KUALA LUMPUR: World number one golfer Vijay Singh had once applied to be a Malaysian permanent resident (PR) but was rejected.
However, the authorities might have done him a favour.
“It’s fortunate that Vijay Singh was not granted the PR status, otherwise he would not have become the world’s number one golfer. That’s the truth,” remarked Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak candidly.
The Deputy Prime Minister, who was launching the Malaysian Sports Science Academy, spoke of how Malaysia, having all the excellent sports facilities, still lacked the right sports environment, culture, values and mental attitude to mould athletes into sports greats like Vijay Singh.
“If you do not have the right mental attitude towards sports, then you can’t achieve excellence,” said Najib, a sports enthusiast and former Youth and Sports Minister.
“It is no secret that the Prime Minister is also equally passionate about football and badminton,” he said.
He said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had spoken about the days when Malaysia was feared as a force to be reckoned with in sports.
“But somewhere down the line we could not sustain the success. We are hungry for success. We have been waiting so long for success,” he added.
Najib stressed that Abdullah and the Cabinet had endorsed sports as an important and integral part of the Malaysian agenda.
“That statement says it all. It shows the commitment the Government has in developing sports. Hopefully we can galvanise the entire nation towards achieving that goal,” he said.
Sports, he said, was the simplest of all languages and understood by all, pointing to the fact that in multiracial Malaysia, “sports is a unifying factor that transcends race and religion.”
Asked whether Malaysia’s dismal days in sports were finally over, Najib said he had to be realistic.
“We can only lay down the strategic vision and policies. But the execution depends on the other components of society and not least, sports bodies, parents and the athletes themselves. It has to be a collective effort.”
On Malaysia’s goals in the next Olympic Games, Najib said he did not want to promise immediate success because it was a journey and not something that could happen overnight due to limited potential.