The goal is one, but the ways are many

Tan Sri Norza Zakaria

PETALING JAYA: Leaders – past and present – from different sports are hoping for a better Malaysia in sports in 2021.

Despite all efforts, Malaysia have yet to birth an Olympic Games champion and are not even in the top 10 best country category at the Asian level. The Covid-19 pandemic that had hit hard in 2020 did not help in narrowing the gap either.

Everyone wants a change - but how do we do it?

Some have good plans for better results while some say there is no hope if a toxic culture in Malaysian sport is not eradicated.

Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria, for one, remains upbeat about Malaysian sport in the new year.

“First of all, I’m hoping for the postponed Olympics to proceed as planned, ” said Norza.

“I would like the Malaysian athletes to pursue the Olympics qualification aggressively and rise to the occasion. We should not give up in looking for that elusive gold medal.

“This is the chance for the Malaysian athletes to bring the feel good moments to counter the gloomy and depressing pandemic situation.

“We will continue to work with the sports and finance ministers for a pension scheme for the Olympians and for athletes be entitled for EPF contribution and Socso. We also want private sectors to rejuvenate the sports industry.”

As for badminton, Norza, who is also the Badminton Association of Malaysia president, said: “We want our Academy Badminton Malaysia to produce world-class players from the senior and junior levels. We want to make the ABM one of the best in the world in the next three to five years.”

Former doubles legend Datuk Razif Sidek hoped badminton tournaments would slowly make their presence felt to get the shuttlers all pumped up for the Tokyo Olympics in August.

“Players need the competitive feeling and atmosphere to stay motivated and move forward. I wish all the badminton players and fans a better year than 2020, ” said Razif.

Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) deputy president Azlan Iskandar said everyone would have to continue to think out of the box.

“2020 was a pretty bad year for sports but it made us more creative and I feel technology is definitely a way forward for athletes to train and to compete, for example, the Standard Chartered virtual race, ” said Azlan.

“We need to have more out-of-the-box concepts to keep our athletes competitive.

“For squash, there were a few retirements from top 10 players. So I hope in 2021, even if there isn’t travel allowed still, our athletes will stay motivated and hungry. It’ll be the job of the office bearers to find creative ways to get them in a good frame of mind.”

While the local football league is set to resume after a shortened season last year, Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin said one of their main goals was to get Harimau Malaya to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup on merit.

“In terms of governance, we are streamlining the process of Football Association (FA) to Football Clubs (FC). The whole idea is to create an ecosystem which is sustainable for both clubs and state FAs.”

Former National Sports Institute chief executive officer Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz called for professionalism at every levels.

“We need to allow and support professionals in sport to do the work that’s ought to be done... not the way people think how it is, without benefit of proper insight and appreciation, just shoe-horned into fitting a certain narrative or certain agenda that do not place the athlete’s performance attainment uppermost, ” said Ramlan, who is currently the visiting sports medicine consultant at NSI, and member of the NSC council and board of management.

“For people who are more adept at talking, they should start listening properly to those who execute the work, not to that little voice in their respective minds that only see the light when it shines on themselves.”

Former Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) president Karim Ibrahim was more blunt and said politics had to stop for Malaysian sports to bloom.

“We have not seen outstanding results like in the earlier days. We do win medals here and there but there are no Asian Games or Olympics standouts in athletics, ” said Karim.

“I believe it’s all due to heavy politics, most of the time people who want to lead, do not have the knowledge of the game and how to manage it but comes with an agenda.

“Athletics is one of the oldest sports and associations in Malaysia but we don’t even have our own track or office.

“We won eight golds at the 2017 SEA Games and only managed five in 2019. The welfare of athletes are not looked into too. This is the sad state of our sports.”

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