It has taken decades but better late than never – our ministers, their deputies and parliamentary secretaries have been ordered to quit their positions in sports associations with immediate effect.
The mentris besar and chief ministers have been spared but seriously, there is no basis why these state executives should be excluded. They should just follow suit.
The mentris besar of Kedah, Selangor and Negri Sembilan readily said they would give up their sports positions but Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon insisted on staying on as the Football Association of Penang president, claiming “there is still so much to do.”
Tan Sri, it is an old political cliché. Even the ordinary voters have grown tired of such talk, what more the thousands of football fans who generally feel that our politicians have let them down in the development of sports, especially football.
Perlis Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, besides being the state football chief, has the reputation of being the busiest administrator as he helms three national bodies – the Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union, the Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia and the Kabbaddi Association of Malaysia.
For that matter, even the members of royalty should emulate the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin who has decided to step down as the chairman of the KL World Endurance (Equestrian) Cup. On July 15, the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, resigned as deputy president of the Football Association of Malaysia.
From politicians to royalty, many have served in the top positions of the various sports associations for years. Despite clinging on to these posts, the standards of the sports that they claimed to be committed to have certainly not improved, if not, worsened.
The management of the various state teams, to put it mildly, is in a shambles. Players regularly complain that they have not been paid while there is fierce politicking for posts in these associations.
One reason why politicians began to appear in the sports scene was that they realised that sports had a big impact on Malaysians. There is a huge following, particularly in football, and the high profile clearly appealed to politicians, who thrive on publicity.
At the international level, sports officials are courted and given the red carpet welcome, whenever there is a bid to host a particular international event such as the Olympics and the World Cup. The lobbying is fierce, as the economic benefits to the host cities are tremendous and these officials know their votes matter.
Reports of allegations of corruption in the Federation of International Football and the International Olympic Council have long been documented.
We are not suggesting that our sports officials are corrupt. In fact, politicians have been roped in to help sports associations financially. Their political clout certainly helped secure sponsorships.
Getting training grounds, including state stadiums, is also made easier when someone with the political muscle calls.
It is not something new. The late Datuk Harun Idris, the former Selangor Mentri Besar, was actively involved in football and helped produced legendary Malaysian players like Mokhtar Dahari, Santokh Singh and R. Arumugam. As MB from 1964 to 1976, he was also the Selangor Football Association president.
The colourful Umno strongman got his players jobs, and sometimes, lorry permits.
But it is doubtful whether politicians these days have the skill, the time and the patience to do an effective job in sports associations. If they really feel strongly about helping these sports bodies, there is nothing to stop them from being advisers on an unofficial basis.
So who will fill the vacuum left by them? There is no reason why retired sportsmen and sportswomen cannot hold such positions. They have the experience and technical expertise.
They may not have the political skills sometimes required to steer their associations through choppy waters but given the support, these retired sports persons can also develop these qualities.
There is also nothing to stop corporate figures, top policemen and civil servants from heading sports associations. With their networking, they, too, can help build their sports teams.
The problem is that if you are a Cabinet minister, mentri besar, chief minister or a member of royalty, our culture is such that there would be a reluctance to openly let them know their failures.
Malaysians have a reverence for people in authority, especially royalty, and for government servants, they would even be less willing to speak up against their superiors. .
It is certainly a big step towards the development of sports in Malaysia. For those who still do not understand, the writing is on the wall.