The loose cannon was let loose on TV1 on Tuesday for almost an hour, sharing the stage with Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) deputy president, Datuk Naim Mohamad. The topic was, as you can see, Cabaran Sukan 2009. Hafizal Hamad was the compere.
I suggested a grim outlook for the year, with a number of associations still embroiled in internal bickering, notably the notorious Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU). Thankfully the Minister revealed the Malaysian Taekwondo Association saga which was triggered by its de-registration in 2005 is coming to an end, while I suggested Datuk Lee Chong Wei must start winning the major titles. It is the only way for him to justify the world No 1 tag.
Ismail said 2008 was a great year, with lawn bowl's Safuan Said recognised as the world No 1, Nicol David winning 10 titles and Chong Wei scooping the silver medal in the Beijing Olympics. However from the layman's point of view, we cannot run away from the fact a country's sporting prowess is judged mainly by its performance in sports that enjoy mass appeal. A medal in squash or bowling does not create the same lasting impact as athletics or football, for example.
How would you feel if a Malaysian finished eighth in the men's100m final of the Olympic Games? Can you equate that with us winning a medal in some other sports, archery maybe? If football were to earn the right to compete at the Olympics, let alone win a medal, I am certain the whole country would be enveloped by the feel good factor. A sprinter winning the 100m gold even at SEA Games would be a cause for celebration. Its impact would be greated as opposed to a martial art exponent climbing the highest podium.
Preparation for the London 2012 Olympics must start immediately as I pointed out countries like Great Britain have already identified a dedicated support group (sports scientists) for each athlete.
Badminton, cycling and archery appear to be the thrust for the National Sports Council but hockey needs to be given a hand as well as it has failed to qualify for Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
The pool of talent, I suggested, was too small for comfort. Naim pointed out it takes quite a while to produce champions but I said someone must be held accountable for every single sen spent.
I suggested NSC to monitor its funds being channelled to the associations. I contended that a big stumbling block is that the stakeholders do not share the same page or move on the same wavelength!
One mental barrier that needs to be overcome is our excitement in competing at the SEA Games when we should be raising the bar and start focusing on the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games.
There were many issues left untouched, such as the effectiveness of the Cabinet Committee on Sports Development chaired by Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak or the Sports Development Act. Next time, maybe!