What’s your portfolio, Syed Saddiq?

Given our performance in this edition of the SEA Games, which marks our 5th least impressive away showing since the inception of the Games at 55 medals – what is going on in the Ministry of Youth and Sports?

Subramaniam Krishnan

Some would blame our lacklustre performance on his clear prioritization of eSports – but if we were to attribute sports success alone on medals, we missed the mark according to the results of the SEA Esports tournaments. 

Now some have surmised that Syed Saddiq’s push for unconventional sports such as is how our current Youth and Sports Ministers hopes to differentiate himself from his predecessors. 

That is well and good, but it should not be at the expense of existing ones. 

Syed Saddiq is no stranger to public disapproval – especially as of late because of his social media posts during the 2019 SEA Games, the arguments put forth by his critics hold water.

His programmes such as the four-tier national programme operated under the National Sports Council (NSC) do not work.

No doubt that there are structural problems left over by the Barisan Nasional government. But it is the responsibility of the Pakatan Harapan government to address them. 

While proponents might point towards Syed Saddiq’s 5 new initiatives that were announced on April 23, 2019 during the National Sportsman and Sportswoman Awards as evidence of progress, let’s keep in mind that these are practically rebranded from the previous administration. 

His new program, ‘Pembangunan Sukan Prestasi Tinggi Negara Melalui Program Team MAS’ which links corporate sponsors with programmes directly under KBS undermines existing programmes by double-dipping on the same sponsors that currently fund National Sports Associations (NSA) and community programmes. 

For all the talk of sports being representative of a nation’s honour, it is surprising that Saddiq’s solution to funding issues is to rely on corporate funding instead of getting government to pay for it. 

However when the grouses of our national athletes in securing funding have become an increasingly regular fixture on social media show that there is a problem here. 

Take, for example, the brouhaha when national discus thrower Muhammad Irfan Shamsuddin expressed his misgivings over the lack of vision and clarity on part of the Syed Saddiq for Malaysian sports back in January 2019. 

Minor sports continue to suffer and they continue to face an all too familiar situation – where a lack of funds and incessant bureaucracy stymies efforts by the association to organize and train its athletes. 

Yes, we should punish the excesses of previous sports administrators as seen in their tendencies for mega-projects but this should not come at the cost of our athletes. 

We should not be cutting their access to funding while expecting them to help break gold tally records at international events. 

Nor should we promise to meet them and hear their grouses in social media but cannot follow up with them when it matters the most.

There is a clear need for the prioritization of sports science, innovative coaching and digitalisation in the administration of sports. Syed Saddiq needs to look beyond the National Sports Council (NSC) and go to the ground – to work closely with national sports associations on not only the national level but also on the state level. 

This should be your priority instead of appointing your own party members in key positions as seen in the infamous appointment of 13 Armada members as State Sport Coordinators and Penang PPBM Information Chief Yaakob Osman as your head of KBS Corporate Communications. 

If Syed Saddiq is willing to take his ‘share’ of the credit for our sporting successes, he should also be willing to properly support them. 

It’s time to listen – and to fight for the resources that our athletes need.