Friday, August 26, 2005

BINDING ATHLETES TO THEIR WORD (26/05/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 26/08/2005

THERE is an old saying about journalism: "Once you take up the career,
time no longer belongs to you".
I believe this should also apply to national athletes because they are
representing the country and with honour and pride at stake, total
commitment is expected of them.
Gone are the days when sports was a part-time pursuit.
With sports having turned professional, and becoming more competitive,
technical and scientific, total discipline and dedication are among the
prerequisites to be among the elite.
In tandem with this, it is indeed timely the Ministry of Sports and
National Sports Council (NSC) are in the final stages of drawing up the
"athletes contract", to be signed by all national athletes on a yearly
basis, but subject to review during the said period.
The contract will be a tri-party deal among NSC, the respective
National Sports Association (NSA) and the athlete or parent/guardian if
he/she is below 18 years old.
An athletes' briefing session was held on Aug 13, with all available
elite athletes from the 140-odd squad for next year's Doha Asian Games
and Melbourne Commonwealth Games (AsiaComm) to discuss the terms and
conditions of the contract. Coaches and officials were also present.
A briefing with all NSA representatives was held on Aug 18 to discuss
the same subject.
The representatives were given a week to submit their feedback and
Included in the final signing of the contracts will be athletes from
the Special Project, which could see the number swell to more than 500.
With the Government spending millions of ringgit on athletes and
associations, to see sports reach new heights in the country, it is only
fair a firm obligation is obtained from the athletes and NSAs.
The "athletes contract" is said to be based on the 1998 Commonwealth
Games, Jaya '98 athletes contract.
Also incorporated will be elements of the Western Australian Institute
of Sport Athletes agreement and samples from other countries.
The new contract was drawn up in collaboration with the outgoing and
incoming Sports Advisory Panel (including Olympic Council of Malaysia
representatives), management division of NSC, International Preparation
Division of NSC and Special Project AsiaComm 2006.
The legal officer from the Ministry of Sports and a representative from
the Sports Commissioner's office also attended all the six meetings over
the last two months to draw up the draft and fine-tune the contract.
Essentially, the contract sets out "athletes' responsibilities, duties
and obligations" - which will form the basis of the Malaysian National
Athletes' Code of Conduct.
The responsibilities and obligations are in line with international
practices in elite sports (such as training expectations, discipline
before, during and after competitions, maintaining acceptable academic
standards, maintaining high levels of health and fitness, required
assistance in development of their sports and so on).
The other essential feature is said to be the "new package" offered by
All athletes will also receive an increase in allowances and benefits
due to them being shouldered with more responsibilities and duties.
The exact increase in allowances and benefits has yet to be finalised
pending approval from the NSC board.
The packages will be depend on performances and achievements (for
instance, elite athletes in AsiaComm 2006 will receive more than the
Gemilang 2006 or junior squad).
Therefore, incentives will spur athletes to maintain their positions
and constantly improve their performances.
The contracts will also ensure there are provisions for injuries and
insurance protection.
Basically, the contract works both ways.
While the contract ensures athletes give their best in terms of
training and performance, it will will also ensure they are not exploited
and are guaranteed their rights.
But there is bound to be resentment from athletes and NSAs because no
one likes to be tied down by contractual obligations.
However, that is the name of the game in excellence sports and, for
this matter, in any undertaking where someone else is financing the
The athletes have to come to terms with the fact that returns are
expected from them whenever money is spent on them.
If they are not prepared to toe the line, then it is best they opt out
and give up their places to more deserving athletes who are serious about
The bottomline is that athletes can forget about getting a free ride in
sports at the tax-payers' expense.
There has to be accountability, and the athletes have to be held
In fact, a clause should be added to the contract that if athletes want
to terminate their contracts, they must give at least a year's notice.
In the past, there have been many cases where athletes decided to quit
the moment they won medals and received monetary rewards.
NSC have to get the maximum from athletes after spending so much money
on them and a contract will ensure the athletes fulfil their obligations.
The lack of athletes' discipline has been a bone of contention from
time to time and with a contract, necessary action can be taken and maybe
even compel the athletes to repay the investment.
And speaking about discipline, the Sabah FA (SFA) must be commended for
taking a stern stand on the indiscipline of their five players who were
caught red-handed consuming alcohol in the wee hours of the morning when
they were supposed to depart for a crucial Malaysia Cup match.
Maybe it was because SFA disciplinary chairman Bakri Zinin is Deputy
State Police Commissioner 1, that the five were sacked and banned from
playing in the M-League for one year with immediate effect.
But Bakri was merely meting out the punishment to suit the offence
In fact, it is hoped other State FAs follow suit with similar cases
instead of closing an eye, which prevails in many States.
It is about time all sports associations take a tough stance with their
athletes and enforce strict discipline.
This is because for far too long, Malaysian athletes have been having
an easy life where they somewhat adopt a lackadaisical attitude towards
If Malaysian sports wants to see excellence, strict discipline has to
be the order of the day.

Friday, August 19, 2005

A FIRM HAND IS NEEDED! (19/08/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 19/08/2005

DISCIPLINE and respect for rules and authority, are key elements in
success stories in the sports arena.
Be it players, officials or fans, the above principles must be adhered
to if sports is to flourish and gain recognition.
But sadly, in Malaysian sports, the lack of it has reared its ugly head
Over the last few weeks, two incidents - one involving fans and the
other national bowlers - were clear examples.
In the first instance, involving fans, it happened twice - once in the
Premier League final between Negri Sembilan and Selangor at Paroi Stadium
last month and last week in the match between Perak and Selangor at Perak
In the match in Seremban, it was the Selangor fans when they showed
their displeasure at match officials and hurled bottles onto the track
and even let off fireworks at times.
After the match, the section where the Selangor fans were seated, saw
the entire track littered with plastic bottles and other items, whereas
the area where Negri fans were seated, was almost spotless.
Surprisingly, FA of Malaysia did not take any action against the
Selangor fans and at worse, against Negri for not providing enough
security to prevent the unpleasant scene.
While the police personnel present took swift actions and even arrested
a few fans, it was still an unpleasant sight and certainly not a safe
place for a family outing to witness a soccer match.
But things got even uglier in Ipoh, when Kuala Lumpur's assistant
referee Syed Azhar Syed Kamar was knocked out after being hit by a bottle
thrown by Perak fans.
Luckily, Syed Azhar did not suffer any serious injury and he continued
to officiate after recovering from the shock.
This questions the behaviour of Malaysian fans.
They certainly did not display the sporting spirit which the game
professes and certainly had no regard for authority or rules.
FAM better act swiftly and come down hard on the culprits before a more
serious incident occurs and maybe even lives lost.
The last thing Malaysians need now is sports hooliganism.
Then, we had the national bowlers returning from the Women's World
Championships in Aalborg with news that there was resentment against the
This despite history being created by Esther Cheah to win the first
ever individual gold medal in the singles.
When athletes have no discipline, respect for their coaches or
authority and even going to the extent of hold their respective bodies to
ransom, sports is heading for disaster.
When athletes start thinking that they are prima donnas and feel they
are bigger than the sports, then all hell will break loose.
Malaysian athletes are a pampered lot, who will cry foul at a slight
increase in intensity in training, being disciplined or having to make
changes with time.
They are not prepared to make sacrifices because a majority of them do
not know what is hardship is all about.
Malaysian athletes are generally spoon-fed, given the best training
facilities, well looked after and rewarded handsomely, but when it comes
to end results, it does not equate.
As long as this comfort zone is misused, we are going to face
Until we have athletes, officials and fans who adhere to strict
disciplines in sports, no amount of money, ultra modern facilities, top
class coaches and whatever vision is professed will work.
But is there a solution?
It all boils down to how badly Malaysians want to be successful in
their respective fields and whether they are disciplined enough to make
the sacrifices needed.
It is going to be a long road ahead, but one must have the courage and
determination to take the path, if they dream of reaching the top.
Otherwise, we will only be kidding ourselves.

Friday, August 12, 2005


Publication : MM
Date : 12/08/2005

IT does not take much to start a development programme by the various
sports associations but the apathetic attitude of most is hindering the
progress of sports in the country.
All it takes is for sports associations to conduct weekend coaching
clinics and organise tournaments from time to time.
At worst, sports associations could have organise a league for the
various age-groups stretching for at least six to seven months.
Sports in schools is competed on periodical basis, where 23 sports are
divided into the three school terms, thus only giving each sports about
four months of activities for selected schools who reach the highest
Otherwise, everything is over within a month or two.
Under the circumstances, it is little wonder why athletes lack proper
foundation and less of them come through.
But a league for the various sports at State level would at least
ensure schools have a year-round training and athletes get more exposure.
However, in all fairness to sports associations, it is not easy to
reach out to schools because of several technicalities.
Sports associations do not have direct access to schools and have to go
through the respective State Education Departments and more often than
not, efforts to get schools had not filtered down all the way.
Maybe the Education Ministry can ensure minimum bureaucracy in the name
of sports development.
But still, it is no excuse for some sports associations to sit back
while others have shown that with proper planning and hard work, are
doing well at both the junior and senior levels.
In contrast, it is heartening to see private clubs doing much more than
sports associations in sports promotion and development.
While the Combined Old Boys Rugby Association (Cobra) were featured in
this column last week, the Royal Selangor Club (RSC) held a carnival last
weekend to showcase their RSC International Under-12 Soccer 7s.
RSC, who were also featured in this column earlier, are conducting a
soccer programme for more than 200 children every Sunday which also
involved their parents.
At the carnival, the children not only showed how much fun they had,
but also talent.
Even Asian Football Confederation (AFC) secretary-general Datuk Peter
Velappan, who was at the two-day carnival, was impressed and could only
hope that other sports associations emulate the good work of RSC.
"This is what development is all about. It was great to see both local
and foreign teams competing. It was truly an international affair," said
Also present was Asean Football Confederation secretary-general Datuk
Paul Mony Samuel.
Sadly, although a FA of Malaysia team competed, no senior officials
from the national soccer body attended.
A total of 16 teams, including those from Australia, South Korea,
Singapore, Japan, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Pahang and Negri Sembilan,
"This is all about kids and their parents. This is where development
starts," said Peter.
"It was a pleasure to see parents involved and this will only lead to
progression in the game and we will see a pool of new players emerging
One area Peter could not help noticing was the multi-racial composition
of players.
"Soccer is a school of life, just like school is an institution for
education," he said.
"The children here will learn just more than soccer and it will form
their character for the world outside. It goes to all sports and if we
start young, we will certainly have a much more sporting, healthier and
well balanced and matured society.
"What RSC are doing is correct. Start from the grassroots and move up
through the pyramid system.
"AFC have the same vision in wanting to raise the standards of the game
in Asia and believe that Asian countries, with a population of 3.7
billion, have the potential to produce world-class footballers and
Malaysia are no exception."
Peter said State and national sports associations have to work hand in
hand with schools and clubs.
Development is all about starting young where children between six and
11 are geared towards fun games, 11-13 being the foundation and basic
skills years, 14-18 being the formative and specialisation years and 18
and above being the start of their sporting career.
Until sports associations take development seriously, sports in
Malaysia will continue to progress at a hazy level, despite millions of
ringgit being allocated to sports by the Government and not to mention
the millions generated through sponsorships.

Friday, August 5, 2005

SPORTS MUST BE LED BY SPORTSMEN! (05/08/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 05/08/2005

MALAYSIAN sports could be better if sports associations are led by
leaders with solid sports background.
This was the conclusion a group of sports officials, parents and sports
lovers came to recently, while watching young soccer enthusiasts attend a
development programme at the Royal Selangor Club.
The million ringgit question on the ills of Malaysian sports cropped up
when Datuk R. Yogeswaran, a former international hockey player and
Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) coaching chairman, raised it.
"Why is it that only in sports we have everyone - from politicians to
royalties - heading sports associations while in other fields, from law
to medical, teaching to business, we have specially trained personnel in
"Won't it be better if former athletes were to be the leaders because
they not only understand the mechanics of sports better, but also have a
good knowledge of the sports and whatever decision taken will be in the
best interest of sports?"
MHF vice-president Dr S.S. Cheema, parents and other sports officials
and sport lovers, who were present, could not agree more with Yogeswaran.
At present, only a handful of national sports associations are led by
former athletes.
Among them are the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC)who are
headed by Datuk P.S. Nathan and the Malaysian Cricket Association by Tan
Sri Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar.
The Malaysian Rugby Union (MRU) had Abdul Jalil Borhuddin, a former
national player at the helm, but only for a term before he lost his seat.
Jalil was MRU secretary for 10 years and vice-president for two years.
He is also the president of the Negri Sembilan Rugby Union and founder of
the 21-year-old NS Wanderers rugby club.
The club not only supply the bulk of the national players, but also
conduct development programmes.
They have been organising the Power Royal Sevens since 1999.
Another club helmed by a former rugby player is Cobra or the Combined
Old Boys Rugby Association.
Datuk Krishnan Tan - who used to run Jalil ragged and vice-versa in the
1970s - has been the president of Cobra for the last 10 years.
He is responsible for turning the club into a model for others to
And mind you, Cobra are a private club and they easily put many of our
national associations, who have no development programmes and surviving
on hand-outs, to shame.
Krishnan, who grew up with the club, is indebted to them for taking
care of him when he was young and is giving back to the game what it has
given him.
Krishnan, the group managing director of IJM Corporation, embarked on a
programme which many associations can only dream of, by building a sports
The clubhouse is built on a piece of land which pioneer and life member
Datuk Aziz Ismail, one of the best scrum-halves the nation produced,
assisted to acquire in the 1970s when he was attached to the Petaling
Jaya Land Office.
The complex boasts a gym, squash and badminton courts, training rooms,
dormitories and function rooms.
It was Aziz and a few pioneer members who formed the club in 1967,
decided that they needed a clubhouse at their Utara training ground.
They built a simple one in the early 1980s.
The following decade, another rugby player and then president, Datuk
Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas, together with Krishnan, who was then the
vice-president, started the ball rolling for a proper sports complex.
IJM needed training and sporting facilities and Krishnan got Cobra
involved in the joint project and the complex was completed in 1995.
In 2002, a fund-raising dinner was held to renovate the clubhouse into
what it is today.
Another former rugby player, Home Minister Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid, too
played a major role in the fund-raising campaign.
Besides promoting the sport, Cobra are also into business networking to
secure more sponsorships for the Cobra 10s tournament and the on-going
School Rugby Development Programme
The personalities mentioned have given rugby a new lease of life and
showed that with the right people at the helm, sports in the country can
Maybe it is time former athletes who have benefited from their
respective sports and now hold respectable positions, come forward to
help Malaysian sports.
The politicians and royalties can still be involved, but probably as
patrons and using their clout to secure or raise funds.