Friday, September 27, 2013

Don't seduce us with 'gifts'

Friday, September 27, 2013 - The Malay Mail

WHERE do sports journalists draw a line when it comes to accepting gifts during assignments or ‘angpows’ given by individuals for attending a gathering or sport event? News or sports journalists, as professionals, have to adhere to a code of ethics. They need to be fair to all parties involved in any story.
However, they operate in an imperfect world that tries to make them behave in a way that goes against their principles. Nevertheless, they must resist such pressure.
Perhaps public relations companies should not entice them to attend press conferences with expensive ‘door gifts’.
I remember in the early 80s, when I was a rookie, we had to fill out a form when we received a gift, even if it was a ballpoint pen, which had to be signed by the sports editor and then handed to the office of the then New Straits Times group editor-in-chief (GEIC), the late Tan Sri Dr Noordin Sopiee.
Only if the GEIC’s approval is granted could you keep the gift. Otherwise you'd have to hand it back to the giver.
More recently, in July, The Malay Mail editor Frankie D’Cruz ordered a sports reporter and photographer to return the RM100 they had each received from a national sports association president during a ‘buka puasa’ function.
In his commentary “Cutthroat sport of ‘bribing’ reporters”, D’Cruz condemned such acts by associations. His fear is that if journalists are seduced by monetary handouts, the freedom to criticise will be severely compromised.
Although the RM100 ‘gift’ was given ‘dengan ikhlas’ (sincerely), it still went against journalistic ethics.
In response to D’Cruz’s article, National Press Club president Mokhtar Hussain commented that such ‘gifts’ should not be condoned by the fraternity.
“It (handing out money to reporters) is unethical and will jeopardise the integrity of our profession,” said Mokhtar.
Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM) president Ahmad Khawari Isa also said it does not approve of such handouts to sports journalists.
“We are proud of the fact that sports journalists are free to articulate their opinions on any issue,” he remarked.
“We know the gifts are given in a spirit of festivity and I would like to believe they do not influence sports journalists. However, SAM stresses that money should not be given to journalists in general.”
Considering its strong stance, it was indeed a surprise to read that SAM’s pre-Sea Games visit to Myanmar (about 35 of its exco and ordinary members left for Yangdon on Wednesday) was sponsored by the National Sports Council, Frenz United (a soccer academy), the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF), the Negri Sembilan government and Milo.
I have no issue with Milo’s sponsorship as it is a corporation that has been involved in sports for decades, but where the others are concerned, isn’t it compromising journalistic ethics?
Why would Negri Sembilan want to sponsor SAM? And while the NSC and MNCF are directly involved in sports, aren't their sponsorships an effort to win over SAM and call in favours in the future?
As for private entity Frenz, which organises tournaments, its sponsorship could be seen as a reward for the publicity it has received so far in the sports pages.
So, what kind of message is SAM sending its members?
I remember when, as the special officer for the sports minister, I was asked to distribute US$100 (about RM330) each to the media crew — both print and electronic — at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, as a token of appreciation.
But having been a journalist for 29 years, I strongly objected to the idea as the media might think the minister was trying to “buy them over”. I suggested that she host a lunch or dinner instead and also hold a press conference to brief the media on the proceedings in Doha.
I was told off by the minister.
“You don’t know the media. What is wrong with a token of appreciation for the job they are doing out of the country?” she asked.
When I still refused, she asked another official to hand out the money. I was told to organise the dinner for a meet-the-media session instead.
Then in 2007, at the Korat Sea Games, I was again faced with the same predicament, this time to give out RM200 to each member of the media covering the Games. Again, another official handed out the money, although I was present to witness the ‘handouts’.
That was when I had a rude shock. News had got around and several sports journalists approached me for the ‘envelope’.
I realised then that this was the norm and sports journalists wanted ‘gifts.’ In all fairness, there are those who hold journalistic values in high esteem.
In Korat, I got another telling off from former sports editor of The Star Ng Weng Tuck. He called and gave me an earful when he heard that his staff had received handouts.
He had them returned the 'envelopes'. Several members of the New Straits Times team also refused the handouts.
Indeed, Ng was the gold medal winner in the ‘race of the journalists’ in Korat.
He refused to accept the minister’s reasoning that the ‘gift’ was a token of appreciation for all the hard work the journalists had put in.
To him, his team were doing what they were paid to do.
If only we had more Ngs.
Then sports journalists can walk tall and write without fear or favour.

TONY MARIADASS is sports editor
of The Malay Mail. He can be reached

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fix the fixers or be damned

Bizarre game of moaning, groaning and heartache

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - The Malay Mail

if we called for the suspension of the M-League in the wake of fresh match-fixing allegations? What if we said teams with dubious players and officials should play to an empty stadium?
What if we said the authorities were inept in their action against suspected match-fixers in M-League teams? What if we demanded that the authorities step up surveillance and have a bigger presence in stadiums?
As a matter of fact, these measures to tackle football bribery should have been in place a long time ago.
The humiliation of Malaysian football continues. The fans are being ripped off — and no one is lifting a finger except to spew that mundane rhetoric: “We don’t have evidence.”
The Perak FA have suspended their Super League team coaches, officials and staff for two weeks over suspicion of internal sabotage and football bribery.
They have also lodged a police report and with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) but shockingly, it has come across as a minor episode to the sporting fraternity. Week in and week out, officials moan about:
  • Players making silly back passes
  • Goalkeepers making schoolboy errors
  • Defenders making half-hearted tackles
Coaches had even vowed not to field ‘dubious’ players, only to go back on their word. The result: bizarre high scoring games.
So, the FA of Malaysia, in an unprecedented move earlier this month, suspended and fined Kuala Lumpur’s Hafizi Roslee for ‘unsporting behaviour’ in a Premier League match this season.
The FAM disciplinary committee slapped Hafizi with a six-month suspension and fined him RM2,000 without appeal. The penalty wasn’t convincing.
What was convincing though was when Negri Sembilan President’s Cup coach was banned for life and 18 players were suspended for two to five years by the FAM for fixing matches in the national Under-20 tournament last year Probably the most convincing and concerted action was in 1994 when more than 100 footballers were banned or banished for being involved in match-fixing.
Maybe a similar action is required in the wake of suspicious match results recently.
But with Putrajaya having abolished the Restricted Residence Act 1933 two years ago, players and officials no longer can he detained or banished without trial.

Fix the fixers or be damned

The main problem with match-fixing has been the evidence or lack of to nail the culprits.
And even more difficult is getting the big bookies while 'runners' sometimes being nabbed, does not deter syndicates.
So are we going to condone the acts of irresponsible players and officials who take the fans for a ride and make a mockery of the game?
State FAs and clubs too are to be blamed for not taking proper measures to curb the menace.
They have failed to haul up players when they suspect indifferent performances, give them show cause letters, suspend them or deduct their salaries — all of which are provided for in the contracts.
State FAs, too fail to pay salaries of players on time and this has led to some resorting to match-fixing.
Pulling up the players at the end of the season, does not help much.
Players suspected of match-fixing should be blacklisted and not recruited by other teams.
But this does not happen, as players dropped by one team, will be picked up by other teams who are well aware that the errant player was dropped for disciplinary reasons.
Legalising betting was another option considered to curb the illegal betting which is linked to match-fixing. But that too was shot down.
The FA of Malaysia have set up their own Integrity Committee comprising the police, MACC and FAM officials. States have been asked to set-up their own integrity committees.
How effective have these committees been? No one can tell.
So is there an end to the problem, or is it going be part and parcel of Malaysian football?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

No quick fix to rocky path

No quick fix to rocky path

Friday, September 20, 2013 - The Malay Mail

A DROWNING man will clutch at straws. This aptly describes Malaysia’s desperation to achieve success in the football arena.
Congratulations to Harimau Muda coach Ong Kim Swee for his team’s success in the Merdeka tournament last week. But like Ong said, his players should not be overconfident.
Except for Myanmar, who fielded their Under-23 team, who Malaysia beat in the preliminary round and final, Thailand and Singapore had fielded understrength teams.
So when officials say the Harimau Muda team can beat the national team, that is going too far.
Let’s not forget that the Harimau Muda team had players from the national team — Mohd Fadhli Shas, K. Rueben, Wan Zack Haikal, Nik Mohd Shahrul Azim, Muhammad Nazmi Faiz Mansor and Putera Nadher Amarhan (Junior) — for the tournament.
Instead of celebrating the fact that Malaysia finally have a strong pool of players, everyone becomes territorial and goes overboard.
Seriously, Malaysia’s run in the Myanmar Sea Games is going to be much tougher.
The draw has not been made yet, but Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and even Cambodia and Myanmar are going to be difficult adversaries for Ong’s team. The coach is definitely aware of this but apparently not the officials and fans. Their hopes have soared and if Ong’s team fails to reach the final, guess who will go from hero to zero overnight? Just look at the reaction to national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal.
The FA of Malaysia are already looking at potential candidates to replace him if the Malaysian team do not qualify for the Asian Cup in Australia in 2015.
Yet, FAM have not assured Rajagobal that he'll get priority to players for the qualifiers unlike Singapore and Thailand who prioritise the national team even for an international ‘A’ match.
Many, including Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, have wondered why the Malaysian team keep getting a bad rap.
It’s because false hopes have resulted in disappointments and lack of vision has seen Malaysian football go nowhere. I should know, having covered Malaysian soccer for more than three decades.
Except for the late 1970s, 80s and early 90s, when there was a decent national team who were feared in the region, things have been on a slippery slope.
Yes, the bribery scandal in 1994 robbed football of more than 100 players, setting Malaysian football further back.
Did we recover from that black episode? Sadly no, because the match-fixing still exists and new talent have not been up to the mark. While the authorities have not come down as hard as they did back then, they say they are on top of things. So why do stories of match-fixing keep surfacing?
Meanwhile, there has been little improvement in the quality of players. In 1962, Malaysia whipped the Philippines 15-1 — a record for the national team.
Today, we are struggling to beat the Philippines. How low can Malaysian soccer standard go?
Even with top French coach Philippe Troussier and 28 other foreign coaches on FAM’s radar, one wonders if there is light at the end of the tunnel for Malaysian football.
The truth is even the world’s best coach cannot change the status of Malaysian football overnight.
We have had Trevor Hartley, Dr Josef Venglos, Allan Harris, Claude le Roy, Hateem Sousi and the late Bertalan Bicskei over the years but we have not achieved a double-digit Fifa ranking (current ranking: 161 and the only time Malaysia were below 100 was in 1993 (79), 1994 (89), 1996 (96) and 1997 (87).
For starters, we do not have quality players for Asian class performance, let alone world class.
Second, with two or three-year contracts, there is only so much foreign coaches can do.
More often than not, they resort to recalling former national players as they cannot afford to work with younger players and wait for success. With their reputation at stake, they will seek a quick fix by recruiting experienced players.
They may see instant results, but what happens when they leave? We are back to square one as the senior players would be two or three years older and we have to resort to younger players — who would have lost two good years of development.
The only way for Malaysian football to rise is to have a five-year plan at least and work with the existing players. And don’t expect instant results. Patience is the keyword here.
There should also be no interference from those who have no technical knowledge of the game.
And everyone in FAM, the state FAs and clubs should have a common goal — to see the national team stand among the best in Asia.
In the meantime, the national football development programme should be in full swing under the guidance of Lim Teong Kim to ensure that we have a steady flow of players from the junior ranks.
All this looks good on paper, but without execution, even the best plans will come to nought.
The ball is now at FAM’s feet.
Score and make it a perfect victory for the future.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tribute to 'Spiderman'

Tribute to 'Spiderman'

Thursday, September 19, 2013 - The Malay Mail

VICTORIOUS: Prakash Putra Pewira FC players celebrate winning the Datuk Arumugam tournament REMEMBERING
IT will be 25 years come Dec 18 when charismatic goalkeeper Datuk R. Arumugam died in a car accident. But his achievements live on with a football tournament held in his memory every year.
This year’s one-day tournament, organised by Starbrite FC of Port Klang, the club that Arumugam formed in 1983 to unearth young talent, was held on Sunday at the SUK ground in Shah Alam.
Among the officials present at the tournament to honour Arumugam and his family were FA of Malaysia general secretary Datuk Hamidin Amin, FAM exco member and treasurer of FA of Selangor Datuk S. Sivasundaram, FAS secretary Rosman Ibrahim and Malaysian Indian Youth Development Foundation adviser Datuk R. Shanmugam.
Arumugam’s wife Datin Maria Selvi and daughters Subha and Rubha accompanied her husband Raja Perumal, were present at the prize-giving ceremony.
“It has been 25 years since the demise of Arumugam, better known to his fans as Aru, but he is still remembered for his services to Selangor and Malaysia.
He is a legend and shall remain the greatest goalkeeper Selangor ever produced for the nation,” said Sivasundaram, a close friend of Arumugam.
Arumugam played for Selangor for 18 years, and was capped 394 times. He capped 196 times for the national team in a playing career that stretched from 1971 to 1988. He is also the only Malaysian goalkeeper to have played for the Asian-All-Stars team twice, in Bangkok and Calcutta.
Arumugam made his national debut in 1973 in the World Cup qualifying round matches in Seoul, Korea. His greatest achievement with the national team was a bronze medal won at the 1974 Asian Games in Teheran. He also helped Malaysia qualify for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which we boycotted.
The Port Klang-born custodian was known for the extraordinary length of his arms, web-like covering of the goalmouth and reflexes, which earned him the nicknames ‘Spiderman’ and ‘Cat’.
The Datuk Arumugam Memorial Cup tournament this year drew 16 veteran teams from Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Pahang, Penang, Negri Sembilan and Malacca.
Prakash Putra Pewira FC emerged winners after beating defending champions Pemuda Cheras 2-0. It was a close final between two champions (Putra Perwira won the tournament in 2011), but only one made their chances count by scoring a goal in each half.
Putra Perwira took home RM3,000 and Pemuda Cheras RM1,500 while Starbrite and Padu Bersih FC received RM500 each for finishing third and fourth respectively.
Other teams who competed were Saroja Rangers, Kelab Sukan Pandamaran Jaya, Pahang Mix-Veterans, Klang Star FC, Kampung Attap FC, The Malay Mail Veterans, Ex-Port Tamilians, Ex-Malacca State, Port Rangers, Penang Kickers FC, Sri Gangai FC and IRC Seremban.
REMEMBERING SPIDERMAN: Family members of the late Datuk Arumgam — daughters Subah (fifth from left), Rubha (third from right) and her husband Raja Perumal and Datin Maria Selvi — with FAM and FAS officials

Enough of yesteryears

Enough of the yesterdays

(Published in The Malay Mail on Sept 16, 2013)
Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 12:07

MALAYSIA has progressed by leaps and bounds as we celebrate our 50th birthday and one would expect the same in the sports arena. While sports in the country has moved into the professional era in line with changes throughout the world, certainly much more could have been achieved.
Today, billions of ringgit is spent on sports in Malaysia compared to when sportsmen and women were amateurs and had to make a great deal of sacrifices. Passion and patriotism drove the athletes of yesteryear to achieve excellence.
In fact, the sports fraternity still talks about the golden past.
It is not wrong to say Malaysia enjoyed more glorious moments and were recognised for their feats in various sports then.
But in all fairness, there are sports that still bring honour to Malaysia today and have put us on the map.
Badminton, squash and tenpin bowling come to mind. These continue to fly Malaysia's flag.
Names like Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Datuk Nicol David and Shalin Zulkilfi are not only household names, but also known to the world.
However, only badminton is an Olympic sport while squash lost its bid to make its debut in the 2020 Games last week.
Malaysia, after 50 years, is still looking for its first Olympic gold medal, while many other smaller nations have beaten us to it.
So, why after so much early promise is Malaysian sports struggling to find its footing today when facilities are abundant and funds, top coaching expertise and overseas stints are readily available, and above all when athletes are rewarded handsomely for achievements?
The government has been ever ready to pump millions of ringgit into sports each year with the hope of seeing stars emerge, but more often than not, is rewarded with disappointment.
I can still remember when I could rattle off the names of Malaysia’s top sportsmen and women as a schoolboy in the 1960s and 1970s, but today despite having been immersed in sports as a sportswriter, I cannot name as many stars today.
I have been associated with Merdeka Stadium - the mecca of Malaysian sports - all my life. From age one, in fact (I found this out when I was shown black-and-white photographs of my birthday party held at the restaurant there 54 years ago).Little did I know that Merdeka Stadium would become my second home in my adulthood.
My late father told me that he paid only RM3.50 per head for the party (big money than for my father who had to dig deep into his salary for tea/coffee/soft drinks, sandwiches, curry puff and a piece of cake).
When I learnt that my party was held on the same ground where, on the morning of Aug 31, 1957, independence was proclaimed, it meant a lot to me.
As a schoolboy, I raced on the bitumen tracks of Merdeka Stadium on St John's Institution sports day many a year, played in the Selangor schools Under-18 final against La Salle Petaling Jaya and won a medal and watched the 1975 World Cup hockey semifinal and final there.
And from the late 1970s, Merdeka Stadium became my regular haunt as a cub reporter covering the Razak Cup youth soccer tournament before I moved on to cover bigger events like the Merdeka tournament, SEA Games, Malaysia Cup and international athletic meets. I even watched the Michael Jackson concert there.
All those times are etched in my mind like they happened yesterday.
Yes, the Grand Old Lady – Merdeka Stadium – has such a rich sports history.
Malaysia Day may not have the same status as Merdeka Day, but the exclusion of Singapore did rob us of some of the fine athletes who were part of Malaya.
But Malaysia, without Singapore, continued to show its prowess in sports in the international field. But today, that tiny island sometimes outshines us in sports, which is embarrassing.
Singapore’s method of finding sportsmen and women by naturalisation is questionable but it reflects an eagerness to find glory.
I personally believe that with a population of close to 29 million, we have enough talent to rock the world. So, what is happening to sports in this country?
Are our athletes a pampered lot, not mature enough to make sacrifices, spoon-fed, rewarded for mediocrity, unambitious or even unpatriotic?
Sports officials and associations, meanwhile, are lacklustre in their efforts and lack dedication and management skills.
The National Sports Council, a government agency set up to assist sports associations with funding, has grown too big for its shoes and taken over the role of sports associations, although it does not have the expertise. Now it has too much on its plate.
Will Malaysian sports ever realise its full potential? There are simply too many problems in Malaysian sports and only a major overhaul, from top to bottom, can rescue it from the doldrums.
Maybe some of the woes can be addressed if Malaysian sports was represented by a cross-section of our multiracial nation and where only the best are selected.
There should be no compromises because sports is pure and all about fair play.
Let us hope that when Malaysia turns 60, its people are talking about sportsmen and women from that time and not still clinging to the golden era.
  • Tony Mariadass is the Sports Editor of The Malay Mail

Friday, September 13, 2013

Get rid of the money-makers


Friday, September, 13, 2013: The Malay Mail

SPORTS has become a money-spinning business, which is acceptable if it is done legitimately and benefits the respective sports.
In Malaysia, it’s really sad to hear of officials using their office or links with ‘higher ups’ to influence decisions and in the process make some money for themselves.
It is even sadder when good credentials, quality and experience, or even a better deal, go out the window because the official or person acting on behalf of the candidate or agent is looking for maximum pay out.
I understand why many officials in the football fraternity fought tooth-and-nail to bring foreign players to the M-League this season.
It is reliably learnt that many officials made good money by introducing potential players or agents of players to top officials in the state FAs or clubs.
A European Fifa-accredited players’ agent who was in Malaysia recently confirmed that many officials acted as the go-between to ensure foreign players or coaches were hired.


He also confirmed that an introduction fee was paid and when a contract was successfully signed, another fee was paid.
When asked how much the fee was, he simply smiled and said: “Big money.” And when asked if it was one or two months the salary of foreign players or coaches, he again smiled and said: “Maybe more.”
However, he hastened to add that this was the norm in the football world.
“I am in a foreign land. I need some leads and contacts to make headway and conclude my business. And with football officials always changing in Malaysia, we need to have new contacts all the time.”
Granted, this is the norm in football’s transfer market, but when half-baked players or coaches are recruited so that the middleman can make money from a particular agent, sports is the loser.
This phenomenon does not only exist in football in Malaysia, but in other sport too.
Athletics comes to mind.
There was a time when Malaysia had several coaches from the Eastern bloc who came in at low salaries. But our officials would mark up their salaries and have a ‘personal’ arrangement with the coaches so that they received anything from US$500 (RM1,632) to US$1,000 a month for the duration of the contracts that were for a year or two with an option to renew.
Then, we had officials who would buy new apartments or cars and rent them out to the foreign coaches or players or to the sports associations.
Maybe these were genuine business dealings, but when it involved sports officials, wasn’t that a conflict of interest? Other such deals included buying equipment at higher prices or those that were sub-standard or uncertified, paying more than necessary for office rentals, chartering buses, hotel rooms and F&B when teams travelled, airline tickets for overseas assignments and functions, all with the aim of getting kick backs.
Indeed, this has become a culture in Malaysia, but how can we allow it to happen in sports? We know who the losers are in this scenario.
Can we ever be rid of such manipulation and greed? Very unlikely because it is entrenched in the sports system and as long as there are people out there willing to ‘reward’ others to get what they want, this is going to continue.
It’s time the decision-makers in the sports associations cut out the middlemen and unscrupulous officials in sports dealings and ensure these were above board.
TONY MARIADASS is the sports
editor of The Malay Mail. He can be
reached at

Monday, September 9, 2013

Using development to abuse sports


Friday, September 06, 2013 - The Malay Mail

AN overdose of anything is normally bad, but not in the case of sports development.
However, when the mushrooming of events or sports centres in the name of development is not regulated, then it becomes a problem.
Take the sudden fad for holding ‘runs’ in the country. Not a week goes by without one or sometimes several held in the same city or state.
On Nov 11, there will be four races — World Diabetes Day Run, ICE Run, RHB Run and My-Cat Run – in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
Running is healthy and should be encouraged. But when event managers turn it into a moneymaking venture without following fundamental guidelines like safety and competition rules set by the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF), including the use of qualified officials to run the show, the races become hazardous.
Tragedy has already struck with deaths occurring in some races in recent years.
Now with running events spreading like wild—fire, there has to be a controlling body to sanction them to avoid further complications.
Normally, race organisers, besides getting the green light from the Sports Commissioner’s office, have to apply for sanction from their respective state athletics association or the national body if it is an international event.
However, many event organisers do not bother because they have to pay sanction fees ranging from RM3,000 to RM5,000, which eats into their profit.
When they pay the fees, qualified officials are provided to ensure the competition rules and guidelines set by the MAF are adhered to, measure the distance to be run, certify the course, validate the running times and confirm the final results.
But event managers prefer their own set of unqualified officials, do not give certified certificates and, more often than not, claim that it is a ‘Fun Run’.
Besides the international standard marathon, which is a 42km run, there are the 21km half marathons. These are few and normally well organised, among which are the Standard Chartered Marathon, Penang Bridge Run, BSN Night Run and Terengganu Bridge Run.
It is the ‘Fun and Charity Runs’, covering 3km, 5km, 7km or the popular 10km, which are in abundance.

RUN CRAZE: Runs are held every week with huge participation

The marathons attract anything from 20,000 to 40,000 participants while the runs draw 1,000 to 10,000.
Participants of the runs, who pay an entrance fee of RM30 to RM70, are usually happy with a ‘goodie bag’ and a medal.
The organisers just have to get a police permit, which has a clause seeking the venue owner’s written consent for the use of their premises for the race.
There is no requirement from the police for a letter of sanction from the athletics controlling bodies. The police are also required for traffic assistance during the run, but some organisers just use Rela (the paramilitary civil volunteer corps) who have no authority to close roads.
In the meantime, it is learnt that MAF are planning to work closely with the Sports Commissioner, venue owners and the police to ensure that there is proper monitoring of these races before a major mishap occurs.
Of paramount importance is the safety of the participants. At present, they sign an indemnity form to absolve the organisers of any responsibility if there are any incidents.
There is a similar need to regulate the futsal centres and football academies coming up all over the country.
A number of the futsal centres, some of which are located in shop houses, do not have certified artificial turf. Many have deplorable turf, which is dangerous to play on. The problem is these centres just need a permit from the local council to operate.
Many of the football academies, meanwhile, do not have qualified coaches or a proper syllabus for coaching. But they charge exorbitant fees, short-changing the participants.
It is about time the FA of Malaysia or the state FAs look into this and ensure the futsal centres and football academies have been sanctioned before starting operations. The football authorities should continue to monitor these centres and revoke their sanction if they are found to be below par.
Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said the National Football Development Programme, which he heads, will be monitoring the football academies.
It is hoped this will become a reality soon. Maybe the Ex-International Football Association can play a role, too.
It is great to see booming interest in the name of sports development, but it is vital that there is proper coordination, certification and checking by the respective authorities to ensure there is quality control and proper records.
TONY MARIADASS is the sports editor
of The Malay Mail. He can be reached at

Thursday, September 5, 2013

School sports off the beaten track

Veteran athletics coach Arunandy in despair over poor state of stadiums in KL

Thursday, September 05, 2013 The Malay Mail

IT was the pride and joy of schoolchildren to compete at stadiums not so long ago in Kuala Lumpur.
But today, stadia have become unaffordable, and to make matters worse, some of the venues are in poor conditions. Former national athletics coach S. Arunandy, who has been involved in the sport for 40 years, was disheartened at the poor conditions schoolchildren have to face today.
“Despite the general belief that athletes in the city have many stadiums to train in, it is just not true," said the 63-yearold, currently who is a sports teacher at Sri Garden.
Arunandy was particularly upset over the Kampong Pandan Sports Complex which has been existence for as long as he has been coaching.
"The Kampung Pandan Sports Complex was the haven for the development of athletics and many other sports. But today it is in a deplorable state.
“The former sports minister Datuk Sabery Cheek made a visit upon his appointment and he immediately instructed a facelift of the gymnasium.
“Now it has very sophisticated equipment and very well maintained. It’s open to the public at a very nominal price. But the track has been in deplorable condition for the last five years,” lamented Arunandy.
“Despite that, it has been the venue for many school sports and the home of the Kuala Lumpur track team. The new sports minister made a visit just a month ago. I hope he will do something about the track," said the Federal Territory Amateur Athletics Association coaching chairman.
“When it gets hot, the track starts to melt and the material sticks to your shoes. Last year the six-lane track became four. The contractor dug up the last two lanes to lay water pipes despite there being space outside the track.
“When I approached the contractor, he told me that he was only following instructions from the sports ministry.
“This sports complex is fully utilised, even on weekends. The staff at the complex are about the most supportive civil servants I have come across and work overtime to facilitate the bookings.
“However, they are shorthanded, making maintenance work very difficult. Twice a year, I top up the sand in the long jump pit. Even the ‘take-off ’ board was replaced by me. Early this year, I drew the lines on the track at my expense." Arunandy said Merdeka Stadium which was the pride of the nation, has become a white elephant.
"Twenty years ago, it was the main venue for all major events, be it athletics, football, concerts and even hockey (the 1975 World Cup was played there).
More than 100 schools held their annual sports there annually.
“In 2007, the 40,000 capacity stadium was reduced to its original 15,000 capacity. The track which was in deplorable condition, was removed and has not been relaid." Arunandy said the Bandar Tun Razak Stadium is another sad story.
“It has been closed since Aug 2011, and I understand that it will remain close for another two years due to repairs. It is unimaginable that it takes four years to repair a stadium which is currently in good condition.
“This stadium too, is another venue for school sports.”
Arunandy said the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, too used to be a venue for schools meets.
“Now the National Stadium pitch is constantly returfed and closed.
“The National Sports Council (NSC) stadium is basically a venue for training of the national athletes and the students of Bukit Jalil Sports School, as such it’s not possible to be used by schools or any other corporate bodies.”
“This is the pathetic truth about the stadiums in Kuala Lumpur. Under such circumstances, how can we produce champions even at the lowest level, let alone world beaters.”