Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Football spirit drive for future campaigns

THERE were more highs than lows for Malaysia as the contingent completed the 25th Sea Games in Laos with a lot of positives in their total haul of 40 gold, 40 silver and 59 bronze medals.

Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said although Malaysia dropped to fourth in the overall rankings, it was a total that surpassed the National Sports Council's (NSC) target of 35 gold medals. "We can be proud that we surpassed the target of 30 to 35 gold medals.

We started this Sea Games as the country most affected by the number of regular medal contributing sports not contested.

This is why our ranking wasn't as high as what we achieved in Korat (second)," said Ahmad Shabery. "We didn't set too high a target this time around because many sports in which we are strong in like bowling, lawn bowls, equestrian, hockey, squash, gymnastics, sailing, basketball and track cycling -- which could have added another 34 gold medals -- were not contested." Ahmad Shabery praised the aquatics squad for their successful outing -- diving and swimming combined to deliver a total of 15 gold medals -- while five-gold medal winner Daniel Bego, who set four records, was the top male athlete of the Games. "Some sports surpassed their target.

The karate squad bagged five gold, wushu got us three and boxing delivered two surprise gold medals," said Ahmad Shabery, who also congratulated the football squad for their gold medal. "This is the talk of the town.

People say that we can win so many medals, but if we lose in football, we lose the whole Games.

  Coach K. Rajagobal celebrates  with his  players after winning the football gold medal.
Coach K. Rajagobal celebrates with his players after winning the football gold medal.

I was there in the changing room at half-time when (coach) K.

Rajagobal spurred on his players and made a change in strategy, calling for his players to be more aggressive or face being substituted. "This was what worked and they piled on the pressure in the second half, forcing Vietnam into a mistake that led to their own goal.

We hope to build on this success so that there is continuity." As far as the lows are concerned, Ahmad Shabery pointed out the shooting squad as among the failures, ending the Games without a single gold medal. The sepak takraw team, who returned with only one silver and a bronze medal and lost in the preliminary round of the doubles to minnows Laos and Vietnam, were another failure. "The athletics squad, too, entered the Games with the Malaysian AAU targeting 10 gold medals, while the NSC targeted seven and they ended with six gold medals." BH

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