Plagued by controversies, MAF needs to buck up, big time

Multiple shots have been fired, yet the officials tasked with safeguarding the national athletes and the athletics scene in Malaysia seem to be stuck at the starting blocks and are comfortable being placed in such an awkward position.

The latest to take a swipe at the Malaysia Athletics Federation (MAF) is none other than high jumper Nauraj Singh. And he made his feelings public.

Nauraj made the headlines in recent days after recording 2.27m – his best jump of the season – to win the Hungarian Grand Prix Series Tatabanya on June 6. The Germany-based athlete claimed his second gold medal on Tuesday after recording a 2.22m jump at the Kladno Hází A Kladenské Memoriály in Czech Republic.

Commenting on a Facebook post (Malaysian Athletics) yesterday, the 29-year-old Nauraj said the national body has not done anything “to help its athletes achieve standards.”

Nauraj’s Facebook posting.He went on to label MAF’s management as “poor, poor, poor”, and added he was the association’s “best chance” because he was in Europe, but the “unknowledgeable management (was) busy deciding which team manager to send to Tokyo.”

Nauraj was hitting out at MAF for its decision to send an official instead of fellow high jumper Lee Hup Wei’s coach to the Olympics – an eyebrow-raising episode highlighted by Twentytwo13 on June 7.

National Sports Council athletes division director Jefri Ngadirin was then quoted as saying: “The most important person besides the athlete is the coach. I strongly believe that.”

But MAF doesn’t think so.

So, will MAF now issue Nauraj a show cause letter, as it did Irfan Shamsuddin after the record-breaking discus thrower’s “spat” with MAF general manager Anthony Samy over the athlete’s national records? The “spat” was reported by Twentytwo13 on June 11.

Or will MAF issue itself a show cause letter for blatantly disregarding the need for a coach to accompany an athlete to a sporting meet?

What is the use of sending an official to the Summer Games when its officials in Kuala Lumpur couldn’t even manage athletes who were bound for the Qosanov Memorial Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan?

The onus is on the administrators to have the athletes’ paperwork and approvals in order before they fly off.

Instead, a massive boo-boo happened at the KL International Airport (KLIA) on Monday when national sprinter Muhammad Haiqal Hanafi was prevented from boarding the plane. Earlier in the day, he received an email informing him that he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Another sprinter, Khairul Hafiz Jantan, was also not allowed to board the plane as he was deemed a “close contact”. For the record, there were eight other athletes – Lee, Andre Anura Anuar (long jump), Muhammad Hakimi Ismail (triple jump), Connie Chu (discus), Yap Sean Yee (high jump), Jonathan Nyepa (100m), Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian (110m hurdles) and Muhammad Ilham Suhaimi (400m) – who boarded the same bus for KLIA as Haiqal and Khairul Hafiz.

Such an administrative lapse had put everyone on the bus – driver included – at risk of the coronavirus, regardless of the fact that “Haiqal’s Cycle Threshold value was low, and as such, the transmission rate was low”.

Yet, MAF officials continue to be aloof. They also seem to be comfortable with the bad press and carry on like it’s business as usual.

MAF’s officials need to do some soul searching to fully understand and embrace their roles. The guardians of the sport, past and present, have been ignorant of the plight of its athletes and the athletics scene in the country for far too long.

There’s no public archive of records held by our national heroes, no initiative to promote past and present athletes to the masses, nor are there known programmes initiated by the association to get more people to enjoy and appreciate athletics.

Don’t treat MAF as a playground for the select few.