Friday, May 30, 2014

Stop hailing second best performances

Friday, May 30, 2014 - The Malay Mail
Malaysian pair Tan Boon Heong (right) and Hoon Thien How in action against Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa of Japan during the Thomas Cup final at Siri Fort Stadium in New Delhi, May 25, 2014. — Picture by AFP


STARVED of success, we celebrate even second-rate performances.
This was clearly the case early this week when the whole nation was talking about how close Malaysia was to lifting the Thomas Cup in New Delhi after twenty-two long years.
Despite an earlier target of reaching the semi-finals, reality was thrown out the window when even the severest critics started to hope Malaysia would beat Japan.
But the fact remains that we did not have a formidable line-up and had agonised over the final squad until the eleventh hour. And we had to rely on makeshift partnerships, hoping the players would rise to the occasion. Sure, it was a golden opportunity to win because it was only Japan, who were making their first appearance in a final.
And although Malaysia fought hard, they lost, and to Japan.
But everybody is full of sympathy, praising the fighting quality of the players with radio stations even dedicating programmes to them.
I personally feel we went overboard, as usual, despite having lost. Let us hope no reward is given to the players for having finished runners-up. That would indeed be a joke.
The fact remains that Malaysia lost to Japan, never mind that they had disposed of five-time consecutive winners China 3-0 in the semi-finals.
It is worth noting that Japan did not become the champions by chance. South Korea’s Park Joobong has been coaching them since 2005 and clearly invested a lot of hard work and time in the team.
Success does not come overnight.
Park was in the coaching setup when Malaysia last made their Thomas Cup final in Guangzhou in 2002, but he did not stay long enough to make his mark.
Coming back to Malaysia, are all the accolades showered on our players going to do the game any good? If at all, it will go to show that Malaysians will accept even second best.
It may sound cruel to criticise a team who fought hard, but as I have always maintained, one has to be cruel to be kind.
We cannot be forgiving if we want world beaters. We cannot forever be giving excuses for our defeats.
We just have to be the best to achieve honour and this is going to require proper planning, time, dedication from the players and above all, the passion and desire to reach the highest level of excellence.
We need a pool of players who are all almost of the same standard and not depend on one or two players to carry the team.
Strip out the politics from sports and have fair selections to see the best players being picked to represent the country. Officials should just stick to their appointed roles and excess baggage in the association and team must be sliced off. The bottom line? Manage the team professionally, and we will have a real chance at becoming champions.
Just look at the ongoing Malaysia Games. There are rewards for achievements by young athletes at the lowest level of competition in the country. So you can guess what kind of athletes we are breeding.
By paying out hundreds of thousands ringgit as rewards, the authorities will make these athletes lose sight of patriotism to the country and their pursuit of excellence in their sport. Indeed, they will become materialistic.
“Sacrifice” is a foreign word to these young athletes. So, can we expect them to fight for the nation in a time of need? Malaysia has to change its mentality towards high-performance sports if we are to become champions in the international field.
It is not going to happen overnight as many will not be prepared to give up the comforts of life to work hard for success.
However, it is easier said than done.

• Deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to the Perak royal family on the demise of the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah on Wednesday.
The late Sultan of Perak, the former Malaysian Hockey Federation (then) president and incumbent president of the Asian Hockey Federation, will always be remembered fondly for his contribution to the game both in Malaysia and Asia.
In fact, Tuanku was a wellknown figure in the world of hockey, where he was held in high esteem and respect for his passion for the game.
May his soul rest in peace.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about local
sports. He can be reached
Twitter handle: @tmariadass

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