Sports lifts spirits, again, amidst political dramas, weak ringgit, rising inflation in Malaysia

Malaysians seem to have very little to cheer for in recent times.

The nagging Covid-19 pandemic, political instability and weak ringgit are among the main contributors to the rising cost of living, as Malaysia’s inflation rate rose to 4.4 per cent in July.

The conviction and incarceration of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Aug 23, while celebrated by many, reaffirms the fact that the nation was once led by a man guilty of corruption and abuse of power.

The jailing of Najib will be used as ammunition by the opposition to further attack Umno – leader of the Barisan Nasional coalition that was unceremoniously ejected from Putrajaya in the 2018 general election.

Umno, however, is using Najib’s ‘Go to jail’ order to its advantage by playing with emotions – and whipping up sympathy for its ex-leader, who was its chief strategist and whose online influence held more sway with the public compared to the party’s own propaganda machinery.

The key takeaway from the special gathering held last Saturday was for the 15th General Election to be called soon, as Umno leaders believe the party can once again dominate Putrajaya.

The disconnect between the elites and the masses is so apparent, evident in conversations over teh-o at regular mamak shops, or over a cup of pricey caramel macchiato in a swanky coffee bar.

The nauseating political dramas, of which Malaysians have become weary, come at a time when many are still reeling from the various lockdowns imposed worldwide due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although the nation is transitioning from the pandemic to the endemic phase, it is still not business as usual for most industries due to labour shortages, price hikes in raw materials, and the downward trend of the ringgit, now at 4.49 against the greenback.

Malaysia’s inflation rate in July rose to 4.4 per cent, as the prices of daily essentials, such as milk and bread, have gone up.

Even the skies have been crying in recent weeks, with dark clouds hovering over Malaysians almost daily – a fitting commentary by Mother Nature in painting the harsh realities facing the country.

But on Aug 28, two young Malaysians gave their countrymen a reason to cheer.

Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik inked their names in the history books as being the first Malaysians to win the world championship. The duo defeated respected Indonesian pair Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan 21-19, 21-14 to win the title in Tokyo.

To put it crudely, Malaysia should have won a world championship title in badminton a long time ago. This is because the country has been producing world-class shuttlers even before it gained independence from the British in 1957.

But as the saying goes, better late than never.

Chia and Soh’s historical feat couldn’t have come at a better time – being the ‘happy pill’ to overcome the depressing situation and give Malaysians a reason to be merry and to celebrate the 65th Merdeka Day tomorrow.

Chia and Soh are now gunning for that elusive Olympic gold medal in the 2024 Summer Games. They have the right ingredients to make that happen.

And in the process, the duo can inspire many more Malaysian shuttlers – and athletes in general – to go for glory. Malaysians have the ability to be world champions if they put their minds and souls to it.

However, sports officials in Malaysia should not get carried away with the win. There have been shortcomings over the years, if not decades. Money was spent on various sports associations and athletes but the return on investment could have been so much better. There has been a lack of accountability and transparency, too.

Failures were recorded, and those failures cannot be ignored or sugar-coated. It’s not okay, it’s not all right.

Those who continue to be a burden in the system must be axed to give way to fresh faces. Only the best should be given the exclusive right to don the national colours.

Chia and Soh’s win, and the feel-good factor it created, should also serve as another reminder of how sports can, not only unite, but also uplift the spirit of the people.

This should encourage more parties to invest and be a part of the Malaysian sports ecosystem, in creating a healthier and happier nation.

It’s time for the government, corporations, and even communities, to realise the true potential of sports.

You can always rely on sports to put a smile on our faces.