Commentary Sports

Remaining clueless while doing it our way


Written by Aziz Hassan

July 3, 2017.

Recollections & Reflections – A weekly column

OUR people involved in sports certainly do things very differently from those in the more successful sporting nations of the world and many level-headed Malaysians think it is for this reason that we struggle to produce more world champions.

It is worth noting that the few we have had so far have been based overseas after their early years of involvement at home.

Many who follow sports regularly are convinced that had Azizulhasni Awang and Datuk Nicol David remained at home, they would not have achieved the successes that have made them champions.

Datuk Lee ChongWei? No doubt he has conquered everyone in the country and won many international titles but he has yet to win the Worlds and the Olympics.

The Badminton Association of Malaysia now has a new president in Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria and his early moves indicate that he could be contemplating a few more changes.

His most recent was to appoint former national champion Datuk Misbun Sidek as the men’s singles head coach.

Misbun was out of circulation for seven years after quitting his coaching post following personality differences and thus will have a lot of catching up to do. But he did say that while out of coaching he had watched his protégé Chong Wei from a distance.

What Norza stated recently was that he wanted Misbun and Chong Wei to spot talents that could be turned into champions and in saying that he was confident Misbun would be able to help his achieve this within a short time although the 57-year-old former problematic player was away for that long. And Chong Wei, according to Norza, should be able to provide inputs on players to Misbun.

The coaches who have been with BAM for some years now? “They can assist,” said Norza, making it sound more like an after-thought.

Gosh, searching for talents is a job for the scouts and certainly not something you would ask of a player, no matter how experienced and good he is.

The more logical way would be to first ask the coaches who have been doing their job since some years ago because they would have been at tournaments on the national circuit. If after all these years they haven’t spotted anyone with the potential to be groomed as a possible world-beater, most likely it’s because there’s been no one fitting that mould.

Indonesia, a country that unlike us, has produced many world and Olympic champions, has been looking for a singles champion in both the men’s and women’s categories for some years now but hasn’t been successful.

China too has so far failed to produce women’s champions in the singles and doubles and the men’s doubles, all categories which they dominated as of right for so long.

Then out of the blue the world noticed a women’s champion from football-mad Spain of all countries. There was also another from Thailand.

You would struggle to find compelling reasons to explain this phenomenon.

The point about sports and champions is that sometimes a star emerges despite a poor support system and lack of top class coaching. This is down to a natural talent that comes out of every generation but you can’t copy this.

At the other extreme you have players given the best training, facilities and support and the opportunity to compete at the high level, including on the international circuit, on a regular basis and yet fail to reach the pedestal and drop out at an early age.

Ask Misbun about his time as a player and he can tell you that despite being a champion at home and competing in most international tournaments, he never won a major. At the All-England his best was to make the third round.

That’s just the way it is sometimes and is never down to one or a couple of factors. It is usually due to a combination of many factors.

One other aspect that is common in our part of the world is for heads of sports associations to dominate the talking. The issue is that this is not confined to the administrative side of an association.

So what happens is that you have someone like Norza talking about team selection, the rights and wrongs of a player, the coaching, you name it. Once the president speaks, a coach would be looking for the sack if he dares to speak out and defend himself.

Once a personal assistant to a deputy president of an association took out a list of the line-up the coach had used in a game that day to give his assessment of the players and who he thought shouldn’t have been in the team. Most likely he must have mentioned to his boss the same views he had told those at his table at a hotel coffeehouse.

Have you ever heard the England Football Association president or chairman commenting on his national team or the coach and his choice of players? No. Have you ever heard of the chairman of New Zealand Rugby tearing into the squad announced by the All Blacks coach and what tactics he should adopt? No.

What they do is that when they decide who should be the coach, the latter will then be asked to submit his plans and be informed of what his targets are. Achieve these and he can expect to have his contract extended. Falter along the way and expect to be hauled up for an explanation. But so long as the successes fit into the targets of the association, the coach’s position is rarely under threat.

Everyone has a job to do and no one is allowed to come in the way. A coach coaches and a player plays. The president? He takes care of the association. It’s that simple.

But being simple and respecting each other’s domain is not how we do it in sports in this country and many still wonder why we have had little success.




About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.