KUALA LUMPUR: One had to strain to listen to the soft voice of Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Datuk Dr Khoo Kay Kim during his no holes-barred talk on “Sports in Malaysia - yesterday and today”.
To make matters worse, many in the audience had to put up with annoying late-comers, beeping handphones and inconsiderate chit-chatting by others in the cramped conference room at the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) building yesterday.
Through it all, though, what was more discomforting was the bleak picture painted by Prof Khoo as far as the future of the Malaysian sports is concerned.
The 72-year-old renowned historian, educator and public figure was invited to share his experiences and ideas as the guest speaker at the Fourth OCM-Sports Goodwill Ambassadors Annual Get-Together.
He shared fond memories of how Malaysian sport used to be when he was growing up and reminisced about teachers who were so passionate about sports that even though they took their students out for a drink after a game, they would not make a single claim.
Then, when sportsmen and sportswomen were hailed as heroes in the schools, sports was an integral part of the school system.
“Students used to talk about the major victories of their school teams. Now, it is all about students getting straight As’,” he said.
He also spoke about the early days of sports like badminton, cycling and cricket and their early successes.
“It was all about passion and determination. Our history tells us that Malaysia was outstanding in sports those days. Athletes wanted to win badly those days but now people like to cheat.” he said.
Malaysian sports is rich with history but he noted that the nation had become poor in researching and keeping records. Singapore and India have more records on Malaysia’s early beginnings in sports.
He also applauded the former greats for their critical thinking and analyses.
“Wong Peng Soon (late badminton star) always like to deceive his opponents and even developed a back hand smash. Now, it all depends on speed. Where is the style and class?”
Prof Khoo also questioned the role of politicians and ministries.
“When a new Mentri Besar becomes a president (of a sports association), the coach and team manager also change. What does the shift of power got to do with the people who are involved in sport?” he asked.
On whether there is a way to come out of the rut, Prof Khoo said: “Unless or until something drastic takes place, do not expect Malaysian sport to reach the height of yesteryears.”
And these drastic measures, according to Prof Khoo, include changing the mindset of the politicians and the people who are in charge of the educationists.
“Ultimately, it has to do with integrity and sincerity. There should be no other agenda.”
The points raised and shared by Prof Khoo are nothing new. Many have voiced the same sentiments through their own experiences and frustrations.
Despite the gloomy outlook, OCM deputy president Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan reminded the sports enthusiasts not to lose heart.
“We cannot divorce sports from what is happening in the society. They are inter-related. But it is not all that depressing for us in the sports scene,” said Jegathesan.
“Sports in Malaysia has changed. There is a shift of interest among the youths from the outdoor to indoor sports. Currently, we are among the best in squash, lawn bowls, bowling and badminton. Prof Khoo emphasised on schools and values and these are areas that I will encourage all to focus on,” he added.
If no one walks the talk, the future generation will continue to have a sad tale of history to tell as far as Malaysian sports is concerned.