Schools sports taking a backseat ... for nowBy Tony Mariadass
KUCHING: The whole nation is abuzz that the Malaysian Schools Sports Council’s (MSSM) annual budget is cut from RM6 million to RM1.5 million, and that from the annual 24 sports organised at the national-level, only 13 will be held this year.
However, despite the sports fraternity and parents outcry, the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth and Sports have not responded positively to try to reinstate all the sports dropped.
Among the 13 sports that will be organised this year by MSSM are artistic gymnastics, gymrama, golf, swimming, athletics, badminton, netball, basketball, volleyball, sepak takraw, football, tennis and hockey.
There are further exclusions in the sports - except for artistic gymnastics, gymrama, swimming and athletics. The others will not see their Under-15 category organised.
Schools sports are organised at Under-12, Under-15 and Under-18 age group level.
The eleven sports given the axe include key sports in Malaysia -bowling, squash and archery. Others are table tennis, rugby, cricket, sailing, softball, handball, cross country and chess.
The decision will drastically affect several sports that Sarawak excels in.
Among them are sports that have been totally omitted from the MSSM calendar this year, namely bowling, rugby and squash.
Then the exclusion of Under-15 category in football, hockey, badminton, netball, basketball and volleyball, which are popular in Sarawak, will see their development hampered.
The reason given for the drastic cut is the cutback on funds, which is across the board in all Ministries.
However, the irony is that while there is a cut in domestic grassroots sports, a whopping RM5.5 million will be spent by MSSM to organise the inaugural Asian Schools Sports in Kuala Lumpur.
One wonders, why spend on organising an Asean level championship, when at home, there is inadequate funds.
Another puzzling issue is that fact, that RM10 million was allocated by the Government for soccer development following the National Under-23 team’s success in the recent SEA Games in Laos where triumph came after a 20-year wait.
The Under-15 schools’ tournament that is very much part of development is scrapped because of lack of funds, but RM10 million is allocated for a development programme.
Could not RM5 million be allocated to the schools sports, which is the heartbeat of the future of Malaysian sports?
All these do not make sense and one wonders what the rationale of the decisions is. Physical Education and schools sports activities have of late already taken a backseat and that explains the decline of Malaysian sports in general.
With the move, it is further going to handicap Malaysian sports in the long run. National Sports Associations (NSAs) have been approached by MSSM to organise the sports that have been axed this year, and several NSAs who have always worked closely with MSSM have already indicated that they will be organising the national championships.
One such association is the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) which have always been passionate about grassroots development.
However, the question is what will happen to many of the sports that were axed by MSSM at the State and district level?
Who is going to organise the events at that level? Not all the State Schools Sports Councils have the means.
Selangor Schools Sports Council (SSSC) were among the few who had said that they will continue organise sports at the State level despite the sports being dropped at the national level by MSSM .
Sarawak, probably is among the luckier states, where Sarawak State Sports Council is proactive and have always emphasised on grassroots developments.
And example is the five-year football development plan run by the Sarawak State Sports Council working closely with State Education Department.
The idea to organise Under-16 School Development League is timely now with the Under-15 soccer tournament dropped by MSSM. This programme should do better than MSSM programme, if it is run on League format over several months with matches played over weekends.
This will ensure continued training for longer periods and playing many competitive matches - which is root of development. Sarawak has undoubtedly over the years produced many top sportsmen and women and should be recognised as a sporting hub for the nation.
The fact that Sarawak has been recognised for aquatics and that world-class facilities are being built, is a stepping stone for the State to be recognised as a sporting hub.
The State-of-art aquatic centre, which is expected to be ready this year, came about after the outstanding performance of aquatics at the Laos SEA Games last month where a total of 15 gold medals was won, with swimming delivering nine and diving six.
Those in the current national aquatics squad from Sarawak are swimmer Daniel Bego and divers Bryan Nickson Lomas, Pandalela Rinong and Traisy Vivien.
Daniel was the pride of the nation when he emerged as the top male medal winner for the country, with a sensational five-gold haul. The 20-year-old broke four Games records, including a longest existing 14-year-old mark in the 400m freestyle.
Daniel Bego, a fortnight ago also bagged the Coca Cola Olympian of the Year Award for Male athlete at the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Indoor Sports Arena in Kuala Lumpur. Daniel, the star performer in the pool with five gold medals also won the best male athlete award of the 25th edition of the Games.
The 20-year-old broke four Games records, including a longest existing 14-year-old mark in the 400m freestyle.
It was the second time that Daniel picked up the Olympian award after 2007.
Daniel and all the other swimmers are all products of grassroots development and did not emerge overnight.
Sarawak certainly has tremendous potential to hog the limelight at national and international in several sports and it will indeed be a pity if grassroots sports are neglected by MSSM.
With schools sports having taken a backseat for this year, the Sarawak State Sports Council and Sarawak Schools Sports Council should take the initiative to ensure that Sarawak sports remain relevant for the future, with their own programmes.