KUALA LUMPUR: It is all about getting the foundation right.
While applauding the new sports model launched by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin recently, veteran sports administrator Datuk Peter Velappan hopes that Malaysia will not repeat its mistakes.
“In order to build a top sports nation, we need to lay a strong and firm foundation. It’s like building a house,” said Peter, who has 50 years of sports administration experience – as the former secretary of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and as a member of various committees in world football governing body FIFA.
“The foundations are the schools, the pillars are the clubs, the rooms are the associations and the roofs are the umbrella bodies.
“Every time we start from the roof and that’s why it always leads to a collapse in our sports system.”
The new sports model announced by Khairy involved the re-structuring of the National Sports Council (NSC), National Sports Institute (NSI) and partnerships with the National Sports Associations (NSAs), Education Ministry and states to revive the grassroots programmes.
“What Malaysian sport needs is a complete makeover at the foundation ... by placing an importance where it belongs – at the schools. I’m happy that our Sports Minister plans to give an emphasis on this area. I hope it will be carried out effectively,” said Peter.
“We have a gold mine of sports talents. This was proven in the 70s and 80s. In schools, students from different races get to play and compete in the sports they choose. When they learn and play together, they will learn to live together too.”
Peter, 79, also said that professionalism and good leadership goes hand-in-hand.
“As a sporting nation, we want to achieve excellence at the highest level too. To achieve that, we need to be professional in everything,” he said.
“We need qualified coaches at all levels. We need to have faith in our local coaches too. They are way better than those who have no clue about our culture.
“There has to be a professional leadership in NSAs. Currently, we have leaders who are clueless and have no long-term or short-term plans. They do not even have any relationships with the athletes.”
On the noble efforts by individual parties to nurture the development programmes, he said: “It’s good but they’re all over the places – doing their own thing. We need to synchronise everything so that all parties will have the same concept and common goals.”
He also hopes that former athletes will not be forgotten.
“I’ve heard of many retired players leaving the scene without having any ties whatsoever with the sports associations. They can be fantastic leaders if we invest in them,” said Peter, who also hopes that through sports, social ills can be arrested.He concluded that there should be an independent committee, involving both local and foreign experts, to ensure all the plans and programmes are carried out effectively.