It is high time national sports associations (NSAs) stood on their own and be responsible for successes and failures at major events.
Commenting about the national contingent’s outing at the recent 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines, veteran sports administrator Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said a more independent NSA would also erase the presumption that the National Sports Council (NSC) is controlling the NSAs.
“The NSAs should be responsible for their sport. Right now, NSC is seen as controlling NSAs too much and the NSAs seem to be waiting for handouts,” said Kok Chi, a former national water polo player.
“This relationship has turned NSAs into parasites. If an athlete wins, NSC will claim credit but if the athlete loses, the NSAs get the blame.”
He added that the state associations were getting weaker.
“I always thought that the Malaysia Games (Sukma) will make sports associations stronger but instead, the state sports councils seem to take over that role.”
The Youth and Sports Ministry had targeted 70 gold medals for the regional Games but the national contingent returned with 55 only.
A blame game quickly escalated with some calling for the resignation of certain officials, including the Youth and Sports Minister and NSC director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail.
Sieh maintained that targets could be set higher to motivate the athletes.
“I targeted about 78 gold medals. It’s a target, not a forecast. But at the same time I admit there are certain sports that failed us, sports like bowling, archery and sailing.”
As such, Sieh called for a stricter selection system, including only allowing sports associations with a track record of at least 10 years before their athletes can represent the country.
“That’s just one way of looking at it. I sympathise with the athletes and want them to participate but at the same time certain fundamental principles should be in place, like the sport being around for at least 10 years or the sacrifices of the athletes or their performances against their peers in the region.
“For example, underwater hockey. They (association) said they are very good. The group 4×4 men’s only scored two goals throughout the meet and were placed last.
“I’m not against them playing the sport but this team donned national colours and they will then put in their resumes 10 years down the road that they represented Malaysia.
“No one is going to ask them if they won or lost, or know that they only scored two goals throughout the SEA Games.”
He added the Malaysian Fencing Federation had set a good example.
“They didn’t enjoy funding (from NSC) unlike other sports but they planned ahead, booked their tickets in advance and raised their own funds. They were determined to show their capabilities and won two silvers and a bronze.
“This is what we would like to see, such associations contributing to the success of the national contingent. If they have done well, then it’s only fair that they be rewarded with some form of assistance (from NSC) but if they fail, then the grants should be taken away.”
In moving forward, he said the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be challenging.
“The Japanese are usually comfortable winning 10 gold medals but this time around they will be eager to win 25 gold medals or more. And this will be at the expense of other nations, including Malaysia.
“So it’s not going to be an easy affair for our national athletes,” he added.
Catch Sieh on BFM’s Bar None on Tuesday at 9pm as he speaks to BFM producer Daryl Ong and Twentytwo13 editor Haresh Deol about his take on the SEA Games.