In the 50s, 60s and 70s, when resources for sports were tough to come by, Malaysian sports were doing extremely well particularly in football, hockey, badminton and athletics and in some ways cycling. During this period the officials of the various National Sports Associations (NSA) and sometimes even the players had to solicit for support in order to participate in the various games. Nothing came easy as the players had to maintain a job to sustain themselves as salary and training allowances were not a norm in those days. Officials had to be creative to turn to philanthropists and supporters with revenuer generating ideas to ensure that their sports still kept flying the national colours. In short nothing came the easy way.
The struggles of the past only meant that the Government in its infinite wisdom for the interest of further developing sports felt it appropriate to put in the much needed resources. Today with National Sports Council (NSC), players salaries, training allowances to NSAs staff salaries to that of coaches and their assistants to full board & lodging culminating with overseas tours are all borne by Government. NSC has stretched their involvement not only subsidising costs of organising sporting events but also actively involved in development for the next generation of sportspersons. This is further complimented by National Sports Institute (NSI) who take into account the medical, fitness, nutritional aspects to sports science, and information technology. In a nutshell the Government has provided a comprehensive package to the Malaysian sporting fraternity and their sole job is to train and perform to achieve the desired results. In fact the Government has taken it another step further by providing various incentives for winning medals and some have life span coverage. Again, in short in today's environment everything is made so much easier for Malaysian sportspersons and their NSAs.
The popular maxim of " no pain no gain" seems to have come to haunt Malaysia's sporting success. When life was extremely tough for our sports officials and our sportspersons in the 50s, 60s & 70s, it would seem to have been the glorious era of Malaysian sports. Malaysian football qualified for 2 Olympics ie 1972 with Datuk M Chandran and 1980 with Datuk Soh Chin Aun while neither South Korea nor Japan were our nemesis then. In badminton we were regularly crowning the All England titles and monopolising the European circuit. We were always looking good at the Thomas Cup. In hockey, since 1956 we were at the Olympics and until the early 80s at the World Cup. At athletics Tan Sri Dr Jega, Rajamani, Nashatar Singh, Subramaniam, Asir Victor and Ishtiaq Mobarak kept the golds coming. Ask these people how difficult it was to work or study and train plus find the resources to go for competition. They did not have NSC or NSI or its equivalent. They had the discipline. the dedication and determination to succeed because of their passion and, above all, the love of the nation. It was a painful yet rewarding process but they knew it was all about sacrifice for the country. The pain of sports officials and sportspersons was what brought the gains for the country. The rewards they probably got was an official dinner and maybe an engraved gift which, more often than not, was a watch.
Today with NSC, NSI and the various corporate sponsorships, Malaysian sports is not giving the sort of "returns" for the investments being put in. Life is made so simple and indeed there is not much of stress or painful process for the sports officials or the sportspersons. Their job is made that much easier and yet the desirable results are not forthcoming. Other than having world champions in men's badminton and ladies' squash with some success in lawn bowl and in cycling, we have not at all fared well. In football we are well into the 140 arena in world ranking while in hockey we are failing to qualify for the Olympics and World Cup. With badminton there is too much of "hot and cold" talk that we are falling victims to teams that we had thrashed in the past. Athletics has become history. Maybe because there is no pain and such the gains are difficult to come by. If they do, the sportspersons are lavished with titles and loads of goodies from monies, land and sometimes even houses.
With so much going, one wonders why there is no avalanche of success. Does our society lack the hunger to succeed or is it that our system of breeding our sportsperson is wrong? Maybe there is too much of interference by NSC and NSI that our NSAs have totally surrendered their rights to administer their sports. Something that is difficult to comprehend because NSC and NSI are there to uplift the sports and they are an envy of many foreign teams. They generally fill the vacuum that the NSAs usually overlook or does not take the trouble to cater for,and that is in development ie the future generation. If so, why is this not paying off? Maybe as Malaysians we have got it wrong because we do not appreciate and understand the concept of "excellence" the benchmark for success. Something we should start to ponder about and then start the needful process of making the changes.