Friday, February 26, 2010

Bring back glory of sports

Stop politicization of sports

After all these years neglect,Education Minister Tan Sri MuhyiddinYassin’s has decided to make sports compulsory in all schools nationwide.It is long overdue, as the standard of sports in the country has reached a deplorable state. Our once reputable name in sports has deteriorated to a level where even our basic standards are below par.

In the sixties and seventies we were a force to be reckoned in football, hockey, athletics, badminton and to a certain extent even in tennis and cricket. We had many great sports personalities of would standards. Today we are nowhere near the top echelons in any of these popular sports. Instead of being important players we have become enthusiastic spectators and punters.

Over the last 3 decades we have lost that we had achieved since Merdeka in almost all forms of sports and it is going to be a monumental task regain the status we once enjoyed. It may take another 3 decades of painstaking dedication and commitment on the part of all to regain at least a portion of what we have lost. Well it is never too late and our priority now should be to build up our sports from scratch, at the level of primary schools where it has been neglected.

The main question now is do we have the will and expertise to lift us to the state of past glory? Sadly the answer seems to be negative as a lot of plans have been formulated but very little has been done to seriously implement them. We are short of trained and dedicated sports teachers in many schools.

Political intervention and ethnic favoritism have eliminated almost all those with caliber and commitment. It is time to stop this politicization of sports in and outside schools. Selection to represent the schools, state and country should be strictly based on merits and nothing else. Unless we are we ready for such a system we cannot expect to go far.

In schools over emphasis on the “A syndrome” as taken away the glory that sports once enjoyed. Today the numbers of students who score straight A’s have increased tremendously but those excelling sports have dwindled miserably.

In the past those who excel in sports were looked up with great admiration but today indulgence is sports is considered a waste of time and deterrent to achieving academic excellence. What matters is a string of As not excellence in sports. Most schools are locked up after school hours and the limited facilities they have are not utilized, as the students and even the teachers are busy with tuitions.

In the past sports days and inter-school tournaments used to be held on very grand scale. They were the main highlights of the year and students eagerly wait for such events. The annual sports day were like mini Olympics and the inter-school tournaments like mini World Cup.

Today there are hardly any inter-school tournaments and the annual sports day passes without any pomp and fanfare. In fact many do not even bother to attend these events that were once the most prestigious events in the schools.

Many of our schools lack proper playing fields, badminton courts and facilities for other popular sports. Today we have many schools, even the so called smart schools that do have playing fields, let alone more expensive venues for badminton, squash, tennis and athletics. More distressing is that even schools, which had large playing fields, have lost them in the name of development. Fields, especially in prime urban areas are being replaced by high-rise buildings and shopping malls - a real case of misplaced priorities.

There is a need to re-emphasize the importance of sports in the lives of our children in schools. It not only improves their health but is also the most important means to forge inter-ethnic unity and cooperation. There are no better ways to forge unity among the children of different races other than encouraging them to play together as Malaysians ignoring the differences among them. Sports is essentially color blind and we must ensure it remains so by not allowing it to be politicized for whatever reasons.

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