Friday, November 20, 2009

Too many passengers, too few prospects

COULD Malaysian athletics herald in a new dawn at the Laos Sea Games after spending years in the doldrums?

Has the Malaysian Amateur Athletic Union (MAAU) turned the corner and finally made good its pledge to develop athletes?

That MAAU has somehow managed to find 45 athletes to send to the Sea Games must surely come across as a remarkable feat given the brickbats it has faced over the years.

With RM500,000 per annum for the next decade guaranteed by sponsors Octagon Asia, maybe it has finally wisened up and spent the money rightly. Or has it?

Nearly all of the 45 athletes heading for Vientiane are being cared for by the National Sports Council (NSC), which provides the coaches, equipment, training facilities, accommodation, sports science and medical assistance, food and allowances.

Even the junior programme is under the auspices of NSC.

So where does that leave MAAU? What is it that it really does? Now that is the million ringgit, sorry, half-a-million ringgit question.

When MAAU and Octagon first announced their partnership at the end of last year, there were many sceptics.

Then it emerged that MAAU had mortgaged an event belonging to one of its affiliates in return for RM5 million but till this day nobody really knows what the deal entails.

Be that is it may, of greater concern now, is who, if anyone, is accountable for the money MAAU is receiving.

MAAU president Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said at the sponsorship signing ceremony a committee would be set up to monitor the funds, but no such committee has been formed.

Even the state affiliates have gone quiet, presumably because some of the funds are filtering down to them, but to what end, who knows?

Now, let's return to those 45 athletes named for the Sea Games.

With that many competitors going, theoretically Malaysia can field one athlete in each event in Vientiane, so why is it that MAAU has only set an eight-gold target?

The answer is simple: outside of 10 athletes, the rest will just be making up the numbers. Of the 10, six are good for gold, the others maybe silver or bronze.

So it is ironic that MAAU deputy president Karim Ibrahim was quoted as saying recently that there won't be any passengers in the squad. Go figure.

With only 13 athletes actually qualifying on merit, MAAU will have to source its own funds to send the rest under the self-funded Category B to the Games.

And where is this money going to come from? Well from the RM500,000 ear-marked for development, of course.

So much for a new dawn rising. -NST

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