MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, November 30, 2023

Sports commissioner barking up the wrong tree


From Ashraf Abdullah

I am sure everyone agrees that sports in Malaysia is generally in a sagging state of affairs. But blaming a single organisation for the problem, like what sports commissioner Suhardi Alias has done, is both myopic and prejudiced.

It was wrong, uncalled for and ungentlemanly to single out the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and a few individuals.

OCM should not and cannot be solely blamed for the sorry state of Malaysian sports. While the OCM plays a significant role in overseeing and coordinating Olympic-related activities in the country, various factors contribute to the overall sports performance, and these factors extend beyond the control of a single organisation or sports associations run by volunteers.

Firstly, the OCM primarily focuses on the organisation of the Malaysian contingent for the Olympic Games. The performance of athletes is influenced by numerous factors such as coaching, infrastructure, funding, and grassroots development, which fall under the purview of different entities including the youth and sports ministry, education ministry, national sports associations, and private organisations.

Expecting the OCM to single-handedly address all these facets is unrealistic.

Secondly, the OCM’s role is more administrative and regulatory, ensuring compliance with Olympic principles and guidelines. It may not have direct involvement in the day-to-day training and development of athletes. The responsibility for athlete performance lies largely with coaches, trainers, and the athletes themselves, who require a conducive environment for training and competition.

In addition, funding is a critical aspect of sports development. While the OCM plays a role in securing financial support for the Olympic contingent, the overall funding landscape of sports in the country involves collaboration with the government, corporate sponsors, and other stakeholders.

Limited financial resources impedes the comprehensive development of sports in the country, affecting training facilities, equipment, and talent identification programmes. Corporate sponsorships for sports hardly come by, especially when they are not doing well.

Blaming the OCM exclusively oversimplifies the challenge at hand. It overlooks the need for a holistic approach to sports development, involving collaboration among various stakeholders. The government, sports associations, educational institutions, and the private sector must work together to create an ecosystem that nurtures athletic talent, from grassroots levels to elite competitions.

Effective collaboration and strategic planning are essential to address the various factors influencing sports performance in Malaysia.

The government has the biggest share of responsibility.

I was shocked to learn from a teacher recently that a school in Negeri Sembilan, known in the 60s, 70s, 80s and even the 90s for producing some of the best hockey players in the country, cannot even form a team because the parents insist that their children go for tuition classes rather than sports practice.

Perhaps by going for tuition classes, the children may excel in the academic field, become professionals and earn big money later in their lives. But what good does it do if the sedentary lifestyles that they are forced to lead cause health problems in their early adulthood? We will have a population plagued with lifestyle diseases, resulting in the government’s healthcare bill skyrocketing. How will it help if we are successful in producing scientists, innovators, great leaders, etc. only to have many of them dropping dead from some cardiovascular disease in their 30s and 40s?

It is best that the government’s money be channelled towards promoting a healthy lifestyle through sports. Healthy habits established in childhood often persist into adulthood, reducing the burden on healthcare systems.

The government plays a crucial role in shaping the well-being and future of society, and investing in youth sports is a strategic and holistic approach. However, the government’s allocation for sports development in Malaysia is, for a lack of a better word, pittance.

And it has gotten worse. The allocation for sports development in Malaysia was more than halved from RM399 million in 2023 to RM184 million as announced in the budget for 2024. The estimated total healthcare costs for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, on the other hand, is a whopping RM10 billion a year.

This may sound like a lecture because many have said it before. But somehow the government does not get the fact that healthy living among children and youth can reduce the healthcare budget in a big way. It is an investment for the future. It has become even more worrying because in an era dominated by technology and screen-based activities, physical inactivity has turned into a significant health issue.

But besides funding, it is also the government’s responsibility to ensure that every child, at both primary and secondary schools, participates in sports. The mandatory “one pupil, one sport” policy which I assume is still in place merely promotes participation. It does not encourage children to excel in sports.

Schoolchildren’s participation in sports must carry marks, according to the levels of participation. They should get more marks when they represent the district, state and national levels in a particular sport, as opposed to those who represent only their schools. Universities and colleges must insist on these marks as an important criteria for admission. The institutions of higher learning must also insist that these students continue to excel in sports upon admission.

All this can only be made possible if the government is serious about making Malaysia a world-class sporting nation.

Only by addressing issues related to funding, infrastructure and sports policies which include setting up academies for certain sports where Malaysians can excel, can the government create a conducive environment for sports development, ultimately leading to improved performance on the international stage.

The sports commissioner, therefore, is barking up the wrong tree. He should have the gumption to tell the government that it is not doing enough, rather than take the easy way out by pointing his gun towards OCM and sports associations.

With limited resources from the government, there is nothing much these organisations can do. - FMT

Ashraf Abdullah is a former group managing editor of Media Prima TV Networks and an ex-sportsman.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.