Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jalaluddin is ace in the pack

Coach Dollah has 'gut feeling' skipper could be match winner for Pahang
Thursday, October 31, 2013 - The Malay Mail

PAHANG coach Dollah Salleh has singled-out his captain and veteran player, Jalaluddin Jaafar, as his trump card against defending champion Kelantan in Sunday's Malaysia Cup final.
When Pahang last won the Malaysia Cup in 1992, Dollah was a member of the team with current team manager Zainal Abidin Hassan. English coach Mike Brown, had picked rookie rightback Zulhamizan Zakaria as his ace in the pack.
Mailsport had highlighted the story and it turned out that the 23-year-old Zulhamizan was the match-winner against Kedah in the final scoring the only goal in a record 98 seconds.
It was off the first corner kick awarded in the game to Pahang, which Mubin Mokhtar took. The ball was cleared by the Kedah defence to midfield, where Pahang skipper Allan Davidson picked up the loose ball and sent it behind the Kedah defence where Zulhamizan had overlapped to face Kedah goalkeeper Azmi Mahmud in a one to-one situation. Azmi made a blunder in wanting to clear the ball at the top of the box and Zulhamizan won the ball to coolly put in into an empty goal.
Dollah is naturally hoping that history will repeat itself.
"Without doubt, it is going to be difficult final for us as Kelantan are the experienced finalists. The majority of my players have not played in a Malaysia Cup final," said Dollah.
"That is why I am picking Jalaluddin as my ace in the pack. He is the most experienced player in the team, and despite his age (38), is among the fittest player in team. Although he operates at rightback, he lends support in attack and the very next instance is back in defence.
"Don't get me wrong. Every player who takes the field on Sunday is equally important and have to carry out their duties effectively for us to do well.
"But it is just that my gut feeling says Jalaluddin will do something special for us.
"Besides, he has not won a Malaysia Cup medal and he will be eager to make it happen," said Dollah, who turned 50 on Oct 10.
"I am hoping that winning the Malaysia Cup will be my belated birthday present."
The Pekan-born Jalaluddin, who signed for Pahang in 1997 after guiding the Malaysia Games team to the football gold medal in the 1996 edition, has indeed come a long way in his football career.
He helped Pahang win the Premier League title in 1999, Super League in 2004 and the FA Cup in 2006.
He also played for Shahzan Muda FC – a development team of Pahang FA for two seasons. He was loaned back to Pahang in 2009 for the Malaysia Cup campaign and stayed with the team ever since.
The Malaysia Cup is the only medal missing in his trophy cabinet.
The closest he had come to lifting the trophy was in 1997 when Pahang, then coached by Dane Jorgen E. Larson, were beaten 1-0 by Selangor.
Jalaluddin is planning to call it quits next year and naturally he wants to end his career with a Malaysia Cup winner's medal.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weed out the party poopers

Friday, October 25, 2013 - The Malay Mail


BOUQUETS to Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) president Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad and his council members for selecting only athletes who have qualified on merit for the Myanmar Sea Games to be held in Naypyidaw in December.
They have also selected the seven athletes who are in the top three of the Southeast Asia ranking list.
However, MAF have come under fire for naming nine athletes for the relays in the name of "national interest", although only the men's 4x400m quartet qualified on merit.
Maybe MAF can be excused for making the compromise.
After all, the relays are ‘the’ events in any athletics meet, other than the sprints.
Besides, those selected for the relays are budding athletes being groomed for the future.
That aside, MAF’s stand not to send veteran athletes Lee Hup Wei (high jump) and Noraseela Khalid and Robani Hassan (hurdles), who failed to meet the qualifying marks, should be applauded.
Finally, the right message is being sent to the athletes — there is no such thing as a free ticket. They have to earn their place.
If the other sports associations can adopt the same stance, then the standard of sports in the country will be elevated.
For too long, compromises have been made, especially in the hope that veteran athletes would win medals based on their experience even if their current form suggested otherwise.
In fact, the only time exceptions can be made is when an up-and-coming athlete is close to the qualifying mark or if it is felt the exposure would do the athlete some good. Then, too, the expenses for sending such athletes should be borne by the association or sponsor.
For the Myanmar Games, 529 athletes — 404 under category A (qualified on merit) and 125 under category B (sponsored by associations who will be reimbursed if the athletes win gold [fully] or silver [partially]) — have been listed for selection by the Olympic Council of Malaysia.
The National Sports Council (NSC), who are grooming athletes through their Pelapis (back-up) programme, have requested MAF to include nine of their interns under category B.
But this is a peculiar situation because MAF, as the governing body of athletics, should be overseeing development as they know the performance of the athletes well.
NSC should engage MAF fully in their programme or have the body run the programme for them because, after all, they are the experts.
In fact, several sports associations have given up development because NSC have taken over the role. This situation needs to be revisited to ensure that sports associations are held accountable for the rise and fall of their respective sports, not NSC.
NSC could assist with funding and monitoring to ensure the programmes are running smoothly and according to plan.
One good programme that was in place — and whose respective associations were actively involved and results were forthcoming — was Sukan Teras. It involved the eight elite sports of football, hockey, badminton, squash, bowling, gymnastics, aquatics and athletics.
Sadly, the programme, which was approved exactly nine years ago today (Oct 25, 2004), was derailed five years ago by NSC, which cited lack of funds.
Also, 50% or 224 centres for various sports throughout the country were closed so that Pelapis could be enhanced.
This national scheme now has 139 athletes training full time under 40 coaches. Its academies around the country have 96 athletes and 21 coaches in total.
The 241 state centres have 4,773 athletes involved in programmes and 347 registered coaches.
The question is, with so much in place, why is there still a dearth of talent when it comes to selection for international meets? Why do we have to make compromises to send a decent contingent?
Clearly, it is not about numbers or plans on paper, but about execution, proper selection and training, qualified coaches, competition and, above all, transparency.
For starters, the national sports associations should play a more active role in development instead of allowing NSC to do it for them.
Maybe then the need to send athletes who have not qualified on merit would not arise, and maybe we would have a bigger pool of talent knocking on the door to make the cut for meets.
The situation faced in the selection of high jumpers, where six qualified but only the two current best can make the trip (Sea Games allows only two entries per event), is healthy and good for the development of sports. This should be the goal of all sports associations.
Defending champion Lee Hup Wei, despite his season’s best of 2.22m, failed to make the cut as he finished fourth with a 2.10m jump at last weekend’s Malaysia Open because of a back injury.
Newcomers Nauraj Singh Randhawa and S. Navin Raj qualified with jumps of 2.20m and 2.15m respectively.
Whether or not the duo go on to win the gold in Myanmar, their presence certainly augurs well for the future of athletics.

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

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Don’t bring greed and hypocrisy into sports

Friday, October 18, 2013 - The Malay Mail 

IT is indeed sad to see the very people who are supposed to hold sports in high esteem drag it through mud.
When you have blatant disregard for the purity of sports and use it for personal gain, when money and a good dash of politics come into sports, then a massive beast is created in the industry.
When you mix sports with business and politics, you inevitably produce a dangerous environment that fosters greed. This often leads to bitter conflicts and is the reason why there are so many stories about how avarice is destroying sports.
I highlight here two issues that are prime examples of the above.
In one, it is the very authority that is supposed to safeguard sports that is trying to kill it, and in the other, the very people who are responsible for a sport are defying the rules that govern it.
Case No 1: The UKRC saga, and Case No 2: The formation of Tennis Malaysia.
I cannot understand why a town council was suddenly ordered to take over the UKRC field recently when the issue had been dragging on for years.
The field had been managed by UKRC for 57 years and is one of the best in Kuala Lumpur.
It was a mining pond that was converted into a space to house the recreational centre for the residents of Ulu Klang.

THANKLESS TASK: A council worker trimming grass at UKRC

Many attempts were made previously to convert the field for development use, but UKRC proved to be tough opponents.
In the meantime, they maintained the field, raised funds countless times to upgrade it for public use until a fallout among its members dismantled all the good work.
Then, the Ampang Jaya Town Council (MPAJ) joined the fray with a push from the Selangor government, blatantly ignoring a motion tabled in the state assembly in 2011 to give the land title to UKRC and to let them take over the field this month.
What boggles the mind is that the town council has taken over the field despite being unable to maintain it. In fact, it has asked UKRC to sell to them the goalposts in the field and wants to hire their mobile grass-cutting machine. Meanwhile, it is using garden shears and lawn movers to cut the grass.
And just 100m away, there is another public field that is in deplorable condition. Why hasn’t the town council done anything to restore or maintain it? Why did it focus on the UKRC field?
The latest news is that UKRC’s lawyers are going to file a lawsuit against MPAJ for seizing the field without a court order.
The land was allocated to UKRC on July 12, 1958, to be used as a football field and to build a club-cum-community hall on it.
And as requested by the Kuala Lumpur land office, they paid the surveyor’s fee of RM690.
The irony of it all is that since surrendering the field to the town council, UKRC have had to pay RM200 per hour to use it for their weekly community football development programme, team training and friendly matches.
And so, the UKRC saga continues. Will the field be maintained for football and for the use of Ulu Klang’s residents or will it be snatched away from them and replaced with a condominium? Only time will tell.
Let’s now look at Tennis Malaysia, newly formed by several lawn tennis state associations (LTAs) supposedly to complement the Lawn Tennis Association of Malaysia (LTAM) in unearthing fresh talent.
Kuala Lumpur LTA president Mirzan Mahathir, who had challenged and lost to Tan Sri Abdul Razak Latif for the LTAM’s top post in elections last month, is the head of Tennis Malaysia.
However, the Sports Commissioner's office has yet to receive any application from Tennis Malaysia to register the body.
Tennis Malaysia claims that it will not compete with LTAM, but complement and aid the national body in raising the standard of the game in the country.
But only LTAM is recognised by the International Tennis Federation and the Olympic Council of Malaysia. Anyone who wants to assist LTAM will have to be affiliated to it.
So, why form another body when the members of Tennis Malaysia are already affiliated to LTAM through their state LTAs and can offer their assistance through their associations? It is a real puzzle.
These two cases are enough to make one wonder if sports in this country is mired in greed and hypocrisy.

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Zul and his injury delimma

Zulmazran at the crossroads

Malaysian Open performance will determine his career path
Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - The Malay Mail 

HAPPIER TIMES: Zulmazran is determined to overcome his injury woes in the Malaysian Open next month

DEFENDING champion Zulmazran Zulkifli faces a dilemma on his bowling career when he competes in the Malaysian Open championships in Petaling Jaya next month.
Zulmazran, who turns 30 on Nov 20, has been plagued by a nagging wrist injury he suffered just before the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.
While he has done everything required to recover from the injury, which includes resting, rehabilitation, strengthening his muscles and changing his technique, the relief has been temporary.
"I even asked other world-class bowlers who are similar to me (heavy bowler) whether they use any technique which does not require using wrist power," said Zulmazran.
"Some have shared their thoughts, while others have been secretive. For instance, Dominic Barret bowls similar to me, but he does not use his wrist power. When I asked if he could share his style, he simply said: 'Why should I?'
"It's frustrating, especially when you work so hard to get back on the road and cannot perform to expectations because the injury affects the revolution of the ball, which is an essential part of my game."
Zulmazran said he is giving himself one last chance to see if he can get back to normal bowling and do well in the Malaysian Open.
"The Malaysian Open is my favourite ... it brings the magic in me and I hope it works again," he added.
"But this time, it has to work instead of me having to worry about the injury and delivery.
"Although I won the title last year, the injury still affected me for the rest of the year."
Zulmazran said he has been working extra hard, especially after his disappointment in the recent World championships in Las Vegas.
"I am already thinking of bowling with two hands, like Australia's Jason Belmonte and Finland's Osku Palermaa (both of whom revolutionised the two-handed approach in bowling)," said Zulmazran.

"I have already spoken to them and have been trying it out in practice.
"I might even try my left hand out of desperation," laughed Zulmazran. But he hoped it would not come to that.
"That is how serious I am to stay in the game and start doing well again. I am not getting any younger and I need to get my act together fast," said Zulmazran, who has won the Malaysian Open thrice — last year, 2008 and 2009.
Zulmazran said he has not spoken to anyone about opting for two hands or left-handed, including national coach Holoway Cheah.
"For now, that is my last option. I hope to get back to normal and hope the Malaysian Open will show me the way."

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cardiff honeymoon over for Tan

Friday, October 11, 2013 - The Malay Mail

CARDIFF City owner Tan Sri Vincent Tan is slowly but surely changing the perception of Malaysian involvement in the English football league, but he seems to have hit a bad patch that could undermine the reputation of Malaysians.
However, after Queens Park Rangers, owned by Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, were demoted from the Premier League last season and the nightmarish stint of former Kuala Lumpur national defender Serbegeth Singh as the global adviser for Blackburn Rovers, has Tan become a victim of perception? Are Malaysians being branded as failures in English football?
Tan saw Cardiff City earn promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 51 years. In fact, the Welsh club were sitting above Manchester United last week and looked set for better times this season.
But all that has been torn to shreds with news undermining Tan’s contribution to the team.
He has made changes at Cardiff, the biggest of which was changing their kit colour from blue to red, which he deemed a lucky colour. He also amended the club crest, swapping the traditional Bluebird for a Welsh dragon. Last season, a name change was mooted — to Cardiff Dragons — the name of an amateur team in the city.
Despite bankrolling promotions and signings, the fans seemed to be against Tan’s every move.
Last week, there was a breakdown in communication between Tan and the senior members of Malky Mackay’s squad with the angry players wanting to bar him from having any involvement with the first team on match days.
The anger was due to Tan’s refusal to fork out a seven-figure sum for the players’ end-of-the-season bonuses.
RED-FACED: Tan is facing a breakdown in communication with his players

The latest conflict arose after Tan replaced his head of recruitment Iain Moody with 23-year-old Kazakh Alisher Aspalyamov. Mackay is said to be shocked and disappointed at the suspension of the club’s former press officer.
Will the current situation force Tan to pull out of Cardiff ?
He has done well so far despite having made unpopular decisions. Shouldn’t he be given the opportunity to see his plans for the club through?
Replacing Moody with Aspalyamov, who has admitted that he does not have any footballing experience, may be seen as interference in the management of the team, but Tan is known for his shrewd decisions, be it in business or sport, and he has been successful so far.
Maybe Tan has something up his sleeves that will add a new dimension to Cardiff.
While Cardiff fans and even the players are up in arms, maybe they should give him the benefit of the doubt.
Diehard football fans would l probably disagree and say that Tan should stick to what he knows best — business — and leave football to the experts.
But has Tan been unfairly judged in England simply because he is a Malaysian? Can he weather the storm?
Malaysians, whether or not they like Cardiff , will surely take a special interest in the team and Tan’s next move in the club, especially with a big question mark over the future of Mackay?
He is full of surprises and for now, Cardiff have the attention of the Malaysians, what with them promoting “Malaysia” on the front of their jerseys.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Corporate sponsors key to bright future

Corporate sponsors key to a bright future

Friday, October 04, 2013 - The Malay Mail

CORPORATE entities should support the development of sports in Malaysia. More often than not, they back sports events that bring immediate returns to the sponsors or fund the more prominent sports associations.
True, development is a lengthy process and takes time to produce results. Any association with development programmes leaves a lasting legacy because when the programmes bear fruit, the money invested generates returns that are meaningful.
This week, a RM1 million cash injection into 17 national sports associations (NSAs) was announced as part of a collaboration between Astro and the Olympic Council of Malaysia. This will also see the respective sports benefit t from coverage and promotions through the 24-hour sports channel Astro Arena.
Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin described the deal as the start of a brighter future for local sports and urged more similar contributions from corporate entities.
Corporate-sponsored sports associations is nothing new in Malaysia. This was the reason former sports minister Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman introduced Rakan Sukan in 1994.
Sadly, many of the NSAs have seen their partnership severed because of poor relations with the sponsors, who demand reports on how the sponsorship money, in some cases as much as RM1 million, was spent.
After all, these organisations are accountable to their boards and owners for every sen that goes out of their books.
However, one association — the Malaysian Amateur Basketball Association (Maba) — have stood the test of time and are still part of Rakan Sukan. And here is why Petronas is still their partner.
“Petronas’ longstanding partnership with Maba began in 1994 under the national ‘Rakan Sukan’ programme and is today one of the programme’s most successful partnerships. Through this partnership, we have helped develop the sport at national, regional and international levels,” the national oil company says in a report on the partnership.
“Many landmark achievements have been made in raising the standard of the game in Malaysia with the establishment of the Petronas-Maba basketball academy and the introduction of the Petronas Cup competition, an annual inter-state championship to promote basketball as a national sport.
“The Petronas-Maba basketball academy provides a valuable platform for nurturing young talent aged between 16 and 20. It scouts for talent within this age group at schools and district-level competitions organised nationwide by Maba and provides them with training.
All academy students are given financial aid for studies up to college level to ensure that they receive a comprehensive education while they undergo training and participate in competitions.

MILLION RINGGIT DEAL: Khairy (second from right) together with Henry Tan, Astro Chief Operations Executive (right) and Tunku Imran Tuanku Jaafar, Olympic Council of Malaysia president, at the partnership signing ceremony between Astro and OCM on Tuesday — BERNAMApic
“In 2003, a 3-on-3 basketball competition was held at selected Petronas service stations to promote the sport directly to the local communities. The annual competition has become increasingly popular, drawing an overwhelming response from the public.”
CIMB is another corporation whose partnership with the Squash Racquet Association of Malaysia is thriving.
Recently, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak urged corporate bodies to continue to sponsor sporting events in the country because it was an effective investment in terms of promoting their brand and indirectly helped generate income for the country.
“The contribution from the corporate bodies should not be perceived as merely charity from them but should be looked at in terms of their commercial value,” he said.
Sure, the NSAs should look for corporate sponsors, but their priority should be long-term programmes. At the same time, corporates should target development programmes.
When the funds start flowing in, the NSAs must ensure their programmes work because the end results will show whether or not their efforts were earnest.
In 2005, the Cabinet Committee for Sports, chaired by the then deputy premier Najib, approved a RM193 million budget to revive the country’s sports culture. Of this, RM125 million was for sports at grassroots level — a clear indication of the direction the government was taking.
However, accountability is the essence of success and must be monitored closely.
With recent successes in the inaugural Asian Schools track and field championships in Kuantan, the national junior hockey team’s second placing in the Sultan of Johor Cup and Harimau Muda winning the Merdeka tournament, clearly, a focus on development and youth is the way to go for Malaysian sports.
TONY MARIADASS is the sports editor
of The Malay Mail. He can be reached