The late Kamaruddin Maidin's demise is a blow to the Malaysian sporting community. A 5 time Sea Games champion in long jump and triple jump, he was a popular figure in the Malaysian sporting scene in the 60s. This was the golden era of Malaysian athletics in particular the 1966 Asian Games at Bangkok. Rajemah, the widow of Kamaruddin is herself a former national athlete and is currently Terengganu AAA's Secretary.
From the national dailies, it was reported that Rajemah was disappointed with certain Sports agencies for their failure to visit Kamaruddin. I am sure anyone in the right mind would agree with Rajemah's views especially as Kamaruddin had stepped on the winning podium for Malaysia on numerous occasion and ensuring the national flag is hoisted with the national anthem being played. Kamaruddin did the nation proud and he must always be viewed as a national asset of the country like many of our other national athletes..
I was of the impression that the Foundation for sports persons headed by Datuk Seri Dr Mumtaz Jaffar would be calling on Kamaruddin. There was a lot of publicity given to the proposed visit. If the visit had materialised then in all fairness the sporting community must be proud of the Foundation's action.
Kamaruddin's demise reignites an issue whether we look after our retired sports persons, who during their heydays would have toiled for hours, days, months and years to ensure that glory is brought to Malaysia. Although there may be veterans outfits to congregate for specified reasons but in the main they are left alone. Some of them do not care about it while others accept that it is a fact of life to be ignored once you are not there. There are many who feel disappointed and disgusted that their services were not remembered. Sometimes i wonder whether we are really a "caring" society.
Kamaruddin's demise and his widow's statement pricked me and the matter got compounded when i watched the English FA Cup semi- finals over the weekend. It was a great feeling watching how the football community in England paid respect to the fans who died at the Hillsborough incident 20 years ago. Importantly, representatives of the deceased fans were present as the whole of Wembly Stadium paid their respect. Apparently, other football matches in England also honoured the death fans. What makes it unique was it is about fans, not about players or sportsmen. The point being that even fans as stakeholder of sports is remembered.
In Malaysia we need to cultivate this habit of remembering our sportsmen. Simple things like inviting them for functions or creating a special day to congregate would go a long way. Indeed i was totally lost for words when i discovered that in this year's National Sports Award ceremony, many former Olympians were omitted from being invited for the function. The pinnacle of sports is participating in the Olympic and that should give former Olympians some rights. Instead, others who are friends or minor officials find themselves at such functions. It becomes a great disappointment for the former Olympians when they see this sort of things happening. The former Olympians become a "lost tribe" in the sporting community.
In fact when the Olympic touch run took place in Malaysia last year, a number of people not connected to sports participated. No! It is not wrong and I am not complaining except when you omit the true former Olympians from the event. The argument that was forwarded, is that those who were interested could have applied to participate.. Honestly, is that a way to treat our former Olympians? After all, how many surviving Olympians does the nation have? Not thousands, maybe 100 or 150 at the maximum.
Indeed both the National Sports Council (NSC) and Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) should have a section in their outfit, having the database of former athletes and categorise them based on their achievements. They can then invite them for functions which is appropriate for their presences. If they can even have a journal or magazine printed twice a year , it would help to keep everybody informed. I cannot understand why we cannot do it. As Asians we have been looking after our aged parents or grandparents and why not our aged athletes.
I hope Kamaruddin Maidin's death would help our sports officials to ponder and do the needful to our former athletes. They have served us and it is our turn to serve them. Do not let them be forgotten!
Meantime may i extend on behalf of the Malaysian sporting community, our deepest condolences to Rajemah and her family and our prayers for his soul to rest in peace. The late Kamaruddin thrilled the Malaysian fans for nearly a decade and every jump he took was for the glory of Malaysian sports. Therefore how can we ever forget Kamaruddin Maidin.