FAM Congress, Thomas Cup bigger than Bukit Gelugor race

HARESH SAYS as published in Mailsport today
IT was a weekend filled with plenty of expectations. 
Footie fans had been pushing for changes in FA of Malaysia (FAM) through its #RombakFAM (revamp FAM) campaign. 
The much awaited 50th congress was held on Sunday morning and it was the first time in three decades former president Sultan Ahmad Shah was challenged by two others — his son Tengku Abdullah and the Crown Prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Ibrahim. As many had expected, and I had said on air during Astro Arena’s Kafe Sukan last month, Tengku Abdullah was voted the new president. 
But I had also on the same programme, through my previous writings and during Nadi Arena on Saturday, stressed Malaysia football is beyond FAM. It is only right to thank Sultan Ahmad for his three decades of services and to congratulate Tengku Abdullah for taking up the role — which he was destined to assume.
Tengku Abdullah is also the Malaysia Hockey Confederation president. Many were critical of Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim in the past as he headed numerous sports associations. Will the critics say the same about Tengku Abdullah? 
Tengku Abdullah’s challenge is to change the mindset of his office bearers. FAM should realise there are many stakeholders when it comes to football — state FAs, private academies, schools, Sports Ministry through its National Football Development Programme, the media and the fans, to name a few. There should be a collaborative effort with all parties to work towards a common goal — to raise the standard of Malaysian football from grassroots to the national team. 
This can only work if professionalism is injected into FAM while all parties involved would be less territorial when it comes to implementing a particular plan. Hopefully we will not be plagued by the same woes year in year out — teams and state FAs who lack funds, non-payment of wages to players and officials and lack of development programmes in the states. 
Match-fixing has and will continue to be a problem if no serious efforts are taken to curb the worldwide menace. FAM’s integrity committee must buck up and work with the relevant parties to get the ball rolling. 
Let’s not get complacent and push ourselves to the next level. 
Smashing Thomas Cup final 
Perhaps FAM officials could take cue from our national shuttlers who played in the Thomas Cup in New Delhi, India. Prior to the tournament, many believed a place in the quarterfinals would suffice for a team led by world No 1 Lee Chong Wei. 
It didn’t help BA of Malaysia (BAM) had been hogging the limelight, for the not so right reasons (being extremely polite here), earlier this year. Yet, the lads proved their critics wrong and raised eyebrows by booking a date with Japan in the final on Sunday. 
Sports fans stayed glued to the television for some six hours as they watched badminton at its best before Japan clinched their first Thomas Cup title by edging Malaysia 3-2. It was heartbreaking for many. But fans agreed both teams produced remarkable performances in a land that adores Bollywood movies and cricket. Many forgot about the problems within the local badminton fraternity –— the lack of competitive shuttlers who remained consistent — during the final. 
The biggest fear would be complacency had Malaysia won the Thomas Cup. Plenty of work needs to be done as our wait for the Thomas Cup, last won at Stadium Negara in 1992, continues. 
It is achievable, if we put our hearts and souls in it. 
To our MALAYSIAN stars — Chong Wei, Tan Boon Heong-Hoon Thein How, Chong Wei Feng, Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong and Liew Daren — we salute you for your hard work and for putting up a good show. 
Ignore the racist idiots who poked fun at you, claiming it was a ‘China’ v Japan final. There is no room for racism in sports and in society. 
To the Japanese team, yoku yatta! (well done). 
The sporting weekend turned out to be entertainment at its best, even drowning the Bukit Gelugor by-election which was won by Ramkarpal Singh Deo. 
And the lesson of the week: Sports is bigger than politics.

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