Friday, September 4, 2015

Looking forward to better years ahead


Level Field

 As the nation celebrates its 58th year of independence next Monday, it can be proud of its achievements thus far. But the same cannot be said for sports in this country.
Since independence, the government has been actively involved in the project of nation building.
While Malaysia is striving to create a sophisticated society that is literate, inventive and productive to fulfil Vision 2020, it is lagging far behind in the field of sports.
In fact, we still talk about the golden days of the 1960s and 1970s, although we have gone professional in football, huge sums of money as well as ultra-modern facilities have been made available to the fraternity and sports science has grown in importance.
Malaysia has been to the Olympics since the 1954 games in Melbourne and 364 (including demonstration sports) sportsmen and women have graced the 14 Olympics in which Malaysia has competed since, save for the 1980 Moscow Games which we boycotted.
But we have yet to win a gold medal and have secured only three silvers (Cheah Soon Kit/Yap Kim Hock in badminton [doubles] in the 1994 Atlanta Games and Datuk Lee Chong Wei in the 2008 and 2012 games in Beijing and London respectively) and three bronzes (Razif Sidek/Jalani Sidek in badminton [doubles] in the Barcelona Games in 1992, Rashid Sidek in Atlanta 1996 in badminton [singles] and Pandelela Rinong in diving in the 2014 London Olympics).
At any rate, we have not stamped our authority at Asean level – the SEA Games – let alone the Asian Games.
Badminton still appears to be the best option to give us our first Olympic gold medal while there is a remote chance of winning one in diving and archery. As for the rest of the sports, they cannot seem to even qualify for the Games.
While smaller and poorer nations are reaching for the stars, we, despite all the resources available to us, are still struggling.
In football, in which Malaysia used to beat teams like Japan and South Korea, we are plumbing new depths while those two nations are playing in the World Cup.
Granted, we have sportsmen and women from our glorious past who have become icons but we need athletes from the present to be proud of. Who will the future generation look up to?

Talking about the past, we can rattle off names like Edward Dutton, Lourdes Sexton, Abdul Ghani Minhat, S. Thanabalan, Looi Loon Teik, Wong Kam Fook, Chow Chee Keong, Lim Fung Kee, Soh Chin Aun, Mokhtar Dahari, M. Chandran, Santokh Singh, Wong Chon Wah, James Wong, Shaharuddin Abdullah, Mani Jegathesan, M. Rajamani, Abdul Rahim Ahmad, T. Krishnan, Nashartar Singh, Asir Victor, R. Subramaniam, T. Krishnan, Ishtiaq Mobarak, B. Rajkumar, Nordin Jadi, Rabuan Pit, Sri Shanmuganathan, A. Francis, Wong Choon Hin, Khairuddin Zainal , Poon Fook Loke, M. Mahendran, Nurul Huda Abdullah, Anthony Ang, Alex Lim Keng Kiat, Jeffrey Ong, Helen Chow and Ng Joo Ngan, to name but a few.
 Who can we name from the current crop of sportsmen and women apart from Datuk Nicol David, Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Pandelela Rinong, Shalin Zulkilfi and a few more?
Recently, there has been turmoil at many of the sports associations with an ongoing war for power among the officials. In the meantime, the athletes have been left to their own devices.
This brings us to the age-old question of who is more important to sports – the officials or the athletes? But this question should not even be asked because sports cannot exist without either. They go hand in hand.
But more often than not, officials claim that without them, athletes will not exist. What they fail to realise is that without athletes, there is no need for their existence.
As long as we have self-centred officials in our midst, Malaysian sports is not going to go anywhere but down. So, can we please have more athletes from the past leading our associations and being actively involved in the betterment of sports in the country?
But then again, we have seen some ex-sports personalities morphing into different animals when they attain high positions in the sports arena. Still, there are many genuine athletes out there waiting to serve their respective sports if given an opportunity.
So as we celebrate our 58th year of independence, we should do some soul searching to see how Malaysian sports can be rescued from the doldrums and regain international recognition.
It is not going to be easy but it is hoped that when we celebrate out 68th Merdeka Day, we will have some feel-good sports stories to talk about.
Happy Merdeka Day!

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

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