Saturday, June 25, 2005

GOVT MUST GET VALUE FOR THEIR MONEY (24/06/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 24/06/2005

THE sooner athletes, coaches and sports administrators come to terms with
the fact the Government really mean business and want to see achievements
in the international arena, the faster they can get their act going.
The Cabinet Committee for Sports, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, on March 31, approved a RM193 million budget
to improve sports and revive the sports culture.
And last Tuesday, Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi,
sent a message to the national hockey team bound for the World Junior Cup
in Rotterdam, expressing his wish to see them set an example for other
sports to follow in reviving Malaysia's glorious years.
While team officials and players took his advice as words of
encouragement, hidden in Abdullah's message was a subtle reminder that
the Government wanted to see results if they were going to spend millions
of ringgit on sports.
After all, the Prime Minister strongly believes in transparency and
obviously, he wants to to see results to justify the millions spent.
It is even more important because Malaysia have tasted success with
smaller amounts of money spent on sports when passion, pride and honour
were enough to get the desired results.
But these days, money is the all-important factor as it is not only
used to pay athletes, but also to provide top-class training by top
coaches, pay for excellent training facilities, and not to mention the
rewards that accompany success.
However, many of these athletes, coaches and administrators have yet to
accept he fact that sports is now like a business, and professionalism is
the order of the day.
And the Government's generous financial support only underlines the
fact they believe that while sports can build a positive image for the
country, it will also create a healthy living society and serve as a
revenue-earner in the long run.
The Government do not want to see their funds being ploughed into
sports and not getting anything in return, except for more
disappointments, bitterness and frustrations.
A success story is what the Government are looking at and the onus is
on the sports fraternity to make it a reality.
However, there are numerous problems to be sorted out among sports
associations in getting their act together.
There is infighting within several associations whose sports are among
the eight cores named by the Cabinet Committee - aquatics (swimming and
diving), athletics, badminton, bowling, football, gymnastics, hockey and
This is not the right start, and it is disheartening to note that
despite Government funding, associations still cannot unite their members
to work towards a common goal: to do Malaysia proud.
The Government are not only looking at elite sports, but also at
grassroots level. This only goes to show the Government's support is here
to stay as they are not looking at shortcuts to success, but seeking
long-term benefits.
Of the approved budget, RM125 million has been allocated to grassroots
development, another RM30 million for the athletes development programme
while RM38 million is set aside for the high-performance programme.
The allocations underline the Government's seriousness towards
developing sports, rather than just instant success.
But Malaysia need success stories from sports, champions who not only
can be sources of inspiration for the young generation, but also to
reinforce the message there is indeed a future in sports.
Implementation of programmes at grassroots level is of utmost
importance because if they are not in place nor managed properly,
everything may go haywire.
And with so much money readily available, there is a lurking danger
there will be misappropriation of funds.
After all, there is some truth to the saying - "money is the root of
all evils" - and even more so when there is too much!
The best coaches need to be placed at grassroots level to secure a
better future because whatever foundations laid will benefit their
charges later on.
It is obvious things have not been right for some time at the
grassroots and Malaysia are now paying the price.
However, the current batch of athletes have been given some quick
fixes, and it is their duty to give their best because they will be doing
their part to help regain the country's sporting glory.
Malaysia may not enjoy the kind of success they did in the past, and it
will take some time before they get anywhere near there.
But athletes now have an opportunity to set things right and in motion
- and they must do it for the love of the nation.
Nowadays, athletes do not make the sacrifices which would make them
appreciate the benefits because they are much more fortunate with funds,
facilities and opportunities all readily available.
It is about time these athletes consider how lucky they are compared to
many of their countrymen
The young hockey players in Holland can start the ball rolling and give
Malaysian sports the much-needed jump-start and, hopefully, they will not
let the country down.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

PLAGUED BY INCONSISTENCY (17/06/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 17/06/2005

IS Malaysian sports suffering from the inconsistency syndrome?
At the rate that yo-yo performances are being dished out by many sports
of late, one tends to believe disparity is fast becoming a Malaysian
sports culture.
Just when diehard fans thought Malaysian hockey has risen from the
dumps when the national side beat India in the recent Azlan Shah Cup
tournament, they were sighing once again when Malaysia lost their
subsequent matches to Korea and New Zealand.
And Malaysia reignited hopes once again by defeating Pakistan, but only
to lose to India in the play-off match.
Then, we had the Malaysian soccer team going down tamely to Singapore
by two goals in the first leg of the Causeway Challenge in the Lion City,
only to see them producing a more gritty and determined performance in
the return tie in Penang, but still losing 2-1.
This changed performance from the Malaysian footballers could be
attributed to team skipper, Muhamad Shukor Adan, who declared at a
pre-match Press conference that he and his team-mates would be putting in
120 per cent effort!
Shukor did not play in the return leg because of flu, but the team did
perform better.
But there is the niggling question of what transpired in the first leg.
Didn't the players give 100 per cent, let alone 120 per cent?
The last time I covered the Malaysian soccer team (although it was the
national Under-23 side then) was at the Vietnam SEA Games in December
I have not covered a single Super or Premier League match since the
2004 season, and I was really looking forward to the Causeway Challenge,
hoping to see some progress in the game, which had been on the slide for
a while now.
In Singapore, the national team were a letdown, as they were like a
bunch of schoolboys playing without any purpose at recess-time.
In Penang, the Malaysians played with more commitment and a more
organised game plan to to shut out the Singaporeans.
The Malaysians failed to convert the chances, and I was hardly
surprised because all the top scorers in the M-League are foreigners.
Fine, the Malaysian team did not have several strikers like Indra Putra
Mahayuddin, Akmal Rizal Rakhli, Liew Kit Kong and Khalid Jamlus, due to
various reasons, but it was no excuse for failing to get the goals, which
seemed as if they were offered on a silver platter.
Generally, the performance was not up to par, and losing to Singapore
twice in a week was really underlining the poor state Malaysian soccer is
What was really disappointing was that despite lacking flair and
skills, the Malaysians also did not have the basic ingredients required
for any sport: passion and charac- ter.
In the end, it was a foreigner, coach Bertalan Bisckei of Hungary, who
showed some passion, albeit in a strange way when he rushed out of the
technical box to push the Singapore player who had tackled Zainuddin
Ariffin in a dangerous manner.
What Bisckei did was wrong and was against the rule of the game and
sport and he has been punished.
But the fact remained this foreigner showed more pride, passion and
commitment to the game than any of his players that night.
After all, he did not have to rush into the field, as the player was
not a Hungarian.
But he rushed to protect his charge, and that speaks volumes of his
dedication to the team and his players.
If only only some of the Malaysians had played with the same kind of
passion and commitment, half the mission to beat Singapore would have
been achieved.
The players did not show character in their game nor in carrying
themselves on the pitch.
And it all boils down to the training and foundation provided by the
players' States and their clubs.
It was obvious these players lacked professionalism in many aspects of
the game. And it is not surprising to see teams in local leagues
emulating this trend where they would win matches convincingly one day
and then going down to minnows by incredulous scores.
But all is not lost for Malaysian soccer, at least.
There was much to celebrate for the country when the National Under-19
team won the Lion City Cup on June 10 in grand fashion by showing
tremendous character in coming back from a goal down.
But will these fine lads, under the tutelage of K. Rajagopal and
manager Datuk Jamal Nasir (two former internationals), slip into a
similar rut as their seniors once they return to their States or clubs?
Rajagopal and Jamal would certainly hope not because they see
tremendous potential in many of their charges.
These players do not have any airs about them, and they give their best
in every match.
They play their hearts out, enjoy each outing and the national flag on
their jerseys means everything to them.
There was no interference in Rajagopal's selection of players from the
Youth and President's Cups sides as well as Academy teams.
Players who attend training but are not up to the mark are replaced,
and there are no prima donnas in the team.
This team are preparing for the Asian Zone World Youth qualifiers at
year's end, and if they continue to keep their feet firmly on the ground
and their heads on their shoulders, they may just be heading in the right
But the team also have flaws, with the main one being the absence of a
clinical finisher.
There are no prizes for guessing why, when our country are flooded with
foreign strikers who become overnight stars.
With high salaries paid for local players and with the scoring job
falling upon the foreign legion, is there any reason for the locals to
work hard to improve or even produce consistent performances?
What happens at lower level will take place at national level, and
until we get our act sorted out at grassroots level, Malaysian sports
will continue to see performances at extreme ends.
But we have exceptions too.
Look what Lim Teong Kim has achieved in Germany and if our coaches and
players are driven by the same passion, Malaysian sports will definitely
move on to a different level.

Friday, June 10, 2005

WHAT'S THE PRICE OF SUCCESS? (10/06/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Edition :
Date : 10/06/2005

DOES success come with a price?
If the price is the dedication, determination, discipline, money spent,
time taken, the presence of committed athletes and officials, it is a
price worth paying.
But of late, sports success has come with some bad elements which
undermine the very success achieved.
Take for instance bowling - a sports not so long ago was only rated as
a parlour game - but has achieved world status and is currently backed by
the Government.
A few years back, there was a revolt by the players to get rid of then
national coach Sid Allen, but the strong stand by the Malaysian Tenpin
Bowling Congress (MTBC) nipped the problem at the bud.
Allen eventually left after a decade's contribution, but the message
was clearly put across to the players that they cannot play politics or
use the game for their own benefit.
But of late, several issues in the bowling fraternity, especially at
the grassroots level, do not augur well for the sports.
Thus it was disappointing to see controversies at the Selangor Games,
which ended last week, with bowling taking the limelight for the wrong
It started with the eligibility of bowlers from the nine districts
where the rules stated they were eligible based on which district they
were born in - a vague rule which could have been more specific like
where they stayed or went to school.
Bowling has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the success
of the national bowlers.
Thus, for competitions where at most six bowlers are selected, many
bowlers with potential to do well will be left out after the selection
This is an area which has to be looked into, where the bowlers can be
loaned to other teams so that they can compete to gain experience.
The height of the controversy in bowling at the Selangor Games started
the very first day when Siti Nur Shakila Mardyana Aminuddin, who hails
from Petaling Jaya but turned out for Sabak Bernam, won the girls singles
gold medal.
Petaling District protested, stating Siti failed to attend trials and
decided to don Sabak Bernam colours despite not being given permission to
represent another district.
Siti later claimed she had examinations and that is why she missed the
trials and since the Petaling District had already selected their team,
she decided to turn out for Sabak Bernam.
But as a young bowler and guided by parents, they must be aware there
are rules to be adhered.
Her claim that all she wanted to do was bowl, was not good enough.
But as Siti's siblings, Hafiz and Tiara, also turned out for Sabak
Bernam, suggests there is more than meets the eye.
To add to the mockery, the organisers decided to disqualify Siti for
the remaining events, but allowed her to keep the single's gold medal.
This is appalling when governors of the game, who are expected to
adhere to the rules laid down, compromise, it certainly sends a wrong
The organisers claimed they did not want to dishearten any of the young
bowlers, but at the expense of the rules?
Maybe Petaling District could have handled the situation differently by
releasing bowlers who wanted to bowl for another district.
Siti had also flouted the rules in the competition, when she bowled in
an attire that did not follow the rules.
We cannot have our young bowlers, no matter how good they are, have
their own way.
Is this a price we have to pay for early success?
But there were some face-saving factors in the wake of the controversy,
when the father of the second placed bowler in the girls' singles (Siti
Nur Harini), Zainal Hashim, sent an e-mail to the scribe.
Zainal, who works outstation, but keeps a close tab on his two
daughters (the other is Siti Nur Fairuz) through his wife, said: "I am
not much into who wins or loses, but more into the principle of the
"All I want is for my daughter to participate in an environment of true
spirit of sportsmanship and respecting all rules and regulations.
"As parents we should be teaching our sons and daughters to abide by
all rules and regulations set by the authorities."
While Zainal, who also spends a lot of money for his daughters'
involvement in the game, is only asking for fairplay, there are others
who are prepared to win at all cost, by throwing the rule book out the
window, play politics and personal agendas.
Speaking of personal agendas, another storm is brewing.
There have been speculations circulating this week that a vote of
no-confidence is expected to be passed against current president Datuk Dr
P. S. Nathan by several affiliates at the MTBC Council meeting this
Is this another personal agenda to gain power of a game which has grown
in popularity and has gained the strong backing of the Government?
It has been speculated newly elected president of Selangor Tenpin
Bowling Association, Datuk Mohd Aini Taib, the former Selangor soccer
supremo, has been tipped to take over the reigns with the support of
several new faces in the MTBC elected at the last BGM.
Whether this materialises is left to be seen, but it only goes to show
how suddenly a post which many were not interested in not so long ago,
has attracted attention because of the current status of the sports.
All the hard work put in by the current president is all forgotten by a
snap of the finger.
Even if they want Nathan out, to see a fresh face, there is always a
proper way of doing it.
Is this the price one pays for success?

Friday, June 3, 2005

RISING TO THE SURFACE AGAIN ( 03/06/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 03/06/2005

CULTURE in any society is a permanent entity as it is part of tradition,
a link to the past and a reference to serve as a guiding force to stay on
the right path.
Culture is often associated with race and religion, which only means it
has good values regardless of its background or origin.
Of late, another new culture - sports - has been much talked about, and
in Malaysia, it has become a national agenda.
The fact is sports culture in Malaysia is nothing new as it has been
part of our multi-ethnic society from an early stage.
Once, Malaysia were kingpins in soccer where they humiliated the
current powers in Asia - Japan and Korea. Malaysia also had athletes in
the Olympics, and we reigned supreme in badminton and were also a force
to reckon with in hockey.
For a small growing nation, these were indeed a big feat.
Thus, it is indeed ironic now there is talk about the need to instil a
sporting culture to bring back the values of sports, which have always
been part of every Malaysian.
But poor performances in the international sports arena, lack of
emphasis in sports in schools over the years, changing times in modern
society where education takes priority, scarcity of public fields, and
joining the rat race have seen sports in the country take a backseat of
However, while Malaysia are trying to revive the sporting culture
through the hiring of foreign speakers to extol its virtues and the vital
role it plays, several countries have acknowledged its part in moulding
societal values here.
Recently, Australian Alexander Paul Roper, who is a PhD candidate at
the School of Human Movement Studies at the University of Queensland,
contacted me, requesting for a discourse on Malaysian sports.
He is to arrive here soon and as a precursor, as a gesture of courtesy,
sent me his colloquium to explain his area of interest.
The 60-page document, a socio-political analysis piece, touched on the
Malaysian Government's policy and the process of nation-building.
However, much of his paper had to do with sports and nationhood in
Malaysia as well as sports and national integration .
Given that sports extends to broad sections of the population more than
perhaps any social activity and being able to transcend social,
educational, ethnic, religious, historical, political and language
barriers, Malaysia were portrayed as an example for others to follow.
Roper quoted the late Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, as saying in
1967 that sports not only helped build the nation's youth to be good
athletes and better Malaysians, but also helped in the "the task of
building a harmonious and unified nation".
And how true it is, because though flags, anthems and uniforms can all
serve these purposes, but sports - as a popular culture - cuts across
class, caste and ethnicity which make them multi-faceted.
That sports helps to consolidate nationalism and patriotism, makes it a
possible instrument of national unity and integration, provide a safety
value or outlet of emotional energy and reinforce national consciousness
and cultural nationalism. This only underlines why sports culture in
Malaysia has to be part and parcel of everyone's lives apart from just
attaining international honours.
A clear example was how the 1998 Commonwealth Games, hosted by
Malaysia, not only saw our athletes rise to the occasion for their
best-ever performance in the series, but how it also rallied all walks of
people together to support their sportsmen and sportswomen with the
Malaysia Boleh cheer.
The Games saw many facilities built which led to the overall
modernisation of the country.
Not to mention how the multi-sports festival saw international
attention focused on Malaysia, that till today the country, as the hosts,
are still the talking point.
But Malaysians cannot wait for the Commonwealth Games, SEA Games,
soccer or hockey finals to show their support for sports or be part of
the action.
Roper is not the only one who acknowledges Malaysia's close association
with sports, but the many authors he referred to in his paper, also
readily admit Malaysia as an example for other countries to follow.
Thus, Malaysians do not need constant reminders that sports must be
part of their lives, but instead sports should not remain "buried" in a
person but instead should be drawn out because they are a part of
Malaysian culture and tradition.
Do not bury something which has done so much good for the nation and
has been part of a character-building process that Malaysians should be
proud of.
Just eliminate the politics, personal agendas and selfishness when
dealing with sports and Malaysia will be back on the right track in no
time to regain past glories.
With so much money being pumped in by the Government, who acknowledged
sports is an important ingredient of the rakyat, Malaysia should be
moving forward on the path to excellence.
Just take a step back when things do not look right to see where
Malaysia have gone wrong to get back on track.
Sports, at its best, is linked to passion and it can do no wrong when
it brings out so many good values in an individual, instead of being
"buried" in him/her.