Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Want to be first class sportsmen? Don’t train in Malaysia!

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(Najib congratulating Nicol - to have the right sense not to train in Malaysia? And who is that in the middle? Picture source: The Star)
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Najib should be our Sports Minister. No, I am serious. He should be since he made 2 valid points about sports excellence in Malaysia. The first was in February when Najib said that Malaysia did Vijay Singh a big favor by not granting him permanent residence. The underlying message: Don’t be a Malaysian if want to excel at international level?

Now, Najib made another remark, that the local professional athletes should emulate World No 1 woman squash player Nicol David by training overseas. The underlying message: Don’t train in Malaysia if want to excel at international level?

I say he has valid points because if you are a Malaysian and you are really good at sports, the chances are you will have difficulty in excelling in international level. Huh? Reasons are plenty and it does not take an expert to list it down. Oh what a heck, I will list down some of it out anyway:-

1. Officials are more important than sportsmen

Ya, you heard me right - only in Malaysia, being an official is better than being a sportsman – paid holiday & exclusion of any wrongdoing.

Remember the issue of the ratio of participants to officials to the Sea Games in Manila which was at a ratio of 1:1.75? So, money that could have spent for sportsmen training, coaches and facilities was used for “sight-seeing expenses” for the officials. That matter has been swept under the carpet in light of Malaysia’s “good” performance in the Sea Games.

When the team fails to achieve (why I am thinking football here, hmmm), the players & often coaches are sacked immediately whilst the officials are retained to warm up the seat for another season (did you realise any “major changes” in FAM recently? No?)

2. Sports is not a big time business

I am not talking about Sports Toto here (it is big business alright). That’s not it. The issue is sponsorship and our rally champion, Karamjit Singh had learned it the hard way. I don’t blame the companies for not sponsoring our sportsmen – there is little exposure in some of the sports which means not much of publicity and some which has good exposure such as Formula 1 demands a very high sponsorship.

Lack of sponsorship from private companies means the Government need to fork out the cash for the training and facilities either directly or through GLCs like Petronas. A lack of support from the Government in turn means promising athletics to bid good-bye to sports forever.

Unless of course, if you are the local authority - you can hold “ransom” taxpayers for your little fun in games. Free money without any accountability?

3. World class facilities but not at where it is needed the most

We built great stadiums (originally for a main sporting event but later turned to held rock concert, carnivals and cheap sales for festive). Stadiums are built in faraway places where one needs to take at least 2 buses or the LRT or drive down through the traffic jam. It’s ok because we want the place exclusive, right?

But the neighborhood fields (where it matter most) are deemed too priceless to be allowed to remain as the “breeding ground" for potential sportsmen & future national sports hero. Development for new housing project or hawker is more important than a “wasteful” activity called sports.

4. Sports is not important career

Participating in sports is ok as long as you have a real job to fall back for your income – this is what most parents will say until they see the Govt gives Nicol David 200,000 cash and immediately they start packing their kids to start playing squash. I don’t blame them because I will say the same too. In Malaysia, there is no such thing as full time sportsmen or jobs related to the science of sports.

Of course the Sports Minister can say fine words like “make sports a career” but how many companies are willing to take sportsmen on a full time basis. In my previous company, a friend of mine who represented Malaysia in sports was actually reprimanded for being away on an international assignment for the country (My friend still working for the company but stopped from being a sportsmen to focus on his real job)

5. Malaysian Sports are ran by “professionals”

Take a good look at our Sports Associations and tell me how many of it is headed by ex-sportsmen, coaches or people who are passionate about sports. Not many from the last time I counted. Now tell me how many is headed by politicians, public servants (some retired) and royalty. Some like the MHA (hockey) is well managed and has bravely maintained a good standard but others like FAM, people are still looking for an answer for degrading quality. The question is how professional sports in this country are being managed.

There are other factors too – but the fact is to say that it is good for you if you train outside Malaysia is acceptable because you may not have the right challenges or facilities here at home but to say that it is good for you if you are not Malaysian is an utter nonsense

Until then, we have to wait for more “wise statements” from Najib and by the way, Najib, who is going to bear the cost of overseas training? Will we get 1:1.75 participants to official ratio again? I wonder.
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(Filed under Del.icio.us Tag: Governance)
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