Friday, December 30, 2005

My New Year wishes (30/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 30/12/2005
Headline : My New Year wishes

AS we usher in the New Year one second after midnight on Sunday, there
are not one but 12 wishes - one for each month of the year - that I hope
will come true for the sake of sports in the country.
For far too long, we have been trying to revitalise sports, with the
hope of relishing their achievements, and thereby justifying the big sums
of money spent.
Of course, we have had our moments of success in squash, bowling,
badminton, wushu and recently, the SEA Games in the Philippines.
But there is much more to be achieved, especially in all the other
sports that are still struggling to make an impact.
And for that to happen, I believe these 12 wishes, or at least the
majority of them, have to be fulfilled.
Indeed, 2006 will be a busy year for sports where Malaysian athletes
will be involved in a number of major events, except the World Cup in
Germany in June.
These include the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, World Cup hockey,
Thomas Cup, World Badminton Championships, Men's World Bowling
Championship, World Squash Championships and Doha Asian Games.
If success is achieved in these competitions, all will be fine. If not,
there is going to be witch-hunting.
So, looking at sports in the country on a long-term and sustainable
perspective, it is best if sports associations, athletes and the public
try to make these wishes come true:
staff of the association, from the leader right down to the office boy,
are held accountable and work for the sport, and not their personal
agendas. Ensure professionals are hired for the respective jobs in the
set-up because in modern-day sports, leading positions cannot be filled
by volunteers.
2. HAVING A VISION: Set targets and realistic goals and always start
development at the grassroots level for natural progression. Conduct
checks and balances from time to time. Forget about short-term goals.
3. EMPHASISE SCHOOL SPORTS: This point is important because schools
form the foundation of any sport. The Education and Sports Ministries
have to work hand in hand, while the National Sports Associations and
State Sports Associations have to play their role in helping schools by
setting up bases there.
4. NURTURE THE PASSION: Be it an official, athlete or the public,
unless they embrace sports, we will be fooling ourselves to try and
achieve targets.
5. FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY: With millions of ringgit being spent by
the Government on sports, the funds given have to be accounted for to the
last sen, and proposals closely scrutinised before they are approved.
6. SELF-RELIANCE: Sports associations cannot depend on the Government
to fund their programmes forever. They have to start standing on their
own two feet, and also begin behaving like business organisations by
seeking sponsors for their own survival.
7. RESPONSIBILITY: Sports associations have a social and cultural
responsibility besides playing a part in education and national
WORLD: Unless sports associations are in tune with the international
scene, we are going to be left behind. This is especially so with sports
going increasingly hi-tech.
9. INTERNATIONAL EXPOSURE: Sports associations cannot remain in their
shells, but instead should meet international challenges and compete
against the best, if they want to close the growing gap in many sports
between Malaysia and their neighbours. Athletes should be exposed to the
highest levels of competition. It is not just about winning medals each
time we compete.
10. SPORTING FACILITIES: Sports associations should work closely with
the State Governments or town councils to ensure there are more playing
fields, gymnasiums, halls and courts throughout the country. Without
proper infrastructure and, more importantly, nor public access, sports is
not going to make any big leap in the future. Stop building ultra-modern
stadiums, which become white elephants or are not easily accessible to
the public.
11. LIMITED GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION: It is great the Government are
fully supportive of sports in the country and genuinely want to see
sports reach a higher level. But they have to be careful not to take over
the responsibilities of the sports associations because the latter also
have an equally important role to play. It would be better to teach the
sports associations to fish rather than supply them with the fishes.
12. MEDIA COVERAGE AND UNDERSTANDING: The media play a vital role in
the development of sports and it is important that reporting is
objective. There should be no cover-ups, biased reporting nor favours
granted. There will always be the good, the bad and the ugly and every
aspect should be reported to help sports in the country reach the peak.
These may be one too many wishes to be achieved in a year when we have
failed for so long. But there is nothing like taking a bold step to try
and achieve it for the sake of Malaysian sports, which has tremendous
potential that has never been fully realised because of all the
Have a Happy New Year and let's hope for a prosperous 2006 for
Malaysian sports.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Bumpy ride ahead for State FAs (23/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 23/12/2005
Headline : Bumpy ride ahead for State FAs

THIS is the season to be jolly - but not for sports associations who
haven't spent their money prudently.
One such body is the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).
Things do not look rosy next year due to the cut in sponsorship - which
has resulted in a drastic reduction in subsidy for State FAs.
In the last 20 years, the State FAs have been handsomely aided through
the centralised sponsorship secured by the national body.
The FAs were getting as much as RM1 million in annual grants, but the
standard of the game did not reflect it.
It was obvious the money was not well spent.
For this Christmas, if there is a wish I want from Santa, it would be
to rewind the clock 20 years and let Malaysian soccer start all over
The FAM have claimed they are transparent but it is obvious there are
many grey areas, especially when it comes to finance.
The National Sports Council or even the Sports Ministry need to step in
to ensure all is well in FAM, because the State FAs have more often than
not, worked to keep everything a secret.
In fact, it has come to a stage where FAM are sometimes afraid of their
own shadow.
There were speculations FAM have a paper loss of RM1 million through an
investment made by a fund manager.
FAM are keeping it close to their chest and the treasurer's report at
the last Council meeting was collected after the meeting as they didn't
want it to fall into the media's hands.
The State FAs can lift the standard of the game through development but
are more interested in the Super League, Malaysia Cup, League Cup and
FA Cup.
FAM have better put on the brakes and spend prudently, or they could
end up as paupers.
An example is the recent SEA Games in the Philippines where FAM paid
US$600 (RM2,220) for the players and officials' excess baggage.
It may be small change to FAM and perhaps they wanted to show their
appreciation to the bronze medal winning squad, but why should they pay
when the goods are personal belongings?
Recently, there was a hiccup over a television recording in Myanmar
where the Malaysian team played the return leg of the Asian Youth
Championship qualifier.
Due to some hitches and miscommunication, FAM were sent a hefty bill
for the recording.
While FAM rightly refused to pay the bill, the point is everyone seems
to take them for a ride because of their generosity.
FAM have to get their act together, put the State FAs in their places
and start acting professionally.
It is certainly not sweet pudding during this Holiday Season, but as I
wish all Christian readers a Merry Christmas, it is my hope for a better
and prosperous 2006 for soccer.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Shalin and Sarah get three-month ban

21/12/05- The Malay Mail
P._S._Nathan_1524.jpg MTBC (Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress) president Dr P.S. Nathan speaks to Mailsport's Tony Mariadass on allegations of misconduct during the Women's World Championship in Denmark. 
Appointed disciplinary board met to discuss reports by national coaches Chris Batson and Bill Rowe as well as team manager, Sidney Tung, on allegations of misconduct by bowlers Shalin Zulkifli and Sarah Yap during the Women's World Championship in Denmark.
Apparently, a decision was taken by the committee, which was eventually endorsed by the MTBC Council, but no news was forthcoming from the national association, because their constitution did not allow them to reveal disciplinary decisions to the media.
However, there has been speculation that Shalin and Sarah were banned for three months and it is learnt the Asian Bowling Federation (ABF) and their member association have been informed of it.
MTBC, on the other hand, have applied to the Sports Commissioner's Office for the constitution to be amended, which included incorporating the clause to reveal decision to the media.

MTBC president Datuk Dr P.S. Nathan was approached by Mailsport on the status of their constitution and Shalin and Sarah. This is what he has to say ...

Mailsport: Datuk, it has been more than a month since the appointed disciplinary board met, and were said to have taken a decision. But yet, there has been no statement from Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC)?
Dr. Nathan: We were not at liberty to reveal anything on the outcome of the proceedings because the constitution barred us from doing so.

Mailsport: But this is a sports organization and all sports associations in the country announce whatever decisions taken, be they disciplinary or council decisions to the media.
Dr. Nathan: Though we are aware of that, we were merely complying with the international sports bodies' rules. We have since amended the constitution which has been duly approved by the Sports Commissioner's Office.

Mailsport: Thus, MTBC can now finally reveal the decisions taken against Shalin Zulkifli and Sarah Yap?
Dr. Nathan: Yes, we can. The committee, after studying the case carefully and interviewing the bowlers concerned and the officials, decided they had violated their contract with the MTBC and National Sports Council (NSC) and thus have decided to ban them for three months, with effect from Nov 1.

Mailsport: What were the factors taken into consideration for the ban to be imposed?
Dr. Nathan: From our findings, it was clear the duo had violated the code of conduct where they had behaved in such a manner where they thought they were bigger than the sport and the association. Their refusal to heed the coaches' instructions was a clear violation of not adhering to the latter's judgments. If Shalin and Sarah were unhappy or disagreed with anything, they could have had discussed it with the coaches (Chris Batson and Bill Rowe). Besides, this is not the first time such an incident had happened and we had to put our foot down once and for all to ensure no prim donnas existed.

Mailsport: What is the consequence of the ban?
Dr. Nathan: The two have been dropped from the elite squad and lose all benefits, including their monthly allowance of RM2,500. They also cannot bowl in any MTBC-sanctioned tournaments. However, once the ban expires end of next month, the bowlers will be eligible to fight for a place in the squad where they will have to go through the selection process. If they do not meet the mark or their form drops, they will be replaced. And if they make it back into the squad, they have to sign contracts with MTBC and NSC again. The current contract is without doubt even more stringent.

Mailsport: Now that the matter has been cleared, how do MTBC see the whole episode?
Dr. Nathan: We are not here to punish anyone or make it difficult for others. But like in every other sport, discipline is a key factor and we will not compromise on it. No bowler can hold us to ransom. We are here to serve the sport, and all the bowlers must abide by the rules and procedures. We are among the eight core sports and naturally, we want everything to go smoothly. Not only are we concentrating on developing the sport further, we also want to continue producing results in the international arena. We hope all the bowlers realize this by continuing to work hard at the game. In the meantime, we will do our utmost to provide them with the best in terms of financial and technical assistance, coaching, equipment, facilities, international exposure, competitions and a sound administration.

Friday, December 16, 2005

World feats must be given their just dues (16/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 16/12/2005
Headline : World feats must be given their just dues

NICOL DAVID (right) deserves all the accolades and rewards she has been
showered with since winning the World Open title in Hong Kong earlier
this month to be ranked World No 1.
She worked hard for it, made sacrifices, took the bold step to leave
her home in Penang to be based in Holland for training, was pushed to the
limits by her coach Liz Irving and personal trainer, Alistair McCaw, and
beaten the world's best to be where she is today.
In short, there was no short-cut to her success.
But Nicol remains that modest young woman despite her being the world's
top-ranked player.
I had the opportunity to meet her this week and in our conversation,
she proved to be a very level-headed and modest person who knows what she
wants. And the success has certainly not changed her simple ways.
In fact, she said: "This victory, all these rewards, recognition and
attention have not sunk in yet.
"And I am sure when they have, they are not going to make me a
different person either as I know there is still a great deal for me to
learn and achieve in the game, as well as stay on top."
Indeed, Nicol has her feet firmly on the ground.
For she knows, with all the praises comes the pressure for the new
She will no longer be the one chasing the rankings, but others will be
out for her scalp.
But she is not thinking much about it because she admitted she was not
gunning for the title this year.
"I just wanted to keep my ranking and take it from there. When there
was an opportunity for me to go for the title, like everyone else, I went
for it. I did not know if I was ready for it, but I gave my best shot and
achieved it.
"Thus despite being the world's top-ranked player, I still have a lot
to learn. And I know there are also going to be ups and downs which I
will take in my stride as I try to be more consistent."
Wise words indeed, because no matter what she says, the same writers
who shower praises on her feats are also going to crucify her whenever
she loses.
The truth is Nicol needs to be given room to breathe and progress
Fine, she has won the world title, but she is only 22 and there is
still a lot for her to learn, as she has admitted.
During our conversation, Nicol proved she was more than capable of
standing on her own feet, especially in managing the media.
She knew what to say, how to tackle "pressure" questions and above all,
she could converse, unlike most of her peers who only give curt replies
or totally shun the press.
Basically, it is her overseas exposure and having to fend for herself
in a foreign land that has helped build her character.
But while Nicol is basking in her glory, I cannot but help think of
another world champion - bowler Esther Cheah.
The 19-year-old won the World Championships gold medal earlier this
year in Denmark and is eligible for the RM80,000 award for a world title.
I am not talking about the monetary rewards, but the recognition where
Nicol was presented with a Trophy of Appreciation from the Queen, Tuanku
Fauziah Tuanku Abdul Rashid, at the official opening of the inaugural
National Women's Games on Monday at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
Nicol will also be honoured by the Olympic Council of Malaysia at their
Olympian Awards tonight.
Should Esther also be accorded similar recognition?
She was one of the torch-bearers at Monday's opening ceremony, and one
wonders what might have been running through her mind when Nicol was
And tonight, Esther could be having those same thoughts again.
It is indeed rare to find Malaysian sportsmen and women attain
world-class status and when they do, because we have been starved of
success, we go overboard at times.
There is nothing wrong with that, but we must look at all achievements
alike and accord the same recognition to them. Otherwise, we can be
accused of being biased in our judgment.
Likewise, four gold medals - two by Ho Ro Bin and one each by Chai Fong
Ying and Pui Fook Chien - were won at the just-concluded World
Championships, and they too deserve the same recognition to make a
level-playing field for all and sundry.
And ironically, wushu, bowling and squash are non-Olympic sports.
While squash and bowling are fighting hard to get into the Olympics,
wushu - being a combat event - will probably have a harder time making a
case for it to be included.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Medallists must not rest on their laurels (09/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 09/12/2005
Headline : Medallists must not rest on their laurels

NOW that the dust has settled after the euphoria over Malaysia's 61-gold
medal haul in the 23rd Philippines SEA Games, which ended last Monday, it
is time to take a reality check.
The results must now be seen from a clearer perspective, instead of the
contingent going overboard with their best ever achievement in an "away"
SEA Games.
Instead, athletes must use these results to spur them on to better
performances in higher-level competitions.
Undoubtedly, a round of applause is in order here, for Sports Minister,
Datuk Azalina Othman Said, the National Sports Council (NSC), Olympic
Council of Malaysia (OCM), chef-de-mission Low Beng Choo and her two
deputies, supporting staff (both administration and logistics), medical
crew, officials, coaches and team managers to most important of all, the
athletes who won medals in the Games.
It was a job well done with tremendous teamwork and there was also a
fiery display of the Malaysia Boleh! and Harimau spirit.
But instead of still having our heads in the clouds, let us get our
feet back on the ground and start striving for better things.
Malaysians have a bad habit of resting on small laurels, and not
noticing the big picture.
Let us not forget the accomplishments are only at South-East Asian
level - which is the lowest level of international recognition.
It is about time we look at Asian level, and maybe to a certain extent,
the Commonwealth and ultimately, the Olympics and world honours.
Let us not forget that Nicol David is proof that Malaysians are capable
of winning world titles.
The badminton players and bowlers have also achieved that.
The 61-gold haul was no small feat, as they were from 441 at stake, as
compared to 444 in the Vietnam Games two years ago.
But there were 392 gold medals in the 2001 Kuala Lumpur Games, and only
233 in Brunei two years earlier. At the Jakarta Games in 1997, there were
448 gold medals.
Based on statistics over the years, the 61-gold haul is relatively a
good figure.
However, one must take into account that Indonesia, power-houses in the
SEA Games fared badly this time around, raking 49 golds and finishing
fifth behind Malaysia.
In Vietnam, Indonesia won 55 golds and in KL, 71.
It is quite obvious that some of the medals Indonesia were earlier
expected to win were eventually won by other countries.
The rise of Vietnam and the Philippines' exceptional performances also
saw a shift in the medals tally.
All things considered, Malaysia's haul deserves an ovation. And now, it
is time to move on.
Apart from overseas training, what these SEA Games medalists also need
are top-level competitions if they are to improve.
Most athletes, in their moments of triumph, have voiced the lack of
local competitions as blocking them from improving further.
Azalina, in an immediate response, had said she would be looking into
the problem and it is hoped it would be resolved soon because this is the
direction most of the other countries are heading.
For instance, the Philippines' overwhelming success has been attributed
to their overseas stints, which included training and competitions, and
they do not intend to stop with the SEA Games.
The Filipinos are looking at similar preparations for next year's Asian
Games in Doha.
There are plans to build a a major one-stop training centre in Subic
Bay, to ensure the SEA Games medalists continue their training.
Vietnam are no different and so are Thailand, whose athletes are sent
for training not only in Asia, but also the United States.
Without doubt, there is an urgent need for Malaysia's top athletes to
venture out of the country if they want to excel.
They have to leave the comfort zone, make sacrifices, work and train
hard, compete against the top athletes and, above all, adopt a
professional culture if they are to become the best.
For as long as our athletes remain cooped in their home nest, they are
not going to achieve much success.

Monday, December 5, 2005

So, this is my swansong (05/12/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM

Date : 05/12/2005

Headline : So, this is my swansong

IT is no longer possible for me to savour every single moment of covering
the biennial multi-sports festival called the SEA Games.
I came to this conclusion as the 23rd edition in the Philippines comes
to a close this evening in Manila. After enjoying the privilege of
covering 12 successive SEA Games including this one, Manila is no doubt
my swansong.
The Games, I believe, has grown into a monster, a far cry from my first
encounter with the Games in Singapore in 1983.
The Games is no longer held in one city and there was no Games Village
this time.
My mind harks back to 1991, when the Manila edition was more organised
while the venues were easily accessible. It is no longer possible for me
to enjoy the Games and cover the events first hand.
A good number of journalists have been reduced to camping in the Media
Centre, watching the events in the live feeds available at the Centre,
collecting results and then making phone calls to get their stories.
But as a firm believer of field reporting, I wanted to soak up the
atmosphere, and share the joys and the tears of an athlete to help me
produce a good story.
I have done my bit trying to be at various venues, including flying
from Manila to Bacolod City to cover the football matches.
In the past 11 Games, some of which went on for a full two weeks, I
lasted the pace. This time I feel I have spread myself thin. I have
bitten more than I can chew, so much so my nocturnal activities had been
Even a young first-timer like Ghaz Ramli is showing signs of fatigue,
preferring to stay in the room to regenerate himself instead of spending
a late night exploring Manila.
For me, my knees have given up on me. When I came down with a bad bout
of flu, sore throat, body aches and fatigue from Day 3 until this exact
moment when I'm toying with the keyboard, I know this must be my last
Certainly I am going to miss covering the Games, but like an athlete,
one has to call it quits when the going is good.
The SEA Games has been an integral part of my life, an aspect of
reporting which helped shape my career as a sports journalist.
I'm glad that I'm bidding the Games farewell in Manila. I will always
have fond memories of my time in the Philippines, thanks to their
pleasant inhabitants.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Same old tired story ruining the Games (02/12/2005)

Publication : MM
Date : 02/12/2005
Headline : Same old tired story ruining the Games

THE script gets eerily familiar as one tires from the common theme of
biased judging when host nations grab the lion's share of gold medals in
the SEA Games.
Thanks to the medal harvest, the norm is for the host country to emerge
as the overall champions in the medal tally.
More often than not, the perception is they garner bountiful medals
through biased judging, which has become a common topic in subjective
sports like combat sports, diving and now, dancesport.
It has been no different at the 23rd SEA Games in the Philippines.
The turn of events has even prompted the Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin
Shinawatra, to cry foul.
Short of naming the Philippines, he was quoted as being disappointed by
the controversy in the SEA Games and might raise the issue on the
sidelines of the Association of South-east Asian Nations summit in
Malaysia this month.
Earlier, the Vietnamese delegation were purported to have made similar
complaints through their Press reports but later claimed their comments
were misconstrued by Vietnam's chef-de-mission, Nguyen Hong Minh.
Vietnam, who hosted the Games for the first time two years ago, emerged
champions with a total of 156 gold medals while Malaysia scooped 111 gold
in KL 2001.
The Games has turned into a farce and the blame should rest on the SEA
Games Federation (SEAGF), who always say they want to restrict the Games
to Olympic events to keep them manageable.
But it never happens as politics rule the day with the hosts given the
free rein to include traditional sports which favour them.
There appears also some unwritten agreement among some combat sports,
or sports where a certain nation or only a few dominate, to ensure the
medals are equally distributed with the host given a slight edge.
It even occurred at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, where Malaysia were
denied several certain gold medals in the first few days of the taekwondo
events, but won a few after a Malaysian team official disclosed that day
was Malaysia's turn to pick up the medals.
The international judges, who are brought by the respective sports, are
not exactly free from affiliations as well.
These so called "neutral judges" are well looked after by the hosts and
naturally they would give something in return.
In all fairness it would be grossly unfair to say the hosts are doing
well just because they are given preferential treatment by the judges.
On Wednesday, Filipino long-distance runner Eduardo Buenavista, was
disqualified in the 5,000m for illegal manoeuvring on the home stretch
against Thai rival Boonthung Srising.
Perhaps, there is still honour in the Games, which is fast becoming a