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.