Friday, July 29, 2005

DARK LURE OF CITY LIGHTS (29/07/05 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 29/07/2005

ACADEMIES, sports excellence centres, centralised training centres and
sports schools are all vital ingredients of sports development.
But more often than not sports authorities have these centres where it
is convenient to them - in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities - where
all the sporting facilities are readily available.
What is even worse is that athletes are made to leave their home State
to join these sporting centres.
Therein lies the problem where we lose many athletes from the various
Plucking these athletes from their natural environment to be placed in
training centres away from their family especially at a young age, has
seen many pack their bags and leave for home.
Then, there are states which send their athletes to Kuala Lumpur
instead of setting up their own centres.
Take for instance former national sprinter Miri-born Watson Nyambek,
who in 1995, as a 19-year-old, set a national record for the 100m
(10.46s), when he bettered the then 29 year-old record set by Dr Mani
Jegathesan (10.49s in 1969 at the Bangkok Asian Games).
He went on to clock 10.30s to better the national record in 1998 which
is still standing, but he never realised his true potential.
Though he trained under Canadian coach Daniel St Hiliare, Harun Rasheed
and later Mumtaz Jaafar, he failed to improve.
Maybe coming to Kuala Lumpur was a culture shock to him and the bright
lights of the city finally got the better of him.
Would Watson have been a better athlete if he had remained in Sarawak
and the top coaches sent to him?
It was no secret that at one stage he prematurely ended his career
because of his family's financial woes after the retirement of his
father, Nyambek Ngalang, from the Police Field Force.
His mother, Unam Kana pleaded with her son to return home as she missed
him and hoped he would work closer at home.
Sarawak are a powerhouse at national schools level having won the
overall title for three consecutive years from 2002 besides being
champions from 1993 to 1995 and 1997.
The Sarawak Sports Council (SSC) assist the Sarawak Schools Sports
Council (SSSC), but it all ends at the schools.
SSC have even provided a sprints coach from China - Ma Yan Juan - the
last two years and earlier had a pole vault coach from China.
Ting Siew Ngyong, the SSSC technical chairman for athletics, said that
it was a pity many of the schools athletes who have tremendous potential
are lost after they finish school.
"Many of these schools athletes are not prepared to uproot themselves
from Sarawak to go to Kuala Lumpur. Some, who joined the Sports School in
Bukit Jalil, returned after a few months," said Siew Ngyong.
"We have the State Sports Centre in Kuching where top schools athletes
are placed in SMK Tabuan Jaya and even here we have problems to bring
athletes from out lying districts to be based in Kuching."
Maybe it is time for sports associations to go to the athletes to
realise their true potential instead of uprooting them.
For instance, soccer players from Sabah, Terengganu and Kelantan have
good physique, which is important for the game now and there have been
quite a number of talented players emerging from these States.
Maybe setting up training centres in these States, will see more
players coming out of these States to represent the nation.
There is an athletics training centre in Cameron Highlands as many of
the top middle and long distance runners have come from here.
Upgrading the facilities and getting top coaches to be involved will
see more athletes emerge from here.
Sports schools, like the ones in Bukit Jalil and Bandar Penawar, have
provided their fair share of success stories, but there have been many
failures too.
There have been many cases of indiscipline, athletes packing their bags
and leaving, prima donnas emerging at a young age only to fail to realise
their true potential and many other incidents where students have been
sent back to their respective States.
Then we have the Bandar Penawar School in Johor which is nestled away
in a quiet corner.
It is bad enough they are away from the family, but to be billeted in a
quiet town could prove detrimental.
With the Government setting aside RM125 million for grassroots
development for the eight core sports, it is hoped that the money will be
directed to areas where the true potential lies for each individual
sports and not come up with general programmes just to show on record
development programmes have been organised.
FA of Malaysia have chosen the easy way out to pump their RM2.6 million
money into the existing Tunas Bola Sepak and Tunas Cemerlang centres, as
their previous sponsors no longer supports the programme.
Maybe, FAM should get the State FAs directly involved, instead of just
depending on the schools and Education Ministry to be the main players.
It is hoped that the other sports associations come up with more
effective programmes to nurture the young talent to be champions.

Friday, July 22, 2005

CLUBS TO THE FORE ( 22/07/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 22/07/2005

PRIVATE clubs known to stage activities exclusively for their members
have of late taken a bold step in helping in the development of sports in
the country.
One such institution is the Royal Selangor Club (RSC), the country's
oldest, starting in 1884 as a social meeting place for European planters
and civil servants, but now a truly Malaysian organisation with one of
the best soccer development programmes in place.
The programme, which started in February 2002, now has some 260 kids
training every Sunday evening at the RSC grounds in Bukit Kiara, under
the supervision of fully qualified coaches. In addition, the children
also take part in local and international tournaments from time to time.
Kavial Singh, RSC's soccer convener and head coach and Selangor's
former international, Walter Biggs, have been working diligently with
other coaches and staff on this systematic development programme,
catering for the six to 18 age group, which has since become the talk of
the town.
While the programme comprises 80 per cent of children of RSC members,
outsiders are also allowed to join, provided they are sponsored by a club
member while several poor children from various areas in Kuala Lumpur
have also been included.
Fees for the programme are minimal, unlike many similar programmes
mushrooming around the country as business ventures where their monthly
charge can be as high as RM400 per child!
But at RSC, members' children pay RM50 while it's RM60 for others.
RSC, also known as The Spotted Dog, are not the only private club in
the country who have a development programme for sports. There are others
like Penang Sports Club (soccer and tennis), PJ Club (cricket), Cobra
(rugby), Pacesetters Athletics Club Malaysia (athletics) and Ulu Klang
Recreation Club (soccer).
Most of these private clubs are well-off and do not have any financial
However, Pacesetters and UKRC are the smaller ones who have ongoing
programmes despite their limited resources.
Whatever the situation, these clubs should be lauded for their efforts,
and it is indeed sad that State and national sports associations do not
take this opportunity to work hand-in-hand with them to provide
assistance, especially on the technical aspect.
Since most of these sports bodies do not have proper development
programmes in place, they can use the clubs as their excellence centres.
Besides assisting them with technical expertise, they can also help
upgrade facilities at the clubs by installing floodlights, maintaining
the field and even adding new facilities, like artificial turfs.
Regular visits by the technical staff of the sports associations will
also help build a strong rapport and at the same time, keep tabs on the
children's progress in the programme.
It would be good if officials of the sports organisations can drop by
on a regular basis to inform parents that there is a future for their
children in sports. And also with the Government placing more emphasis on
sports these days, scholarships and places in higher-learning
institutions can be secured.
Many of the children who come from well-to-do families do not need the
assistance. And since these parents would want their sons and daughters
to study overseas, it will be lost talent for the nation.
But if sports associations work hard in convincing parents that there
is also a future in sports and encourage their children to reach the
highest level in their respective sports, there will be a pool of
athletes emerging from the clubs.
This is the least that sports associations can do when they have long
neglected their roles in grassroots-level development.
In tandem with this, there are national bodies like FA of Malaysia
announcing their plans to introduce a programme to train strikers!
This idea of a special coaching programme to mould goal-getters at
various age group levels may be novel and noble, but it has failed to
address the problem right in front of their doorsteps.
This is a case of not looking at the bigger picture because the reason
why there is a lack of Malaysian strikers is due to the competition rules
of the top league in the country.
The rules allows foreign players - a maximum of four - in the M-League
and every State and club have filled up their quotas. And it is not hard
to guess most of the imports are strikers.
When local strikers are not playing in the M-League, can Malaysia
expect to get them out of the blue for the national team or just hope
that training them at age-group levels but denying them competition
exposure, will see the emergence of top Malaysian strikers?
Just look at the Super and Premier Leagues, as well as the Premier Club
Championship, where most of the top scorers are foreigners.
Addressing the ills of Malaysian sports cannot be tackled in isolation,
but should be addressed as a whole - from grassroots to the highest
level. Everything must be in place with the right programmes -
infrastructure, technical expertise, continuity, professional approach,
administration and financial resources.
On the same topic of development, it was heartening to note the
Malaysian Junior Badminton Foundation (MJBF) will be set up so that there
will be more organised development programmes for the juniors.
At least, this is starting at grassroots levels with a long-term
vision, and the money spent will see returns.
Although the MJBF will initially be set up in Kuala Lumpur, it is also
important to note there are plans to extend the programme to other States
This is another issue be addressed in sports development - centralised
training centres - which will be discussed next week.

Friday, July 15, 2005

STILL A LONG WAY TO GO (15/07/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 15/07/2005

PATIENCE, persistence and perseverance are the key words in development.
But more often than not, many programmes have been abandoned midway
either because of lack of financial resources, interest or waning
patience to see it mature.
In fact, development programmes should be ongoing and as a nursery for
the various sports.
This is where the various sports associations should have programmes
all laid out for children from as young as eight years-old up to 18.
There is no association in the country with such an elaborate programme.
That's the reason many sports do not realise their true potential.
Talent only surface through their short term programmes for specific
targets or through the schools.
More often than not, sports associations do not get involved with
primary schools where budding talent should be nurtured.
There have been many cases where we put the cart before the horse in
trying to get results.
Take for instance when Malaysia hosted the the 1997 FIFA Youth World
When Malaysia won the rights in 1992, I was in Kuantan to cover a
Malaysia Cup match and that night I was having dinner with Pahang's
English coach Mike Brown.
As the news was flashed on television, Mike turned to me and asked me
if I could name the country's top XI Under-12 players.
I was stunned by his question as I did not have the answer.
Mike then explained Malaysia should have already had a Under-12
training squad before they went for the bid.
Mike, who took Pahang to the League and Malaysia Cup that year, left
for home after that because of ill health.
But what he said that night still rings in my ear because the national
team for the 1997 Youth World Cup was only assembled two years before the
The fact Hateem Souissi had to search the whole of Malaysia and had
trials for more than 3,000 players before he could assemble a squad, was
indeed a sorry state for Malaysian soccer.
Hateem should have had the players at his feet the moment he called for
training, if only all the State FAs had in place a proper development
programme where the players had already identified and had formal
There was a hue and cry that the FA of Malaysia had spent RM6 million
on the Youth World Cup squad over two years, but that was not the point.
In fact, more than RM6 million would have been spent in total by all
the State FAs if they had their programmes running.
What was done was a short term exercise with the hope to see some
While the team did not progress past the first round, Hateem's two-year
work certainly left behind some better players for the States and
national team.
Just imagine, if Hateem had worked with the players from a younger age.
In contrast, Michael Owen, who played for England and the rest of his
team-mates, came to Malaysian with about at least 10 years of proper
coaching from development programmes from their respective clubs.
In an interview with Owen in Johor Baru, where England played their
first round matches, he revealed he joined the Liverpool development
programme as an eight-year-old.
Was it a surprise then when the majority of the players from he
tournament went on to don national colours and are still top names in the
international soccer scene.
Among some of the top names who emerged from the championship besides
Owen were Theiry Henry, David Trezequet, Pablo Aimar, Nicolas Anelka,
Damien Duff, Danny Murphy and Jamie Carragher to name a few.
Many of our Malaysian 1997 Youth World Cup team players are still
playing in our Malaysian League, but their standards leave much to be
desired, while others have vanished.
It all boils down to proper development programmes and until such
machinery is in place, we have a long way to go.

Friday, July 8, 2005

DON'T FORGET GRASSROOTS (08/07/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 08/07/2005

WITH the Government setting aside RM125 million for grassroots
development, it is vital the money reaches the right places and people -
the administrators and coaches - to enable them to execute their
More often than not, grassroots development has been given low priority
in terms of providing the best coaches.
It is common belief that at the grassroots, it is sufficient to have a
coach with the lowest qualification.
But the truth is the best coaches must be placed at the grassroots or
at least in charge of each programme to ensure the best is delivered to
beginners and youngsters.
It is important the national associations implement programmes that
will deliver the goods as required.
At grassroots development, the most important factor is the coach must
be able to demonstrate what he wants.
These coaches must also have an eye to spot talent as many budding
athletes have been lost because they were not spotted and nurtured.
Patience is the name of the game at this stage as results will not be
seen overnight.
Local and foreign coaches who worked at the grassroots level in the
past have been successful although they hardly or never get a mention in
the Press.
Take for instance soccer in the 1980s.
The name Fred Binney may not ring a bell to many, but he was the Pahang
coach, taking over from fellow Englishman Frank Lord, who was an instant
success with Pahang in 1983, leading them to their first ever Malaysia
While Lord went on to the national ranks, Binney was recommended by
Lord and started work with Pahang.
The East Coast side reached their second consecutive Malaysia Cup final
in 1984 but went down to Selangor.
Binney, a former Brighton, Plymouth and Hereford player, decided to
scout for fresh talent and combed the Bentong, Mentakab, Temerloh, Raub
and Maran districts.
He spotted players like the late M. Ravindran, Abu Bakar, Hamid Ismail,
Wan Safaruddin, Azizan Idris, Borhanuddin Ismail and Fadhirul Annuar.
But Binney did not last long as Pahang lost the Malaysia Cup
quarter-finals with a "young squad".
He proved there was young talent and they must be nurtured.
Another coach is Yugoslav Marco Bilic, who was the Terengganu FA
director of development in 1992.
The former Johor, Perak and Malacca Semi-Pro League coach was signed
on by the late Datuk Mohamad Bakar Daud.
During his 1 1/2-year stint, he was actively travelling to eight
districts to not only spot talent, but also imparting the coaching
syllabus he had prepared for youths to be properly coached.
Bilic, who was involved in youth development work back home with
Sarajevo, a Division One club, before becoming their coach, certainly
left behind a legacy, as Terengganu, rose through the ranks in the coming
Among the players nurtured by Bilic were national striker Hairuddin
Omar, Rosdi Talib, Zulharisham Awang, Subri Sulong and Nafuzi Zain.
The Kuala Lumpur FA had a very good development programme in the early
1980s under S. Subramaniam and enjoyed the fruits towards the end of the
In athletics, I remember way back in 1980, when athletics coach Rennie
Martin (a teacher) involved in the Selangor Schools Camp Bakat, called me
early in the morning and told me to be at the Merdeka Stadium within 30
minutes because he believed a 15-year-old from Kuala Kubu Baru would
smashed the State record in the 1,500m.
And sure enough, minutes after I arrived on my Honda kapchai still
bleary-eyed, the athlete - B. Raj Kumar - went on to rewrite the record
with a time of 4:16.1s. The old mark of 4:17.7s was set by M. Raju in
Raj Kumar went on to become an Olympian.
Rennie had make sure that Raj Kumar, who was then coached by A.
Tripadi, was properly nurtured.
This is all part of grassroots development.
As such, coaches who are involved at the grassroots level should not be
treated as second class just because they are involved in an area which
is not glamorous and hardly hit the limelights ... because without them,
the elite coaches will not have anyone to train.

Friday, July 1, 2005

MAKING A MOCKERY OF THE SPORT (01/07/2005 -The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Edition :
Date : 01/07/2005
Page Number : 42

MALAYSIAN athletes more often than not fail to realise how lucky they are
compared to their overseas counterparts, including those in much more
developed nations.
And therein lies the problem, where athletes here take things for
granted, fail to appreciate the financial support from the Government and
their sports associations, while half-heartedly representing the country.
Then, there have also been cases of athletes who have been nurtured
from young, but only to call it quits at their whims and fancies when the
going got tough.
A majority of the foreign athletes who took part in the 1998 Kuala
Lumpur Commonwealth Games were envious of how lucky their local
counterparts were.
Not only do Malaysian athletes get paid for training by the best, in
particular foreign coaches, in addition to being sent for overseas stints
from time to time, they are even rewarded when they win honours.
Australian athletes had to pay for their passage and, in most cases,
even for their accommodation during the Commonwealth Games here. And so
were many others.
Of late, another group of athletes - the well-to-do who have the
financial backing of their parents - have surfaced and they are a
pampered lot.
These athletes do not know the word "sacrifice" because besides
Government aid, they also have their parents' financial support, where if
they are not bought cars or given lifts for training sessions, are
Some of these athletes are talented and have the potential to go far.
But because sport is just a pastime or status symbol to these athletes,
they are quick to call it quits the moment they are required to put in
some extra effort in training or show more discipline if they are to
Most of the time, these athletes use the excuse of further studies to
either take a break from the sport or call it quits.
Others also do the same when they cannot take the rigours and demands
of their coach's training sessions.
However, these athletes can still continue to compete in Open meets and
sometimes even overseas under their State banners.
It is about time these "spoilt athletes" stop making a mockery of the
sport because there are many deserving cases that should be in the
training programmes.
Providing the best training for deserving athletes will normally see
them overcoming odds in reaching greater heights. This is due to their
determination to succeed as it is a passport to a better life.
Talent is certainly not short here, but the process of selection does
not see the results corresponding to the money spent.
Maybe it is about time the parties concerned consider having those
athletes enrolled in programmes sign bonds to ensure they do not quit
midway and are required to serve for a specific time frame until results
are achieved.
This way, at least it can guarantee whatever money spent on the
development of sports has not gone to waste.
Gone are the days when Malaysian athletes competed for the passion of
the sport or the love and pride of the country.
In today's hi-tech age, unless everything is spelt out and rules are
set, and results expected, athletes are set to compete in a robot-like
manner. Chances are Malaysia will be short-changed.
It is sad that sports has come to this stage, but the fact is many
Malaysian athletes are not professional enough to be treated like adults
and produce their best to get results.