Sunday, May 30, 2010

Does Malaysian Sports comprehend the term "Excellence"

I received this anonymous comment and i believe its content deserves to be highlighted.

"Excellence" is something that is lacking in the Malaysian sporting culture. Part of the reason is that the sports administrators themselves have not embodied it and therefore everything from them downwards is void of the concept.

When the "preacher does not have the knowledge what to preach, how can you expect majority of the followers to know of it, in order to appreciate, adopt and implement". Here from the National Sports Council (NSC), Sports School, Project Schools to the National Sports Association (NSAs) and the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), they do not comprehend the aspects of "excellence" and therefore it is not in the Malaysian sporting DNA barring very few exceptions, even them we can count by our fingers.

So much of resources have been poured into sports but i believe the so called administrators themselves need a major "realignment" to understand and implement the facets of "excellence", if Malaysian sports need to make any significant impact in the world sporting arena.

Please read the edited version of the comment below as it is "food for thought" to stimulate our thinking process if we are serious in wanting Malaysian sports to achieve world class status.

"Dear Gandhi,

Excellence is what MHF should pursue.In my mind the essence of excellence as George Will said "Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence".

Growing up I was taught that anything worth doing is worth doing well.Excellence does not happen by chance.It takes total commitment and consistent effort to be the best we can be.

The core players,coaches and manager in Project 2013 must be place in a programme where we continuously seeking improvement,learning and developing.

For a start participating in the Commonwealth games certainly gives a good exposure.

Greek poet Hesiod stated "Before the gates of excellence the high Gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep first;, but when the heights are reached then there is ease. then there is ease, though grievously hard in winning".

Embrace any and all opportunities to learn and improve.

In short there is no excellence without focused labor.

Thank You."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Good Bye V Sivapathasundram - "Selfless service to Malaysian hockey and cricket"

From the 60's onwards Negri Sembilan hockey had 3 districts with their respective schools and coaches as power centres of hockey. In Seremban then there was St Paul's Institution (SPI) with Lawrence Van Huizen and William Fidelis, King George the Fifth School (KGV) with the late Ho Koh Chye, whereas Kuala Pilah had Tunku Mahmud School (TMS) with Mithal and finally Tampin with Tunku Besar School (TBS), had the mercurial person V Sivapathasundram.

Popularly known as Siva, he not only transformed the school TBS as a key hockey school but also the district of Tampin. Many knew of Siva through his yeoman service to hockey but in fact his 1st love was cricket. Indeed this is where he differed from the other hockey coaches in that he also developed TBS into a school cricket force in Negri Sembilan where they took the State championship by beating KGV and SPI who then had schoolboy cricket internationals. In both hockey and cricket he extended his selfless service beyond TBS to the Tampin District by ensuring that the district was a key player in Negri's hockey and cricket leagues.

V Sivapathasundram is 3rd in a family of 6 and was a student in Segamat English School in Johore. During his schooldays he was a state player in cricket, more of a bowler and turned out for the Combined Schools in hockey. 2 of his other brothers are also known in the sporting world ie V Yogeswaran a former national trainee in hockey, presently in New Zealand and V Masalamy a renowned sports administrator in Negri Sembilan.

Siva and his siblings were not born with "silver spoons in their mouths" as their father was a lorry driver with JKR. They all are self made individuals who, through helping one another, worked their way in life. Siva went to Brinsford in the UK for his teacher's training in 1961 and returned in 1963 and joined TBS as his one and only school till his retirement 32 years later.

1st of his boys to don national colours in hockey was a N Palanisamy who in 1971 and 1975 represented Malaysia in the World Cup and 1976 in the Montreal Olympics.This was followed by many others including his own son Dr Brian Jayhan Siva, who is currently a medical specialist in Australia and the current national goalkeeper S Kumar. He literally groomed the kids from a young age and watches them blossom into national stars.

He was a strict disciplinarian and did not hesitate to enforce it in his uncompromising manner. Something most of his boys are fully aware of. This at times tended to upset the hierarchy in hockey, who have the natural ability of easily sweeping matters under the carpet. Siva was "head strong" and would only call " a spade a spade". This approach of his was difficult for the sports administrators who played "politics"to accept. This in a way explains why he prematurely resigned as Assistant Secretary in MHF and also as Team Manager of one of the national teams.

His period in sports administration also included as Secretary of Negri Sembilan Hockey Association (NSHA) and MHF Umpires Board. He held many positions in Tampin District Hockey Association including lately as Deputy President. Indeed his creative nature in hockey was such that he was trying to get a full astroturf pitch for Tampin , not withstanding the fact TBS was given a 2nd hand pitch from Seremban. The other big picture in hockey he was pursuing was a ground for indoor hockey in Tampin. Like many things the bureaucracy slows and even attempts at times to kill the enthusiasm of the rarest of rare breed of people like Siva. Yet! Siva worked with time and tried to derive the best and probably this explains why he was successful in turning Tampin as a "bastion" for hockey in Malaysia.

As i attempt to sing the praises of V Sivapthasundram's yeoman service to sports, i must say that he was not given the due recognition that he fully deserved. What is interesting is that he did not go seeking for such glory nor rubbed shoulders with people to have the fame. He could have done it but his upbringing of a self made person did not permit him to do such things. I am sure what he should have deserved in this mortal world which was not accorded to him, would be waiting to be bestowed to him by the divine forces in his new paradise.

Yes! V Sivapthasundram at the age of 68, in his own quiet manner and style bade farewell to us this evening. This is him ie not one for ceremony rather a person who wanted the job to be done as he chose to depart this world. He is survived by his wife and 3 children and to them may i on behalf of all those who knew Siva and also those who have heard of him or shall hear of him, take this solemn moment to express our sympathy and condolence to the family on his demise. His selfless service to mankind would assure V Sivapathasundram divine blessing.

Good Bye Siva as our beloved friend, who was a devoted teacher cum dedicated coach with a heart of "gold" as a sports administrator and above all a wonderful father and a lovely husband. We all will miss you but Siva you have left much for us to remember you to eternity.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Project 2013 boys should be the "core hockey team" for the Commonwealth Games.

On my last visit to London, on a Sunday afternoon, i took a stroll at the famous Hyde Park Speaker's Corner. This is a congregational spot where people stand on a small box expounding what they believe to a packed audience who are mainly tourists. The Speaker's Corner is suppose to be the monument of "free speech".

One of the speakers who attracted my attention was a short Asian probably Indian origin, who was enjoying insulting the British. His underlying theme was that he is in the UK to recollect the old British debt because of Britain's exploitation of the colonies. An interesting comment he made was the definition of "Commonwealth". He stated that the British colonies "wealth" was made "common" by Britain for its use. Today he says that Commonwealth is an archaic term which has no relevance in modern times.

At least at that moment his speech did bring some memories of the Commonwealth ie remainders of the Commonwealth Head of States Meetings and the Commonwealth Games, a gathering whose useful purposes is extremely difficult to fathom. However if we in-build issues such as discriminatory UK university fees, aspects of immigration & visas plus other factors, it would seem with modern times the relevance of Commonwealth and its subjects are non consequential matters to Britain.

In essence what the Speaker spoke had some bearing but on holiday i do not allow my "grey matter" to be tickled into a working mode. As fast as i heard it, i allowed it to be parked away in my brain and hopefully one day i would recall it if there was a requirement.

Following the recent comment by MHF that there shall be 2 senior teams ie one for Asian Games and the other for Commonwealth Games, my mind was able to flash back to the speech i had heard in Hyde Park Speaker's Corner on the definition of the Commonwealth. This immediately begged a question why Malaysian hockey with a 2nd team is participating in the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi later this year.

I had to ask this question because as what the Speaker mentioned in Hyde Park, the Commonwealth Games has no relevance whatsoever to the international ranking in world hockey. It is a gathering of the Commonwealth sporting fraternity to give an impression of a "gathering" of one big happy family once every 4 years. It probably symbolizes the maxim: "The sun never sets on the British Empire". Mind you the extent of the British Empire gave credence to such a statement.

The question we have to ask is: "Why are we spending all the money training a 2nd team solely for the Commonwealth Games?" It is an important question because our 1st team at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup found it difficult to overcome the teams from Pakistan and Australia who were experimenting with their sides and probably in New Delhi later this year they shall be with their best teams. There would also be India, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada who qualified to participate at the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi earlier this year, where Malaysia failed to qualify.

With this backdrop, what does MHF hope to achieve by sending a 2nd team to the Commonwealth Games. Obviously, it is a wise choice to spare the 1st team of this commitment in view of the Asian Games, which has great relevance to our international position. So going to the Commonwealth Games is all about attending a "gathering"!

If such is the thinking, why not we ask our Project 2013 boys to represent Malaysia. Use them as the core team and strengthen them with some experienced players to provide a "sense of balance" to the team. This effectively would be "building" a team for the future by providing the appropriate exposure. Yes! they would become the whipping boys and so would the 2nd team too. Might as well invest on a future team to carry the responsibilities because every defeat is only going to strengthen their resolute to get better in view of the exposures.

For Coach Dharma and his Project 2013 boys, this would become a real challenge and they know they have to get out of the "comfort zone" and perform. They would also know that they are going to be the "whipping boys" of the tournament and that itself must create the necessary pressure to perform. What an opportunity for our young boys.

This is a more realistic approach for Malaysian hockey to participate in the Commonwealth Games. MHF must be brave enough to make such a decision and the only way they can do that is to think "outside the box". I wonder whether that would be difficult for them?

The future of Malaysian hockey rests with our boys in the Project 2013 team and it is time they too face the harsh reality of the game ie carrying the burden of the nation to a tournament that has no international bearing. This itself shall provide MHF the right excuse to make such a decision. The question is whether MHF has the "guts" to make such far reaching decisions? Time will give us the answer.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup has to be more prestigious - "Top hockey nations with their best teams must grace the event".

The 19th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (SAS Cup) came to an end on 16th May, where "Mother" nature took the top honours by ensuring that the final was washed out. As such, an unprecedented history was created in the SAS Cup for the 1st time as India and South Korea became Joint Champions. Both teams only had 7 minutes to display their skills when the rain took full control of proceedings from thereon.

This year's tournament had kept the hockey fans glued to the various matches as the finalists for 16th May were only confirmed on the last day of the round robin matches. Until then 5 nations ie Malaysia, India, Australia, South Korea and Pakistan were possible bidders for the 2 final spots. Fortunately India had Egypt and quite easily found a spot. Malaysia had finished their games a day earlier and the other 3 countries needed to win with sufficient margin to edge Malaysia in goal difference. The honour fell to South Korea who in a hard fought colourful march paraded with green, yellow and red cards with Pakistan secured a spot in the final.

The SAS Cup drew a large crowd at the ground and significant audience for the channel TV telecast. It is good to see nationwide viewers for the game as it would do wonders for hockey in Malaysia.

Equally we also have to look at the SAS Cup itself to ensure that the tournament gets better in coming years and it becomes even more prestigious. This is important for the sustainability of the tournament and that it remains a premier international event. The SAS Cup is sanctioned by the world hockey body ie FIH and there are stipulated conditions that need to be fulfilled. In theory the SAS Cup should attract some of the top hockey nations in the world like what had taken place in the earlier editions. As the years have gone by, some of the top nations tend to send a hybrid team blending experience with younger players for the experience of exposure. The bigger picture for these teams is to have a larger pool of talents that they could work on and upgrade them with time. This is not only the style of the Australians and South Koreans but lately the Indians and Pakistanis are slowly adopting such an outlook.

Top hockey nations do this because the SAS Cup has no bearing whatsoever on the respective teams international rankings. Winning or losing is purely a pride issue and nothing else. Although it is FIH sanctioned, again that is all about it. Indeed if any it is a "bonanza" for FIH as they use this tournament as a training ground for their Umpires and Technical Officers knowing very well errors by their officials would not have a "fatal" impact on world hockey. I wonder how many of our Umpires and Technical Officials were involved in this tournament?

If the host country is forward-looking, particularly their Coaching Committee, then they could have got FIH to conduct the FIH Coaching courses. Unfortunately MHF's Coaching Committee is a "coalition" of strange "bed mates", whose preoccupation is a mission of finding faults rather than creating talented coaches. With such an outlook and the prevailing lethargy they do not have the wisdom nor the direction to ensure such courses are organised for the benefit of deserving locals to upgrade their knowledge and skills. Yet another "lost opportunity" and this seems to be very common with the Coaching Committee.

Moving away from the peripheral issue of the SAS Cup to the tournament proper itself, we must find ways to get the top teams with their best players to be here. If not we are creating a "make believe" scenario that the world's no 1 and no 6 are here, as expounded by the narrators of the TV programme. This gives the impression that Malaysia is doing well or that world hockey standard is not high. This "misnomer" in perception can "back fire" especially when Malaysia struggles with "minnow" hockey playing countries or we falsely create a high expectation of our team with the Malaysian hockey fans.

The key question is: "How do we get the top hockey nations to bring their best players to the future SAS Cup?" We cannot allow top hockey nations to treat the SAS Cup purely as a training ground for their talents or for the FIH to have a "free ride" to train their officials. Rather a "symbiotic" relationship has to be created between the SAS Cup, the participating teams and FIH. All 3 must mutually benefit from the tournament.

Maybe and just maybe the answer could be if SAS Cup comes with the right prize money. It should be of such a value that it becomes a sensational attraction for teams literally begging to be invited for the SAS Cup. In this manner the organisers of the SAS Cup can dictate the requirements of participation. Prize money of US$150,000 for the winner and US$75,000 for the runner-up would surely provide the sufficient "magnetic pull" for the top and best teams to participate.

I do not know whether there are any rules in FIH with regards to prize monies. I do not believe so but if there are i am sure the Organisers of the SAS Cup can find ways to get the necessary exemption. It is an idea which i think can start the thinking process to ensure that the SAS Cup is a prestigious and premier event in the world hockey calendar. This can only happen if we have the top hockey nations with their best teams. Think about it if we want the SAS Cup to sustain itself in years to come.

Friday, May 7, 2010

MHF Competition Committee may be the "king maker" to determine who shall be Champion of the Junior Hockey League

Today 7th May in the Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL) calendar, an important game should have been played between UniKL and BPSS-TNB Thunderbolt (Thunderbolt). On paper both these teams are front runners for the MJHL title with Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) having an outside chance of upsetting the scenario.

Unfortunately, today's game had been officially postponed to 21st May by the MHF Competition Committee. A rightful act in view of the 19th edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (SAS Cup) from 6th to 16th May in Ipoh. This was one of the 2 main reasons communicated by the MHF Secretary in his written communication.

Fortunately, with the SAS Cup completing by 16th May, it would permit the MHJL to get back to its normal pace considering that the tournament must be completed before the SUKMA Games.

Prima facie, all these are suitable explanations of the Competition Committee particularly when the 2nd reason is embodied into the equation ie national interest as players are involved in the SAS Cup. Fundamental in all these is that the Competition Committee had preached certain reasons in postponing the game. It is whether they are fully practicing it or selectively conducting their "preaching" exercise.

I ask this question on the following basis:

  1. Only 1 player from the MJHL teams is involved in the SAS Cup and he is from the Thunderbolt team.
  2. The Project 2013 team made up of players playing in the MJHL were assembled to play friendlies with the visiting teams for the SAS Cup. They are free to join back the MJHL teams from 6th May.
  3. Nothwithstanding the MHF Secretary's 1st reason for postponement ie the SAS Cup, there are other MJHL matches still going on including a key game between BJSS and Thunderbolt on 14th May.

  4. Thunderbolt would not have the services of their key player for that game because he would still be involved in the SAS Cup.

In view of the above scenarios, is there a need to postpone the UniKL and Thunderbolt match scheduled on 7th May? It would seem there are inconsistencies in the MHF Secretary's letter on behalf of the Competition Committee. Effectively what the Competition Committee has done by changing the UniKL and Thunderbolt game is to become "kingmaker" in determining who should win the MJHL title. By "twitching" the match schedules, the Competition Committee has created an "unbalanced" scenario that does not provide a "level playing field" for the contenders of the title.

Maybe what i outline below would help to enlighten the Competition Committee:

  1. If the 7th May match between UniKL and Thunderbolt had proceeded, the players involved for Thunderbolt would be the same as when they play BJSS on 14th May. The "playing field" would be of the same level for the 3 contenders.

  2. If the 7th May is rescheduled to 21st May, Thunderbolt would be reinforced with one of their key players who is currently with the national team in the SAS Cup and another player returning from his stint in Holland.This would give Thunderbolt that extra advantage over UniKL, who also have an additional player returning from Holland.

  3. The 14th May game between Thunderbolt and BJSS would mean Thunderbolt would not have their "heavyweights" for that game, thereby creating an injustice to UniKL by postponing their game on 7th May, when there was no "genuine" reason.

In fact the Competition Committee should have been fair all round either by maintaining the original MJHL match schedules or postponing all the games during the SAS Cup. By undertaking selective actions on certain matches and trying to create reasons that does not provide a genuine basis and gives an impression of "jerry mandering" by the Competition Committee to a state of wanting to determine the winners of the MJHL. This supports the notion that the Competition Committee is playing the role of "kingmaker".

In all these i must also take on the UniKL hockey management in choosing to remain silent on this issue. They should have been more responsible in officially raising this issue with the Competition Committee detailing the inconsistencies in the Committee's decision. For a 1st timer to the MJHL and with the possibility of winning the title they seem very relaxed about such matters. I wonder whether it is the "fear factor" of not wanting to create any controversy because the person who is responsible for starting hockey in UniKL is their Chancellor, who is also the President of MHF ie the TM. UniKL has a sound basis to protest and it is only fair that all the games should be postponed and played after the 16th May when the SAS Cup is completed. In this way there shall not be any room for accusations nor a purported claim of a "kingmaker".