Saturday, March 10, 2007

Monetary lure in sports(2007 - Malaysian Today)

Monetary lure in sports

ARE we so desperate for achievements that we are prepared to dangle carrots to our national athletes to get results?

What has happened to national pride and honour in doing the nation proud with achievement?

Yes, sports is in the modern era has moved to a new level where rewards are part and parcel of the game.

But it was indeed sad and pathetic that the national soccer team need to be motivated with ringgit and sen to win the ongoing Asean Football Federation (AFF) championship.

Was the prize money of US$100,000 (RM350,000) was not enough to motivate the national players to do proud to the nation?

Menteri Besar of Selangor and FA of Selangor president, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, in a surprise visit to the national team this week prior to the first leg semifinals clash of the Malaysia and Singapore, offered RM100,000 if the team won the AFF championship.

Then there is another RM100,000 for grabs which is offered by the FA of Malaysia’s new attire sponsor, Nike.

All in all there is RM550,000 for grabs for the players if they won.

Well and good, that there are individuals who have come up with incentives for the national team to do well.

But is this the sort of culture we want to cultivate among our sportsmen and women.

There is no denying that rewards will be fortcoming whenever a national athlete or team succeeds at international level and it is not a sin to give rewards for a job well done and as appreciation. And I have no qualms about that, because athletes should be rewarded.

And knowing the President of FA of Malaysia, the Sultan of Pahang, he himself will reward the players if they produce noteworthy achievements, without even the players asking.

But to dangle a carrot for national athletes to perform? I take strong objection to that because I feel it is an insult.

Do soldiers who go to war, are dangled with monetary carrots to win the war or battle? What about all the doctors who are fighting to save a life, are they paid incentives to save that life?

Agreed that Malaysian soccer has not won a major title since 1989, when they won the Sea Games gold medal beating Singapore on that raining night at the Merdeka Stadium on Aug 31.

But have we become so desperate that we have to offer cash money for our national athletes to bring honours to the nation.

What saddens even more that that the monetary offer is for a tournament which is considered the lowest in the region – an Asean tournament. It is not even an Asian tournament.

Have we gone so desperate that we are prepared to reward for mediocrity?

And it is not surprising, because we here in Malaysian even offer cash rewards for achievement in Malaysia Games (Sukma) which is a Games to development and unearth new young talent!

On Tuesday night on the first leg game day itself, I kept asking myself as I walked out of the Shah Alam Stadium where the Malaysians were held to a 1-1 draw, what better incentives could the players have asked for to motivate themselves, then when they took the one goal lead.

Whether the goal scored by Muhammad Hardi Jaafar was an intended attempt at goal or a cross into the penalty box, it was a gem of a goal and it should have spurred the players to greater heights.

But it did not. Maybe, they needed the 25,000 fans to scream that they will each be donating RM10 each to the team besides the RM 10 they paid to watch and scream their lungs off in support of the team, for the players to win the match!

I did not see much urgency on the players to at least keep the slim lead, let alone increase the lead, as they allowed a “soft goal” by Singapore to pull level.

Let us not spoil our athletes with all sorts of incentives, especially when the achievement is at the lowest level.

Let us reward for Asian and Olympic level achievements and set standards that we can be proud.

While on the subject of achievement, the young badminton doubles pair of Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong and golfer Airil Rizman Zahari who won the Malaysian Open and Pakistan Open respectively, did not see carrots dangled at them to win their titles.

They had to fight it out tooth and nail to win their titles and the prize money offered. And these are the kind of achievement we can be proud of.

While congratulations is certainly in order for Koo and Tan for winning their second consecutive title after having bagged the gold medal at the Asian Games in Doha, it is hoped that the duo who have tremendous potential, will keep their feet firm on the ground and not allow success to get to their head.

The talented duo like level headed players who will not get too big for their shoes, but instead will continue to strive hard to continue to do well. And these are the kind of athletes who can become role models and even if rewarded, it will be worthwhile and no issues to be made off.

It is hoped that Malaysian sports in their desperation to see success, do not set low standards and reward for mediocre results and become a laughing stalk in the eyes of the sporting world.

Let our sportsmen and women be true champions, which we can really be proud of and the only way to achieve it is cheer hard work, determination, discipline, commitment and above all passion for the sports and nation.

Let us be proud of 50 years of independence and show some solid and concrete achievements that we really can be proud off in sports.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Athletes' dedication in question again (2007 - Malaysian Today)

Athletes' dedication in question again

IT is inevitable that the dedication of present day athletes has to be brought up once again, in the wake of the Government rewarding RM 6,950,800 last night at the dinner attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to athletes under Sports Winning Rewards Scheme (Skim Hadiah Kemenangkan Sukan – SHAKAM).

The athletes who were rewarded were the winners at the December 15th Doha Asian Games and the 9th Fespic Games hosted by Kuala Lumpur in November.

The athletes from the Doha Asian Games collected a total of RM2,246,000 for the total of eight gold, 17 silver and 17 bronze medals, while the physically challenged athletes pocketed RM 4,704,800.

Athlete Lee Sheng Chow was the biggest beneficiary from the Fespic Games with a total of RM190,00 for winning two gold and one silver, while bowler Esther Cheah took home RM198,333 for two gold and three silver medals.

Although, there are concerns that the physically challenged athletes should have a separate scheme because their events are unique in nature, the Government while the scheme comes in place, did not leave them out and gave the same as for the abled athletes under the SHAKAM.

The point is that be it a physically challenged athlete or able athlete, when they bring honours, they are handsomely rewarded.

These rewards are besides being the athletes fully sponsored by the National Sports Council where training allowance, accommodation, meals, education, medical benefits, sports science, training, coaches, air fares and even overseas stints, are all provided for.

In most sports even the prize money from tournaments goes back to the athletes.

Indeed, Malaysian athletes are a very lucky lot.

But sadly, a majority either do not realise it, or think that they are not getting enough.

It really puzzles as to why Malaysian athletes are not motivated enough to excel in sports and reach excellence results, as there is ample rewards awaiting them.

Infact, Malaysia is an envy of many foreign countries and athletes, where their athletes have to pay their own fare for international competitions like the Commonwealth Games and when the athletes win a gold medal, all they get is a handshake from their top Government officials and a commendation letter – not a single sen is paid in rewards.

For these athletes, their performance with their nation is a stepping-stone in their ambitions to become professionals in the respective sports.

And the sacrifice made by the athletes from these nations are immense, just to make the grade and move to the professional circuit where they have to continue to work hard to earn their rewards.

For all the money the Malaysian Government is dedicating towards sports, we should be producing champions in almost every sport we compete.

But it is not the case, because Malaysian athletes are a pampered lot, who are easily satisfied, do not have ambitions and more often then not get rewarded some mediocre performance, which is not even Asian standard.

Maybe, it is time for athletes to be made accountable too and should be asked to sign contracts for the funding they get, where when they fail to achieve certain standards, they have to pay back the Government, or have to serve the sports for a number of years under different categories based on their qualification.

What we have now is athletes continuously complaining that they are not getting enough and do not even have performances worth mentioning.

Of course sport globally has changed to a professional approach and cannot be compared to the earlier years when it was all about pride, passion and honour.

At the same time these, these values cannot be completely disregarded.

These days we have soccer players who ask the team manager at halftime, if their bonus is going to be topped up, so that they can go on to win the match!

We have top athletes quitting the sports at an early age, just because they have won some money through the rewards scheme.

To make it worse, these athletes do not even give back anything to the sports or society, what they have learnt and earned through sports.

More often than not there is politicking, bickering and mismanagement in sports associations and more often the parents too have joined in the bandwagon to make demands and make threats in what they consider is in the best interest of their children.

While applaud the athletes, both the physically challenged an d able athletes for their achievement, it must be stressed to them, that this is only the beginning and tey should have bigger goals and dreams to achieve.

It probably time to review the incentive scheme where lump sums of money are not paid, but where one secures the future of these athletes, where a bulk of the money is only paid out when they retire, in form of a monthly allowance.

Maybe, even look at the Korean model, where points are awarded for each success at a international level and the longer one stays in the sports and bring honours, the more points which are accumulated and get high pensions for life.

Rewarding our athletes is all good, but with large sums of money being given out, it has to be a win-win situation for both the athletes and the government and at the same time ensuring that performance at the highest level is always on the upward trend.

Sports is a serious business in Malaysia and it is about time the athletes realise it and act as professionals to give back the equivalent returns as they are supported and rewarded.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sporting shame (2007 - Malaysian Today)

Sporting shame

MALAYSIAN athletes have yet to establish themselves as world-renowned personalities, but they are already acting like prima donnas.

Even the few who have been making a name for themselves in the world arena, have yet to reach “star” status with consistent performance over a number of years.

Malaysian athletes lack the character to display true sportsmanship, professionalism and portray themselves as an icon for the future generation.

Malaysian sportsmen and women generally being labeled as spoilt and pampered lot and there will be no smoke without fire.

The scribe witnessed a few incidents this week, which only confirmed that Malaysian athletes have a long way before they can stand out with distinction in the world arena.

One shocking incident was when the national soccer team was returning from Singapore by flight after their semifinals defeat to Singapore in the Asean Football Federation soccer tournament on Sunday, were a disgrace to budding youngsters who had ambitions to be national players one day.

Although returning as a team after the defeat, the players were seated all over the plane. (Prior arrangement could have been made for them all to be seated together).

What was even more shocking was the same players were seated with either their wives or girlfriends.

And the “women” were all over their men during the flight and it was a disgusting sight especially with the players in national colours and traveling as a team.

It is learnt that these “women” also stayed in the same hotel, as the team.

There is no harm for wives and girlfriends to support their men, but they should travel separately and stay in a different hotel.

Even the top teams in the world for the World Cup do not condone such behavior from their players. (Wives and girlfriends travel for the World Cup but separately and stay in different hotels and are only allowed to meet at stipulated times and venues. But for the World Cup the players are on assignment for almost for a month).

The Malaysian team was in Singapore for just three days!

But the height of the situation of the national team was when a player was seen walking out from the plane with his hands locked with his wife or girlfriend.

What kind on impression would have this player given to the public at the airport.

Certainly did not speak much of the character of the team nor the player.

Lets forget about the players showing some remorse for their exit from the AFF tournament, but least the players should have the decency to behave in the public.

Traveling on the same flight were two young fans – college students – who has attired themselves with the latest Nike jersey the Malaysian team is equipped with and would have paid close to RM300.

The duo was diehard fans because they not only were wearing the expensive and brand new Malaysian jersey, but had flown in to watch the game.

What kind of impression or example, would have the national soccer players given these two young fans – that life as a national soccer players is all about glamour, women and fun?

The FA of Malaysia should get to the bottom of this matter, at least for the same of the sake of whatever image the national soccer team has!

Then in other sports like gymnastics and badminton, we have players who demand who they train under and where they train. Parents too have joined the bandwagon and in the pretext of wanting the best for their children, make unwarranted demands and accuse the administrators of all sorts of shortcomings.

Then, we even have parents who go the extend of thinking of asking monetary gains for interviews.

In athletics there was discontentment among a few athletes, over the scholarships awarded by the Higher Education Ministry, despite already on scholarships which maybe not as lucrative in terms of monetary as the recent scholarships offered, but had other values like prolonging their courses or deferring their dates of examination.

What is it with these athletes? They demand anything and everything, but when it comes to performances, it is questionable.

And the government is pumping in millions into sports, only to find athletes who shortchange them in all accounts.
To make it all heart aching, is the fact that they do not even have noteworthy performances shouting about.

Athletes had better take a good look in the mirror and realise that there is much more they can give then keep demanding the authorities for the sky and moon.

They has better realise their follies fast enough, before one fine day, the Government might just decide to take their legs of the pedal to support sports because it is losing cause.

Ask what you can do for the nation and not what the nation can do for you!

Produce the results and stand tall and all will be duly recognised. But do not short change the tax payers money and hope to get way scot-free all the time.

States Associations the key players (2007 - Malaysian Today)

State Associations the key players

State associations play a key role in charting the progress of Malaysian sports.

They not only hold the key to implementing the programmes launched by the national associations and carrying out their daily work at the grassroot level effectively, but they play a key role in electing the right people to lead them from the national level.

State associations are considered the king makers, for it is their votes and candidates who make the national association presidents.

But often, instead of using the power they have in their hands wisely, they are blinded by internal bickering, politicking in their associations and making themselves powerful in the process, when electing their presidents.

Recently, the Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union (MAAU) in their Annual General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, elected a new president in Perlis Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim.

Certainly, Shahidan is a good man for the post, but the question is whether he will have the time to be hands on the administration and progress of the association.

Afterall, Shahidan, already heads the Amateur Swimming Association of Malaysia (ASUM), the Perlis Football Association and Malaysian Kabbadi Association.

There was a move sometime ago to limit the number of top posts an individual can hold in sports association to ensure that the same official does not spread himself thin in serving the various associations one heads.

But nothing concrete came off it.

It is great that Shahidan is a popular choice and it must be because he delivers, especially in terms of finding funds for the association.

But will there not be a conflict of interest in his daily chores, will he not be going to the same source to assist the associations he heads and have his plate full to handle to the various woes of the association.

Or is it that the affiliates in MAAU have put him as the president, so that others can run the association, as he might not have the time to be hands on most of the time.

Interestingly, a man who is dedicated to working hard at his job, Admiral (Rtd) Datuk Danyal Balagopal, who has a record of being a driving force trying to put MAAU on the right footing, had stood against Shahidan and lost.

In the process, Danyal, who was the deputy president, had to relinquish the post as he went for brokes.

The chances that Danyal being persuaded to return to his deputy president post looks remote as the “king makers” within would not want that.

Shahidan will definitely find the money for MAAU’s activities, but whether he is going to see it put to good use will be the million ringgit question.

Rumours have already started among the sports circle that Shahidan might even run for a post in the FA of Malaysia and even the Olympic Council of Malaysia.

As for a post in OCM, he probably has already paved his way with the support of the two associations he heads – MAAU and ASUM.

As for FA of Malaysia, it is left to be seen.

It is good that top leaders come forward to assist State and National Sports Associations, but they must be careful not to spread themselves thin and at the same time subject themselves to talk from the public that they are “power crazy”.

They also must be careful not too be accused of not doing enough for sports in their own State, but take on to become national presidents.

It certainly does not do justice to these leaders on being just “puppet presidents”.

Maybe, Shahidan, is a different and he can handle a few associations in his stable and bring forth the desired results in each. He will then become a rare breed of sports leaders.

But in the best interest of sports in the country, it is best that sports leaders do not take on more than they can chew.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Winds of change (2006 - Malaysian Today)

Winds of change

THERE are winds of change in the offing in the preparation for elite athletes for future Games and championships in move to see athletes better prepared.

There is also indication that National Sports Associations (NSAs) will have to play a more prominent role in development and no longer can just leave at the hands of the National Sports Council to do their job as guardians of the respective sports.

The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) is also expected to work even closer with NSC and at the same time work closely with NSAs to help them in development of the respective sports.

The NSC are expected to concentrate more on just elite athlete preparation so that the best effort is put in without any other distractions like development work and talent identification.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports, could well be emphasising further on sports for all and instilling a better sports culture among the raykat.

These are some changes could well happen with the Minister of Youth and Sports, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, having given indications of such a move in Sports Talk on Trax FM (a radio show) on Sunday and her visit to the OCM on Tuesday evening where she met Board Members headed by president Tan Sri Tunku Imran.

Azalina has also lined up visits to the associations of the Eight Core Sports (athletics, badminton, bowling, gymnastics, football, hockey, swimming and squash) to visit their administrative office and also to have informal discussions with their respective senior officials.

She is expected to throw innovative ideas for the betterment of sports in the country and see the responses and commitment from the NSAs.

Basically, just like she was picking the brains of the OCM offcials, she is expected to do the same of the Eight Core NSA officials.

She even had a similar meeting with Sports Editors of the Print and Electronic Media at a luncheon this afternoon, to get the Media’s feedback.

Once she has equipped herself with all the thoughts from all quarters, she is expected to discuss it at the Cabinet Committee meeting at the end of the month, before coming out with a structure which could see Malaysian sports elevate itself to higher grounds.

However, these plans when unfolded, is not expected to be a short term plan or any magical plan which is launched today and champions born yesterday.

It is going to be process, where the concerted and cooperation

Friday, January 12, 2007

Embrace Sports Medicine (2007 - Malaysian Today)

Embrace Sports Medicine

IT is about time Malaysian sports loving fraternity once and for all accept that sports medicine and sports science are part and parcel of modern days sports, especially at excellence level.

On too many occasions of late, questions have been asked about the importance and relevance of support service for teams. In some instances, the support services have even been blamed for poor performance of teams.

It is indeed sad that sports medicine and science have been ridiculed in this modern age of sports and especially by those who have little or no knowledge in the area.

More and more sports and coaches are accepting that sports medicine and especially sport science plays an important role in the overall performance of an athlete or team.

But there are still some sports and coaches who shun sports science, feeling threatened by it, especially when they have little knowledge on the matter.

It is a globally trend these days for athletes and sports alike to have support service to enhance their performances.

Soccer teams for the recent World Cup in Germany had as many support services staff with them, as they had players on their squad.

Support services are more often misconstrued as people who disrupt the plans of teams. On contrary, these support service team play a huge role in the rise in the overall performance of athletes and teams.

And now for the coming Doha Asian Games in December, where a total of 31 support services have been accredited to travel with the contingent to Doha, there is bound to be some adverse criticisms enlisted.

There a total of three doctors, four physiotherapist, six masseurs, five psychologists, three nutritionists, two sports code personnel and eight conditioning staff going to Doha as against …….. athletes and officials.

Under sports medicine are personnel who are involved in clinical services, physiotherapy, paramedical services, anti-doping, rehabilitation, radiology, pharmacy and biochemistry.

And under sports science come physiology, biomechanics, psychology, nutrition, conditioning and sports code.

The sports science personnel do specific works which help the coach to bring the best out of athlete, especially in working on weaker areas of an athlete.

But for the support service to be effective, the coach and athlete must believe in them.

The growing trend in Malaysian sports is that more and more coaches and athletes believe that the support service, do them good.

The works of the various support service in indeed intricate and involves a great deal of work on specific information on the athlete. Among them include counseling, to plan, develop, implement, supervise and evaluate physical conditioning programs to develop the athletes, to monitor athletes’ body composition and weight through continuous assessment, weight and management program and to provide the most appropriate physiological assessment methods that serve to continuously monitor the athlete’s fitness by identifying and quantifying the physical and physiological characteristics that contribute to performance in particular sports.

It is certainly degrading when we have for instance where there has been suggestion that Sports Code involves counting the number of times the shuttlecock crosses over the net in a game of badminton.

Yes, they keep count of rallies in a game of badminton as part of match analysis, but they certainly do more than that to provide not only vital statistics, but suggest on weak areas which need to be worked on.

In short the support service accompany the contingent not for a holiday, but an integral part of the team.

But to point fingers at the support service and say that they interrupt in the management of teams and athletes when performance in not up to the expected mark and coaches and athletes take all credit when they do well is indeed not fair to these professional personnel in the support services.

However, on the other hand, these support service are not there to take credit when performance is creditable, but merely as one and part of the team in achieving the best in an athlete or team.

The sports science team work with the entire contingent of athletes and provide a monthly report on all the athletes they work with and a look at the complied notes on individual athletes will tell one, that a great deal of work have been put in and the information and suggestion provided is indeed valuable to both athletes and coaches.

Sports Science and Medicine which is now concentrated at the National Sports Institute (NSI) in Bukit Jalil, is fast being made available to all states where mini sports science units are being set up, so that more embrace it.

As director-general of National Sports Council Dato’ Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz, who was also the previous director of NSI puts it, “sports science is an integral part of modern days sports and the sooner all come to terms with it, the better of the development of sports in Malaysia.

“Sports science for developing countries is even more useful because it helps to compete against the giants in sports who have an abundance of talent. Sports science helps to bridge the gap between the giants and developing countries to compete on a more level playing field.”

Many fail to take the trouble to find out of the workings of sports science and more often than not make damaging statements which undermines the creditability of these support staff who work under the various divisions.

It is hoped that for the coming Doha Asian Games, these support staff of sports science are seen in a different light, acknowledgment is given to them and accept them as an integral part of modern days sports.