Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Where are the Malaysian Indian athletes?

Note: This posts is to express my views & concern on the declining interest and participation of Malaysian Indian athletes in many sports, that they used to dominate. In no circumstances, I'm implicating or belittling our athletes from other ethnicity who represent Malaysia. No, I'm not writing to end up like the infamous Manoharan Malayalam or Johari Pain.

Olympics, the greatest sports event that had occupied the last 2 weeks of our lives. Almost everywhere we go, we speak or hear about the events, athletes, results and medals. Last weekend the whole euphoria of Olympics is done and dusted.

Malaysia managed to get 1 silver from Dato Lee Chong Wei and another surprise bronze from the diving darling Pandelela Rinong. Thank you very much for putting the nation's name on the medal tally.

I'm not sure, how many of you have seen the list of athletes represented Malaysia in London. These are the athletes participated in London for our country:

There are 29 athletes sent, not 1 from Indian ethnicity. Have we completely lost our sports culture within the community? In the past we used to excel in the following sports:
  • athletics (middle & long distance)
  • martial arts (taekwondo, karate, judo)
  • football
  • hockey
Over the years, our athletes have been gradually disappearing from the scene. Up until the late 90s, how many of you remember the Malay Mail Bigwalk, KL marathon, PJ half-marathon etc. dominated by our people? What about hockey, where majority of the players were from Indian & Sikh community. At least quarter of the football team was our people. Martial arts, none other than our heroes.

Our community have been working hard and winning medals for the country, both locally and at international meets like SEA Games, Asian Games even in Commonwealth games. Who can forget great names like Dr. M. Jegathesan (athletics), late Dato Punch Gunalan (badminton), M. Ramachandran & Munusamy (mid distance), Ponniah and his family (karate), Santokh Singh, Arumugam, Shebby, Gunalan, Jeyakanthan, Ramon Regunathan etc. (football), V. Subramaniam (walking) and many other illustrious sportsmen in many events.

But now, we can hardly see our people in mainstream sports. In hockey only S. Kumar & Kelvinder, in football only 3 to 4 players, all road races now are conquered by african runners, martial arts are not being promoted much. Where are all our sportsmen? What happened to our interest and ability?

My assumption on the this slow and steady decline is attributed to many causes. 
  • Parent's focus on 'education' and limiting kid's participation in sports at school. 
  • Kids are preoccupied with exams and TV, computer games etc.
  • Good talents from school are sidelined from advancing to district or state level competitions. 
  • Decades of neglect, no recognition and reward for sportsmen. (who can forget Spiderman Arumugam getting his Datoship almost 20 YEARS after his untimely death!!).
  • No funding, support from Indian corporate sponsors for sports teams/bodies.
  • Retired (good) sportsmen are not absorbed as official, technical committee, coaches etc. for youth development programs.
  • Gov's focus for glamour sports, which yields advertising revenue rather than world-class sportsmen.
  • No systematic development assistance, initiative by political party / sporting authorities.
I'd like to relate one incident which I witnessed almost 20 years ago. I was sitting at Maha Mariamman Temple KL after tuition class. Behind me, 2 individuals discussing about sports:

Person 1: I've been running middle distance from school, Uni, state till national, but until now no recognition
Person 2: It happens only to us
Person 1: I've won medals in SUKMA & SEA games, but see no future without proper training and support
Person 1: After Uni, quit running and start working (polepeh parpom), no point sacrificing future for sports

I turned around to see who are these people, to my utter disbelief, Person 2 was the ex-coach for walking Mr. V.S. (attached with Telekom) and Person 1 is A.M, national athlete for middle distance!!

We do see some pockets of funding like RM530K for Tamil school football, but without grassroot development and proper support, athletes from our community will further disappear from the scene, very soon. I'm dismayed.


  1. Haven't you heard..? Indians are bad at sports..

    If India with 1.2bil people can't get a Gold medal, what do you expect of 2million Indians here..?

    Or so they say.....

    1. hmmm plausible, so we stick to watching serial drama that goes on for 753 years :)

  2. Personally, enakkum intha aathanggam unduthan. Sad that i'm not able to contribute.

    Perhaps we all can make a difference in future; lets encourage our kids to be active in sports!!!

  3. Yes I share your view too. The first thing I did before the Olympic games started was to look at the athletes name list. Indeed it was very shocking and quite embarrass too. What is happening to us? Are we being deliberately ignored? Are we the now the outcast of this country which our ancestors build with blood and sweat. I'm a teacher in a Chinese school and this is how they encourage sports among them. They don't bother much about studies though but each of them are scanned for talents. They are trained from morning till evening. Why can't we too adapt this. Why can't we have special schools where we can train our young ones in sports. In some Tamil schools the students for example going for badminton tournament are given training just one day before the match. The same goes for field events too. Why are the kids given training at the eleventh hour..and finally someone need to stand up and question our National Sports Council. No doubt our Vasugi claimed the first Olympic medal for Malaysia even though it was a demonstration sports, what did our nation did to train her? Why are our Indian athletes discredited?

  4. Chinese are always taught to be competitive, while Indians have always been philosophical. While China was inventing fireworks and fire crackers, Indians were studying the skies and writing books on astronomy.

    Sporting events are competitive and Chinese will do anything to win. Just Google on how chinese children are tortured to ensure winning in sports. Each family can only have one child and thus it becomes the parents priority for the child to rise above the rest. They will go to any lengths to ensure that the child is recognised.

    I would prefer the Indian method and let the talent of each child develop on its own.

  5. Rather than we blaming the govt and other races , indian parents should be responsible for this slacking. Their motivation and encouragement are important and essential in making the good athelete. When come to talent , racism and favortism are still in low level at our country. For example if the govt know you have amazing talent in badminton i'm sure you will get all attention needed , but your parent will say trade it with education hence talents go waste.

    1. Dear Nan,

      No one is blaming the government or other races for our decline in sports. Just a note when you said amazing talents will not be ignored, do you remember Muralitharan & Kantharuban (badminton) and the sprinter from Sentul? How many of our people are in the so-called prestigious sports schools and how many of them actually (nurtured, supported or allowed) become capable national athletes?

      We need to slowly change the culture of book worm, PC nerd & FB addict into sports interest from young.