Friday, October 28, 2005

With the right mix comes success (28/10/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 28/10/2005
Headline : With the right mix comes success

MULTI-RACIAL Malaysia should have reached the highest levels in sports by
We are a unique nation because no where in the world can you find three
major races - Malays, Chinese and Indians - living harmoniously and
working to further develop the nation, which already made milestone
achievements in almost all fields.
We have also the ethnic groups from Sabah and Sarawak to further add
colour to the rich culture.
And with inter-marriages come off-springs with their own characters.
What I am driving at is with such a diversified culture, comes the
strong points of each race.
If only these qualities can be moulded to form a winning formula,
Malaysian sports will certainly be in much higher grounds.
The Chinese, Japanese, Indians or Koreans all have one race and the
qualities lie in each one of them.
But Malaysia has the best of so many worlds and if we can combine all
that, we can probably be world beaters!
Generally, the Malays are known for their artistry, the Chinese for
their analytical nature and the Indians for their industrious nature.
Combine the three characters in a team game and we will have the best
of three worlds.
And add the athletes from East Malaysians or the mixed parentage
athletes and we will have an "international" team.
This was been proven in the early years of Malaysian sports especially
in team sports which had a multi-racial composition.
Lately, however, the multi-racial characteristics in our sports has
been disappearing.
There are many reasons for this: the selection process is flawed, some
ethnic groups are putting less emphasis on sports and more on education
and other more rewarding pursuits, and not enough opportunities are given
to all the races.
I believe we should try and bring back the multi-racial spirit in our
sports teams.
With the different races living so harmoniously and understanding one
another's feelings and beliefs, I don't see why this spirit cannot be
transferred to our sports.
Observe the fans at any stadium where a Malaysian team is playing and
we'll see that no matter what ethnic background the players are from, the
fans of all races come together to cheer as Malaysians. Even when
Malaysia plays teams from their own ethnic background!
Just watch next week when Deepavali is celebrated when the Muslims are
still fasting, as Hari Raya is expected to fall two days later.
Open houses by the Hindu families have mostly been scheduled after the
break of fast. That, if you ask me, is tolerance and understanding.
Observe the young children of all races going to their friends' home to
celebrate the festivity and one wonders how this togetherness is diluted
when it comes to sports.
Perhaps, as we celebrate the festivals, we should all consider the
reasons why we are not there, yet, at the highest levels of sports. And
then join hands to give Malaysian sports an uplift and enjoy the "luxury"
we have in our multi-racial country.
On this note, I wish one and all in advance "DeepaRaya" greetings to
the sports fraternity of Malaysia.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Need for a strong set-up (21/10/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 21/10/2005
Headline : Need for a strong set-up

THE FA of Malaysia (FAM) may be open to proposals on improving the
quality of the game and strengthening the national team, but they must
draw up a policy that will point Malaysian soccer in the right direction.
Heeding proposals from the various quarters is good, but this has been
done in the past. And more often than not, like all seminars and
workshops held by various sports organisations, they bore little fruit.
FAM, as guardians of the game, should know better after all these years
- what it takes to get the game kicking to lift it to a decent level the
country can be proud of.
There have been numerous overseas study trips, with talks given by
experienced and foreign soccer administrators on how to raise the
standard of the game and, above all, to run it in a professional manner.
But again, all the notes and information seem to be stored away in FAM.
It does not take a rocket scientist to provide the answers for a
healthy soccer environment because like everything else, a well-planned
permanent infrastructure is all that is needed.
Sad to say that for the years of soccer behind most State FAs and the
game itself here having gone semi-pro in 1989 and professional since
1994, the set-up is still amateurish in many aspects.
Any football structure basically has six major components:
* THE policy makers/decision-makers - executives;
* ADMINISTRATIVE - daily functioning of the club and ensuring smooth
operations with professional staff;
* THE infrastructure - facilities (stadium, training grounds,
gymnasiumS, hydro-treatment facilities, medical room, recreation
facilities, administrative block, etc);
* TECHNICAL - the football/ game people/development;
* MEDICAL - doctors, physiotherapists; and
* ANCILLARY - support staff, vital necessities (often manual labour).
While most of the Malaysian organisations meet a number of components,
such as having a policy maker, administrative staff and ancillary, a
majority lacks the basic facility: the infrastructure.
Many State teams are known to train and play at the same venue.
Even the administrative staff of many State associations are
part-timers or personnel who do not have a good grasp of the game.
Almost all State associations do not have professional personnel to
manage the various aspects of administration - such as an accountant,
commercial/ marketing manager or a media director.
Then most of the teams hardly do any development work and the only work
they call "development" is managing the Under-18 (Youth Cup) and Under-20
(President's Cup) sides for a specific period.
Those countries, whose soccer is at world-class level, all have youth
teams of age groups from as young as under eight years old to Reserve
League Under-21 sides. And these teams train all-year round.
They also have full-time technical staff, specialised coaches, fitness
experts, equipment steward. scouts, full-time youth development officers
and managers.
But in Malaysia, these are non-existent as the State teams only seem to
be harping on the M-League.
Only when the foundation is laid for proper soccer development to take
place and a conducive environment for the game to grow can we expect not
only to see results, but also continuous growth as new talent will always
be unearthed.
This will ensure the competitiveness of the local league, as young
footballers would have been brought up in such a high-intensity
environment. And the situation will only improve as these footballers
make progress.
It is no secret the strength of national teams is drawn from how
established the domestic league and soccer structure in their respective
countries are.
And the sooner FAM take the bold move - that all State FAs have the
complete infrastructure to be involved in the game, failing which they
would not come under their jurisdiction - the faster Malaysian soccer can
Though there will be no overnight results, FAM can look forward to
something significant, say in eight to 10 years' time.
The truth always hurts and the longer we run away from it, the longer
Malaysian soccer is going to remain in the rut.
Cosmetic changes to Malaysian soccer are not going to help, and it is
time for FAM to take the first move of being cruel to be kind.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Why club sides failed in M-League (14/10/2005 - The Malay Malay)

Publication : MM
Date : 14/10/2005
Headline : Why club sides failed in M-League

IT is with a very heavy heart I have to admit that club-based soccer has
no place in the professional M-League.
Having managed the Kuala Lumpur Malay Mail FC (KLMMFC) - who were the
first club-based team from the Klang Valley to play in Premier Two - from
2000-2002, I was a firm believer that club-based soccer was an
alternative to State-based sides and at worse, thought clubs could
co-exist with State teams.
And my involvement with KLMMFC was not restricted to that short period,
but rather for 15 years - from the time the newspaper team made their
debut in the Kuala Lumpur FA Dunhill League in 1988.
As the team progressed from the local league to the national clubs
league - FAM Cup - and eventually emerge as FAM Cup runners-up in 1999 to
earn their place in the professional league in Premier Two, I honestly
believed there was a place for club sides who worked their way up to be
among the elite teams.
But as KLMMFC bowed out of Malaysian soccer at the end of 2003 after
playing in the FAM Cup - following their relegation to club soccer again
at the end of their third season in Premier Two - I was resigned to the
fact that club soccer was for the mega-ringgit teams only.
KLMMFC, who did not have the luxury of being financed by the newspaper,
had to source for funds from sponsors. This was not an easy task and even
when sponsors were secured, some did not fulfil their obligations.
KLMMFC did not harbour hopes of winning the Premier Two title, as their
goal was different: to be a club where fringe players who had failed to
land contracts with State teams and bigger clubs, had an opportunity to
still play in the "big league".
At the same time, they also wanted to give young budding players the
opportunity to play at a high level.
The newspaper team had many young players who left for better-paying
teams the following season, while some experienced ones used the team as
a "transit" before securing more lucrative contracts.
Some of the club's young players went on to don national colours - R.
Surendran (current) and Mohd Imran Ahmad (former). Several made it to the
national youth teams. This is an achievement which some State-based
teams may not be able to match.
Even coaches hired for the club were either those who did not have such
an opportunity earlier, or were pursuing their university studies or were
friends of the club who wanted to help out.
Although it was made clear to one and all from day one that the club
could not afford to pay hefty salaries and bonuses because they were not
rich, it still boiled down to ringgit and sen at the end of the day.
There were players and coaches who left the club with ill-feelings.
But for so long as KLMMFC existed solely for the passion for the game,
they played their role of a club - being part of the foundation of
soccer development in the country.
With Malacca Telekom, Negri Sembilan Cempaka and Johor FC among the
pioneer club sides to play in Premier Two in the late 90s, and who were
the "rich" teams, followed by sides such as Public Bank, MPPJ and MK
Land, I still felt there was hope for club-based soccer.
Cempaka were the first to opt out three years ago and now, two club
big-wigs - Public Bank and MK Land - have withdrawn after a couple of
years in the top flight.
This only underlines the fact that clubs do not have the financial
clout, which is one reason for their early withdrawal from the M-League.
Lack of fan support could be another reason why these clubs failed to
stay on in the M-League despite their efforts to boost crowd turnouts at
matches. Since Malaysian soccer is State-based traditionally, the income
from gate-collection was minimal.
The clubs' stint in the M-League also depended on who ran the clubs or
their financial backers.
More often than not, when there was a change of guard, so did the
clubs' policies.
Unlike State teams, it is rare to see club sides getting the support of
State Governments.
Clubs themselves have to take the blame because they go overboard with
their big budgets and at times, have been known to spend more than what
the State FAs do in a season.
Soon they could not sustain their big-spending ways and start
accumulating debts or cannot garner the same financial support for the
following season.
The FA of Malaysia too have to accept part of the blame for club-based
soccer failure, for imposing all sorts of conditions on the clubs. These
included a compulsory number of professionals (full working contract
players), minimum wages, and deposits for foreign players, which deprived
the clubs of much-needed management funds.
Lastly, State FAs from the start were against club-based soccer and
instead of assisting their club counterparts, they did everything
possible to "kill" them off.
But now it has been established that club soccer should only be
played at FAM Cup level, State FAs - instead of seeing this as a victory
over clubs - should take a hard look at themselves and realise they are
the sole saviors of Malaysian soccer and buck up to get their act
together to be truly professional in every sense of the word.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Reaping fruits of overseas stints (07/10/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 07/10/2005
Headline : Reaping fruits of overseas stints

THE country's top sportsmen and women need to leave their roost for
long-term overseas stints if they harbour hopes of excelling in their
respective sports.
For far too long, Malaysian athletes have been getting cosy and
comfortable at home, not prepared to venture out into the world where the
real competitions are for them to improve.
This has caused the athletes to remain contented with performances at
Asean or South-East Asian level, and it is no surprise that results are
not forthcoming when competing at Asian or world level.
However, those sports, whose athletes have been sent abroad to train
and compete, have more often than not become the creme de la creme in the
Overseas stints not only expose the athletes to the latest training
methods under top and experienced coaches, but also open their minds to
different cultures and traditions. But more importantly, they get
top-level competitions almost week in and week out.
And with the Cabinet Committee on Sports Development this week agreeing
to convert the Tun Razak Research Centre in Herdfordshire, United
Kingdom, into a High Performance Sports Centre for Malaysian athletes
abroad, an opportunity has been created for more top sporting individuals
to train overseas.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said he hoped to see
the centre operational by year-end, with the first batch of athletes sent
there to prepare for next year's Asian Games in Doha.
However, it is hoped that those selected to train there exploit the
golden opportunity to improve themselves, instead of complaining about
the cold weather, harsh training sessions and hectic schedules, or for
that matter, about the food.
In the past, we have had athletes, especially footballers, who have
overseas stints, but returned griping about the weather and food.
This has been one of the weaknesses of Malaysian athletes in general:
being too soft and pampered.
In contrast, athletes like hurdler Noraseela Mohd Khalid, squash
players Nicol David, Ong Beng Hee, Azlan Iskandar and Sharon Wee,
cyclists Josiah Ng, and Ng Yong Li, and snooker player Moh Keen Ho have
all stuck it out in countries such as Germany, Holland, the US, Spain and
In addition, they are also improving by the day, with several of them
achieving commendable results.
Another two - squash player Tricia Chuah and cyclist Uracca Leow - will
soon head for Holland and Switzerland. And indications are there probably
will be more.
To these athletes who have left the comfort of home, family, and
familiarity to strive for excellence in foreign lands, they should be
We need more such individuals who are prepared to make sacrifices and
possess the burning desire to achieve high standards and bring glory to
the nation.
However, the respective associations recommending their top athletes
for overseas stints must be thorough and judicious in their choices,
while the National Sports Council (NSC), who approve the names, must be
Especially now that Malaysia will have a training centre in England,
they should not be sending athletes overseas just for the sake of doing
At the same time, NSC must also look at deserving athletes who may have
been overlooked or neglected by their respective associations, and they
should be given the chance to achieve their goals.
One who springs to mind is walker Mohamed Shahrulhaizy Abdul Rahman, an
outstanding example of a dedicated, disciplined and diligent athlete, but
has not been given many opportunities to compete against the best.
The defending 20km SEA Games gold medallist had to virtually beg to
qualify for this year's Games in Manila.
As walk events are not very popular in the local athletics circle,
Shahrulhaizy did not have many opportunities to meet the Games qualifying
He finally did so at the Asian Track and Field Championships in
Incheon, South Korea, last month, where he finished sixth. And this only
materialised after he actually boarded the plane at the eleventh hour
following an appeal from his mentor and coach V. Subramaniam.
And the irony was if Shahrulhaizy had not gone to Incheon, he probably
would not have qualified for the SEA Games, because the national meet in
Penang last month did not have the 20 walk in its schedule!
Shahrulhaizy is one who deserves better for his dedication to the
sport, which includes training under Subramaniam even during Ramadhan,
where he is also fasting like other Muslims.
There may be many more like Shahrulhaizy who should be recognised and
duly rewarded. Otherwise, they may just fade away one day.