StarSport speak to Malaysia’s chef de mission to SEA Games

Malaysia's chef de mission to Singapore SEA Games, Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria. - BERNAMA

StarSport: How do you feel about being the chef de mission (CDM)?

Norza: It’s a great honour. Initially, I was worried since I hold so many other positions. But I realise that all these different roles will only help me serve better as the CDM. As chairman of the NSI, it helps to emphasise the importance of sports science among the athletes. Being involved in the BAM and FAM, who both govern big sports in Malaysia, also helps to strengthen the bond between the various National Sports Associations (NSA).

StarSport: How important is the CDM’s role in a multi-sport event?

Norza: It’s important because it involves a lot of stakeholders – there’s the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), the Sports Ministry, the NSI and the different sports associations. It is important to bring everyone to the same page. One of the qualities this role requires is having the passion for sports. Despite our performances at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and Incheon Asian Games, I relish the challenge because I believe there is a lot of potential in our athletes. In order for them to live up to that potential, those at the management level must have good leadership skills, show professionalism and have good interpersonal skills which is crucial in communicating with the athletes.

StarSport: Please elaborate on professionalism since there is talk that there are too many officials not doing enough for the athletes.

Norza: It’s something I would call best practice, which is to ensure that everything runs smoothly. We also want to see our athletes preserve the integrity of the entire contingent. To do that, we, the officials, must lead by example. It’s also important that the secretariat team in Singapore and Johor do everything they can to help the athletes achieve even a marginal increase in their performances. The athletes will be out to do their best and it’s crucial they are not burdened by any administration issues.

StarSport: There were reports of damaged hotels at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. Is it an extra burden to your role as CDM?

Norza: It’s challenging but it’s not a burden. Having gone through the Lee Chong Wei doping case with the BAM, I’ve gained a better insight on how to manage any unforeseen circumstances. I also have two deputies – Dr. S. Shamala and Peter Chee – to assist me. The challenge is that there is no Games Village in Singapore. We have to monitor the athletes who are scattered in several hotels in the republic. We want to ensure that they remain disciplined and stay professional during the Games.

StarSport: So what do you expect from our athletes as there is no specific gold-medal target?

Norza: (with a laugh) I hope football delivers. It’s an Under-23 category and it’s quite a level-playing field. We can also expect sports like diving, squash and hockey to deliver. But what I really want to see is sports that have not delivered previously step up this time. Since this is also a development Games for our athletes (half of them are under 21), they should be out to prove they can keep the seniors on their toes. As we’re the hosts for the 2017 Games, it would be nice to see our back-up athletes do well. I hope the various team managers do their job in guiding the athletes, especially the younger ones.

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