Hamidin Amin’s ‘active’ role as Paris 2024 CDM gets tongues wagging

Datuk Hamidin Amin seems to have set a precedent. The long-time football administrator has been hands-on, meeting national athletes and keeping close tabs on their progress since he was named the chef de mission (CDM) for the Malaysian contingent for the 2024 Paris Olympics in March.

However, Hamidin’s enthusiasm has raised eyebrows and even got tongues wagging. It has left some within the corridors of government agencies and national sports associations (NSAs) wondering what exactly are his terms of reference and if he is overstepping his boundaries and encroaching into the turf of the NSAs and those tasked with leading the newly formed Road to Gold (RTG) committee.

Don Anderson, who led the Jamaican contingent at five consecutive Olympics (from Atlanta 1996 to London 2012), defined the role of a CDM as “ensuring that the right environment is created to provide the athletes with the best conditions to give of their best during the Games.”

Hamidin, however, seems eager to provide the athletes with the best conditions 13 months before the Games begin in the French capital.

Staying in ‘resort-style’ hotel rooms and being transported in luxury vehicles were some of the perks enjoyed by the national shuttlers who played in the recently-concluded Malaysia Masters, held at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil, just outside the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

All this, despite the list of athletes who will compete in Paris, has not been firmed up due to the ongoing qualifying processes. It is unclear if athletes from other sports would receive similar treatment.

A “war room” was set up at the Rafflesia Room at Hilton Petaling Jaya with banners, featuring Hamidin’s image and the national shuttlers with the words ‘Road to Gold’ (main image), placed in the hotel lobby during the Malaysia Masters.

Hamidin, in a recent press conference, stressed that he had met the shuttlers, and other athletes, numerous times and that their requests, including that of independent players, would be presented to the RTG committee.

Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh, in a press conference earlier today, was quoted as saying that the requests made by the athletes must be reasonable and aimed at supporting their performance.

For the record, the RTG committee is co-chaired by Yeoh and Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria, with Stuart Michael Ramalingam as the programme coordinator.

This new scenario poses several questions.

What is the role of the CDM in the Malaysian context?

Who is supposed to manage and attend to the needs of the athletes ahead of several major competitions leading up to the Olympics?

Who footed the bill for the hotel rooms at Hilton Petaling Jaya, transportation and banners? Traditionally, shuttlers stayed in their rooms at the Akademi Badminton Malaysia or at home if an event is in Kuala Lumpur.

Who will be paying for the upcoming “perks” that the athletes may receive?

What is the stand of the NSAs – in this case, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) – about athletes raising concerns and requests to the CDM instead of the respective sports bodies?

Will future CDMs be given the pass to engage directly, and speak on behalf of the athletes even before the start of any multi-sporting event? Where does this place the NSAs?

Perhaps this is part of the “pembaharuan” (change) that some Malaysian sports stakeholders are seeking, where everyone, including the CDM, shoulders the responsibility of ensuring the success of the athletes. But there must also be accountability when things go south.

It must be remembered that one can be showered with all kinds of luxuries, but it may not translate into motivation or loyalty. Just ask Norza, who is also the BAM president, and his team at Bukit Kiara.

The phrase “hilang fokus” (lost focus) is often heard when athletes lose. What Malaysian athletes need the most is support – mentally and physically – in addition to the sports science services, in their mission of gunning for glory.

As such, time shouldn’t be wasted on talks of getting athletes to fly business class or to sleep in single rooms. There should only be conversations on how the support team can help turn our athletes into champions.

It’s also best to manage expectations, keep egos in check and ensure stakeholders remain in the loop. The last thing we need is for certain quarters to lose their way amidst the glitter, dancing to cloud nine in designer shoes.

Hamidin is a familiar face in the local sports fraternity, having climbed the ladder over the decades since his days with Selangor Soccer Fan Club. Today, he is the FA of Malaysia president, Olympic Council of Malaysia deputy president, and a Fifa Council member.

Playing CDM in Paris has beefed up his resume, even though Malaysian football last qualified for the Olympics in 1980 and continues to struggle at the Southeast Asian level.

Malaysia is 138 in the Fifa ranking, below Vietnam (95), Thailand (114), and the Philippines (136). The national team lost in the group stage at last month’s SEA Games in Cambodia.

Hamidin, who turns 58 on Dec 24, is well aware of the local sporting culture and the hurdles it possesses. He also knows how territorial sports officials can get, and what some will do to remain in power.

In the spirit of teamwork and nationalism, it is right to wish Hamidin and other stakeholders – athletes, coaches, support team, NSAs, NSC, ISN, and the RTG committee – all the best in their quest to win the elusive Olympic gold medal for Malaysia.

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