Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Yes, sports journalists and sports editors are the watchdogs of Malaysian sports and through their comments give their views to the best of their knowledge backed with facts and figures and in the interest of Malaysian sports.
But not always are they right with their views because they are not furnished with the full facts and figures, or sports officials engage these writers to slant the article the way they want it.
There have been newspapers and sports journalist who have been openly boasting that they can chart the path of Malaysian sports and ensure that the people they want to hold high positions in sports associations and agencies is at their call.
There is also talk that some sports journalists who are on the payroll of associations or bodies. Others get benefits of other kinds - paid trips overseas, golf invitations both locally and overseas, goodies etc.
Sports journalists are said to be playing politics too!
Some even use high places to try and attempt to stop their new bosses from coming to their organisations, because their positions maybe threatened.
Then there complaints from sports organisations and privates sectors, that some sports journalists asked to be paid for them to cover their events!
Asking for petrol money to cover events is said to have become the norm.
There was another accusation that a sports journalist who was given a paid trip by an organisation to a meeting overseas, actually had voted on behalf of another country who was not present!
Whatever has happened to the good clean sports journalism we used to know.
I remember the days of the late Tan Sri Noordin Sopiee and Tan Sri Munir Majid, when they were Group Editors of the New Straits Times, that there was a standing rule that any door gifts given at press conferences - no matter how small or big - must be declared to the office in official form to be signed by the sports editor and then submitted to the Group Editor. Only with approval of the Group Editor, can the reporter keep whatever door gifts given.
These days we have journalists who do not go for Press Conferences, but when they hear from their colleagues that some expensive door gifts were given, they will call organisers of the Press Conference the next day and say that they had missed the event because of another assignment and demand for the door gift and the press kit! But whether the event sees print is a million ringgit question.
For the sake of sports journalism in Malaysia, I hope that all that is being circulated is mere rumours.
But then again, there will be no smoke without fire.
I was accused of being close to the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC) when I used to cover them extensively and went to many overseas tournaments. Rumours were circulated that my trips were paid by MTBC.
But the truth of the matter was that every trip I went was approved by my company after budgets were submitted and I had to cover for both The Malay Mail and the New Straits Times.
It was just that Malay Mail saw bowling as a rising sports which will bring glory to the nation and started to give more and more coverage,before the rest started to follow when the results that coming.
There was even one official from the National Sports Council who had in a seminar blatantly mentioned me by name and accused me of being close with MTBC, bias and going on trips on MTBC's funds.
I confronted the officials and asked him to verify all my trips with my employers and asked him if he had mentioned my name, but denied it.
The crux of the matter was that all funds for MTBC's overseas tournaments were coming from NSC and MTBC had to give detailed accounts of how they spent the money. The officer could have easily checked if any funds was used for me. Obviously not and yet he had the audacity to smear my name.
But if the rumours have any truth in it these days, I wonder why everyone is keeping quiet about.
Probably, everyone has an agenda.
Indeed, if all these allegations are true, it is sad for Malaysian sports because the very people who are suppose to remain above board and be fair, have lost their integrity.
Once again, I hope that all that has been said of sports journalists these days is just rumours for the sake of Malaysian sports!
Monday, April 26, 2010
The interview last night on NDTV24X7 (view here)
The OC office is working overtime, including on a Sunday, for what is hoped the last time the CGF Coordinating Committee (CoCom) will be in New Delhi to inspect on the progress and facilities in place and scheduled as required for the Games in October.
Then, the OC has also to deal with threats and advisories of security alerts.
The highest priority to security has been given by the OC, which could in the end be a nuisance to the guests of the Games, but they are not taking any chances to ensure the safety of all.
Unfavorable foreign reports of security threats is not helping the OC one bit.
Yesterday,panic was triggered in South Delhi after police received an anonymous call claiming that bombs were placed in three city malls.
The caller claimed that the bombs will explode in DLF Mall, Select Citywalk and Metropolitan Mall in Saket. Acting fast, police evacuated people from the malls and conducted searches.
Bomb disposal team and dog squad also joined the searches.
Police too had received a series of anonymous bomb threat calls but all turned out to be hoax.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
It is really hot and in some days reaching highs of 44 Celsius. At night it drops to about 38.
The whole city is under construction in preparation for the New Delhi Commonwealth Games in October. As a result the dust in the city has been compounded and with no rain in sight, it is like walking in a desert.
Construction includes additional Metro Lines from the Airport and around the city, drainage, beautifying the city, widening the roads, pavements and of course several venues.
However, the work pace is furious and the organisers are very confident that everything will be in place before the Games.
With six months to go, although critics feel that the organisers are behind schedule, no stones have been left unturned to have everything ready. Without doubt there is going to be a major transformation.
The organising committee has been met with many challenges, but they are definitely addressing every situation with utmost urgency.
Operations for the Games has been ongoing for the last two years and as far as all the paperwork is concerned it is very comprehensive with all details being looked into.
It is time for implementation and they are working at feverish pace.
Both the print and electronic media have been keeping a close tab on the progress with eagle eyed vision.
And the way the many investigation television networks go about their job, there is no room for the organsiers to slack.
Several hard hitting interviews have been conducted and the top brass of the organising committee, headed by Indian Olympic Association president and chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, Suresh Kalmadi, have come out well with their interviews and answers to quires.
The microscope sports administrators and politicians come under here in India, is nothing compared to in Malaysia. I just wonder how our Malaysians sports administrators and politicians will fare if they came under the same preview like in India?
It has indeed been a great five days experience I must say and am looking forward to the days and months to come, which can only get more exciting and tougher.
Till I blog again from here, do not underestimate the capabilities of India!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
It was all great that the Deputy Prime Minister who is also the Education Minister, Tan Sri Muyyiddin Yassin has been preaching that sports will be given greater emphasis and even has come up with the one student, one sport policy, sports being compulsory in schools. He has gone to say that there will be more funds sports and facilities for schools, training and retraining sports teachers, increase number periods for sports in schools, credit points for students who excel in sports for entry to universities and sports being a integral part of nation building.
But when soccer tournaments are held on carnival basis, played over two halves of 20 minutes, having the semifinals and final on the sameday and the whole zonal matches held over four days, one wonders how our soccer is going to improve.
Just look at the fixtures for soccer of the Keramat Zone in Kuala Lumpur below. Even the chart does not make any sense!
Yes, time constraint because of all the delays will be cited by the organisers, but it all looks like just organising the tournament for the sake of organising it and getting it out of the way!
10.00 - 10.50 PAGI
3.00 -3.50 PETANG
6 APRIL 2010
SMK SERI UTAMA
SMK TINGGI SETAPAK
3 - 0
0 - 2
8.00 - 8. 50 PAGI
8 APRIL 2010
SMK WANGSA MAJU R1
|2 - 1||Layak ke suku akhir ....|
10.00 - 10.50 PAGI
12.00 -12.50 PETANG
SMK SERI RAMPAI
8.00 - 8. 50 PAGI
SMK SETAPAK INDAH
Sunday, April 4, 2010
But alas, at the end of the night a bitter taste was left on the mouths of the majority and the only ones who were rejoicing and celebrating were the Negri Sembilan camp.
The scene was at last night's return leg semifinal clash between host Negri Sembilan and challenger, Selangor, at the Paroi Stadium. Selangor were trailing from a goal down from their 1-2 defeat at home in the first leg.
Winning and losing is part and parcel of the game and it has to be accepted in the spirit of the game - that is when all things are played fairly.
I was not at the Stadium last night, but from what I saw in the live telecast of Astro Arena, I have a few bones to pick.
To be honest, it has been sometime since I have witnessed a local match or even watched it over television. I have my reasons.
However, when I decided to catch the second-half of the match last night, I was convinced that I have not missed much.
For starters, the match officials hardly impressed me. Pardon my observation, but the referee - Ibrahim Mohammad - was a misfit in the match. He hardly showed any character, looked like a dwarf among the players and lost in his shorts!
First impressions mean a lot and I was not mistaken.
I missed the 'unvisible' hands of Shukor Adan, but when I saw the replay, I could not imagine how the referee and his assistant, Kaimal Tukiman, could have missed it.
Watch it here:http://www.youtube.com/v/9k2pfjZ8kNg&hl=en_US&fs=1&
And when Ibrahim failed to send off Selangor's rightback Razman Roslan in the first instance when he had handled second assistant referee after commotion, but just flashed the yellow card, it confirmed my fears that Ibrahim could not handle the game.
Razman had tapped the second assistant referee on his cheeks and that tantamount to man handling the match official - it is a red card offence.
Yes, Ibrahim flashed the card on Razman later when he slapped Negri Semibilan's Sharuddin Abu Samah, but he should have been sent out in the first instance!
It was also degrading to see the players harassing the referee each time he made a decision. Basically, Ibrahim had lost all respect of the players.
And the players too were no angels, because it was unbecoming of professional players to act in the manner they did. Many of them were either current or former national players!
Of course, Selangor coach K. Devan had no business to charge at the referee after the match no matter how frustrated he was. At least his assistant P. Maniam had the presence of mind to stop Devan in his tracks to prevent any further untoward incident.
Referee Ibrahim was also seen on television engaging in a war of words with players and even had to be restrained by security officials from taking things onto his own hands.
Refereeing standard has been on the decline for sometime now, just like the game.
And guess the reason?
Simple, referees and assistant referees become attain FIFA status merely to fill the quota. Whether they are qualified and have the experience is questionable. Where do match officials from Melaka and Alor Gajah, get their exposure. The Melaka League? Youth tournaments?
I remember the days when top class referees like Koh Guan Kiat and S. Karthrivale, would say it was more difficult to officiate a Selangor league or FAM Cup match than a Malaysia Cup match.
The point was that Selangor League and FAM Cup matches were so competitive and are faced with all sorts of problems controlling the match, that when they officiate Malaysia Cup matches, where the players are much more refined and play decent soccer, it was a breeze to officiate these matches because of their tough experiences earlier. Besides, match officials will officiate anything between two to three matches a week.
Then, there was another scene which saw an official on duty having a go at a Selangor fan on the stand and had to be restrained by other security officials.
Taking about security, I wonder what kind of security was provided because after the match fans were able to get onto the pitch and only after much later, did the FRU personnel appeared to get the fans back to the stands.
It was also visible on television that gates were left wide opened which had access to the field.
With all these shortcomings at a semifinals match level, Malaysian soccer indeed still has a long way to make it's mark.
Kudos to the spirit of the players of both teams to see their team win, but soccer is just more than that in a professional setup!
I still commend the FA of Malaysia (FAM) for taking a stance to do away with foreign players in the M-League - never mind the reason for the ban was because it was a financial burden on the teams.
It was indeed a blessing in disguise. It happened once before, and suddenly the national soccer team did well in the Asean Tiger's Cup and we actually had strikers in the team who were capable of scoring goals!
The argument that the Selangor team did not do well in the AFC Cup because it did not have foreign players, is lame.
The reason why Selangor did not do well is because they do not have a strong local league. Gone are the days when the Selangor League matches used to seen even more competitive matches than the Malaysia Cup matches.
There was an abundance of talent in Selangor, that to find a place in the Selangor team was a luxury. Even some national players used to warm the benches with the Selangor team then.
Today, every Ahmad, Ah Kow and Alagamuthu can don Selangor colours. To make make matters worse, Selangor cannot even assemble a decent team from their own Selangor-born players, but have to "import" players from other States.
Address the grassroots problem - a proper schools league, a junior league and strong State league - and everything will fall in place. It will take sometime to see results, but nothing happens overnight.
It is understood that Selangor and Kuala Lumpur leagues bar players above 30 years old to play in their league. Apparently, this will see more youngsters in the League.
But what they have failed to understand is that it is these 30somethings guys who form and run the team. With them ruled out, many teams have pulled out.
In anycase, what is wrong if the 30something play. It is no a whole team of 30something playing. It is a just a few of them, with the rest being young players. A decision taken without much thought has not ruled out more youngsters than 30somethings!
Shortcut attempts like bringing in foreign players is only temporary and cause long term damage.
Critics may argue that going foreign is being professional.
Yes, but is Malaysian football professional in the true sense of the word.
Teams do not have their own Stadium (Stadiums belong to the State Government), do not have proper or permanent training grounds, no clubhouse, no team bus, no proper administration system, proper financial standings, inadequate professional personnel and the list goes on.
Bringing in foreign players will only deny local players an opportunity to be exposed.
Most teams previously strengthen their teams either with a foreign striker, a central midfielder and a central defender and in some cases of goalkeeper.
These a vital clogs in a team and if every team hires three foreign players to strengthen their backbone of the team, how is this going to help our national team.
Some teams hire two strikers and then we complain that we do not have strikers for the national.
Where are they are going to come from? Thin air? Without any exposure how are the local players going to play at the international level?
Some may argue that playing alongside foreign players will see the locals improve.
From what we have seen, the local players have picked up more of the bad habits than the good. Besides a majority of the foreign players who have plied their trade in Malaysia are mediocre players.
Then there will be arguments that without foreign players, the excitement and flair is missing in the competition.
Are we now talking about entertainment value or development of Malaysian football?
Was there not a full Stadium in the FA Cup semifinals match between Negri Sembilan and Selangor last night at Paroi Stadium?
When there is quality performance from local players, the fans will automatically turn up.
Let us first work at getting some quality performance from out local players before looking for any short-cuts which will only prove to detrimental to Malaysian soccer.
There was a big hue and cry about the National Under-23 team which won the Sea Games gold. They were local players and there was excitement from the fans. And where did these players come from - the M-League right?
Efforts are being made by FA of Malaysia to see our young footballers being exposed to quality matches overseas and these are efforts which will eventually improve the quality of the M-League and the national team.
Leagues in Korea, Japan and China have foreign players because they are moving to the next level - having attained a high standard among their local players.
Their local players are ready and already playing in overseas Leagues.
Malaysia is are far from that and let us not fool ourselves to associate ourselves with other countries who have progressed and are way ahead of us.
In anything we do, there is no shortcut to success. It is no different in soccer. We have to learn to walk before we can run.
So the faster everyone starts working hard to build a strong base in their respective States, the faster Malaysian soccer has a chance to move forward!
The announcement by Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin of one student, one sport policy, sports being compulsory in schools, funds sports and facilities for schools, training and retraining sports teachers, increase number periods for sports in schools, credit points for students who excel in sports for entry to universities and sports being a integral part of nation building, all sounds great.
However, one wonders if the Deputy Prime Minister really knows that actual situation at the schools and if his Director of Educations in the States and officers have given him a clear picture of the situation on the ground.
Ideas are great, but do they have the means to implement them and is it is any easy task as it sounds.
The New Sunday Times today had a front-paged story and two page focus on the actual situation on the ground.
Read the stories here - School sports rot and reports - Are We Ready - and Proper coaches and facilities needed.
But this is just the tip of the inceberg.
The problem is much more deep and extensive - no thanks of the neglect of sports in schools over the year and now suddenly want to everything right by a wave of a wand!
It is is going to take as many years as we ended up in this rot to get things right.
The biggest question is that do we have the patience and commitment to see it through to put schools sports back in track or it will take backseat the moment the heat is off or there is a change of Minister?
Just take a drive around the city and visit the schools. Many do not have a proper playing field. Those who are lucky to have, may just have a small plot of the field left - no thanks to development, or have a field which is in deplorable conditions.
Then, we will see some school fields being used as car parks by the teachers!
We still hear of schools sports being held on a badminton courts!
Yes, there is a great deal of work to be done to get things right again.
Then again will it happen or someone contractor is going to make money by supplying cheap material and build shoddy facilities or lay poor grounds!
Have we not heard of so many schools built, only not to receive the CF or being closed after cracks are found in the schools after a few months!
Even if everything goes well and the best facilities are put up, has anyone thought of funds for maintainence?
Many facilities and grounds have been built and laid, but because there is no budget for maintenance cost, the facilities and grounds become deplorable in no time.
It is a mammoth task ahead and the Education Minister alone cannot put it right.
It takes the concerted effort of Education Ministry Directors, officers, State Education Directors and their officers, all school heads, teachers, students and parents to make it right.
Let us not forget that we not just talking about Kuala Lumpur or Selangor, but the length and breath of Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak! There are some 10,000 schools!
It certainly cannot be achieved overnight and perseverance will be the key word here.
Do we all have it to realise the ultimate goals or is it just going to be lip service or all talk and no action?
Forgive me for being pessimistic, but I personally feel that it is very unlikely that for all the damage that has been done, it is going to be impossible to put it right again.
Unless of course, we strive at it over years without deviating from our objectives for a second, we may put things right again maybe after a modest 5 years!
Are we all prepared to do that?
Thursday, April 1, 2010
It was about a story I did on March 31 and appeared in The Malay Mail edition on April 1st.
The story was that the then national coach Frank Lord, an Englishman, after Malaysia's final first leg Group 3A match against Nepal in the pre-world tournament at the Merdeka Stadium which Malaysia won 5-0, will leave before his contract ended.
The return leg Group match was in Seoul, and I broke the story that Frank will not be around for the second leg against Korea and Nepal, because his contract was not renewed before the second leg.
After having steered the Malaysian team to beat Korea by a solitary goal, Frank decided to play poker and try his luck to have his contract renewed before the second leg.
Malaysia only needed to beat Nepal again and draw with Korea in the return leg to move to the next round of qualifiers.
The late Datuk Bakar Daud was the national team manager called for a meeting before the match against Nepal on March 31 to decide whether Frank's demand was to be met, or just let him go.
Frank's argument was that a decision by FA of Malaysia on his fate after the return leg decided not to renew his contract, he would have little chance securing a job back in England, as the English League was starting in August.
Frank was obviously confident that FA of Malaysia will hire him as they wanted the team to do well and move close to the dreams of playing in the World Cup
But he was mistaken, as FA of Malaysia had other ideas and decided to let him go and appointed Mohamad Bakar as the new coach. Obvioulsy, the powers to be were confident that they would do well in the return leg with or without Frank.
They also recalled the late Mokhtar Dahari out of retirement.
So when the story was published exclusively by The Malay Mail on April Fool's Day, everyone thought that it was the tabloid's way playing prank.
None of the newspapers followed by the story on April 2 and only went to town on April 3 when they realised that it was no April Fool's joke.
It was Joe Kinnear, who was coaching Nepal who had tipped me on Frank's predicament on March 31 afternoon at the Federal Hotel swimming pool where I was interviewing for a Sunday Mail story.
When I confirmed it with Frank after the match against Nepal, he said he could not say more until he got the official letter from FA of Malaysia.
In the meantime, Frank had gone into hiding and could not be contacted on April 2.
It was only close to midnight that I managed to get Frank at his home in Kuantan where he coached Pahang since 1983 when he led them to their first-ever Malaysia Cup the same year.
Although rookie reporter then, I had managed to win Frank's confidence from time he step on the shore of Malaysia and he would confide many things with me about Malaysia soccer - many were published, while some were said in confidence.
I asked him one more favour. I told him that I was leaving for Kuantan immediately after the call and asked him for exclusivity for an in-depth interview of time in Malaysia and Malaysian soccer.
He said: "You are buying the beers!" and I knew I had the story in the bag!
April 3rd early morning I was in Kuantan after a drive along the old road to Kuantan in my second-hand Mazda 808 (first first car after using the kapchai for five years).
I checked-in at Merlin Hotel and Frank promised to meet me there in the afternoon.
He came as promised and confirmed that he had received the letter for him to leave immediately even before his contract expired, as FA of Malaysia had decided to compensate him with his full term of the paid contract.
We chatted for more than an hour about his experience in Malaysia for my exclusive. I called the Sports desk back and told them that I had the follow-up story.
I did not file the story immediately fearing that the story on the system in the office would be picked up by NST or BH who were all using the same Atex system and had excess to the Malay Mail queue.
I sent the story past midnight and on April 4 The Malay Mail had another exclusive story with the interview with Frank.
It was a great moment for me as a young reporter.
However, what happened at the end of the month, was something I will remember forever.
My former sports editor who was then the Editor of Malay Mail, Maurice Khoo (a former Kelantan footballer) named my story as the story of the month for the paper.
This note (below) by Maurice was put up on the noticeboard on The Malay Mail floor.
Little wonder that I went on serve the paper for 27 years because it was moments like these that kept me striving for more, motivated and love my job.