KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 4 — Foundation for sports must start in schools but it may require political will to drive sports under one umbrella, the Education Ministry, for national glory.
That is the unequivocal stand of Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) President Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja’afar when asked about grassroots development in schools during the OCM appreciation media lunch at Royal Selangor Club in Dataran Merdeka yesterday.
Earlier, he had explained that “every student should have the opportunity to play at least one or two sports of their choice at school regardless if they have ambitions to be an elite sportsman”.
“It’s a huge issue for debate rather than an interview but schools are a crucial part of grassroots development as everyone goes to school. If you can get the sports programmes to be in line with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, OCM and national sports associations, I think then we can get something going in terms of co-ordination.
“I’ve always said and I maintain that half the battle is won if the Ministry of Sports is under the Ministry of Education. Then the responsibility of sports comes under one ministry. In many countries, education and sports are one and the same. However, this is a political issue. It depends if anyone wants it to be like so.
“To give them their dues, on their own the ministries are doing a great job. Lest we forget in the Asean school sports, Malaysia is doing very well, so it’s not like they are not delivering. I just feel there aren’t enough organised sports programmes in the schools.
“You never know those kids, who play a particular sport in school regardless of how well they do, could one day become a coach, president of a sport (association) or CEO of a company which wants to sponsor a sport because they enjoyed it so much in school.”
Tunku Imran is into his last six months as OCM president and come elections in June will pass the baton to his deputy Datuk Sri Norza Zakaria. He was asked by members of the media if he had any regrets or unfinished business.
“Plenty of unfinished business,” he reiterated.
“The work is ongoing isn’t it? Every person, sports association has to move on. Presidents retire, people retire and I have no regrets at all. I’m leaving the sports generally in a much better position than when I started 20 years ago as OCM president.
“We are in a better financial position than ever been and happy with the general direction of sports in the country. But we all know it could be much better. At the end of the day, you cannot really generalise everything.
“Each sport is different. The structure, people, some are individual sports, some have few facilities, some aplenty. But there are fundamentals that everyone should know and that is … grassroots.
“If sports don’t exist at grassroots, where are you going to find athletes in the long run? So, unless the sports associations continue to nurture young athletes, they are not going to produce world champions on a regular basis,” he added.
Tunku Imran was joined by some 40 media personnel, OCM honorary secretary Datuk Low Beng Choo, Commonwealth Games and Winter Olympics chefs-de-mission Huang Ying How and Datuk Mumtaz Jaafar and several other dignitaries at the luncheon.