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Good old days vs professional era

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MALAYSIA have a string of agencies related to sports with a director-general at National Sports Council (NSC), chief executive officers (CEO) at National Sports Institute, Malaysia Organising Committee for Kuala Lumpur SEA Games and National Football Development Programme.

There are directors at Anti-Doping Agency of Malaysia, National Stadium Board and Podium Programme.

We also have a Sports Commissioner, the Sports Advisory Panel and Yayasan Kebajikan Atlet Kebangsaan (National Athletes’ Foundation) as well as highly paid consultants.

Staffing is huge in many agencies with sports managers for respective sports association.

Even national sports associations (NSAs) have engaged CEO and managers.

Several sports have benefited but the majority are struggling in Southeast Asia and Asia regions and we still haven’t won an Olympic gold medal.

Football was administered by a skeleton staff, but despite having more than 100 personnel today, has been a disappointment.

There were many achievements which stood out in the past — like finishing fourth in the hockey World Cup in 1975.

Our footballers played in the 1972 Munich Olympics and qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics only to join the boycott and miss the Games.

Athletics saw Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan and Isthiaq Mubarak shine, and badminton ruled with the likes of Eddie Choong, Wong Peng Soon, Ooi Teck Hock, Ong Poh Lim, Abdullah Piruz, Teh Kew San, Chan Kon Leong, Billy Ng, Tan Aik Mong, Tan Aik Kuan, Ng Boon Bee and Punch Gunalan to name a few.

Today, we have shuttlers Lee Choong Wei, Goh V Shem, Tan Wee Kiong, Goh Liu Ying and Chan Peng Soon, synchronised diving duo Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong and cyclist Azizulhasni Awang who excelled at the Rio Olympics and Nicol David who has ruled the squash world.

However, shouldn’t Malaysia have achieved better results based on how much has been invested and how professional the sports environment has moved on to?

Officials were volunteers, worked out of their car boots and were not paid.

Many associations had skeleton staff or were one-man shows, yet worked tirelessly with dedication and passion.

People like Datuk G. Vijayanathan and S. Satgunam (hockey), N.M. Vasagam, S. Kamalanathan, N. A. Baskaran, K. Aryaduray, Datuk G. S. Kler, Datuk S. Vegithuman (athletics), Datuk A. Vaithilingam, lK. Balachandran, Abdullah Marzuki (schools sports), Shahruddin Jaafar, Datuk Mazlan Ahmad, Daud Kassim (cycling), Aziz Bokhari Bab and Shuain Kasa (badminton), Edmund Yong (golf) Yap Yong Yih and Chan Foong Keong (table tennis), Lum Mun Chak, Datuk Yeoh Choo Hock (basketball), Sum Kwok Seng (weightlifting) and Datuk Paul Muragasu (football) to name few.

“MHF (now Malaysian Hockey Confederation) did not have an office to conduct business of the federation,” said Vijyananthan who was secretary from 1959 to 1985 under three presidents — Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussein Onn and Sultan Azlan Shah.

“All secretarial work was performed at my house. The association did not even own any equipment. I bought a typewriter on instalment basis from my clerk’s salary.

“I was not paid a single cent during my 26-year tenure,” said Vijyananathan.

Satgunam was known for keeping files in his car boot which served as his filing cabinet.

Today, NSAs have office space available from Olympic Council of Malaysia or NSC. Some have own buildings.

Critics will be quick to say we cannot compare the past and present.

The point is with limited resources, finance, facilities and volunteerism, sports was on a higher pedestal.

Now, with high pay for foreign experts and consultants, we are struggling.

Why? For starters, many NSAs have surrendered their responsibilities to NSC for convenience, while some who still hold on to their responsibilities do not engage enough.

Yes they have joint committee meetings between NSC and NSAs, but more often than not, decisions are taken by NSC, as funders.

If all parties wear one hat, have one common goal with total cooperation and understanding, then Malaysian sports will stop being short changed.

TONY is a sports journalist with close to four decades’ experience and is passionate about local sports.

He can be reached at
tmariadass@gmail.com​