Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Incredible India" - It is dented but still can be saved.

"Incredible India", the advertisement that is supposed to attract millions of tourists to India, must have been severely dented with the catastrophic events that have been taking place in New Delhi, the venue of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) which is to begin on 3rd October. Yes! it is incredible how the Indian Organisers of the CWG left it so late that it nearly jeopardise the whole CWG. Indeed an international news reporter summed it by stating that the whole event is compared to organising an Indian wedding where everything comes together at the last minute. However the CWG is no Indian wedding; rather it is an international sporting event that is two third the size of an Olympics, yet having all the events of the Olympics.

India has spent anywhere from US$6.0 to US$10.0 billion including construction of a new airport, Metro system for Delhi and roads & bridges let alone the sporting infrastructures plus the CWG sports village. Despite the huge spending, the unhygienic environment leading to deplorable conditions at some of the accommodation units at the Games village and the shoddy work that permitted the collapse of a foot bridge connecting to the main stadium plus the crumbling of the ceiling at the weightlifting stadium, has given rise to enough complaints from participating countries that is putting the whole CWG into jittery position. All these without doubts has devastated India's image and some have called into question India's qualitative skills and standards in organising such a mammoth event. Indeed India was given 7 years to get their act together and today questions are even asked why was India considered for 2010.

India is now the 4th economic power house in the world and the events unfolding with regards to organising the CWG is not doing good to India's international image. Some in India may argue this as a media conspiracy to hurt India but what is more important is that the Indian Organisers allowed it to happen. Obviously if the Games itself moves smoothly without any further glitches and brings the best in sports, that in a way may help to mitigate the disastrous aspects which existed prior to the commencement of the CWG. Still we cannot discount the fact that what happened in India will remain a negative stigma everytime one talks about CMG or if there is another major event to come to India.

It is a pity as "Incredible India' has so much to offer. Its multi-ethnicity that provides the multi-dressing with multi-colours, its multi-culture with multi-culinary dishes combined with multi-language and multi-religion brings out the kaleidoscope that is India. The combination of tradition and modernity with English predominantly spoken provides everyone with something to enjoy and slowly people grow fond of India. It is this attachment that brings back the people to India. I am sure the athletes from the 76 countries participating in the CWG would share the emotions of the wonderful memories of India when the curtains come down at the end of the Games.

Mind you, one would have thought the only challenge India would have to face in this CWG is the aspect of security. Troubled by multi-layers of threats from Assam to Kashmir, Maoist to Nazalites, Hindu to Islamic fundamentalists, it literally keeps India's law enforcement both at national and state level extremely busy. Indeed this is one area that had usually troubled visiting sporting teams prior to their visit to India but the successful hosting of the World Cup hockey early this year has shown that India can get on top of the situation. There is no doubt the security services would be on full alert, which itself may be inconvenience to people but such inconvenience is needed as a sacrifice for public safety and peace.

It is not easy for India to organise the CWG when the country has its fair share of natural to man made challenges to face. It took on the challenge 7 years ago with its economy prospering and having a wealth of human resources, it is "dumb founding" how India got entangled in such a scenario before the Games. There would be numerous post-mortems, many finger pointing, scapegoats and above all people who would want to benefit from such disasters. End of the day is whether India would do enough in the future to assure the world that such things would not reoccur. This is something that is important for India and its people.

Good Luck India for the Commonwealth Games.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Hope" - The key operative word for the Malaysian national hockey team.

Before we put a Plan together, we must have a vision as to what we want to achieve. Most times this would be guided by historical facts and the prevailing scenarios including taking account of the time span. Once we are equipped with such details it makes the planning exercise that much easier. The Plan that is drawn up by its architects needs to be scrutinised by independent experts in the field, who can endorse or fine tune the Plan. Once that is done then it is becomes the responsibility of the architects to ensure the Plan is adhered to.

This brings me to the Malaysian national team's preparation for the Commonwealth and Asian Games. After the 2006 debacle, where the national hockey team won the bronze medal for the Commomwealth Games, yet in the tournament that mattered, they achieved the worst record of coming 6th at the Doha Asian Games. The opinions that followed seem to indicate that since Commonwealth and Asian Games are in the same year and side by side, there is a need for a rethink for the preparation of both the Games. The guiding issue here is that in hockey the Commomwealth Games has no bearing whatsoever on any nation's international ranking, whereas as gold medallist of the Asian Games it provides a direct entry to the Olympics.

Armed with this historical fact, it was always envisaged that we would sent a mixed team for this year's Commonwealth Games and the best XI for the Asian Games. At least this was the thinking as there were over 30 trainees for the centralised training. Sadly our preparation plan seems to have been simply "rubber stamped" by NSC and also by MHF. I use the word "rubber stamped" because the Plan had 3 overseas tours, all playing with 2nd rated teams or tournaments including almost all the countries which were ranked below us. The preparation showed its weakness as there were no warm-up matches lined-up before the Commonwealth and Asian Games. Effectively, meaning our boys were going for tournaments that we planned well ahead ie 8 months and somehow there were significant gaps that were left that became so glaring as the time got closer. Now probably you understand why the scribe stated the aspect of "rubber stamping".

In desperate times, desperate measures were required and this is where MHF hastily organised 2 warm-up matches with New Zealand. Even then, it must be recognised that the Kiwis are assembling together as a team for the 1st time after the Champions Trophy, which was a good 2 months ago. Most of the players are flying into KL after their own national league and the rest are coming in from Europe. Therefore the Malaysian team would be playing against the New Zealanders who are trying to gel together as a team. Yes! it is "warm-up" for the Kiwis and i wonder what would it be for the Malaysians? In realistic terms what are we hoping for? Maybe to understand the art of Kiwis training without the long centraliseed periods which is so predominant in Malaysian hockey.

Now, there seems to be a change of thought insofar as the Commomwealth Games. Suddenly, it is made known that the Commonwealth Games is more like a practice tournament as a built-up for the Asian Games. This is probably why they are sending their best team to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. What expensive practice matches the Commonwealth Games is going to be for Malaysian hockey. Maybe the writing is already on the wall that our boys may find it hard to compete with some of the best teams in the world in Delhi. Probably that is why they have started creating the excuse the Commonwealth Games is serving as practice matches. Therefore the thinking that is set for us to follow is that the results in Delhi in theory should not matter.

There is no doubts that the best of Plans would also have their shortcoming. This is usually not during the planning stage but at implementation due to unavoidable circumstances. In our case it would seem at planning itself we have made the necessary judgement errors. Either the architects lack the knowledge of proper planning or they just do what they are capable which may not be the best. What compounds the blunder is the subsequent endorsement by the relevant parties without the proper scrutiny. Now we must leave it to "hope" and probably wait for divine assistance. Even then we must appreciate that this can only happen if we do our bit of the work properly and correctly.

Anyway there is not much choice for our national hockey team other than to live in "hope" whichever way.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

MHF constitutional changes will be a move in the right direction but is it enough ?

On 4th September, MHF would have their Extra Ordinary Meeting (EGM) which is being called to make amendments to the MHF constitution. Not having the full details, yet from the grapevine the information emerging seems to relate to the rights of the President to appoint the Secretary and Treasurer of MHF. Effectively it means that both these posts would not be contestable in the future if the amendments are successfully approved.

There were talks before the last Council Meeting which agreed to forward the amendments for the EGM, that some of the Affiliates were not happy with the proposed changes. With his "royal touch" the TM did the "magic" of putting the Affiliates at peace of mind as to why such appointments were deemed necessary. I also believe that the appointments of Chairman of Coaching Committee and also for Development would be amended thereby incorporating them into the Management Committee.

All these amendments make sense if we subscribe to the believe that "the bug stops" with the President ie he is ultimately responsible. So if we vote the President then it is only right he be given the mandate to appoint the key officials too. Some may argue that there is no "check and balance". I think that is a bit "dumb founded" as the MHF constitution provides for at least 5 Affiliates together to summon a EGM on resolutions they believe need to be debated and voted upon. This could also include a motion of "no confidence", if they believe that the responsible people are not doing their job properly.

This brings me to the rumour that some Affiliates in conjunction with this EGM may propose that the period for Office Bearers to hold office should be extended to 4 years from the current 2 years. There is wisdom in such a proposal as it coincides with the 4 year cycle of the World Cup, Olympic Games and Asian Games, which are the premier tournaments. This provides an uninterrupted objective basis to judge the President and his team on how they performed in the administration of hockey for the specified period. Obviously, the "downside" is we provide a continuous opportunity for the President and his team to allow the slide to continue if they are unable to arrest the decline. Fortunately,the constitution provides a pathway for an EGM to make changes in the administration if such a situation does arise. Fundamentally, there is room to redress such scenarios but we hope it does not come to such a situation.

All in all, the proposed amendments seem to set MHF in the right direction. However, as a "MHF Watcher", i believe the proposed changes are not comprehensive enough to overhaul the system, which is antiquated. The current approach seems to be a "piecemeal" and therefore the process to see changes may be time related. One area that is not addressed is the question of "full' affiliation rights. This seems confined to rules that came from "time in memory" and therefore has been confined to States and to the Armed Forces and Police. Looking at modern hockey it seems to omit the clubs and universities where most of the national players are emerging. This means that we are running hockey on an old system while hockey itself has modernised and is supposed to be manned by people who encompass technologies and corporate principles. These are the very people that are missing in the MHF administration because the MHF constitution does not "open" its doors for clubs and universities that could make the difference.

The other area that needs attention is the right of MHF to be informed of the activities of its Affiliates and the consequences if the Affiliates fail to perform. Currently there is an inequitable position where active and inactive Affiliates have the same powers, thereby not discriminating between them. This itself is totally unfair as inactive Affiliates which, i believe, are of significant number in MHF, can decide MHF's future. How ironical? There has to be a system of "benefit and burden" rule imposed to ensure that only active Affiliates are allowed to participate in the decision making process of MHF.

What is important is MHF must have a "living" constitution that provides dynamism to the affairs of MHF. This can only happen if a broad spectrum of people can come and participate in MHF and the only way this can happen is MHF has an "open door" policy to its membership for active hockey clubs and universities. Someday it has to come, and the sooner the better.

Maybe the TM may have his wisdom as to why he is approaching issues of constitutional changes in a conservative manner rather than a radical fashion. As a President he has the prerogative and he probably knows what should be done at the appropriate time. Lets go with him on this and time would probably bring the results that we are looking for.