What’s going on, MAF?

Frustration bordering on anger.

That is how the nation’s elite athletes feel as they are unsure why they will not be competing in the Philippines Athletics Championship from March 6-8.

They were in the dark about their status until a question was posed in a Whatsapp group consisting of athletes, coaches and Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) representatives. And only then they found out MAF will not be sending a team to the Philippines.

The national athletes were taken aback as to why no one from MAF had informed them that they will not be competing in the competition at the City of Ilagan Sports Complex.

“I’ve been preparing for the event and now I am not going,” said a senior athlete who did not wish to be named.

“I don’t know what events I will be competing after this. There is the Asian Athletics Championship next month (April 19-24 in Doha) but are we going?”

“I don’t understand how am I going to gear up for international competitions including the 2019 Manila SEA Games later this year,” said the athlete who enjoyed a podium finish at the 2017 KL SEA Games.

Another athlete lamented he was forced to change his training programme since he is not going to the Philippines.

National hurdler Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian confirmed the national athletes were not informed about the Philippines meet.

“I’m not sure why but the minute I found out MAF was not sending a team, I informed my employers (Sabah Sports Council). They have agreed to send a team,” said Rayzam Shah.

“I’ll be competing under Sabah’s banner. I feel sorry for my other teammates,” added Rayzam, who won the 110m hurdles event in the 2007 Korat and 2017 KL SEA Games.

The national athletes are also in the dark about the Tehran International Indoor Athletics Championships which started today and ends tomorrow.

The national athletes claim they were neither informed about the meet nor told who was going for it.

Three Malaysian athletes competed in Tehran. They were sprinters Siti Fatimah Mohamed, S. Komalam Shally and Muhammad Aqil Yasmin.

Siti Fatimah Mohamed
Siti Fatimah’s Instagram post on March 2.

According to the Tehran Times, the competition attracted athletes from Turkey, Malaysia, India, Iraq, Oman, Kuwait, Syria and Afghanistan.

MAF president Datuk Karim Ibrahim had late last night said all athletes were “given a platform to perform at the Perak Open” before they are shortlisted for competitions including the meet in the Philippines.

He said apart from two athletes – a high jumper and triple jumper who he did not name – the others “did very badly” and will be able to prove themselves at the Singapore Open (March 28-29) and the upcoming Malaysian Open Grand Prix (March 30-31) to compete abroad.

He also highlighted the fact that MAF had, since last year, sent out invitations for the Malaysian Open Grand Prix and that 11 nations had replied but for the Philippines Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).

“They (PATAFA) are not bothered so they don’t respect our competition,” Karim said.

Karim insisted the national chief coach Zainal Abas, who is also the Education Ministry’s sports director, and the National Sports Council have been briefed about the matter by his staff.

“We cannot afford to simply send athletes for all international competitions they (the athletes) plan but aren’t prepared or ready to take up. (Our) challenge (to them) … once they are ready, we can send them to India, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and many other high-level competitions,” he added.

As for the competition in Tehran, Karim added all the coaches were informed of the association’s decision through the chief coach and that he had “spoken to (national high jumper Lee) Hup Wei and others before the Perak Open.”

“Tell them to stop telling lies when they personally (are) not interested (and) only the three athletes (Siti Fatimah, Komalam and Aqil) showed interest,” he added.