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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Boot out the ego in football

Haresh Says, as published in The Malay Mail today.

All eyes will be on the FA of Malaysia (FAM) congress on May 25 as we will witness a three-cornered fight between Sultan Ahmad Shah, his son Tengku Abdullah and Tunku Ismail Ibrahim for the top seat.

However, observers continue to question if these three candidates are ideal to lead the national body as Malaysian football has remained stagnant, if not in poor state, over the years.

Some say the three-way race is just a “drama”, to show there is finally a contest for the hot seat.

Those who have been following FAM long enough know of a succession plan that has been around for years — that Tengku Abdullah is to take over his father’s post.

Sultan Ahmad has been FAM president since 1984 while Tengku Abdullah is also the president of the Malaysian Hockey Confederation.

Tunku Ismail, who is the crown prince of Johor, is hailed by Johor fans as the saviour for the Southern Tigers since helming Johor FA two years ago. It is a fact that Johor football is enjoying a renaissance of sorts with plenty of funds and a proper set-up compared to the past.

While Sultan Ahmad has every right to battle it out saying “may the best man win” and Tengku Abdullah seeing this as a perfect opportunity to finally take over, questions now arise over Tunku Ismail’s “eligibility”.

Let us be reminded over the tunnel bust-up at the Larkin Stadium in the FA Cup clash between Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) and T-Team in February. Four police reports were lodged by T-Team players and officials at the Kuala Terengganu police headquarters after the club’s Brazilian import Evaldo Rodrigues and fitness coach Stefano Impagliazzo alleged they were assaulted by JDT officials including Tunku Ismail.

While FAM fined JDT RM30,000 over “inadequate security”, the disciplinary committee has not made any decision against the individuals involved.

Committee chairman Datuk Taufek Abdul Razak was widely quoted as saying: “I was told the police have completed their investigation and a report has been submitted to the Attorney-General’s office.

“If (the) Attorney-General’s office does not pursue the case, then we have the right to continue the investigation and take action. We wouldn’t close the case and we will have two years to act on it,” he added.

While the notion that a man is innocent until proven otherwise must be upheld, many ponder if FAM would mete out any punishment should Tunku Ismail be made president and later implicated in the episode.

I raised this during Astro Arena’s Kafe Sukan on Monday and maintained Tengku Abdullah will succeed as president. I could be wrong.

But FAM is beyond the president and those eyeing for posts within the main structure. It is about getting the right people to work the engine room.

Just like in any organisation, it needs forward-minded people all around to make sure the objectives are met. In FAM’s case, it is about improving Malaysian football at all levels.

It is easy to criticise without understanding the mechanics or the problems faced within the four walls of an organisation. And most often than not, many tend to only speak but do little to get their hands dirty to better understand what Malaysian football really needs.

The office bearers should also appreciate the many efforts to improve the sport —from academies that continue to mushroom nationwide to the Youth and Sports Ministry’s National Football Development Programme. Such initiatives should be seen as complementing efforts to unearth more talents instead of a threat.

There are calls to rid the old timers from FAM, stressing the national association needs to be rejuvenated with youth. Age is of no value for those wanting to sit in FAM, aged 16 or 61, as they need to think ahead. They need people who would walk the talk.

Do not come up with campaigns for the sake of it. FAM announced an integrity committee comprising various enforcement agencies including police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in 2012. Yet, elements of match-fixing continue to linger.

A “Love Football, Stop Hooliganism” campaign was initiated two months ago but it did little to stop fans from causing havoc as evident during the Perak-JDT Super League match in Ipoh on April 15.

It is all about facilitating instead of frustrating the cause.

To those eager for a spot in FAM, it is not all about you. It is about Malaysian football.

Every one in the ecosystem — players, parents, coaches and even the fans – play a part in making sure football reaches greater heights.

Put your ego aside and make the development and progress of football your utmost priority. That is the recipe for success.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Malay Mail shines at national press awards

As published in Malay Mail today.

Malay Mail clinched the prize for Best News Report at the Malaysian Press Institute-Petronas Awards 2013 when Haresh Deol and Pearl Lee won for their series of reports in June last year on foreign students who faced problems after the government set up the Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS).

The pair took home RM15,000 in cash and certificates. Haresh is he newspaper's investigative and special projects editor while Pearl is roving news editor.

"This is a win for the Malay Mail. We thank the editors, especially editor emeritus Frankie D' Cruz, for their guidance," said Haresh after the awards presentation ceremony last night.

Pearl said: "This is a special win for Malay Mail and me. I would like to dedicate this win to our editors who have always been there to guide and inspire us."

Malay Mail editor-in-chief Datuk Wong Sai Wan, who was present at the ceremony, said: "I am proud of them. They are shining examples of what journalists should be."

The pair received the award from Bernama editor-in-chief Datuk Zulkifli Saleh and Astro Awani group editor Suhaimi Sulaiman.

This was Haresh's first MPI award after he was nominated for the 2010 A.Samad Ismail Award for a series on football betting in 2009. 

Haresh has also won numerous Sportswriters' Association of Malaysia (SAM) awards while Pearl grabbed the MPI award for Best Investigative Report in 2012.

Their winning series of articles exposed delays in visa approvals and medical check-ups in a system that was supposed to streamline the intake of foreign students.

The stories also helped a foreign student obtain a student visa after months of waiting while various ministries involved promised to look into the problems, which led to EMGS improving their approval methods.

Get the FULL list of winners in today's paper.

HD says: Thank you for the recognition.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Karpal Singh dies in road accident

He would have turned 74 on June 28.

But it was not meant to be as prominent politician and lawyer Karpal Singh s/o Ram Singh passed away in a road accident at KM306.1 of the North South Expressway near Gua Tempurung, Perak at about 1.10am.

His long-time assistant Michael Cornelius Selvam Vellu, who was in the Toyota Alphard also died, while Karpal's son Ramkarpal and the driver were injured.

Nicknamed the Tiger of Jelutong, Karpal, who was born in George Town, graduated with a law degree from the National University of Singapore. His political career began in 1970 when he joined DAP. Four years later he won a seat in the Kedah State Legislative Assembly.

He was then elected to Parliament in 1978 (Jelutong, Penang) and held the seat for more than 20 years.

Karpal was detained, along with several other opposition leaders, under the Internal Security Act during Ops Lalang in 1987 for "inciting racial tension". He was released for several hours in 1988 but rearrested and was in prison until 1989.
He was involved in an accident in 2005 which left him wheelchair-bound. But it did not stop him from continuing his legal and political careers.

He leaves behind his wife Gurmit Kaur, five children -- Jagdeep, Gobind, Ramkarpal, Sangeet Kaur and Man Karpal -- and four grandchildren.

HD says: You will be missed sir...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thousand apologies for being polite

Haresh Says, as published in Mailsport today.

IT was witty yet riddled with sarcasm — a back page that would have caused Newcastle manager Alan Pardew to choke on the bacon roll he had for breakfast.  
England’s Sunday Sun ridiculed Pardew, in an ‘apologetic’ fashion, as the Magpies recorded a series of losses with the recent being a 1-0 defeat to Stoke on Saturday in the Premier League. This was after Pardew blamed the local press for the fans’ anger following the team’s poor outing.
It was a clever effort, more cheeky than anything else, but it got the message across loud and clear.
In short it read:

Dear Mr Pardew,
Enough of blaming the Press.
You are the reason why the fans are hopping mad.

Now imagine a similar piece plastered on our back pages.
To be fair, most sports journos in Malaysian have the upper hand of being rather critical and ‘aggressive’, to a certain extent, compared to their counterparts in other desks. 
But this was during the days where sports officials understood the true principals of sportsmanship and fair play.
Colleagues recalled days where former National Sports Council director general Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahamd would take criticism with stride but he never threatened to sue any pressman for their work — right or wrong.
KL Football Association president Datuk Astaman Aziz has had disagreements over some articles published but it was always resolved over a cup of tea. The same could be said of former FA of Malaysia general-secretary Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad as we still enjoyed a cordial relationship.
These are true ‘sportsmen’. Sadly, there aren’t many of them around.
In recent years, reporters have been gagged with legal suits, threats and some even banned from entering stadiums. Reports which were seen to be against the establishment or organisation were frowned upon, regardless if they were written in a fair and truthful manner.
And we also have sports officials, some being government servants, who tend to dictate terms, lording over the domestic sports scene even if it does not concern them.
Of course if all fails, those who feel victimised could seek justice through the legal process.
But let’s put it this way, most of our back pages are still ‘polite’ to the officials.

Civil servants are not above the law

Speaking of justice, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had last week said “punitive action should be taken against those responsible” over the RM1.6 million K-pop fiasco during the National Youth Day celebration last year.
It was widely reported the three K-pop groups — U-Kiss, Teen-Top and Dal Shabet — were brought in by Stadium First Sdn Bhd.
The spotlight seems to only hog over former Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek but what about those behind Stadium First and the administrators, current and former, who were well aware of the deal?
A day later, the High Court, had on April 11, ruled absolute immunity for public servants has no place in a progressive democratic society.
This was said by Judicial Commissioner Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera in dismissing an application by the public prosecutor and 11 others to strike out a civil suit filed by former Commercial Crimes Investigation Department director Datuk Ramli Yusuff against them and another similar application by lawyer Rosli Dahlan against the Attorney-General and 10 others.
In short, the PAC and courts spoke in a similar tone — civil SERVANTS are not above the law and they should be accountable for their actions. 
Sports officials must be subjected to the same scrutiny. After all, it does involve the Rakyat’s money and not to mention millions of corporate sponsorship. 
Otherwise, we could ‘politely’ run an apologetic back page to say sorry for the millions of tax payers’ money wasted by government servants and officials in the name of sporting excellence.

HARESH is editor (investigations and special projects) of the Malay Mail. Banter with him at or on Twitter @HareshDeol

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What is Vaisakhi?

The ignorant call them 'Bengali', some find it funny to address them as 'dut'.

Punjabi is the race, while Sikhism is the religion. Sikhs are those practicing Sikhism.

But some know them as Mr Singh - the respectable doctor, the good lawyer, the smart engineer, the trustworthy policeman / 'jaga', the reliable milkman or the money-lender you can count on.

Despite the stereotyping, not many truly understand Mr Singh and Ms Kaur in Malaysia.

And just because they wear a turban and keep long beards, it does not mean they are linked to any terrorist group.

Here's a brief explanation about the community:

Punjabi & the language -- Research shows modern day Punjab (both in India and Pakistan) was the origin of an Indo-Aryan subgroup. Punjab means land of the five rivers (literally) while Punjabi is classed as one of the Indo-Aryan languages, according to this article.

Vaisakhi -- Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) is the festival which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. It is celebrated on April 14 each year. Read more here.

Sikhism --  Among the basic beliefs of Sikhs are "believe in one God, he is the same for all people of all religions" and "equality of all people, despite race, religion and gender". For more visit this link.

Five Ks -- The turban and bangle has a symbolic meaning. It forms five of the Sikh symbols - Kesh, Kirpan, Kara, Kangha, Kachera. Read more about the five Ks here.

Gurdwara -- Place of worship.

Guru Granth Sahib -- The holy scripture consisting 1,430 pages and 5,864 verses.

Food -- Capati, dhal, saag (mashed spinach), yogurt, ladu, jalebi, among others. Not all Sikhs these days, especially those in Malaysia, consume milk, ghee and sweet food items on a daily basis, contrary to popular believe. We don't want to be visiting the National Heart Institute (IJN) every day.

Singh -- Is derived from the Sanskirt word Sinha which means lion. In short, Singh is King.

Kaur -- Means princess. It's pronounced as 'kor' and now 'ka-ur' or 'cow'.

Hope this clarifies doubts regarding the community.

To my Sikh brothers and sisters, here's wishing you Happy Vaisakhi. To the rest, go try some capati and saag or some sweet jalebi. They are to die for.

HD says: And I'll be working today and tomorrow...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

National Football Development Programme: Help us help you, says Najib

Article by Vijhay Vick, as published in The Malay Mail on April 11, 2014.

Support from parents is the key factor to ensure the success of the National Football Development Programme (NFDP).

NFDP was officially announced as a national agenda and received a financial boost to carry its goal of producing a better generation of footballers during its launch at the renamed Mokhtar Dahari Academy (formerly known as National Football Academy) in Gambang, Pahang on April 10, 2014.


In announcing an additional RM10 million allocation from the federal government, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak warned the project would not reap benefits without the support of all parties, especially parents.

He labelled NFDP as “the start of Malaysian football’s revival” and opinioned Malaysian sports would only reach its pinnacle if she is a successful football nation.

“This is not just an effort by the Sports Ministry, Education Ministry and FA of Malaysia (FAM), but a national project. We need to elevate the status of NFDP to get as many parties involved,” said Najib.

“We need the support of the parents. In the United States, parents are very committed to their children’s participation. We need a similar commitment.

“Football is the most popular sport in the country ... by far. We have the World No.1 in badminton and squash, but satisfaction would only come with our football at a higher level.”

NFDP was first mooted under Lim Kim Chon’s watch in 2011.

Plans to enhance the programmes were made when Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin came into office last year.

Former international Lim Teong Kim, who spent the last 12 years as development coach with European giants Bayern Munich, was appointed as project director to over ensure NFDP becomes a success.

The six-year first phase blueprint consists of a five-year thrust with focus on establishing the national football DNA, encouraging more participation of young talents, providing standard compliant facilities, improving the standard of coaching and strengthening the structure of competitions at all levels.

HD says: All the best to those running the show

Friday, April 11, 2014

More stadium woes for hockey lovers

As published in Mailsport on April 10, 2014

Plans to revamp the Tun Razak Stadium have been put on hold – but the stadium is expected to reopen in August after re-turfing works are completed.

However, a land swap deal that could see developers upgrade the sporting facilities in the area appears nowhere in sight due to legal reasons.

A Mailsport probe following an alert by hockey enthusiasts, revealed the stadium was unfi t for use because the turf was ripped off late last year, leaving players in the lurch.

“The Duta project will go as planned. We are looking at redeveloping the Kampung Pandan Sports Complex fi rst. But the Tun Razak Stadium would be in use again soon. The tender for the turf has been approved,” said Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

The land on which the stadium and squash courts sit belongs to a third party, who won a legal suit last year.
The government had plans to swap the surrounding “green lung” with developers in exchange for upgrading the sports facilities in the area, which also includes the squash centre.

Similar plans were also in the pipeline for the Kampung Pandan facility.

As for the Tun Razak Stadium, Malaysia Stadium Corporation (MSC) chief executive offi cer Ahmad Helmi Harun said: “Work was at 20 per cent but was stopped in February as we had to confi rm technical matters.
“We need to follow specifi cations by the International Hockey Federation. “Work resumed last week. It cost RM2 million and would be completed in August,” said Helmi.

Mailsport has also been highlighting the deplorable state of the PJ and Pandamaran Stadiums.