NSC to focus on creating ‘competitive young talents’

Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail sounded fatigued and it had nothing to do with Monday blues.

The National Sports Council (NSC) director-general was informed on Dec 21 that he would continue spearheading the government agency for two more years – with strengthening development programmes the main focus.

There are some within the sports fraternity, including those who have worked with him, who have issues with Ahmad Shapawi who was appointed director-general in 2014.

He was ready to pack up and leave the NSC in 2018. The motivation, or rather lack of it then, could have been because he was placed in the firing line immediately after the national contingent failed to achieve targets in major tournaments in 2018.

As such, the two-year extension came as a surprise.

Those close to him say the man is “tired”, mainly due to firefighting.

Perhaps, the board felt Ahmad Shapawi, who started his career with NSC in 1988, still has what it takes to lead the council. Or perhaps, the board members are just too comfortable with him. Or there isn’t a suitable candidate although certain individuals within NSC harbour hopes of playing ‘boss’.

Has Ahmad Shapawi started grooming a possible successor?

“That’s a sensitive question.” was his immediate reply.

“There are a few within NSC (who are capable) but it’s an open post and anybody can fill the position.”

But here’s where the NSC has been wrongly perceived as many seem to think that it is the supreme body when it comes to elite sports in Malaysia.

It is not.

The council is merely the funding arm of the Youth and Sports Ministry. Period.

However, over the past decades, the NSC has been allowed to play boss as most of the sports associations – perhaps with the exception of football and badminton – have been overly dependent on government funds.

The dependency has also resulted in NSC playing guardian to the national athletes and charting their fortunes when these are supposed to be the roles of the national associations.

With much fixation on the elite athletes, NSC and the ministry realise it is high time to develop young talents aggressively.

This will be one of NSC’s main focuses.

“It’s not like we have not been doing development (programmes) but it’s time to strengthen it,” said Ahmad Shapawi.

“The Finance and the Youth and Sports Ministries are aligned towards developing talents. In fact, the National Sports Vision that will be revealed by the Youth and Sports Ministry soon will include development (of athletes) and as such we will have to go aggressive on this.”

The plan includes revisiting the Malaysia Games, the Back-Up Development programme and to focus on sports that have greater chances of winning on the big stage.

How will Ahmad Shapawi remain motivated for the next 24 months?

“I’ll take things one at a time. The Olympics next year is a priority followed by the Asian and Commonwealth Games in 2022. The para-athletes have a shot at winning medals.

“The other thing is to increase the quality of the Malaysia Games. We need to create a more competitive talented pool (at the lower levels) and we need the support from everyone … all the stakeholders from the states to the national levels.

“We hope to strengthen the network among the various stakeholders to get this done.”