Athletes Should Win For Love Of Their Country, Not Incentives
By Zulhilmi Supaat
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 (Bernama) -- Throughout the 'Golden Era' of Malaysian sports (1950 to 1980), athletes who excelled in sports were driven by passion and love for their country and not incentives.
During that era, there was no RM1 million cash incentive or pension for winning gold medals in the Olympics or cash incentives under the National Sports Council's (NSC) sports achievement reward scheme (Shakam).
In that era, the NSC and National Sports Institute (ISN) did not exist and the onus and initiative was on athletes and their respective associations while in many cases, it was the athletes who had to beg, borrow or fork out their own money to compete at international competitions, unlike now.
When met by BERNAMA, a number of sporting legends who excelled in that era, agreed that true athletes would be driven by passion, love for their country and the desire to bring honour to the country while incentives had never a part of it.
Footballer Datuk Abdul Ghani Minhat, known as 'Raja Bola' for his exploits and exquisite skills on the football field said, during his time, there was so much passion, determination, camaraderie and pride when playing for the country.
Ghani who represented the country in the 1950s and 1960s, said there were no sponsors for their jerseys, football boots or allowance and either did players expect any monetary gains in return for winning.
"What existed was a sense of pride and the desire to see the national flag hoisted on the podium, especially when playing overseas," he said.
He added that incentives will one day come in tandem with their victory.
"For example, I received the Datukship from Pahang in 2000 although I played for the country in the 1950s. That is why I say whoever excelled in sports, there will be a form of incentive one day," he said.
Malaysian bodybuilding legend, Malek Noor, winner of the Mr Asia bodybuilding title for six times, said studying in the United States and Hong Kong for almost 10 years, had inspired him to achieve excellence for the country.
In a foreign country, people were always racing against each other in their quest to bring pride and honour to their own country, even though some had migrated to another country.
He admitted that when talking to friends from overseas, he felt slighted whenever they spoke of their countries' achievements and success and it was then that he decided to take up bodybuilding to try and make the country proud.
During his glory days as a successful bodybuilding champion, Malek had no peers in the country and instantly became an icon for the Malaysian public, an opportunity he used to tell the whole world that a Malaysian could succeed at the international stage.
Legendary badminton ace Datuk Choong Ewe Beng or better known as Eddy Chong, said that since the career of an athlete lasted only for a short period, due to stiff competition, athletes often chased monetary gains.
But if money becomes an athletes main objective or obsession, then their patriotism or national pride would not be strong, he said.
Eddy who had won 400 titles throughout his career, including four men's singles All England titles, said love for the country must be cultivated in athletes from the very beginning.
Athletes must be taught to love their own sport and they must realise their main goal of becoming an athlete is to strive for excellence and bring success to the nation.
In the 1940s and 1950s, athletes worked hard to be recognised and be respected by those around them and regarded representing the country as a major achievement.
"And when I won an international competition when representing Malaysia, I felt that I was on cloud nine," he said.
The world has become more materialistic and athletes are no exception as they too are a part of the community.
"It won't be fair to compare national athletes of yesteryears and now because times have changed. The reality is that athletes are also a part of the world that has changed," said Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, the fastest man in Asia during his heydays in the 60s and known as 'Flying Doctor' for his speed.
Dr Jegathesan who is also the Deputy President of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) said on the whole, national athletes still possessed a high level of patriotism and national pride, despite being showered with all kinds of incentives.
Meanwhile, sports critic and historian, Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim said he was concerned with a drop in the level of patriotism among Malaysian athletes.
In the past, only a gold medal winner received incentives for his or her achievement, and that in return would be a driving force for them to win the top place.
"But nowadays, even a bronze medal winner gets incentives. This, in itself will douse their desire and determination as they will be satisfied even if they won a bronze because there was incentives for a bronze," he said.
He added that it was becoming more and more difficult to eliminate the materialistic attitude of athletes and he personally feels it would also be difficult to find athletes who will only strive for excellence, satisfaction and national pride.