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.