Shortcomings of Malaysian sports

The sport scene in Malaysia is fraught with problems. And it took an outsider to tell OCM secretary Sieh Kok Chi why, which made his face turned lobster-red. Kok Chi tells Starsport’s RAJES PAUL the shortcomings in Malaysian sports after his lunch meeting with old friend and Australia International Sports Director Hallam Pereira. 

Sieh Kok Chi (OCM secretary)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi and Western Australia International Sports Director Hallam Pereira are good buddies and their friendship goes way back to 1975.  

And so, it was a slap on the face for Kok Chi when Pereira, who was invited by the National Sports Council (NSC) to give a talk on Strategic Planning for Development of Sport and Recreation on Friday, asked bluntly “Why have OCM not done anything to improve on this shortcoming in Malaysia.” 

The “shortcoming” that both Kok Chi and Pereira were talking about over lunch yesterday was on the lack of a wider base of athletes for all sports at the grassroots levels in Malaysia. 

“I was taken aback and I did not know how to answer him. There was a lot of truth in his question. I felt embarrassed. Along the way, we (the OCM) have lost focus,” said Kok Chi. 

“Over the years, the OCM have been accommodating the national associations and the National Sports Council (NSC) and thus have lost certain responsibilities and duties in finding the best approach to implement a right structure to strengthen our base in sports.  

“We have been too occupied with the SEA Games, Asian Games and Olympics that we have neglected the majority who are not the elite athletes. 

“We have been caught in the rut and must now find ways to get out. Our failure in sports is not only about coming back empty handed from the Athens Olympic Games recently.  

“But the failure is seeing fewer and fewer athletes taking part in sports in general. We have let it slip to a poor state,” he lamented. 

The lack of participation in the recent Malaysian Open Athletics Championships in Bukit Jalil, where some events had only three and four entries, was a classic case of athletes shying away from sports. There also seem to be fewer and fewer participations in the national swimming meets. 

Kok Chi cringed in humiliation as there were more questions from a perplexed Pereira: “You have great facilities and highly respected officials here but why have you not produced world class athletes and coaches?  

Datuk Punch Gunalan is the International Badminton Federation (IBF) vice president, Datuk Peter Velappan is the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) secretary general, Datuk Yeoh Choo Hock is the secretary general of the Asian Basketball Confederation and Datuk P.S. Nathan is the president of the world body for bowling.  

A Malaysian officiated the rowing event at the August Olympic Games in Athens but Malaysia do not even have a team for the regional SEA Games; the OCM vice president Low Beng Choo is well-respected official at Asian softball but we do not have a national softball team. 

Many will not dispute the fact that Malaysia are great hosts for world class sports event.  

The sprawling facilities at the Bukit Jalil Sports Complex are excellent and the home of sports science at the National Sports Institute (NSI) are top notch. 

But after discussing and comparing the sports structure between the ailing Malaysian sport scene and the success of Australia in sports, it was concluded that there was one big missing link in Malaysian sport.  

And Kok Chi believes the answer is to appoint a coaching director for every sport in the country. 

“We (the OCM) hold many course for coaches at all levels - schools, clubs, district, state.  

“But who monitors this coaches when they go back to implement what they have learnt. Are they implementing it? Unfortunately, the OCM have done a follow-up on them despite holding all the courses for the last 20 years. Do the national associations do it? They already have so much to do,” said Kok Chi. 

The Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union (MAAU) have the post of a coaching chairman. But the scope of the job has been limited more on finding and preparing training programmes for elite athletes. 

The NSC have coordinators for every sport but they concentrate mainly on administrative work.  

“A coaching director must be on the ground and must be well versed with his sport.  

“He will talk to this coaches at all levels - schools, clubs, district, state and even the elite group - and supervise them.  

“He receives their grouses and requests. He can suggest ideas and help with their programmes.” 

And the good news is, Western Australia are willing to train up coaching directors, to get back Malaysian sport on its feet. 

“They (Western Australia) have a coaching director for every sport. These directors liase with all the coaches at different levels and the structure have been proven successful in Australia. Pereira is willing to help us educate our coaching directors,'' said Kok Chi. 

On who would be overseeing the coaching director, Kok Chi said: “We will discuss this at our board meeting. The NSC could hire them and appoint one for each sport. Or we at the OCM could do it. It will be discussed but the main thing is to get the suitable person, who has the passion for the sport.”  

Kok Chi also believes that competitiveness at all levels should be revived. 

“We use to have a lot of sports clubs but it is dormant now. But we can still encourage teams to take part in competitions - not necessarily under the banner of a club.  

“A make shift team from a school or district should be allowed to take part in national championships. It will get a lot of people involved and passion for sports will return. 

“Once we get the right system in place Malaysian sports should be moving forward again.” 

In a an interview with 15 gold medallist at the Atlanta Olympic Games, the athletes concluded five reasons for their success in this order: excellent coaching; good training facilities; quality competitions; quality sparring partners; and good financing. 

Probably, Malaysia should start with training the respective coaches first to bring back the sports culture in Malaysia. 

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