By distancing herself from ‘ugly’ Malaysian contingent tracksuit design, Hannah Yeoh ruffles stakeholders’ feathers

It would be a lie if anyone described the design of the tracksuit for the Malaysian contingent bound for the Paris Olympics as ‘spectacular’.

It would also be a lie to say that no one from the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) was not slighted by the manner in which Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh had quickly distanced herself from the design. It seems that she doesn’t want to be in the bad books of social media users.

For those who are unaware of the latest flap involving Yeoh, here’s a quick recap. OCM, together with its sponsor, Yonex Sunrise, yesterday unveiled to the public, the new tracksuit design for the Malaysian contingent bound for the Paris Olympics, which will begin on July 26. The ceremony was attended by OCM president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria, his deputy Datuk Hamidin Amin and ex-squash star Datuk Nicol David (main image).

OCM, being a member of the International Olympic Council, is the custodian of everything Olympics in the country. Yonex is OCM’s official attire sponsor.

The design wasn’t exactly a work of art. In fact, the stakeholders have been struggling to get the design right since the tiger-striped outfit, introduced in 2005, was replaced exactly a decade ago.

Various designs of the national contingent’s attire since 2005.

Naturally, the new design hogged the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Certain quarters have even gone on to compare the design of the tracksuit with the designs of other contingents. And (surprisingly or not) Yeoh is feeling the heat – despite the fact that this has got nothing to do with her ministry, any of her agencies, or even the government.

And what does Yeoh do? She puts up a post on social media.

That’s her basically distancing herself from the design. In a way, she effectively threw her biggest stakeholder under the bus.

Let’s not forget that OCM president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria is her co-chair in the Road to Gold programme – a programme dedicated to help Malaysia win its first, elusive gold medal at the Summer Games. Hamidin is the Chef de Mission of the Paris Games, while Nicol is also part of the Road to Gold committee.

Many also wonder what will happen when Yeoh meets Hamidin, who is also the FA of Malaysia (FAM) president, at the groundbreaking ceremony of the National Training Centre in Putrajaya on Wednesday morning. Will Hamidin actually say something regarding Yeoh’s action, or stay true to his diplomatic self and pretend that nothing happened?

It must be reminded again, that Yeoh and her ministry do not own Malaysian sports. The ministry is not affiliated to any international federation governing any particular sport. In fact, some international federations, like FIFA and the Badminton World Federation, would ban member states if there was government interference.

But through no fault of Yeoh’s, Malaysians have been systematically made to believe, over the decades, that the ministry takes the lead when it comes to Malaysian sports. Some associations, and even athletes, believe it is their birth right to get funds from the ministry and its agencies. This is compounded by the fact that the ministry seems eager to take over the roles supposed to be carried out by the associations – like developing football through the National Football Development Programme (NFDP).

It becomes even more confusing when the government gave RM10 million to FAM for its development programmes in 2022, and announced another RM5 million allocation earlier this year for the same reason. Why wasn’t the money channelled to NFDP? What about other sports? And is the RM5 million part of the RM10 million pledged earlier?

The “bad blood” between the ministry and its biggest stakeholder OCM is becoming obvious. And this episode, like many others, runs counter to the very basic principles of sports – to foster unity and teamwork.

This ugly affair shows that the attire sponsors and OCM must set the bar high when it comes to design. This ‘minimalist’ design clearly missed the mark. Start looking at the latest trends, and how other nations are doing it. Elegance is in the simplicity of the design. Don’t ditch the tiger stripes, since it has become synonymous with the national sports contingent.

As for the ministry, perhaps it needs to go on a road show and clearly outline its roles and responsibilities on big screens so that people will truly understand its true functions – unless there are those in Menara KBS who still don’t understand their raison d’etre.

Tagged with: