By Azman Ujang
KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 (Bernama) -- A television channel dedicated to Malaysian sports and local sports role models is expected to be launched by the end of the year.
Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tunku Imran ibni Almarhum Tuanku Ja'afar said OCM and Astro, the pay TV operator, were finalising the details of the channel which would cover domestic sports as well as regional and international sports in which Malaysians are participating.
Tunku Imran said a tv sports channel was the "missing link" in the country's efforts to develop sports to higher levels.
"All our tv in terms of sports focus on international events. So what we desperately need and this is what OCM is talking to Astro is a sports channel that focuses on the domestic sports and building up the role models," he told Bernama in an interview.
He cited the example of the popularity of squash in Malaysia.
"Why is now squash is so popular? Because everyone is basing themselves on Nicol David," he said of Malaysia's world No. 1 squash player.
"The girls want to play squash because they want to be Nicol David, so I think role models are important and television is crucial to that," he said.
Tunku Imran said he first approached Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek when the latter was still Information Minister about establishing the sports channel via RTM.
But this could not be done as RTM's channels were not yet digitalised but it could be done easily with Astro. Shabery is now Youth and Sports Minister.
He said as an example, the sports channel might not necessarily cover only the Malaysian Squash Open but the Spanish Squash Open because Malaysian players are participating.
This would also mean coverage of sports like badminton, hockey, sepak takraw and others.
Tunku Imran also said that what many people did not realise was that Malaysia was actually a successful sporting nation although the country had yet to win its first ever 0lympic gold medal.
"I know we haven't won that elusive Olympic gold but we are a successful sporting nation nonetheless".
To prove his point, Tunku Imran said he had been going round meeting his counterparts from other nations and was recently in Bangladesh, a nation of over 126 million people.
"Bangladesh has a population of over 120 million and I asked them how many people did they have in the Olympics and they said they have a handful but all of them were actually wildcard entries.
"They did not have any qualifier for the Olympics who meet the minimum standards. Malaysia with a population of 26 million had 26 individual athletes who qualified in 11 sports," he said.
Tunku Imran said many other countries bigger than Malaysia could not produce as many Olympic qualifiers, including India which struggled to get qualifiers.
In Malaysia's case, it had done very well in those 11 sports and all that needed to be done was for the athletes to build up on it.
"We have got to support them and support those 11 sports and ensure that they get enough domestic competitions. Then we have to ensure that the very top ones get international exposure and the best coaching, we'll produces those medals one day.
"To me that is more the success than just the medals, to get to qualify is already a magnificient achievement," he said.