Sunday, December 31, 2006

Doha debate (December 2006 - Malaysian Today)

Doha debate

THE debate on whether the Malaysian contingent to the 15th Doha Asian Games which ended last week, had passed or failed in their mission is still ongoing.

While general consensus is that the contingent have done better than all previous Games and thus have done well, there are still some media apprehension is that Malaysia fell one short of a gold medal from the performance prospect analysis (PPA) given by the National Sports Council, thus it was a failure.

There are some critics who say that NSC had under-targeted, although the media themselves have not come out in the open to say what was a reasonable target was and state their stand of how many gold medals was expected of the contingent.

Agreed, that the contingent fell one short of the targeted nine gold medals, and that some gold medals won, were not mentioned in the PPA.

But it must be underlined that PPA is a projection based on current performance of athletes, their personal bests, national records and that against the performance of the competitors.

It was not a figure picked out of a bag or by a wave of a magic wand.

But that again, the PPA was in no way the guaranteed medal haul expected, because in sports there is no guarantees.

There are other elements on the day of the event that might throw all projections out of the window, for instance the emergence of a competitor which has not been known to the general public, injuries, mishaps, tactical disasters and to a certain extend even the element of luck.

And it is only common in sports that when one projection fails to win a gold medal, another athlete might just step up make up for the loss.

The PPA is a projection and not the ultimate results expected because it never works that way in sports.

Malaysia’s final medal haul of eight gold, 17 silver and 17 bronze for a total of 42 medals is the best ever achieved by a Malaysian contingent since Malaysia competed in Manila in 1954. (The first Games was held in New Delhi in 1951, where Malaya then, did not compete).

There is a need to look at the bigger picture rather than be narrowed minded and harp on the eight gold medal failure.

Without doubt, the Malaysian contingent could have done better. There is no denying in that. Infact, if everything had gone well, Malaysia could have even returned with twelve to thirteen gold medals.

But nevertheless, the achievement by contingent, still needs to be acknowledged and we have to move on to plan for the future using this performance as a base.

Yes, there were failures in Doha and namely sports like soccer, hockey, shooting, boxing, road cycling, and to a certain extend karate (do not forget that although they won no gold medals, they were in four finals), sailing (despite winning a gold medal, while favourite Dr Kevin Lim did not deliver).

Rest assured the NSC will be taking the necessary measures to put these sports in their places.

The Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, has come out strongly to say that a ranking system for all sports is expected to be introduced, where fundings will depend on their current ranking status.

She has also indicated that sports who have been receiving funding for sometime now, but have not produced any outstanding results, may see them receive very much less funding and probably if there is any funding is given out, it will be to the development of the sports.

National Sports Associations (NSAs) too have to be held accountable for any failures, for just because NSC is involved in preparing and in some cases even developing their athletes, all blames should just be heaved to them. It is a partnership between NSC and NSAs and it is only fair that it moments of glory or despair, it should be shared equally.

At the rate things are going there is even a possibility that NSC might just hand out the funds for development (subject to scrutiny and approval) to the NSAs and allow them to do the development work solely but with Key Performance Index (KPI) to fulfil.

This will give NSC the time and manpower to solely concentrate on elite athletes.

Coming back to the Doha Asian Games, in the bigger picture surely the best ever gold, silver and total medal haul must surely mean something.

Only the silver medal haul taken into account will place Malaysia sixth in the tally, while only the 17 bronze medals will see us placed ninth and on a total medal haul of 42, Malaysia will also be placed ninth out of the 45 countries who participated.

The gold medal haul has now been spread over five sports (squash, bowling, wushu, badminton and sailing), instead of four at the last Games

Critics will still say that only badminton is among the Olympics sports (optimist is not among the events in Olympics sailing).

While it is fine to compare medal hauls from Olympics sports at the Asian Games, let us not forget that we are now reviewing the Asian Games and the medals won here were contested in Doha.

Besides, all efforts are being made to see other sports like athletics, shooting, archery, and gymnastics to move into the Olympics categories and it certainly cannot be achieved overnight.

The last Olympics just ended two years ago in Athens and to expect Olympic standard athletes to have been found in two years is like hoping for a miracle.

Malaysia’s overall standing from the last Games in Busan where we have move one rung up from 12th to 11th in Doha, must also be noted.

Among the South East Asian countries, we are second to Thailand, whereas kingpins in SEA Games like Indonesia, Philippines and even Vietnam are all below us. And the population of these countries certainly far exceeds Malaysia’s 25 million.

There were also several young athletes who emerged in Doha for example the badminton doubles gold winning pair Khoo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong, Ruffina Tan in sailing, Daniel Bego and Siow Yi Ting in swimming, Josiah Ng in cycling and Esther Tan in bowling who paint a bright future for Malaysian sports in the future.

The overall picture certainly paints a reasonably good outing for Malaysia and we should look on the positive aspects and use them as a foundation to better things.

If just the short of one gold medal is used as yardstick between success and failure, then does that mean that Korea who won 96 gold medal in Busan and finished fourth but who went to win only 58 in Doha and finished third overall, while countries like Thailand who targeted 15 gold medal but attained 13, Chinese Taipei who had 15 listed as their target but only achieved nine, are all failures.

Targets are meant to be targets and certainly not the magical figure which is certain to be achieved and an allowance must always be given for errors.

But at the end of the day, the Malaysian contingent (at least the majority of them) can walk with their heads high for the various achievements.

Let us not put a good thing down and be cynical about everything, but instead look at the bigger picture and move forward. Lets take one step at a time before we expect the giant leap!

G S B Total No. of Sports No. of Sports
(Gold Medals) (Total Medals)
Bangkok 1966 7 5 6 18 2 3
Busan 2002 6 8 16 30 4 14
Doha 2006 8 17 17 42 5 14

SEA Countries:

Thailand 13 15 26 54 9 17
MALAYSIA 8 17 17 42 5 14
Singapore 8 7 12 27 4 9
Philippines 4 6 9 19 3 7
Vietnam 3 13 7 23 2 9
Indonesia 2 3 15 20 2 11
Myanmar 0 4 7 11 0 5
Laos 0 1 0 1 0 1

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Looking ahead

AS we usher in another New Year in two days time, sports enthusiasts of the country will look back to see what has been achieved and what the New Year has in store.

A stock check is indeed in order, with 2007 being the nation’s 50th year of independence.

While many efforts are going to be made to reminisce the “good old days of sports in the nation” and to record all the golden moments to celebrate the occasions, it is even more important that the years ahead of us see better moments to be remembered.

After all, that’s what progression all about – to get better with times.

Of course, critics will say that sports over the last two decades have taken a downward trend because of many factors – both internal within in the sports fraternity and external where changing times of the modern society has seen parents and children give less importance to sports.

And there is certainly truth in the views of the critics because it is a fact of the matter.

However, if the critics continue to critisise, without giving constructive solutions, it is not going to help sports one bit.

That is why it is sad to see efforts by parties like the National Sports Associations (NSAs), Olympic Council of Malaysia and the Youth and Sports Ministry through the National Sports Council (NSC) to raise the standards of sports in the country, getting knocked down and being impatient to see the end results.

Nothing in life happens overnight and it is no different in sports. Everything needs effort, planning, execution and continuous effort, planning and execution.

For the New Year, the Cabinet Committee for Sports headed by the Deputy Prime Minister himself, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Are expected to meet in January and top of the discussion will be the Doha Asian Games for it was suppose to be yardstick for review and further stand of Government funding.

While there are different schools of thoughts on the Malaysian contingent’s performance in Doha, the fact that performance generally improved.

Of course, some sports were a down, while others stepped up to deliver.

Maybe the time has come for Malaysian sports not to spread itself thin and wide in their search for success in sports.

It should concentrate on a few sports that have shown potential and delivered in the patch. A few more sports where there is potential to do well at the world class field because physique does not into the picture like archery and shooting to name two, should be given support, but at development level so that the sports can be developed for the future.

Generally, the mandate should be given to work on sports which have been managed well as professionals, have a sound development programmes, have the manpower resources to carry out the programmes effectively, and have a track record of performance like badminton, squash and bowling.

Another group of sports, who are beginning to shown signs of positiveness like athletics, must be assisted by on a selective basis.

Others like hockey and soccer will have to give more emphasis on development.

In any programmes there will be success and failures, but for a continued process, there has to be movement forward using the positive aspects of each programme as a stepping stone.

From the Jaya Program in 1998, all following programs have been continuous programmes for specific events. In addition, along the process, we will have athletes who fall out, while others emerge as newcomers and go on to establish themselves, while we will have the “old faithfuls” who will continue to perform to stay in the program.

Malaysian sports next two events are the December Sea Games in Thailand and next year’s Olympics in China.

Cuts are expected to make the programs trim and lean, but all indications are that sports will continue to get the support it has been getting all this while.

But to make it all worthwhile, there has been a concerted joint effort from the NSAs, OCM and NSC.

There needs to be professionalism on everyone’s part – be it athletes, officials, coaches or even administrators.

There certainly has to be accountability and running to hide when trouble hits the fence or even worse shifting the blame to others will not do.

There also needs to be transparency from all quarters to ensure that everything is above board and that all programs are run effectively and well.

Let us make this 50 years independence a meaningfully one, by having to show some real progress in sports and not just imaginary ones or yesteryears glories we have to fall back to give a pat on our backs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Doha experience (December 2006 - Malaysian Today)

Doha experience

THE 15th Asian Games comes to an end today in Doha and while countries return either elated, contended or disappointed with their performance in the Games, the host themselves will be judged.

It is without doubt that the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee (DAGOC) have gone out of their way to make this Games successful mainly through the money splashed to a tune of about three billion US dollars.

So much so that all the important aspects of organising the Games has left in the experienced hands of organising personnel from the Sydney and Athens Olympics.

Qatar with the population of 700,000 of which only about 300,000 are Qataris, certainly had manpower woes and their approach to get hired hands was understandable.

However, European invasion of the Games in Doha, saw the Games lose the Asian spirit of friendliness, warmth and hospitality.

Many, be it athletes, officials, media or even foreign visitors to the Games have left or will leave Doha, disappointed with the way they have been treated.

I have covered the Hiroshima Asian Games in 1994 and Bangkok Asian Games 1998 and still cherish the memories of being treated as a guest with their warmth, friendliness and charm.

But here in Doha, all we got was arrogance and being treated like criminals.

Even the locals who were involved in the Games did not make it pleasant because of the natural rough nature they talk.

Malaysian officials, athletes and media personnel had complains from day 1 to the day they left of being treated badly.

To make it worse, the Greeks and Australians who were hired to run the Games even more high handed in their approach that it made many wonder if it was the Asian Games or the European Games!

It was the Games for Asians and we were made to feel like aliens at own Games.

The only hospitality shown during the Games was the volunteers and hospitality staff at the Protocol Lounges who comprised mainly of Asians.

And to make matters worse, these volunteers and hospitality staff were treated badly by the Europeans who were their heads or supervisors.

There were instances when Malaysian athletes and officials were prevented from joining the victory ceremonies, not allowed to walk out exit gates because it was only meant for accredited cars and asked to walk hundreds of meters around for the pedestrians exit, accreditation cards literally snatched by security cards to check and there were 101 don’ts.

Chief technical delegates who were running the respective sports, including Malaysians, were not even allowed to the arena to conduct their daily business.

Many of the security guards were following instructions like robots and did not use their discretion or common-sense when the situation warranted. Many did not have a clue of what the various abbreviations and numbers used on the tags for access.

To make it worse, their superiors be it Qataris or the Europeans, only made the situation worse by being impossible.

It is hoped such a situation does not happen again in the Asian Games. The Olympic Council of Asia have to seriously think about the capability of local population participation in managing the Games before awarding it.

The last thing we need is for the Asian Games to be run by Europeans and take the very essence of the Games to be truly Asian.

Already we have Germans, Americans, Kenyans, Ethiopians, Senegalese, English and France in the name of naturalization competing for countries in the Asian Games. Soon the Asian Games will no longer look Asian.

Yes we can get foreign expertise for instance the shows for the opening and closing shows, but even then, surely there are able Asians who can do and equally good job if not better.

Let us not sale our Games to the foreigners. Let us be proud of out Games and any milestones made, should belong to the Asians. The colonial days are long over and we certainly do not need to be treated as slaves and outcast in our very own Games.

Besides, the bitter experience here in Doha which as made a nightmare Games rather than an enjoyable and memorable one, the Malaysians will at least return that despite the adversities they managed to stay focus and deliver.

Malaysia will returned with eight gold medals, which bettered the previous Games in Busan’s achievement of six gold and or even surpass the best ever achievement in the Games history of seven gold at the Bangkok Games in 1966.

The total number of medals haul is also the best ever surpassing 30 achieved in Busan, while the silver medal haul to surpasses the best of 13 in Hiroshima.

The gold medal tally certainly could have been higher if not for upsets like in the bodybuilding, karate and the many silvers which were close seconds in the respective sports.

It could have been a better outing, but one which is satisfactory. However, there is plenty of work to be done to move on from where we have reached and a more dedicated effort from the national sports associations is required.

The Government has been funding generously and are expected to continue to do so with the achievements in Doha, but there are some sports who might be put on the mat and they have only to blame themselves.

The onus is now on themselves to rise and fight they way back for recognition for funding from the Government.

And National Sports Council INSC) is also expected to be tougher on national associations seeking funding, as they are expected only to deal and fund those who are managed well with sound development programmes and have proven results.

The time is long overdue for NSC to be cruel to be kind.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Target question (2006 - Malaysian Today)

Target question

THE 15th Asian Games in Doha is well underway and after seven days of competition Malaysia have won two gold , three silver and two bronze medals.

The million ringgit question on everyone’s lips is whether Malaysia is going to surpass their previous Games in Busan’s achievement of six gold or even better to surpass the best ever achievement in the Games history of seven gold at the Bangkok Games in 1966.

But with the National Sports Council (NSC) having come with a “Performance Prospect Assessment” for a haul of nine gold medal, expectations is running even higher.

Many have questioned what on what is this new coined term, Performance Prospect Assessment.

It is certainly no crystal ball gazing or picking up a number from the hat to say that that is the number of gold medals expected to be won.

The figure NSC gave came about assessing athletes current performance, condition as apposed to performances of their opponents currently. A lot of work has been put in by head of Doha Asian Games preparations head, Damien Kelly.

Critics still say that the nine gold medal hopes is still a modest figure.

So what is the magical number then? With not even the media having not come up with the magical gold haul number in Doha, as far as NSC is concerned, it will be looking at the nine gold medal haul.

With bowling already having delivered their 100 percent expectations of two gold medals, although the two won was not in events that they listed down for – men and women team events – but in the women’s singles (Esther Cheah) and men’s trios (Alex Liew, Daniel Lim and Ben Heng), there could be more from them.

Except for the badminton team who has failed to reach the final when they went down to Korea in the semifinals, other projections given by NSC seem to be on target.

But of course silver medals from equestrian, swimming which were not among the medals in NSC’s list is a welcome sign.

But at the sametime, sports which were not in the performance prospect assessment chart, did not mean that they were no hopers. It was just that it was felt that it was more difficult to win medals in these events. As in the case of equestrian no medals were set for them by NSC, as the latter as not involved in the preparation of their athletes.

In anycase, NSC had clearly indicated that every sports which travels to Doha should be aiming for a medal and not just making numbers.

While despite bowling’s deliverance of gold medals, there is an apprehension that Malaysia will not do well.

There is a strong possibility that Malaysia’s gold rush will come next week when the Games will see most sports move to the final stages.

Many sports currently are still in the early stages of their competition while others like karate, athletics wushu and diving yet to start.

The Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Liow Tong Lai who was here to visit the athletes and Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, who is here currently, have both expressed confidence that the athletes will deliver, despite hiccups from sports like badminton.

However, one thing is clear here in Doha, most of the giants at the Games like China, Japan, South Korea and even South East Asian kingpins, Thailand, have all come here with extensive preparation and huge amounts of money pumped to their sports.

Yes, Malaysia too have pumped in money to sports, but it is really compared peanuts when compared to these giants.

Sure, Malaysia’s size of population too is no comparison to these giant nations, but the fact remains that the sports play a vital part in their society and is treated seriously by all including the athletes because it is an opportunity for better living for them.

But for Malaysians who are more often than not in the comfort zone well before they can produce any respectable results, they always feel that there will be another day for them. Malaysia also lacks a good base of athletes in the various sports.

However for the Doha Asian Games, the expected medals should be delivered.

The athletes and coaches realise how important it is for them to perform here and deliver because it has been made clear to all of them of the importance of the Doha Asian if funding from the Government is to continue and increase.

And indications from athletes in Doha is that they will deliver.

Bowling could well be a shining example for other associations as they continue to perform and could well surpass their target by even 100 percent.

A bulk of the gold medal is expected to come this weekend onwards in sports like bodybuilding, karate, squash and wushu.

And it will be little surprise if our athletes even hit the big 10 or even more this time around.

There are bound to be some surprises, like badminton, but it will definitely not be for want for trying.

The performance here in Doha could well be a boost for the future of Malaysian sports.

However, there is a lot more that the athletes themselves have to do if they are to compete at the highest level and perform because competition is only getting tougher at both the world and Asian level.

Malaysia certainly needs a bigger pool of athletes and elite athletes having to excel at the highest level possible.

There is no more room for part-time or athletes who are not serious about sports but just marking their time.

The Government too has to make some bold decisions to send the message clearly to the athletes to emerge as world beaters, consistently and probably in a few selected sports.

It is sincerely hoped that in the next column there will be accolades for the athletes rather than brickbats because this is a do-or-die mission for Malaysian sports.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Nicol booster for Doha (2006 - Malaysian Today)

Nicol booster for Doha

Malaysian sports could not have received a better morale booster for the Doha Asian Games which begin today.

Nicol Ann David first proved that Malaysians can be world champions and even more underlying in feat was that it was not a flash-in-the-pan victory when she went to defend the women’s World Open squash title in Belfast earlier this week.

Make no mistake about it that it is even more difficult to defend one’s crown than to win it the first time.

The petite Nicol who hails from Penang has certainly proved that Malaysian sportsmen and women can be world beaters and do it on a consistent basis.

But Nicol’s victory was certainly not handed on a sliver platter to her. She had to work very hard with total focus and determination to achieve what she did.

She keeps her feet firm on the ground and always says that there is more for her to learn and this modesty is what makes champions.

We had sprinter Nazmizan Muhamamd win the Vietnam Sea Games gold and that was the last we have heard of him. He claims to be injured and still trains with the support of NSC, but one wonders why.

He is more comfortable writing columns trying to motivate others from his probably flash-in-the-pan victory. How else can one conclude when one victory was enough to satisfy this athlete who has already been said that he wants to hang his spikes and settle down.

It takes a lion-heart to have achieved what Nicol has done because she was always against the odds against the much better physically built and exposed players in the squash circuit.

But Nicol took the bold decision to pull her self from the comfort of home and base herself in Holland and work very hard to overcome the odds.

She uses her asset in being lighting quick on feet as compared to the more physically better built players.

The support of the Squash Racquet Association of Malaysia, the Ministry of Youth and Sports through the National Sports Council, has certainly been a great heap for Nicol.

But at the end of the day, it is Nicol who is on the courts against her opponents and the last call to be a champion or not is her decision. And time again, she has proved that she is hungry enough to want more.

Nicol dominated the junior scene with two world titles in 1999 and 2001 and now she has stamped her mark at the senior level and at 23, there is certainly more to come.

Nicol will not compete in Doha to give Malaysia one of their gold medal. She will certainly start as a favourite and there is tremendous pressure on her. But rest assured that Nicol will not forgo the gold for not want of trying.

Nicol’s victory in Belfast should certainly serve as a morale booster for the Asian Games contingent who begin their challenge to return with at least nine gold medals.

Besides Nicol, the physically challenged athletes’ performance in the 9th Fespic Games which ends today in Kuala Lumpur, should also serve as a motivation factor for the athletes in Doha.

For the Fespic Games, they had a modest target of ten gold medals but they have surpassed it target more that double with their haul of …….(pls insert final gold medal won by Malaysia).

For those who took the opportunity to witness these physically challenged athletes complete, words will not explain what they had experienced.

For those who had missed the action, it is sad because they had missed a rare opportunity can change the lives of many after watching these athletes are capable of despite their setbacks. The spirit, morale, determination is something even the normal athletes fail to show.

The difference between the physically challenged athletes and the normal athletes is that the former appreciate any form assistance given to them and want to repay the confidence placed on them with top performances, while the latter take for granted what is offered to them and feel that everyone else owes to them to support them.

Maybe, we will get an Olympic gold medal from a physically challenged athlete! Surely not something to dismiss it.

But for now, all eyes will be on the Games of the Life.

It is time for the show to begin and the athletes to perform.

A great deal of the future funding for athletes in the coming years will depend a great deal on their performance here because a great deal of money has been spent for the preparation.

It is time to reap the rewards and it is time for the athletes to stand up and be counted.

Do not give excuses that they have a flu, have peaked too early, have aches and pains or the weather is too cool for their comfort here in Doha.

It is time for the athletes to prove that they are made of sterner stuff than mash mellows!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Overcoming Challenges, Inspiring Others (2006 - Malaysian Today0

Overcoming Challenges, Inspiring Others

THE run-up to the Doha Asian Games starting on Dec 1 is certainly going to overshadow the start of the KL’06 9th Fespic Games starting today right in the heart of the city today.

Yes, the week-long Games is being hosted by Malaysia and despite the huge publicity given to the Games in terms of advertisement in the newspapers, radio, television and banners, there is worry among the organisers that this event which will see 47 of the 63 member countries competing, get a lukewarm response from the public.

To the public, maybe the fact that the Fespic Games is competed by the physically challenged athletes, it probably is less appealing.

In fact, it should be even more response to make a bee hive to the Stadiums to watch these athletes compete in the true spirit of sports and determination that might even put to shame some of the elite athletes in the country.

Believe me, being there at the Stadiums to see these physically challenged athletes, will change ones outlook of life.

Many of us, take life for granted just because we see, hear, talk and walk normally. So much so that many, hardly appreciate the goodness we are blessed in our lives no matter in how small or little way.

There will not only be 288 Malaysian athletes – 226 men and 62 women athletes, but a total of an estimated 5,000 athletes competing for a total of 553 gold medals in 19 disciplines.

It will indeed be a life time opportunity to see what these physically challenged athletes are capable.

I had a rare opportunity to cover the 20th Deaflympic Games in Melbourne in January 2005 in my sports journalism career spanning 27 years, and I dare say that it was one championship which touched me in many ways and made me appreciate live better and especially the physically challenged athletes.

There were moments when I was close to shedding tears when I saw the grit and determination shown by these deaf athletes who competed as if there was no tomorrow and their life depended on the outcome.

Some of colleagues and friends when from the Malay Mail then, laughed and teased me when they learnt that I was going to cover the Deaflympics. But I have this to say to them : “I am having the last laugh because they had missed a life time opportunity to experience something so beautiful which would touch anyone’s life and make them look at life in a different way.”

I did not cover the Melbourne Commonwealth Games a few months later, but even having covered the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the experience I cherished at the Deaflympics far more surpass my experience at the Olympics.

In all my years of covering sports events, never have I seen so much passion shown by athletes in representing their nation and competing for glory.

I expect even more touching moments at the Fespic Games, and it will be an opportunity no Malaysian should miss it.

The Malaysian contingent have boldly predicted that they will be gunning for ten gold medals and these athletes certainly deserve all the moral support to not only achieve but even surpass their target.

The physically challenged are not less than a normal human being because they are more than capable of doing anything any ordinary human being can and in fact more.

Take for instance the Chef-De-Mission of the Malaysian contingent for the Fespic Games – Prof Datuk Dr Ismail Mohd Salleh is an academician and economist.

As he himself aptly put it: Disability is not a hindrance to excellence. We need the will and I believe the team can do it. I hope the people will treat us equally as the able-bodies athletes.”

Ismail who is blind, is proof that disability is not an hindrance to achieving high standards in sports and business.

Ismail is the president of the Malaysian Association for Blind and CEO of the Twintech Holdings Sdn. Bhd.

School children especially should take advantage of the schools holidays to be at every venue possible for the whole of this week to experience for themselves the courage of these physically challenged athletes.

Infact, if some of the Doha Asian Games bound athletes can witness some of the events before they leave for Doha, it would certainly do a great deal for the spirit and morale.

As the logo for the Fespic Games says – Overcoming Challenges, Inspiring Others – these athletes are usually going to make a difference in everyone’s life who take the opportunity to watch them in action.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, himself will officially be declaring the Games open tomorrow (Saturday) at the Kuala Lumpur Stadium at Bandar Tun Razak at 4pm, that alone should underline the importance the government is paying to this Games.

This will be life time opportunity to many Malaysians and it is one they can not afford to miss.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

It's the gold that counts (August 2004 - Malaysian Today)

It's the gold that counts

WITH 97 days left for the Doha Asian Games today (Friday), there is mounting pressure for the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and National Sports Council (NSC) to announce their gold medal targets.

And with the OCM all see to meet next week and announce the qualifiers for the Games, there is going to be additional pressure to come up with targets.

While it is good to set targets, but to come up with number of gold medals three month before the Games could well not only be putting undue pressure on the athletes, but even more importantly, revealing ourselves to competing countries.

Besides, anything can happen within these three months before the Games, and if there is a reason to change the target, it could well draw media criticism.

But that does not mean that there is no monitoring of the progress of the Doha bound-athletes.

In fact, the Doha 2006 programme unit headed by Damien Kelly is constantly monitoring not only the progress of our athletes, but also the progress of opponents.

At the weekly Doha Games management committee headed by NSC;s deputy-director-general, Datuk Zolkples, Damien gives an update of the targeted medals. There have been cases when it varies from time to because of latest developments with either the Malaysian athletes or opponents.

At this meeting also, the National Sports Institute, comes up with detailed reports on all athletes on work done with physiology, conditioning, nutrition, biomechanics, psychology, medical, the findings and observations in each field and the recommendations.

This information is used by coaches to get the athletes in better condition periodically.

But one thing is sure at this point of time, where Malaysia hopes to better it’s last Asian Games outing in Busan four years ago when they won six gold, eight silver and 16 bronze.

Malaysia’s best ever gold medal haul in the Games was at the 1966 Bangkok Asian Games where seven gold medal were won together with five bronze and six bronze.

In terms of total medal haul (all colours), Malaysia hauled 30 at Busan and that is the highest – one more than the one Games before that in Bangkok where the total haul was 29.

But nobody remembers the silver or bronze medalist, despite it meaning being Asia’s number two or three.

Malaysia’s worst outing in the Games since Malaysia started participating at the 1954 Manila Asian Games, was when they returned only with one silver and four bronze.

It is the gold medals that matters to all and will be the measurement for success or failure of the Doha programme.

Thus, the actual target for Doha has to be very carefully decided and announced because it is going to be used as the yardstick for success or failure.

Hence, is fair at this stage, instead of coming up with specific targets and identifying the sports or athletes, to say that they are going to better the Busan six gold medal haul.

But followers of sports in Malaysia, can readily predict the gold medal winners in Doha.

It would be appropriate probably to come up with the exact expected medal haul probably a fortnight before the Games and this will be a more accurate prediction.

Current unofficial predictions have been hovering between eight and ten gold medals.

Predictions can be made, but there is no guarantee in sports.

The best of preparations can go haywire at the eleventh hour. Sometimes in subjective sports, judging can be an issue. The element of luck to comes into play.

But at the end of the day, with the Government allocating huge sum of money for sports, there has to be accountability and results are the best justifications.

However, it is a collective effort with everyone – athletes, coaches, officials and support staff - working in unison and precision for the final product.

Maybe, it is time the media from all the experience over the years, come up with their medal prediction and check it against final results after the Games.

But one prediction which is going come out soon will be from the sports associations, but this will mostly like be an exaggerated one, because most of them will their sports to look good and justify their inclusion for the Games.

Whatever happens, the last call is with the athletes and hopefully they will return from Doha with reasons to be proud and see Malaysian sports continue to get the kind of support the Government has been extending to them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

NSAs walking on thin ice (2006 - Malaysian Today)

NSAs walking on thin ice

NATIONAL Sports Associations (NSAs), especially those in the Eight Core Sports, are walking on thin ice.

The Ministry of Sports and the National Sports Council (NSC), have had enough of funding NSAs, but not seeing the desired returns in terms of achievements.

NSC is even more concerned because they are literally funding NSAs from A to Z.

Even development work is done by NSC for NSAs.

The last straw to break the camel’s back was when the national badminton team returned from the World Championship in Madrid last week, with just a bronze medal to show from the mixed doubles of Koo Kien Keat and Wong Pei Tty.

While there is reason to believe that the shuttlers were saving their best for the Doha Asian Games in December, NSC;s question is simple – why them go with a full squad and spend almost a million ringgit.

This is the second debacle by a NSA this year, with the hockey team having failed in the World Cup qualifiers earlier.

And NSC is not amused because they have been providing everything the NSAs require, but only to see no results worth mentioning.

Without doubt, the Doha Asian Games, is the last chance for NSAs to put things right and deliver.

Failing which, the NSAs can expect drastic cuts in support and even the possibility of being left out of the Eight Core Sports.

The Government has been very generous in providing support to NSAs both in kind and cash and support over the last few years have been like never seen before in Malaysian sports.

NSC have come to terms that many NSAs have been taking their support for granted, while athletes have been getting into the comfort zone.

And they certainly intend to put as stop to that and it is about time they did, because NSAs have become over-dependent on the NSC.

NSAs are no longer self-reliant and looking for sponsorships to manage their affairs has become a foreign language.

It is no secret that NSAs in Malaysia are a lucky lot, because no where else in the world do NSAs receive the kind of support that is available in Malaysia.

Yes, foreign nations too support their sports, but it is minimal and if the amount is big, then they are supporting winners not losers.

NSC’s outburst after the badminton’s dismal performance at Madrid, had better serve as a final warning to NSAs because the Government is dead-serious about cutting down the support, if no results are fort coming.

Of course, success does not come overnight, but at least there must be some signs that a particular sports in moving in the right direction.

All that most sports have been signaling, is the downward trend.

Just look at athletics, which was the pride of the nation not too long among many other sports including soccer.

It was pathetic to witness at their recent national championships in Penang that foreign teams like Thailand and Myanmar sent more athletes than some States.

And the fact that some events did not even have enough athletes, was surely a sign that something was wrong in the sports and that development has been neglected starring at us.

Instead of trying to restore some pride in the historical sport, there is in-fighting in the association, getting rid of people who are interested in doing genuine work and almost everyone working against each other and harmony is an alien word to them.

Sport in the country is indeed in a sad state of affairs, when it should be at its best with the kind of support they get from the Government these days.

To make matters worse, there are NSAs who do not even have their house in order.

How are they going to look into the welfare of their athletes, when they own house is in a mess.

Sometimes, officials forget that they exist because of the athletes.

Of course some officials, will want to argue that without them, the athletes do not exist.

But one look at most NSAs clearly show that it is the officials who are messing up things in their associations.

To top it all, we have unscrupulous officials who misuse the funds of their NSAs.

Maybe, the time has come for all senior officials who have over-stayed their welcome in their respective NSAs to make way for young and professional blood to manage NSAs like it should be in this modern age of sports – like a business.

At least then, we will have proper accountability, transparency and creditability in NSAs.

And the sooner it happens, the better it is for the future of Malaysian sports.

Indications are that some drastic measures are expected to be taken after the Doha Asian Games as a measure of house cleaning in many NSAs.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Stand up and be counted (Sept 2006 - Malaysian Today)

Stand up and be counted

WHAT are the responsibilities of National Sports Associations (NSAs) today?

Gone are the days when NSAs were responsible for the development of their respective sports and their sports achieving the highest level of performance, both locally and internationally.

Moreover, most of the NSAs used to produce results in both areas despite them being amateurs and the associations run mainly by volunteers.

But these days with fulltime staff in NSAs and sports having moved into a professional era, the results are not forthcoming.

More sadly, the development of sports has been neglected by most.

These days, NSAs look to the National Sports Council and the Ministry of Sports for almost every activity they want to do.

Of course, there are a handful of NSAs who source for their own funds, but the majority just wait for handouts.

Just look at NSAs that have done well in their respective sports. One thing that shines like a beacon is that the administration is excellent and the NSA is headed by sports-loving personnel with professional backgrounds.

It is appalling how some NSAs ask for funds to host events and submit the entire budget for these – from allowances for officials to the farewell dinner -- without making any effort to get funds on their own.

Or is it that NSAs do source for sponsorship, but do not make it known? They still manage to organise their events although, more often than not, when their request is finally approved, they only get a portion of the budget they submitted.

So, is there any accountability for the sponsorship money?

There are NSAs whose sport is fast dropping in standards, but they want to impress the world by trying to organise international seminars and courses, but with funds from the NSC or the Ministry of Sports.

Then there are NSAs which receive aid from the funding authorities, but still complain that they have not been supported financially.

Some even complain that all the funding has been going towards the athletes’ training, allowance, food and lodging, while they themselves do not get cash in hand.

Are the athletes from NSAs not part and parcel of them?

To top it all, when their sports does not deliver at international events, they point the finger at the NSC; some have even accused it of meddling in their affairs.

But when they ask for funds, they ask for the sky.

It is about time NSAs are held accountable and responsible too.

When they present their cases to the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) for the inclusion of their athletes in international events, they promise that they can deliver a certain number of gold medals just to get their athletes in.

But when their athletes fail, they look for scapegoats to pin the blame on.

At least, they should share some of the responsibility with the NSC which provide them with financial aid for training and development and support services for their athletes.

Foreign coaches are even hired after consultation with NSAs. So, are NSAs not answerable for their choices when their sports does not deliver.

The NSC and the Ministry of Sports too have to take a share of the blame for being too generous and letting others take them for granted.

Maybe the Government’s policy to support sports in a big way and the allocation of huge amounts of money has made all NSAs complacent and over-dependent.

There needs to be a review and funds only allocated to the real deserving cases, like NSAs that have a track record of delivering when it matters most, NSAs that give proper account of all funds used from allocations and NSAs that are transparent and genuine in their efforts.

Officials who are in NSAs for their own benefit and have their own agenda have to make way for those who are truly passionate about sports.

Sports certainly does not need officials who only give lip service, use their political clout to get things for themselves and above all, kill the sports they are in charge of.

It is only a matter of time before heads roll and the culprits are exposed and hopefully when the New Year comes in four months’ time, Malaysian sports can, once and for all, start on a fresh footing that is conducive to its development, growth and excellence.

For far too long, many have taken advantage of the generosity available in the name of sports, and in the end, the athletes and sports are the losers.

The brakes have to be applied to this and it must happen before Malaysian sports becomes a joke.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Cobra Sting! (2006- Malaysian Today)

Cobra Sting!

IT is private clubs like Cobra (Combined Old Boys Rugby Association) who have given hope for the future of sports in the Malaysia.

While many national sports associations have become over depended on handouts to conduct their activities, it is clubs like Cobra who have emerged that pride and passion can take them a long way.

Infact, putting to shame many established associations who come no where close to the management of Cobra.

And this was clearly noticed and underlined by none other than the Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said when she was invited by Cobra to their humble home in Petaling Jaya to officially announce the club’s 36th HSBC-Cobra Invitational Rugby 10s to held from Sept 8-10 at the Petaling Jaya Stadium in Kelana Jaya.

Azalina went to commend on the club for having achieved what many established sports associations have failed, where they had not only organized an international tournament with excellence, but at the sametime went on to expose Malaysia to the world.

And it was just not the international exposure that the tournament attained, but the fact the club’s development programme was displayed to the world, drew accolades.

And to top it all, the club members worked very hard to raise the funds for the event and ensured transparency to the core, that corporate sponsors had no hesitation to return and continue to support them.

For a club with a humble beginning when they were formed in 1967 to encourage young Malaysians to continue playing rugby after leaving school, they have certainly come a long way.

The clubhouse today stands on a piece of land which pioneer and life member Datuk Aziz Ismail, one of the best scrum-halves the nation produced, had assisted to acquire in the 70s when he was attached to the Petaling Jaya Land Office.

Today the club boasts of a complex which has a gymnasium, squash and badminton courts, training rooms, dormitories and function rooms.
It has been a long walk to where they are today, but it was pride and passion for the game, that has seen the club this far.

Officials leading the club are sportsmen who only have the game at heart.

Their ability to coax sponsors and working partners in terms of big corporations, only speaks volume of confidence this club is oozing out.

Infact, more and more private clubs like Ulu Kelang Recreation Club, Selangor Club, Penang Sports Club, Penang Swimming Club, Penang Chinese Swimming Club to name a few have surfaced to show excellent management and programmes held to uplift sports in the country.

Malaysians generally have been known to be excellent organisers, but of late have got some backlashes as more and more associations either take things for granted or take the easy way out by getting management companies to manage their affairs for them.

But Cobra will have no such thing, because they are proud of what they do and want to slog it out themselves, so that they can savor the fruit of their labour.

More importantly, they do not want to tarnish their good reputation built over the years.

Their previous tournament report presented on Tuesday, was nothing less to a big corporation report with every minute detail listed – from number of newspapers clippings which appeared for the tournament to television viewership.

That a small club like Cobra could attract international television to air their tournament which finally reached 90 million household world wide, is indeed by no means an easy feat.
It was not surprising that Azalina in her speech said that many NSAs can take cue from Cobra.

Azalina said: “If only all national associations managed like Cobra, sports in the country will be striving.”

Indeed, sports in Malaysia will be booming, especially with excellent Government support which includes millions of ringgit spent on sports, infra-structure, incentives, salaries etc.

What most national associations lack compared to Cobra is the pride and passion for the game.

Many are in the sports for the money they can make out of it, rather than what they can give the game.

With sports sponsorship being part and parcel of the game, many have taken these sponsorships for granted and in some instances, even abused it.

Sponsors have every right to demand for accountability, but more often than not, sponsors are treated as just as “hand-out machines”.

Sports has moved to a new and modern generation, but with it, officials have to keep tab with the latest developments and trends in sports management and manage their associations like they managing corporations.

Cobra is a fine shining example for NSAs to emulate, because if a small club of 200 members can achieve something so magnitude and meaningful, they surely must have something good going.

Long live Cobra!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The sour taste of failure (August 2006 - Malaysian Today)

The sour taste of failure

TRANSPARENCY and accountability are two musts in Malaysian sports, if it is move to the next level to excel in international field with a fair amount of success.

For as long as sports associations try to sweep issues under the carpet or fail to reveal findings to the taxpayers, who have every right to know what went right or wrong, Malaysian sports is not going to take the forward step.

For as long as sports associations wants to protect certain officials, coaches or players and are afraid to reveal the truth, they will continue to stay in the doldrums because they are going to make the same mistake the next time around.

For as long as sports associations look for excuses for their failure and start pointing fingers, except accept the responsibility of failure by themselves, they will continue to pass the buck to someone else to take the wrath for them.

It has happened many a time in the past and it has happened again after the recent World Cup qualifiers in China.

A special committee headed by the Malaysian Hockey Federation(MHF) deputy president, Admiral Tan Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor, Disciplinary Board chairman, Datuk Ho Ko Chye and independent member Datuk R. Yogeswaran, was set up by MHF to come up with comprehensive report on the team’s failure in China.

A comprehensive report they certainly came up, but the full report was not presented at the MHF Council, but was only privy to the MHF executive committee only.

It was the MHF executive committee’s decision that the full detailed report will not be circulated to the MHF Council who met Aug 5.

A summarised version of the report prepared for the Council, which was actually a calendar for events of whom the special committee interviewed and when and some selected recommendations from the detailed report.

It is learnt that the detailed report had more “meat” and several personalities were taken to task.

The media too were not given the detailed report, but the summarised version only.

When things are hid, it is only naturally that sports journalists want to get to the bottom of the matter and try all means to get the full report. This would mean talking to officials and therein lies the danger because some of them may not be fully aware of the detailed reports, but with the little knowledge they know normally through hearsay, they interpret it to their understanding.

And in the end all sorts of versions come up and only confuse the matter further.

One of the issue which has come up out of this report is that apparently some blame was directed to the National Sports Council (NSC) for meddling with the affairs of MHF.

Whether this is true or not, that it was part of the report, the fact that it has surfaced, has got NSC all upset because they certainly did interfere with the workings of MHF.

Whatever assistance, mainly support service, was given to MHF, was at the latter’s request and also after joint discussions and agreed upon by both parties.

To now point the accusing finger at NSC is indeed merely looking for a scapegoat.

And NSC will certainly not tolerate such irresponsibility. Afterall, it is NSC who has been the financier and to bite the hand that feeds, is indeed souring relations and may even lead to a rethink of funds being granted in future.

NSC will definitely get to the bottom of it, if it surfaces through the proper channel.

There were times not so long ago when sports associations managed themselves and did well too.

But of late, they have become over dependent on funds from the government to conduct their activities.

Sponsors who have in the past come out readily in support of sports associations’ programmes and even have been partners, have shied away because they did not get the mileage promised to them or there was no transparency to show how the sponsorship money was spent. In some cases, sponsors were totally left out of the picture once the funds had already come in.

And that is what the Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, herself has been speaking out lately - emphasising on Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for events and sports associations.

At the rate unfavorable reports are surfacing with sports associations who get assistance from the Government, a review might be in order and if sports associations get less in future or even none, they have only to blame themselves.

The Sports Ministry and NSC, too have to be accountable because they cannot go on supporting sports associations, if results are not fort coming.

Sports Associations had better start putting on their thinking caps and start operating like corporations or do the honorable thing by allowing professionals to run the associations.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pampered Lot? (2006- Malaysian Today)

Pampered Lot?

ARE our Malaysian athletes a pampered lot and who demand a great?

If present days are compared to yesteryears sportsmen and women, there is no doubt that the current athletes are indeed a pampered lot.

But the argument would be that times have changed and sport now plays an integral part of the society.

Agreed. But then should not the results in sports be better than yesterday years.

Outstanding achievements and rankings in the world of several sports were attained twenty thirty years ago, when facilities were at bare minimum, the assistance of top level and foreign coaches virtually missing, support and funding from government also minimum or non-existence, hardly any rewards offered for achievements and the benefit of overseas training stints being rare or nil.

Presently, with ultra modern facilities which are world-class, availability of top coaches both from locally and foreign, full support from the government including scholarships to further education, high rewards in terms of cash and material and not only regular overseas training stints, but being based overseas for long term periods and more recently even the setting up of a permanent training centre in London, athletes are still unable to produce the desired results and put Malaysia on higher grounds in the world arena.

Now we have to ask if the present day athletes are a lot pampered who have lost the drive for success, glory and honour and some are even branded as “spoilt-brats.”

There have been cases of athletes who had the benefit of overseas stints on a long term period together with education, but at the end hold bodies like the National Sports Council (NSC) and National Associations (NA) are ransom.

These athletes, either demand more from the NSC or NA every time while they are based overseas, or at the end of their stint of studies, do no want to return to Malaysia to repay the dues and knowledge they have gathered over the years.

Then, there are those who are recalled back to Malaysia to continue training on home soil, who refuse to return and threaten to quit the sports if they are forced to return.

There are others who prepared to return, provided they are given the same remunerations as they were when they were based overseas.

Of course, we also have home based athletes who are continuously asking for better remunerations, but have not produces results to equate the spending and returns.
The Government, through the Ministry of Sports and NSC, has continuously been trying to improve the status of athletes in the country, and presently there are great opportunities and is worthwhile for athletes, to make sports a career.

Even coaches have been recognised and athletes after their prime, can become coaches and earn a decent living.

Yet, Malaysia is still struggling to make a strong impact in many sports and in some sports where achievements are forthcoming, it is not on a consistent basis.

There is no doubt that NSC is taking a serious view on the matter, and unless the athletes can change their mind-set, work towards excellence with great passion, and be consistent, they could be up against some censures.

As much as the Government supports sports, there needs to be accountability too.

The Doha Asian Games in December, will be a yardstick to measure some amount of success especially from the elite athletes and after which, there is a strong indication that there is going to be stock taking.

The Government cannot be pouring in the money to sports without proper returns.

And the athletes have the onus to prove themselves and repay their dues.

Failing which, they could well be deciding their own fate.

It is not that the Government is going to stop funding if there are no results, but they could well be very selective and probably pay more emphasis on development with the hope of producing a new set of athletes with the right mindset towards sports.

Gone are the days of passion, pride and perfection.

To be fair to the athletes, there are athletes with the above qualities presently, but there out numbered by those who believe that sports owe them a living instead of earning it.

When we have athletes even at the Malaysia Games who hold States at a ransom where they offer their services to the one who pays them the highest, they have become mercenaries.

Even mercenaries can be forgiven, if they return with victory and honour, but when results are not forthcoming, they are only taking the taxpayers for a ride!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rajagopal's Babes (2006 - Malaysian Today)

Rajagopal's Babes

THE National Under-20 soccer team is to come under the National Sports Council (NSC), as a long-term plan to build formidable national team.

Infact, a MoU between NSC and the FA of Malaysia has already been signed have already been signed early this month.

And on Tuesday, the Cabinet Committee for Sports headed by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Seri Tun Razak, further affirmed the status of the National Under-20 team when he instructed that the National Sports Council (NSC) immediately take charge of the team both on the financial aspect and training.

The Under-20 team coached by K. Rajagopal is seen as the hope for future of the sports.

However, there is more to than the eye meets in this delicate situation.

While the move to take charge of the National Under-20 is noble, where all assistance will be taken care of by the Government, but there are too many technicalities which are involved which will throw plan in disarray.

For starters, the FA of Malaysia affiliates (State FAs), who have players in the Under-20 who are contracted to them, will be up in arms, as they no longer can use the services of these players in the domestic league – immediately the Malaysia Cup competition.

Secondly, the Under-20 players who already have contracts with the State FAs will be reluctant to severe ties with their employers as they would definitely be getting more than what NSC will be paying them monthly.

Then, there is the issue of governance of the team because if NSC manages the team, FA of Malaysia could run foul of allowing Government interference, which FIFA, does not condone and will not recognise Malaysia football.

Of course there are ways to work around it with FA of Malaysia still being involved with the team, to keep everything above board.

Lastly, with the Asian Youth championship just around the corner in India, anything drastic changes mid-stream with a team which has been shaping up well, could prove disastrous.

However, while both FA of Malaysia and NSC having in principle agreed on the “marriage” in the best interest of soccer in the country, there is always a common path which can be taken.

In this context, both FA of Malaysia and NSC are expected to sit down and trash out the finer details so that this program is not derailed.

Without doubt the Government is serious about sports and thus their involvement.

The fact that a Sports Cabinet had been set up and chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Seri Tun Razak, himself, underlines the seriousness of the Government to see sports in general excel in the world arena.

At the Sports Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, several other decisions were also taken and the decision to introduce the National Coaching Scheme, was another step which takes Malaysian sports to another level.

Gone are the days when coaches were no recognized, or sports did not offer a career to athletes.

With the introduction of the Scheme, which was presented by the National Coaching Board, coaching can now become a career.

And coaches will also get the opportunity to upgrade themselves with knowledge and the more they gain, the better remunerations they will get.

And it is not just the fulltime coaches who benefit from this scheme, but also the many part-time coaches who do a lot of development work, but are more often than not recognised or remunerated.

With more qualified and satisfied coached in place, it is hoped that the overall standard of sports will rise at a fast level for the nation to attain success at the Asian and World level in the near future.

The elite training centre in Hertfordshire, near London, which is operational from yesterday (Thursday – June 22), is another milestone for Malaysian sports, where an opportunity has been created for Malaysian athletes to be based and train overseas where they will be exposed to high level training and competition.

Squash will be the first to utilise the facility and followed by the Under-20 team next in line.

Sports in the country have never had so good and if only the returns equate with the money spent, it will all be a dream come true for the nation.


Saturday, July 8, 2006

NSAs must step up (2006 - Malaysian Today)

NSAs must step up

ARE the National Sports Associations (NSAs) ready to play a bigger and more responsible role in the development of their respective sports?

This is the million-ringgit question the Minister of Youth and Sports, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, is posing to NSAs.

In fact, the same question was also posed to the Olympic Council of Malaysia 9OCM) as to whether they can be responsible for their affiliates (the NSAs) and monitor them to ensure that development work if done.

Although the initial reaction from OCM was that they did not have the resources to take on a huge task as that, but a follow up meeting by their Strategic Plan and Implementation Committee headed by OCM Deputy President, Datuk Dr. M Jegathesan has seen them give an undertaking to work in line of Datuk Azalina’s request.

A Malaysian Sports Summit is the first move by OCM to get all stakeholders to discuss, among others, the proposed re-structuring of the National Sports Council (NSC) and role of NSAs in development.

Other matters to be studied include the role of OCM and NSAs in relation to the proposed new NSC structure, to identify and eliminate areas of duplication between NSC and OCM and to identify and implement more important programmes between NSC and OCM

The Committee also agreed with the Azalina’s views that over the years, the NSC has been burdened with too many responsibilities, thereby reducing its effectiveness in running its core business, which is the training of national athletes to excel at world and Asian levels, with emphasis on the Olympic, Commonwealth, Asian and SEA Games.

In addition, the Committee has proposed to prepare a working paper to submit to Azalina for her information and consideration.

The paper will be a situational analysis of OCM, its existing role and responsibilities and its plans and strategies. In addition, OCM will carry out a rating exercise of its members, identifying their existing status and their potential to produce Olympic, Commonwealth and Asian Games champions.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) who were the first of the eight core sports which Datuk Azalina visited, also gave a positive feedback with the deputy president Tunku Abdul Majid Sultan Iskandar giving an undertaking that he will be responsible for his affiliates to work hard at development and also to monitor them.

Soccer was the second sports the Minister visited to get feedback and their undertaking to be serious about taking over the responsibility of development of their sports in a big way.

With another positive feedback from FA of Malaysia, it is hoped that the remaining NSAs Azalina will be visiting, will also give a positive undertaking.

However, giving the undertaking is one thing and walking the talk is another.

Malaysian sports has indeed come a crossroad where it is at a junction where the future is at stake.

Over the years, more and more NSAs have neglected development work of their respective sports and the current state of Malaysian sports has a great deal to do with it.

The National Sports Council (NSC) has taken on the role of development that it has come to a point where it realises that it has taken on more than it can chew and elite athletes’ preparation has been compromised.

With NSC expected to concentrate on its core business which is elite athletes preparations, NSAs together with their affiliates will have to step to start playing a more bigger and responsible role.

NSAs also cannot continue to be depending solely on the Government to be totally be funding from A to Z.

While the Government is still going to fund development, but with a more stringent approach where accountability, meeting KPIs and constant monitoring, NSAs themselves find their own funds.

There could be a fine day that the Government decides not to fund as much as they are for sports and put it to other areas and if NSAs and their affiliates are not standing on their own feet, it could be a black day for Malaysian sports and could well suffer a natural death.

Azalina has already started talking about matching funds and NSAs and their affiliates should take the cue and get more responsibly.

There are already several NSAs like badminton, squash and tenpin bowling to name a few who already have been sourcing for their own funds and it is no surprise that they are ahead of other NSAs not only in terms of professional management and administration, but the performance of their sports itself.

More NSAs have to follow suit, and presidents and senior members of the respective NSAs, have to start the ball rolling to put their associations on firmer grounds and not just expect the Government to funding them all the time.

NSAs are the guardians of their respective sports and unless they make a concerted effort for their bodies to more focused and aggressive in the development of their sports, it is their sport which is eventually going to suffer a natural death.

It is about time too for NSAs to be managed professionally with professional staffing. Volunteerism is fine, but where a solid commitment is requires to get NSAs moving, professionals have to be hired to manage NSAs like corporate companies.

The time has come to determine the future of Malaysian sports finally and NSAs and their affiliates have to stand up and be counted or left out!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Guten tag from Berlin! ( June 2006- Malaysian Today)

Guten tag from Berlin!

Yes, this column comes from Berlin where the World Cup final will be played on Sunday at the Berlin Olympic Stadium where it is destined to eclipse everything that it has hosted since it was originally designed by architect Werner March and built between 1934 and 1936.

This historical stadium which was renovated in the summer 2000 at a cost of 242 million euros officially reopened in 2004, is the same venue where American Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games.

This is my second World Cup matches I am witnessing after the USA 1994 World Cup where I watched matches from the quarterfinals to the final at the Rose Bowl where Brazil beat Italy.

I had watched my first match in Berlin on June 30 where host Germany beat Argentina in penalty kicks after the 1-1 deadlock despite extratime.

Without doubt it was an excellent match in an extraordinary atmosphere, but I was not wishing or hoping that it had been the Malaysian national team.

Not that I was being not patriotic, because I am truly passionate of Malaysian sports which has been part of my whole life up to now.

It was just that the realistic and level-headed part of me took the better of me.

I could not help a question by a journalist at the recent Cabinet Committee for Sports press conference by Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Seri Tun Razak, keep popping out in my head.

I could not believe the question when this journalist asked the Deputy Prime Minister if he dreamt Malaysia would oneday be in the World Cup.

The DPM diplomatically replied that it is everyone’s dream to see Malaysia in the World Cup, but his next statement more or less hit the nail on Malaysia soccer when he said: “Ghana had their independence at the same time as Malaysia. We have progressed in every account better than Ghana – development, economically, socially, politically and every aspect of life except soccer. Ghana is in the World Cup and we are not!”

My point is, when Malaysia have not won the Sea Games gold medals since 1989 when it was played on a rainy Aug 31 at the Merdeka Stadium, what are we talking about the World Cup!

Let us start winning the regional tournaments first before even dreaming of the World Cup.

Let us win the Sea Games gold, the Asian Games gold and be the champion of Asian Cup first. Let us learn to walk before we start running.

It may take another century or even more before Malaysian soccer can get anywhere close to the World Cup, unless of course Malaysia get to host the World Cup and get an automatic seat, like they did for the 1997 Youth World Cup.

But then again, even we get to play in the World Cup as host, we are going to be bundled out after the first round – just like the Youth World Cup!

Just a reminder – none of the Asian teams, who are leaps and bounds ahead of Malaysian soccer and qualified for the World Cup, managed to qualify for the round of 16!

So for now, I just enjoyed the best of the World Cup action in Germany and got soaked in the atmosphere which saw young, old and even toddlers filling up the Stadium.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

SUKMA controversy brewing (June 2006 - Malaysian Today)

SUKMA controversy brewing
PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s suggestion that national athletes be allowed to compete at the Malaysia Games at the closing ceremony of the 2006 Games in Kedah last Sunday, could well spark off another controversy over the eligibility rule.

While the Prime Minister’s suggestion was noble, as he wanted to see the Games attain international standards and recognition, the inclusion of national athletes, could mean depriving young talent from tasting early success to spur them on to greater heights.

However, the Honorable Prime Minister, had a ready-made solution to the situation, when he suggested that maybe different prizes could be given to national athletes and the newcomers.

Feasible, but could add further confusion to the Games, which is already being questioned for the wisdom of points system for medals and fourth placing attained in each sports, which is accumulated for the overall champion.

A case in point is Pahang, who had won 39 gold medals, 35 silver and 31 bronze, but finished fourth overall based on the accumulated points (where eight points for team and five for individual are awarded for gold, 5 and 3 for silver, 3 and 2 for bronze and 2 and 1 for fourth spot) as compared to Sarawak and Penang who won 35 gold, but finished second and third respectively overall, with for the 42 and 39 silver and 55 and 52 bronze wins respectively which saw them accumulate 502 and 472 points as compared to Pahang’s total of 420.

Besides, the inclusion national athletes would mean that it would be deviating from the original goal of the Games – which was to be ground to unearth and identify fresh talent for the future.

But when talking about overall standards of the Games on the decline, maybe it is food for thought to allow national athletes who are eligible in terms of their age (Under-21) to compete if they had failed to win gold medals in the Sea Games.

This would mean that States who have budding athletes who need exposure to become better will not hold back their athletes from competing at the Sea Games for fear that they will be ineligible for the Malaysia Games.

There was also suggestion by the Prime Minister to include Armed Forces, which should not be a problem and is infact a good move because then it provides than avenue for budding sportsmen and women to find employed in the Armed Forces and at the sametime have the benefit of top class facilities for their training.

The Armed Forces could well become another breeding ground for young athletes, just like the Police Force.

There was also a suggestion to get the Malaysian Universities Sports Council (Masum) to rejoin the Games (they withdrew three years ago) because they were unable to select the best athletes because States had the first choice of selecting them.

While on the surface it looks a good idea, but it may spark off yet another battle between the States and Masum for the right of athletes,

But Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, rightly put it when she said that all suggestions will be taken into consideration, including the Prime Minister’s proposals.

It is without doubt that it is time for review of the Games, especially on regulations on eligibility, status and transfers of athletes, following endless controversies on the matter with each Games.

It is about time to take the Games to the next level and reap the rewards for a more brighter future of sports in the country.

And with that in mind, Azalina wanted a forum where National Sports Council (NSC) as owners of the Games, together with athletes, officials, State Sports Council Directors, State Sports officers or exco members in charge of sports, the media and anyone who have their heart close to the Malaysia Games for the right reasons and want it to realise it’s fullest potential, to discuss the future of the Games at length and come up with some solid and worthwhile resolutions to take the Games to the next plateau.

As the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) were also organising a conference on the future of the Malaysia Games next month, Azalina felt that it would be a shame if NSC and OCM do not join forces.

And it has been agreed that a joint conference will be held where National and State Associations will also be involved and hopefully at the end of the conference, the Malaysia Games next in Terengganu in 2008 will take off to a different level, minus all the controversies, selfish interest of some, the politicking and the chase of gold medal overshadowing all the noble goals of the Games.

Friday, May 26, 2006

World Cup Showcase (2006 - Malaysian Today)

World Cup Showcase

THE world’s greatest show-piece which comes once in four years, is well underway.

The build-up to the World Cup in Germany in Malaysia has been far the best in print media, electronic media, in form of advertisements from official sponsors and of course the telcos, who are the latest to join in the fray of the promotions.

Gone are the days when the Raykat contributed to bring a live telecast match in 1982 from Spain.

Today we have all 64 matches brought live to our living room.

Everyone cash in on the World Cup and it is only hoped that for Malaysia, that the World Cup will do some good for the game.

However, the fear is that there will be more harm done than good in Malaysia by the World Cup.

The ideal scenario would be that the World Cup which witnesses top class football played, will rub-off on Malaysian soccer.

But that would be asking too much, because more often than not, it is the bad habits that are picked up.

The chances that many a marriage and relationship is wrecked, while many others become paupers or some many virtually write their life off through heavy betting, lose their cars and properties through sheer greed to make easy money and probably get sacked for being inefficient at work or worst still coming up with one too many medical leaves.

Many become overnight experts in the game and will virtually know every player, coach, manager in the World Cup, but ask to name their local state team players and they will draw a blank.

Of course, the immediate response from these “overnight experts” is that “who watches local matches and they have no standard.”

Agreed, that Malaysian soccer lacks the class and charisma of the top teams in the world, but does not charity begins at home first.

It is probably going to take many more World Cup tournaments before Malaysia can dream of a team playing in one.

Until then, we just have to contended that the Malaysians can romance the World Cup by not just watching it live on the tubes, but have Malaysian involved in key positions in the tournament.

Among the Malaysians from the soccer fraternity who are considered the best soccer brains who are in Germany include Asian Football Confederation (AFC) secretary-general, Datuk Peter Velappan and his deputy, Datuk Paul Mony Samuel, FIFA Goal Programme manager in Malaysia, Winsdor John, who has the posh job as the general co-ordinator in Berlin – the venue of World Cup final -, Lim Kim Choon (technical study group), Dr Gurcharan Singh (medical), Nazri Abdullah (referees’ coordinator), R. Indran (security), and Lazarus Rokk (Media).

But it will be nothing like seeing a Malaysian team in the World Cup!

For that to happen, the Malaysian soccer team will have first start to win the Sea Games gold they last won in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur and then eye for the Asian title – be the Asian Cup or the Asian Games – and it is no easy feat.

There is something good happening with the National Under-20 team coached by K. Rajagopal and they have been dubbed as the future of Malaysian soccer.

But with the State FAs already trying to stake claim of these players for tournaments like the Malaysia Games and Malaysia Cup, despite these players through the FA of Malaysia having signed a MoU with the National Sports Council (NSC) for the team to be adopted fulltime.

This team has potential, but guarantee is there that they will not be “spoilt” like all our present players.

Unless the FA of Malaysia keeps a tight rein on these players, another potential reality maybe just turned to ashes once again.

And while hopes are placed on this team for a brighter future, it is not going to be permanent if serious development work is done by the State FAs steadily keep the supply for young and talented players coming through the line of production.

Otherwise, our hopes of a World Cup appearance will continue to be a far-fetched dream and Malaysians will only be known as good organisers and administrators and who even have the AFC headquarters in Bukit Jalil, but still do not have the quality to make an impact in the beautiful game.