Malaysian hockey is the biggest loser

Malaysia hockey

From unfulfilled pledges, U-turns, critical comments to allegations of tampering – the run-up to the Malaysian Hockey Confederation elections has certainly been an ugly affair.

Those within the industry are not amused and are fuming over an episode that has brought ridicule to the sport in Malaysia.

The loss to Great Britain in the Olympics qualifier over a week ago was expected. Those who thought otherwise were only kidding themselves. But the national team could have avoided the tough route and booked a ticket to Tokyo had they kept calm and composed during the Asian Games match against Japan last year.

Despite leading Japan 5-2, the national team let their guard down which saw the Japanese side fight back to level at 6-6. The Japan team went on to win the shootout 3-1, en route to winning the gold medal.

While the race to get into the 2020 Olympics is over, the race today is about being part of the national hockey body. Why?

The sport is not exactly doing great, judging by recent results. Fans hardly flock to the venue, evident during the Malaysian Hockey League. The current administration led by former politician Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal had to not only clear MHC’s RM2.6 million debt in four years but to also raise money for various programmes. And obviously more moolah is required at a time when companies are tightening their belts in anticipation of an economic downturn next year.

Is it passion?

Then explain why the state hockey associations have not been taken to task for doing what they are supposed to do – organise development programmes or leagues at the grassroots?

Lack of funds?

What happened to the spirit of volunteerism or finding ways to monetise such efforts to ensure sustainability?

Difficult to fathom?

Perhaps for officials who believe technology is all about flooding WhatsApp groups with “Good morning” messages and unverified news.

When a national team fails to deliver, the coach is penalised while some players will naturally be sidelined. Former international Maninderjit Singh recently listed a series of “failures” by the current administration and yet many of these officials got full backing from the state HAs for the Nov 16 elections.

It’s obvious the ‘you scratch my back, I scratch your back’ mentality is in play. And it’s seen in almost every national sport association in Malaysia.

Some say these mostly grey-haired officials strive for “free trips”. If true, that’s pathetic.

AirAsia chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, among the 50 richest Malaysians in 2019, had expressed interest in being part of MHC. Those close to him said he spoke passionately about wanting to rebuild Malaysian hockey from the grassroots up but his manifesto was disseminated rather late – in fact hours after MHC confirmed the list of nominations from its affiliates.

It’s also surprising that Kamarudin’s ‘team’ was banking on the minimum requirement of three nominations – from Kuala Lumpur, Johor and Kedah – as all you needed was one to make a U-turn as not keeping to one’s word is now the norm.

Kedah HA chose to be the dramatic one with its own committee members disagreeable over the choice of candidate, with a complaint lodged to the Sports Commissioner’s office with copies sent to the Youth and Sports Ministry and Olympic Council of Malaysia. It’s best the Kedahans sort their internal mess and get their act right before wanting to have any say in the national body’s elections.

To add salt to the wound, former Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin took a swipe at the current administration. Ouch!

Fight for Change 2019

There are those who tend to drop the name of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, even posting pictures of them seated next to or talking to the King. It’s best these parties leave Al-Sultan Abdullah out of the messy situation. Due respect should be given to the King as he must be seen as impartial, despite having once served as president of the national body. These officials must be reminded that they aren’t the only ones having conversations with the King.

The series of bad press, unnecessary drama and failed KPIs will scare potential investors away. Why would they want to be associated with a confederation that seems to strive on infighting and clash of egos but very little to show in terms of calibre and results? What will their return on investment be, really?

Veteran sports administrator Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, who turned 81 on Nov 8, had posted his thoughts about hockey on his Facebook page and ended his article by saying:

“In conclusion, I wish to suggest that MHC revitalise the state HAs to be more active in hockey development programmes and not just be involved during the AGMs of MHC.”

We’ll enter 2020 soon and yet we still harp about revitalising state HAs and activating development programmes. And this is why hockey in Malaysia is the biggest loser.