated by the organisers, coupled with
visiting the districts to entice residents to attend the match by
providing transport, saw a turnout from all corners of Selangor.
Selangor coach Dollah Salleh said the crowd and atmosphere inspired his
team to rise to the occasion and hoped the fans would also be there for
their Premier League matches.
This actually works both ways.
While a full crowd can inspire the players to rise to the occasion, a
decent performance by the team week in and out will also see the fans
turning up in droves to support them.
The national team play Singapore in their annual clash on a
home-and-away basis next month, with the first leg in Singapore on June 4
and the return leg at Penang's City Stadium four days later.
Would it be asking to much for the fans to display the same spirit and
atmosphere on June 8, as in Shah Alam last Sunday, while the national
team can repay their support by producing a commendable performance?

Keeping stadia in tip-top condition ( 27/05/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 27/05/2005
Headline : Keeping stadia in tip-top condition

IT'S about time stadium boards in the country think seriously about
proper maintenance and getting the requisite funds approved.
Malaysia boast of some of the finest and international-standard
stadiums compared to many developed countries.
Billions of ringgit have been spent over the years building these
But more often than not, allocations are not made in the budget for
maintenance when constructing the stadium, be it the building itself,
pitch, track or arena.
And when the pomp and pageantry of the stadiums' launching is long and
gone, it's only a matter of time before the buildings show signs of wear
and tear.
Sometimes it is due to poor workmanship that the stadium becomes an
eyesore, but most of the time, it is because of poor management and bad
maintenance of the stadium.
There have been cases of soccer pitches in stadiums being trimmed with
shears or small lawn-mowers!
Thus, it is little wonder that pitches need to be returfed in a short
span, while elsewhere, roofs can come crashing down, cracks emerging,
turfs being torn and the stadiums becoming a health hazard rather than a
place for activities.
It is about time this situation is addressed urgently, because Malaysia
may have world-class stadiums which could soon be in deplorable
condition, making them an eyesore.

Friday, May 20, 2005

OCM STEP FORWARD (20/05/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 20/05/2005
Page Number : 42

IT is indeed sad the task of instilling a sporting culture among
Malaysians has fallen on the shoulders of the Olympic Council of Malaysia
At their 7th Annual Conference the theme was Towards a Sustainable
National Sports Culture and OCM have undertook the task of educating the
Establishing a sports culture in the country was first given prominence
by the Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman, in the wake of
poor performances of Malaysian athletes, especially after the 2004
Soon it became a national agenda with the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk
Seri Najib Razak, who is also the chairman of the Cabinet Committee of
Sports saying: "Sports have now become an important part of the national
agenda. Malaysians need to take sports seriously but lack a sports
culture and the proper enabling environment".
The conference was to get feedback from the public and sports
Although about 70 turned up for the conference last Saturday, it was
sad to note a majority of the sports policy makers were missing.
Their absence underlined one aspect of Malaysian sports culture - the
tidak apa attitude.
However, the presence of several members of the public, including
people like Andrew Gopal, the president of Ulu Kelang Recreation Club
(UKRC), a community-based club, gave hope there are still people out
there who take sports seriously and are passionate about it.
The conference itself saw a healthy exchange of ideas from the
participants with OCM president Tunku Imran Tuanku Jaafar concluding the
sporting fraternity have a duty to ensure the benefits of participation
of sports are made known both to the parents as well as the youths of
Towards this objective, the OCM are contemplating conducting road shows
throughout the nation to educate the public on the importance of
participation in sports as well as the benefits available to those who
excel in sports.
OCM are going to study the resolutions put forward by the delegates and
prepare the recommendations to be submitted to the Sports Ministry.
The paper presented by OCM deputy president, Datuk Dr M. Jega- thesan
on the vision for a sports culture that is sustainable gave many answers
and also provoked thoughts of the participants.
Questions like what sports structure can help development of a national
sports culture, how educational programmes and physical activities help
sports to be integrated into the cultural practices of the country were
put forward.
Whether parents (especially mothers) can be also be encouraged to play
an active role in the development of a national sports culture and what
positive role should they play were among the questions asked and
discussed at the conference.
While some answers were found, many were left to see a change in the
attitude of the public towards sports before a move forward can be made.
OCM have taken the step to lead and do their part.
But whether we are prepared to be work hard at the goal and be patient
for it to set in will be the million ringgit question.
For all we know, this sports culture campaign could well be over before
we know it, especially with sports associations not really keen.
Schools and sports associations are the pulse and beat of grassroots
development and if there is no concerted effort from this area, it is
going to take a long time before it takes off.
Thus, schools and sports associations should take a firm stand on
whether they are serious about this sports culture or are just going with
the flow.
Otherwise, it will be a waste of time and effort, just like the
conference by OCM.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

WISE USE OF WATCHDOG (13/05/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 13/05/2005

MEDIA coverage is vital to the development of any sports.
While some major sports get wide coverage, several 'minor' sports
hardly get any.
However, some minor sports such as squash and tenpin bowling have
finally found themselves in the mainstream media. This happened after
their associations went out of their way to keep the media posted on the
latest development and results of tournaments.
Billiards and snooker are also fighting for recognition and are slowly
getting space and airtime.
All three sports have one thing in common - their development
programmes - which are bearing results and their emphasis to further
their grassroots development.
But soccer, badminton, athletics and hockey have always enjoyed the
good patronage of the media.
So much so, they can afford to get cocky with the media.
When positive reports are written, sports reporters are a welcome sight.
On the contrary, a negativereport will see them shun the media and
various accusations made.
The duty of the media is not only to report the good but also the bad -
basically be a watchdog.
It helps if sports associations can work together with the media,
instead of using them when only it suits them.
It is sad that even at the schools level, the media have become
Then, we have officials who complain the media is bias towards certain
sports or provides coverage because of close association.
Sports can do without this sort of pettiness among officials. Rather, a
job well done in running the association will see a positive report by
the media!

Friday, May 6, 2005

An exercise in futility? (06/05/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 06/05/2005
Headline : An exercise in futility?

THE FA of Malaysia (FAM) have hogged the limelight more often for the
wrong than right reasons.
Time and again, they have been criticised for the national team's
performance or the way the league is run where changes have been
introduced on a regular basis.
Nevertheless, FAM had received good reviews as far as their
administration is concerned with the Sultan of Pahang at the helm since
But all that came to nought with the fiasco over the appointment of the
new secretary-general at their 42nd Congress last Sunday.
The post was vacant following the resignation of Datuk Dell Akbar Khan.
Much hue and cry was made by the State FAs over Dell's handling of the
administration so much so they hired PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to
study the FAM administration structure and recommend a fool-proof system,
in addition to interviewing candidates for the vacant post.
In the end, Datuk Seri Ibrahim Saad, chairman of the interview panel
who is also a FAM vice-president - the most sought-after official in the
sports fraternity - was named by the Sultan as the new general secretary.
This resulted in a public outcry, with Mailsport inundated by calls
from the public, eager to know what was happening in the national body
and demanding for answers.
One caller, Perumal, a veteran volunteer at an FAM-organised
tournament, suggested a public poll and was confident the majority of the
respondents would raise their objections against FAM's latest "antics".
But a poll is not going to change anything in FAM because it is the
State FAs who call the shots and going by the majority decision, they are
happy with the way things have turned out - with a member of their circle
named to the post.
No disrespect to Ibrahim or even questioning his capabilities of doing
the job, but the run-up to his appointment has been described as a
wayang kulit.
The Sultan, in naming Ibrahim, had said before the announcement: "I
have thought about the appointment for quite some time now, considering
it is an important post to be filled.
"The right candidate must be someone who not only understands football
but is also a good administrator who has good relations with everyone in
the fraternity.
"I have studied the applicants' resumes and even though they come with
good credentials, they lack the exposure which I feel is a vital
ingredient. As such, I believe that appointing Ibrahim is the best move
for FAM."
However, there needs to be more transparency from FAM.
To start with, how much were PWC paid for their services?
Moreover, with Rosli Hussein and Noor Kefli Sulong, of whom one was
tipped for the position, being named as assistant general secretaries,
more salaries will be paid.
And how much will Ibrahim and his two assistants be paid?
One hazards a guess whether the decision was made to pacify the State
FAs who might object to an "outsider" being the general secretary.
Without doubt, the Sultan, as FAM president, has the prerogative of
naming the general secretary as he needs someone whom he can trust and
work with.
And with this in mind, the Sultan should have just gone ahead by naming
the person, without going through the process of calling for applicants,
interviews, and shortlisting candidates.
It would have certainly saved FAM a lot of time, money and the bad