Hafiz first to come under ministry's incentive scheme


By RAJES PAUL

KUALA LUMPUR: All-England champion Mohd Hafiz Hashim has another US$10,000 (RM38,000) in the bag. But he will not get to touch it – not for now. 

Hafiz has become the first athlete to come under the Youth and Sports Ministry's long-term incentive programme. 

The 20-year-old Hafiz won US$10,000 for beating world number one and top seed Chen Hong of China 17-14, 15-10 in the men's singles final of the All-England badminton championships last Sunday to end a 37-year wait for Malaysia. 

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein announced yesterday that the shuttler would be rewarded under the new incentive scheme. 

“I met Hafiz today and together with coach Misbun Sidek and BAM (Badminton Association of Malaysia) president Datuk Nadzmi (Mohd Salleh), we discussed what would be the best way for us to give him an incentive for his excellent show in Birmingham. He was agreeable to the idea of a long-term incentive because it will benefit him later when he hangs up his racquet,” said Hishammuddin. 

“We have not got the details but we may get him an insurance policy or some form of long-term financial saving. The amount has not been finalised but it will not be more than the prize money he won.” 

Asked if top national player Wong Choong Hann, who had also upset Chen Hong to win the US$150,000 (five-star) China Open last November, would also enjoy the same benefit, Hishammuddin said: “Hafiz will be the first one to benefit from this incentive scheme. I cannot satisfy everybody. But after Hafiz, we will look at other athletes who deserve to be recognised.” 

Hishammuddin said that the Sports Ministry had decided to come up with this new incentive scheme because the US$120,000 (four-star) All-England championships did not come under the current National Sports Council (NSC) incentive programme. 

“The national bowlers, who returned home today enjoy the NSC incentive scheme for winning at the World Tenpin Team Cup. Each one gets RM4,000. However, there are several tournaments that are not recognised under the NSC scheme and the All-England is one of them. But I feel that winning this prestigious tournament needs to be recognised,” he said. 

Asked if the Olympic Games and Asian Games athletes could enjoy the same scheme or if the All-England should be included under the NSC scheme, Hishammuddin said they would review their NSC scheme. Eventually, he said, there would be changes. 

Hafiz, meanwhile, was all smiles. 

“I am happy with this long-term incentive for me. Some athletes may not know how to manage their cash and their money can just dwindle. With a long-term incentive, I am assured of having some savings for my future,” said Hafiz. 

“For me, rewards are not the main thing. I did get a reward (RM80,000) for winning gold at the Manchester Commonwealth Games but I did not abuse it nor did I let it affect my game. My sole aim is still to win honours for the country. This will not change whether I am rewarded or not.” 

The BAM also got a shot in the arm yesterday. Hishammuddin announced that he would assist the national body strengthen their development programme at every state.  

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