Friday, November 25, 2005

SEA Games changes for the worse? (25/11/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 25/11/2005
Headline : SEA Games changes for the worse?

THE SEA Games have seen a lot of changes since I made my debut as a
sports journalist in the Singapore edition in 1983.
I am into my 12th consecutive Games in Manila, which start on Sunday,
and without a shadow of a doubt, changes that have taken place over the
last two decades include the burgeoning number of athletes.
The rising statistics also include the travelling party by virtue of
being members of the support services.
There are "other officials" joining as "observers", who usually exceed
the number of actual officials in the contingent.
Many of these "officials" come from the respective State Sports
Council, sports bodies, statutory bodies, supporters, family members and
The Games have over the years become more of a carnival rather than a
sporting event, an endeavour intended to unearth talent in the region, an
arena of competition for budding athletes and a stepping stone for
established ones to push themselves beyond their boundaries.
These days, the Games have grown so big that leisure activities and
traditional sports have joined the fraternity.
Gone are the days when the Games were held at one city of the host
nation. The new tradition dictates that the venues are scattered all over
the host nation, making the Games a nightmare not only in terms of
logistics but also media coverage.
While the International Olympic Council (IOC) take the trouble to
protect their extravaganza by making resolutions to limit the number of
sports, the SEA Games family seem to be adopting a different approach.
For the Philippines Games, a total of 41 sports will be competed with
441 gold medals at stake!
While Malaysia have been vocal about the increasing number of sports
and medals and the number of cities the sports are held in the Games
these days, they themselves are equally guilty.
In 2001 when Malaysia were the hosts, some events were held in Penang
and Johor. Vietnam followed suit two years later with Ho Chi Minh City
and Hanoi the two venues
Perhaps it's time the SEA Games Federation have a rethink on the actual
It is worth considering limiting the Games to the Under-23s or at
worst, the Under-25s, so that it will serve as a stepping stone for young
Indirectly, it will force the countries from this region to work harder
to discover and nurture new talent.
Filipina Elma Muros (left), who made her Games debut in 1983, is still
competing in her favourite event - long jump.
How that's going to help the development of sports in this region is
beyond me.
But having said that, the Games still have a special touch to them.
They came about because of the vision of one man, Luang Sukhum
Nagapradit, vice-president of the Olympic Committee of Thailand, who
initiated the South-East Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games in Bangkok in 1959.
Many stars have been unearthed since, including Datuk Nashatar Singh,
Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, the late Mohktar Dahari, Patricia Chan, C.
Kunalan, Jennifer Tin Lay, Rabuan Pit, Suchart Jaesuraparp, Purnomo,
Marina Chin, Nordin Jadi, Jimmy Crampton, Fandi Ahmad, Zainal Abidin
Hassan, Reawadee Watansin, Nurul Huda Abdullah and Lydia de Vega.
The Games, however, are not just about athletes and officials. The
Malaysian media jamboree are also looking forward to the challenge of
providing first hand news with a local slant to the reports.
By my side in Manila are my two colleagues - one a veteran in Mustapha
Kamaruddin, and the other a rookie, Ghaz Ramli.
While the Games will definitely provide a sharp learning curve for
Ghaz, Mustapha is making his "debut" at a late age!
He missed the boat in the earlier Games due to problems with his
travelling documents.

Friday, November 18, 2005

State FAs must change mindset (18/11/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 18/11/2005
Headline : State FAs must change mindset

MALAYSIAN soccer is not just about the M-League.
The sooner this sinks into the mindset of State FAs, the better the
chances Malaysian soccer has of rising to a respectable level.
Even FA of Malaysia (FAM) have made this admission, whereby they have
started to pay more emphasis to a more professional set-up in line with
the requirements of the world governing body, FIFA.
FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who is also the
Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, was the first to admit there should be more
focus on the development aspect, which can be achieved only with the
State FAs' support.
After last week's three-day FIFA.Com-Unity workshop, where experts in
their respective fields discussed relationship management, communication,
media and marketing, it was evident these areas were severely lacking in
Malaysian soccer.
This only prompted Tengku Abdullah into giving an undertaking that the
situation will change for the better.
For once, FAM have decided on a long-term goal instead of their normal
short-term targets, most of which have ended in disappointment.
The fact that Tengku Abdullah is dead-serious on establishing a road
map to lead the country to the World Cup by 2022 is a positive sign.
Acknowledging the massive task ahead, Tengku Abdullah has decided to
form a joint consultative committee to be chaired by the Deputy Prime
Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
However, neither FAM nor any committee alone can be responsible for the
resurrection of Malaysian soccer.
The game is not only dependent on the national body, but also State FAs
- the legs and arms of FAM.
For starters, it is about time State FA presidents, the majority of
them being Mentris Besar, Chief Ministers, governors or political
figures, should attend FAM Council meetings.
But most of the time, State FAs are represented by their
secretary-generals or nominated officials.
While some secretary-generals are hands-on in virtually running their
State FAs, many are just figure-heads with all decisions made by their
And this is where the problem lies because State FA heads are not
involved in implementing the decisions and visions of the national body.
It is about time these presidents take a more serious view of the game
in their respective States, than just attending M-League matches from
time to time, giving help in securing financial aid and attending several
State FA Council meetings in a year.
If they cannot find the time because of their hectic schedules, then
they should vacate their seat for someone who has the time and interest
in the game.
At the last Council meeting, three State FAs did not send
representatives, and of the 11 State FAs in attendance, none had their
presidents present. In addition, several independently-appointed members
and Exco members were also absent.
Another startling observation was that Datuk Anifah Aman, the football
team manager for the Manila SEA Games, has not been spending much time
with the players
And indications are the Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy
Minister will not be present in Bacolod City for Malaysia's opening match
on Monday as he has to attend to some urgent matters.
Soccer no longer holds amateurish or part-time status. Professionals
are required to run it at all levels in each association.
We need a chief executive, a financial director, marketing managers,
sponsorship managers, media manager and technical staff to head the
various departments of the game, while administration and a building they
can call their own to work from.
FIFA have clearly stated that an association these days cannot expect
to effectively meet the demands of modern football if their leading
positions are filled by volunteers.
Malaysia soccer is indeed blessed because the Asian Football
Confederation and one of FIFA's 12 Goal Development Offices are based in
Other countries are also gaining much from the offices here and it is a
pity they are not being made full use of by local bodies in boosting the
game's standards
It's time all soccer administrators realise the national game needs an
urgent injection of professionalism. And if these individuals do not
accept this fact and change their ways for the better soon, the visions
of Tengku Abdullah in seeing Malaysia in the World Cup before 2022 may
just remain a dream!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sponsorship: Over to you, FAM (The Sunday Mail)

EVERYONE can fly with AirAsia, but not everyone gets funding without the
proper marketing proposals.
This more or less summed up AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer, Datuk
Tony Fernandes' response last Friday to questions as to why they have not
sponsored Malaysian soccer.
Fernandes said last Friday he has had only verbal queries about AirAsia
sponsoring Malaysian football.
He was attending the marketing aspect of the Fifa Com-Unity Workshop, a
three-day event organised by the FA of Malaysia (FAM) which ended last
"Neither FAM nor any of the State FAs have formally forwarded a proposal
to us," said Fernandes.
"How can we sponsor anyone without any proposals?
"Of course, we are keen on associating ourselves with Malaysian soccer,
but we have to look at the proposals first."
Fernandes added funding these days is no longer a situation where the
sponsors just donate the money and do not get involved thereafter.
"Sponsorship these days is a business deal between parties, for the
mutual benefit of all concerned," he said.
Earlier this year, AirAsia signed a sponsorship deal with Manchester
The Red Devils, arguably the best-known football club in the world and
The fact that the English Premier League club, arguably the most well-
known in the world, wanted to tie up with Air Asia speaks volumes of how
professionally the airline operate their business and, despite being a
low-cost carrier, have had achieved international recognition.
The deal allows AirAsia, among other things, to share the perimeter
board advertising at Old Trafford, United's home ground, besides giving
the airline the right to use the club's name for promotional, advertising
and merchandising activities.
The tie-up, is believed to cost AirAsia about RM14 million
At the marketing workshop, Clare Kenny, Fifa marketing instructor in her
presentation on marketing and sponsorship, had said that entering into a
sponsorship is a commitment on both parties to achieve professionalism,
transparent and trusting partnership, open communication and client
"Sponsorship these days is a professional area and it has to be
approached in a formal manner," said Fernandes.
"We are open to proposals and will study all of them before making any
It is little wonder many State FAs are complaining about not securing
sponsorship. This is because they have been going about it the wrong way
without any clues on how to approach the issue in a professional manner.
It was sad the "right people" did not attend the workshop because it
would have helped Malaysian soccer be managed more professionally.
While there were a few State FAs who had their secretary-generals or
executive secretaries attending the workshop, others sent their committee
members or administration staff while some even got their coaches to be
Those required at the seminar were policy- and decision-makers in their
respective associations so that they could return and make immediate
changes for the better of Malaysian soccer.
The other areas discussed at the workshop were relationship management,
communication and media.
FAM, through their deputy-president, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah,
have made a firm commitment at the end to place Malaysian soccer on a
better platform by taking a more professional route in all aspects of the
But whether the arms and legs of the national body - the State FAs -
will also provide the same commitment and take the road is the million
ringgit question.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Global need for a strong foundation (11/11/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 11/11/2005
Headline : Global need for a strong foundation

THE lack of emphasis on physical education (PE) and sports in schools is
a global problem.
This was the shocking revelation at the International Conference on
"Sports and Education" in Bangkok last week, held in conjunction with
this year being declared by the United Nations as the International Year
of Sports and Physical Education.
Malaysian delegates to the Conference from the Ministries of Sports and
Education, Olympic Council of Malaysia, National Sports Council,
Malaysian Association for Physical Education, Sport Science and Fitness
and senior university lecturers were flabbergasted to learn it was a
global problem.
However, the problem prevalent in other countries should not be any
small comfort for Malaysians, as they must join forces to find a solution.
It is without doubt the Malaysian delegates could relate to the global
problems, such as lack of playing fields in schools, lack of equipment
and facilities, shortage of qualified/quality PE teachers and the limited
time allocation for PE in schools and lack of prominence given to sports
in general in schools.
In addition, there were other concerns like lack of parental
involvement, children not interested in some sports, the lack of
maintenance of facilities, time taken to repair or replace the wear and
tear of facilities and equipment.
Professor Ken Hardman (right), from University College Worcester,
England, said it is recognised worldwide there has been a decline in PE
provisions in the 1990s, which has exposed deficiencies at a time when
there are reported widespread increases in obesity and sedentary
lifestyle-related illnesses and associated rising healthcare costs.
Adolf Ogi, special adviser to the Secretary-General of the United
Nations on Sports for Development and Peace and the former President of
Switzerland, in his address at the conference, had said that "sports is
the best school of life".
As such, with sports playing such a vital role in shaping a nation, one
wonders why it is still not given the importance it is duly accorded.
The Malaysian Government, through the Ministries of Sports and
Education, have in-deed been placing importance on PE and sports.
But is enough being done, especially at schools level, which is the
grassroots and foundation of sports?
The Sports Ministry's involvement, however, only begins at a later
stage, although recently, there has been significant progress made with
the Sports Culture and Sports for All concepts.
It is obvious sports has not found a proper footing in schools, and the
Ministry of Education need to work hand in hand to ensure a two-prong
attack. Maybe the Health Ministry should also join in for a more serious
attempt at setting things right at the grassroots level.
Millions of ringgit can be spent on sports, but as long as the
foundation - PE and sports in schools - is weak, the end product is going
to be handicapped.
A Bangkok Agenda on Sports and Education was adopted at the end of the
three-day Conference and among the 12 points were:
* THE significance of physical education and sports be recognised;
* PHYSICAL education and sports should be recognised as integral parts
of quality education and should be made a national priority;
* IT should be mandatory for every school to provide students with at
least 120 minutes of curriculum education and sports time each week and,
in the longer term, 180 minutes.
* THE public, private and voluntary sectors should ensure their sports
facilities and human resources are accessible to the public;
* THE Conference invited all countries to establish a 10-year strategy,
starting next year, to enhance quality physical education and sports,
comprising two five-year medium term plans.
* THE process of identifying the national strategy and developing the
plans should include research, current knowledge, strategic planning with
clear outcomes, management and a monitoring evaluation system;
* THE national strategy should be implemented at the highest level in
the country; and
* PROFESSIONAL preparation of PE and sports teachers should be an
important topic of the national strategy.
The agenda is very relevant to Malaysia's hopes in seeing their
athletes soar to world-class level, and what better way than to start
from the grassroots.