Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sponsorship is not charity!

Sports associations cannot demand sponsorship, but have to earn it. Sponsorship is not charity!

I was shocked when Malay Mail took to task Air Asia for sponsoring National Football League (NFL) Oakland Raiders in a move to boost its brand recognition in America (read the Malay Mail story on Thursday).

Air Asia were questioned why they were sponsoring foreign entitie
s when they should be supporting local sports.

First and foremost, it is the prerogative of Air Asia as to who they want to sponsor. Secondly, as a company where profit is utmost on their minds, they surely would have looked at all aspects before venturing out to tie a deal with Oakland Raiders. Air Asia is responsible to its shareholders and surely they were looking at long-term profitability of the company both in ter
ms of revenue and extending their wings to America. (read NST's story on the sponsorship)

Thirdly, it is not that Air Asia has not looked at local sports totally
. They are sponsoring the Olympic Council of Malaysia, FA of Malaysia, Malaysian Hockey Federation and Malaysian Amateur Basketball Association.
Four years ago, I had interviewed Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes (above) when he attended a FIFA Com-Unity Workshop organised by the FA of Malaysia. I had asked him why Asia Asia had not sponsored Malaysian soccer. He not only replied why he had not sponsored Malaysian soccer, but also spoke about what sponsorship is all about. Clare Kenny, the then FIFA marketing instructor, also spoke on marketing and sponsorship in the workshop. (Read the interview)

FA of Malaysia eventually saw Air Asia sponsoring them. (Read how?)

And how many of remember the Rakan Sukan
(partner-in-sports)? Whatever happened to it? The sponsors pulled out in no time because the national associations were not professional, transparent, could not manage the funds and above all, failed to take care of their sponsors in terms of mileage for them. (Read about the Rakan Sukan here)

I have personally involved in trying to get sponsorship when I was involved with The Malay Mail football team when were playing the M-League in Division Two from 2001 - 2003. Even being a newspaper team, who could offer immense coverage and mileage to the sponsors, we have tremendous difficulties in securing sponsors. There be many out there who have the budget to sponsor, but they are not just going to throw the money at anyone who approaches them. There has to be market value for the sponsorship, there has to be returns and above all it has to be beneficial to both parties - the sponsor and the sponsored.

Thus, instead of blaming corporations for not coming out to support Malaysian sports, let us look at ourselves in the mirror and see if we are doing the right thing to entice the sponsors.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Courting foreign disaster

The question of readmission of foreign players in the Malaysian League has surfaced only after a year after the FA of Malaysia had taken the bold move to ban them.

First, it was hinted at the FA of Malaysia Congress last Sunday by deputy president Datuk Redzuan Sheikh Ahmad, and secondly, it was further fueled after the humiliating 8-2 defeat suffered by Kedah at the hands of Vietnam's Bihn Duong. The latter had the services of foreign players, while Kedah did not.

Then there are some quarters, especially State FAs, who claim that they Stadiums are empty because of the absence of foreign players.

All these are the same old reasons. But nobody stops to think about the soccer standards in the country and with the national team at heart.

There all still many who argue that, with foreigners, our standards will go up! Did it gone up all those years when we had the foreigners? Did the full Stadiums raise our standards?
The last time Malaysia won the Sea Games was in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur.

We had filled Stadiums with just locals playing not so long ago.

If the foreigners are readmitted to the League, this will be the second time FA of Malaysia will be doing so, after the ban.

I have written many stories on this subject and I strongly believe that bringing back the foreigners would mean denying our local players, especially strikers and midfielders, an opportunity to get exposure and thus the national team suffering in the end.

I am just going to add links to all the stories I have done in the past to justify my stand.

These stories can been viewed here : foreign players.

Personally, I feel that it would be better to hire a top foreign coach to do develop work and build the future, rather than hiring all the foreigner players who hardly contribute to the development of Malaysian soccer.

I wonder if anyone remembers Marko Bilic? (read this story). Or Pahang's English coach Fred Binney, who was banished to handle development in Pahang in the 80s. He took over from former national coach Frank Lord in Pahang, but did not last long as the chief coach. He was asked to handle development and within a year, spotted and groomed talents from the outskirts of Mentakab, Maran, Termerloh, Jerantut, to name a few. Do remember players like the late M.Ravindran, Fadhirul Annuar Wahab and A, Anbalangan who rose to prominence under the guidance of Binney.

The money spent on foreign players will definitely be better spent on top foreign coaches, not to handle the State team, but to develop young players, talent scouting, conducting coaching courses - basically laying the foundation for a good football system. And hire these coaches not for a year or two, but at least five years.

Food for thought, but it is unlikely to appeal to the State FAs.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Yet another call!

Another call for the M-League has been called.

Is this change going to give fresh breath to Malaysian soccer?

For all you know, the State FAs have already drawn their knives and are sharpening it, to get rid of the very people who suggested it.

That should be no surprise because it is the State FAs who rule in the FA of Malaysia. If there is anybody who threatens their supremacy, they will do everything within their means to get rid of them.

So, Tuanku Sultan, better beware.

Don't blame the FA of Malaysia and the Sultan of Pahang for the ills of Malaysian soccer. Blame the State FAs. They are the main culprits.

Just to underline the powers of the State FA, on Sunday at the FA of Malaysia Congress, they shot down the new constitution which was in line with demands by the international governing body. (Read this NST story).

Managing a M-League for about eight teams who are financially sound is nothing new. There was a study-group from FA of Malaysia who went to Japan and Korea not so long ago and came back hailing the League. What happened after that? We still go about running our M-League the way we want - pleasing all the affiliates!

For starters, the Malaysian League should have never gone semi-professional, let alone professional.

Now we are talking about going back to Semi-Pro. This is nothing new again. It has been written over and over. But who cares? (Refer to these stories a; - b; c; d; e)

Let us start talking about schools soccer and a visionary five or ten years development programme to see Malaysian soccer rise again. But no one is going to talk about it because it is long-term, no immediate monetary gains and it is sheer hard work.

You can revamp the M-league anyway you want, but there is no way the Malaysian soccer standard is going to rise.

False ambitions

To have ambitions is fine, but they have to be realistic ambitions.

It was for this reason that I was amused when Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek called on national athletes, especially the national football squad, to emulate the Egyptian team who beat the reigning World Cup champions Italy in a Confederations Cup match last week.

"They should study how an underdog country like Egypt could do so when everybody knows they are not among the superpowers in the sport," he said.

Is Egypt an underdog and not a superpower?

Egypt's victory over Italy may be a surprise, but they cannot be denied the credit that is due to them.

The Egyptian national team, affectionately known as the Pharaohs, have a distinguished record including two fourth-placed finishes at the Olympic Football Tournament (1928 and 1964) and a third appearance in 1984. However, although in 1934 they became the first African country to participate in the FIFA World Cup finals, Egypt have made only one subsequent appearance on football's greatest stage, at Italy 1990.

The Pharaohs have won a record six CAF Africa Cup of Nations titles, seized in 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006 and 2008, and can count the likes of Ali Abugreisma, Mahmoud El Khatib, Ibrahim Youssef, Magdi Abdelghani, Tahar Abouzeid, Hossam Hassan, Hany Ramzy and Mohamed Aboutrika among their greatest all-time players.

Currently they have players playing in Europe. Among them include Mohamed Shawky (Middlesbrough), Mohamed Zidan (Borussia Dorthmund), Mido and Amr Zaki (both Wigan)

Other achievements include victory in the African Games football tournament twice (1987 and 1995), and the African Youth Championship once (2003). The U-20 team also took third place at the FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina in 2001. In 1997, when Malaysia hosted the FIFA U-20 Youth World Cup, Egypt hosted the FIFA U-17 World Championship. In September (Sept 24-Oct 16 2009), Egypt will host the U-20 World Championship.

Egypt is ranked 40th as compared to Malaysia's 159th.

Egypt's best-known coach is Mahmoud El Gohary, who took the national team to the FIFA World Cup finals in 1990. He is the only person to have won the African Cup of Nations both as a player (in 1959) and as a coach (1998).

With such rich and successful history behind Egypt, to consider them minnows is indeed an insult to them.

Maybe Malaysia should look closer to home, to learn to walk before we start to run. Thailand or even Vietnam, will be countries good enough for Malaysia to emulate. It may be embarrassing for Malaysia to emulate countries like these, for we were far more superior to them not so long go, but that is the reality.

Let us have realistic ambitions and achieve it, rather then just hope for miracles to happen.

Footnote: Egypt lost to USA 3-0 in their next match and failed to make the semifinals of the Confederations Cup. The inconsistency is one area the Malaysians will not have any problems emulating – being champions one day and mediocre the next.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The young and glamorous

All the youth programmes may come to a zero, if the "glamour" issue among the young generation of sportsboys and girls is not addressed.
It has been on the scene for sometime, startin
g with the soccer boys when the game in the country went professional and they were earning high wages.

It was a common sight to see soccer players gel their hair, used netting to keep their hair in place, dye their hair and wearing matching colour boots for competitive matches.

Then off the pitch, they dri
ve fancy cars fitted with expensive audio system, seen at the hottest clubs with young and attractive women.

It was no different with the badminton boys.

A recent example is how the doubles players Koo Kien Keat
and Tan Boon Heong turned glamour boys overnight after their 2006 Asian Games gold medal. What has happened to their World No 1 status in 2007, which has now dropped to sixth.

And more recently, I see it happening in bowling. Bowling is among the sports who have a good development programme and always churn out new faces who gone on perform.

At the Singapore Open championship earlier this month, there were 23 youth bowlers, eight back-up members and the elite squad of 15 for a total of 46 bowlers.

The National Sports Council (NSC) was generous enough to send a big squad because it was just across the causeway and for the exposure of these young bowlers. Besides they could travel by bus.

But two weeks earlier, NSC had turned out a request to send a team of four boys and four girls for the first time in ten years for the Asian Schools championship in Hong Kong because of financial constraints. Malaysia were only represented by Malaysian Schools Sports Council team, unlike in the previous years had two teams, returned for the first time without any gold medal.

Coming back to Singapore, there is no question of the discipline of the young bowlers who all call their coaches "Sir". They show them the utmost respect. They turn up everyday at the Bowling Centre despite having fallen out of the competition, to cheer the rest competing.

But what was alarming,was that several young bowlers, after trying to qualify for the respective Masters cate
gory for five times (paid for by NSC), they just wanted to give up. They were not prepared to pay their own qualifying games. Maybe they did not have the money. But that could have been addressed if they spoke to the officials. It was just that they just threw in the towel and only coaxing by the coaches that they attempted further.

But their minds already set on giving up, it was little wonder that they did not qualify even with the extra attempts.
On the other hand, there were other senior bowlers including Sharon Koh, the winner of the Women's Masters, who attempted for another six times (total 11) before she made the cut.
(The top three winners at the 42nd Singapore Internartonal Open - from left - Sharon Koh, Siti Safiyah Amirah and Shalin Zulkifli)

Some of the men bowlers bowled to about 4am in the morning to make the cut.

And with so many youth bowlers, some were even heard saying that they were in Singapore to make the numbers.

While a majority of the young bowlers religously stood behind the lanes to support their teammates who were still competing, there was a small group busy among laughing and having fun at one corner of the Centre and at times had to be told to tone down so as not to disturb the concentration of those bowling.

Maybe they were just being boys and girls, but something tells me that these breed of bowlers will find it hard to match the discipline, committment and determination of the senior bowlers.

And I am sure this phenomenon is also experienced in other sports.

Can it be addressed or are we just having to give in, and come to terms with the fact that this is the new generation.

But at the end of day,in sports,whether it be bowling,football,badminton or any other, if there is no element of sacrifice, discipline, determination, dedication and passion, one will fall flat.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pave the way for sports grads to schools

Sports science graduates should be seriously considered for Physical Education (PE) teachers in schools, in view of the shortage PE teachers in country.

Yes, sports science graduates become teachers, but the percentage from the actual number of graduates each year is only about 25%.

The sports science degree course was introduced by University Malaya in1995 and the first batch graduated in 1999. Since then, an average of 120 graduates have graduated each year and
UiTM and several other universities too now offer the same course.

However, armed with the three-year degree course, the graduates cannot go to the schools and teach immediately. They have to attend a one-year course to attain the Kursus Perguruan Lepasan Ijazah. This course is available in some Universities and Teacher Training Colleges after attaining the sports science degree. The reason behind this course is to educate the graduates to teach sports science, health science and PE in schools. Their sports science degree does not include the teaching syllabus. It only covers coaching, management and physiotherapy.

But due to the problem of limited seats available for this course, only a minimum number of the graduates proceed to attend this course, while others feel that they would be better off doing a second degree in another field or start working.

Many of the sports graduates who decide to work immediately face employment problems in their related fields because agencies like the National Sports Council, National Sports Institute and State Sports Councils only have limited vacancies each year. Even sports associations do not hire these graduates. (In contrast refer to this story and data on what
2008 Physiology and Sports Graduates did when they completed their degree at the University of Glasgow)

I had highlighted this problem four years ago in my Level Field column in The Malay Mail. (refer to this story). However, four years down the line, not much has improved to overcome the shortage of PE teachers in schools.

A sports science graduate from Perak who is now teaching for the last three years, confirmed that the problem still exists. He said from his batch only about 30 graduates became teachers.

This lad now teaches Moral, Sports Science (which has become a syllabus recently) and Physical Education. This former M-League striker besides coaching his school soccer team, has even gone a step further, to start a soccer academy near his home with the help of a local club called Ipoh Fridays Club. He has recruited eight coaches to assist to coach 120 players every Sunday for two hours. They only charge a minimum of RM 15 per player.

Imagine if we had 50 sports graduates each year, doing what this lad has embarked on, sports in the country will have a sound foundation and the future will certainly be bright. But first, these graduates must be attracted to teach sports in schools and cut the red is sports after all!

It is common knowledge that teachers who have no background in sports have been asked to be PE teachers because of the shortage. To make matters worse, because of women and men ratio in schools, more often then not, it is the women teachers who end up being PE teachers. Thus, it is little wonder why our sports standards are deteriorating.

Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the Education Minister, recently said that the government has decided to set up a specialist teacher training institute where it will train teachers to coach in various sports. My question is, would it not be advisable to use the sports science graduates who are already available. Since these teachers are only going to coach, probably they can exempted from the Kursus Perguruan Lepasan Ijazah. That way, the situation can immediately be addressed.

For the record the percentage of men and women teachers as of 2008 is 31.4% men and 68.6% women teachers in primary schools and 33.7% men and 63.3% women teachers in secondary schools.

This is another teachers' problem Muhyiddin intends to address (see today's NST story).

Indeed the teachers need to be given fresh incentives to take up the noble profession but without compromising on standards. However, making the path to take up the profession much simpler would help, especially for the sports science graduates.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sports is the best school of life!

Singapore Sports School

Singapore is aggressive with its schools' sports programme and Malaysia had better take note.

Obviously their small sized nation makes it much easier for them to implement their programmes, but that should not be Malaysia's excuse for not being as aggressive.

Not only do Singapore have the elite and sports schools in place, but they have gone a step further with their Sports Education Programme.

It was introduced two years ago in a partnership between the Singapore Sports Council and Ministry of Education. It is a dollar-to-dollar matching grant of up top S$10,000 for schools to take up sports programmes from a given list.

Its aims is to advocate the importance of sports education, encourage participation, and increase sporting opportunities for youths. It also ensures service providers give schools quality sports programme.

Primary, Secondary, JCs, Centralised Institutions and Special Education Schools are eligible for this programme. The participation rate is 99% (384 schools) this year, up from 95% (342) last year and 88% (311) in 2007.

What programmes qualify:
#Sports Exposure: One-off events introducing a sport or a sporting lifestyle. Can be in the form of sports clinics, tryouts or carnivals within the school.
#Sports Play: Structured instructional courses that facilitate the learning of a sport at the beginner level with basic skills.
#Sports Development: Facilitate the learning of a sport at a more advanced level with higher-level skills.
#Sports Leagues: Intra-school competitions (inter-class meets) for a chosen sport that take place over a prolonged period of time.

The deteriorating emphasis on physical education and sports in schools is a global issue.
Four years ago when I attended an International Conference on Sports and Education in Bangkok, it was acknowledged that it was a global issue. (Refer to this story)

A majority of the nations worldwide are addressing the situation. Some at an aggressive pace, for they know the importance of sports in school and the role it plays in nation building, while others are moving at a slower pace because of financial constraints. Some others are dragging their feet because schools sports is not their priority.

But there is no denying that sports is an essential part of any society. The sooner everyone realises that, it will be a victory for mankind!

Sports tracking

Much has been said about both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister - Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin - are former Sports Ministers and it will augur well for sports.

The fact the Muhyiddin is also the Education Minister, further fuels the believe that there is going to be a great foundation laid for Malaysian sports.

There is no denying that both gentlemen are passionate lovers of sports and will do whatever necessary to see Malaysian sports rise.

However, these two men at the helm alone cannot make things happen. It is the people below them - the administrators - who have to be hands on and take matters with urgency. Meetings have to be precise and implementations of plans have to be on the express track. If anyone drags their feet, all plans will be derailed.

Already, Muhyiddin has said that as part of its programme to beef up sports at school level, the government has decided to set up a specialist teacher training institute where it will train teachers to coach in various sports. It will also to train technical officials.

Muhyiddin said that he hopes to see the institute operational by next year, at the earliest. He also made it clear that he wants to make sports a priority in schools so that students can get balanced education.

He went to say that he is aware of problems such as the lack of fields and sports teachers.
He suggested that schools who do not have fields share it with those who have and was thinking of offering incentives to get more teachers involved.

All well and good, but it must be made to become a reality.

Lack of proper playing fields is perennial problem (refer to this story) but has not be resolved over the years.

To bring back the sports culture to our society, suggestions have been made on numerous occasions to allow housing estates who lack recreational facilities to use school fields after school hours. The Parent Teachers Association (PTA) and the local Residents Association (RA) were suggested to work together, so that the management of the school field and other sporting facilities can be worked out on a cost sharing basis.

But nothing has happened, the reason being there is too many red-tapes.

The suggestion was even made to the new Sports Minister, Datuk Ahmad Sabery Cheek, at the meet-session with the National Press Club exco members. He said he will look into it.

There are 7,655 primary schools and 2,189 secondary schools for a total of 9,844 in the country.
Not all of these schools have fields. Even those who have fields are in bad condition because of poor maintenance.

Maybe a joint venture between the PTAs and RAs will be a solution to improve the conditions of the field.

Indeed food for thought. But it has to be addressed on the express lane!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Another one bites the dust

How low can we go?

That's the question on Malaysian sports lovers lips after the Malaysian sepak takraw teams loss to Indonesia in the semifinals of the World Cup Sepak Takraw championship in Kuala Terengganu last weekend.

Sepak takraw was introduced by Malaysia and we ruled the sports. Now Thailand rule, with Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore all being threats to our status.

Even in women sepak takraw, we have failed to make an impact.

Soon, we will talking about yesteryears when we ruled in sepak takraw, just like soccer and hockey.

Something drastic has to be done soon to stop the rot and the current administration must be held responsible for the state of the game.

If they cannot do something to regain our supremacy in the game soon, they may have to make way for some fresh blood.

But what is the real problem in the declining standards in sepak takraw besides taking the administration to task?

It is no different from all the other sports in Malaysia which have taken a nose-dive - it no longer enjoys the popularity among the masses.

Is sepak takraw still played passionately every evening until failing light in the kampungs, districts and schools? Are there development programmes set in place? Are the State associations doing enough to develop young talent.? Are there enough coaches to coach the young? Is there enough or even any talent-scouts going around the length and breadth of the nation to scout for fresh talent? Are the players themselves passionate about the game and above all disciplined, determined and dedicated to excel in the game?(Refer to this story)

These are questions that need to be answered urgently and with immediate solutions coming forth.

Maybe it is time for sepak takraw authorities to seriously consider having a 1Malaysia team. (Refer to this story)

Let us not face another embarrassment in the Laos Sea Games at the end of the year, for the final nail to be placed in yet another Malaysian sports.
A wake-up call is in order to rise and shine again!

Earn your stripes

Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek, was spot-on when he said that National Sports Associations (NSAs) must not rely on handouts from the government, but instead should strive to source their own finances.

No doubt the government still plays the role to promote sports in the country, it should spend most of it money on sports facilities and programmes to instill sports culture, rather than funding NSAs. Yes, funding to NSAs can be extended when they compete in international meets and for international coaching coaches and stints for athletes. But the bulk of the money for the running of the associations, their development programmes, competitions and organisations of international meets should come from them. (refer to this story)

The fact that NSAs want the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) to play a more effective role in areas of finance, is really going down to the pits.

Already they are funded handsomely by the National Sports Council (NSC) and they have the audacity to ask for more funds.

Remember not so long ago, we had the Rakan Sukan programme where NSAs have corporate sponsors? What happened to it? Most NSAs failed to put the funds to good use and there was not much transparency that the many corporate sponsors wanted out.(refe
r to this story)

Remember, when Dunhill was sponsoring in millions to the FA of Malaysia and in turn the funds were channeled to the State FAs and after years of money at their disposal, the soccer standards have only declined. Whatever happened to the funds? Were they put to good use like development and setting up a proper administration unit? (refer to this story).

Basically, NSAs have to start running their associations like corporations and have to look for funds and be accountable for it. Corporations are willing to come forward and sponsor if there is proper accountability, transparency and mileage for them. Take for example the Malaysian Amatuer Basketball Association (MABA), who have had Petronas sponsoring them for years, Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) who have Canon supporting them, Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) who have Proton assisting them, Squash Racquet Association of Malaysia (SRAM) with CIMB backing them and even a rugby club like Combined Old Boys Rugby Assocaition (Cobra) who have HSBC supporting them.

All these associations and club, have the support of these corporate organisations mainly because they are transparent, have proper programmes, are accountable and above all have results to show.

It is about time that all NSAs start moving in this direction, because it is the only way sports is going to improve in the country.

As long as NSAs wait for handouts to carry out their activities, they are going to be irrelevant and fade into obscurity.

THE Government too, should only reward NSAs who have results to show, so that these rewards will serve as an incentive for NSAs to strive hard to achieve the desired results.

So stand up and be counted in the name of Malaysian sports!