Don’t neglect retired athletes, says former track queen

Former Asian track queen M Rajamani has complained of a lack of official support for the well-being of retired athletes.

(FMT) – In an interview with FMT, she alleged that the government had made little effort to prevent the neglect of sports personalities who once brought glory to the nation.

She acknowledged the financial and medical aid that the National Athletes Welfare Foundation (Yakeb) provides them, but said the government itself had not done enough for them.

Rajamani, Malaysia’s first female Olympian and winner of a gold medal in the 1966 Asian Games, noted that the present generation of athletes were well taken care of. “They receive a good amount of funding and are even treated in VIP rooms in hospitals.”

She said many retired athletes were afflicted by health problems and could do with “a little privilege” at both public and private hospitals.

She suggested that they be given passes allowing them to skip queues.

According to her, many former athletes have raised these issues with several ministers in the past and were promised allowances, among other things, but nothing has been delivered.

She also urged corporations and advertising agencies to include retired athletes in product commercials and promotional activities.

Yakeb president Noorul Ariffin told FMT there was little sports associations could do to ensure proper recognition of former athletes on a national scale.

“Yakeb is not in any position to help these former players by recommending them for datukships or some other title. This is a matter for state leaders to look into as we have no rights on state affairs.”

He said the best that Yakeb could do to was to ensure they receive proper medical assistance.

“The 1972 Olympic football players like Shahruddin Abdullah and the late M Chandran are registered Yakeb members,” he said. “We’ve helped them cover their medical bills.”

He also said Yakeb provided V Krishnasamy, who died earlier this month, with a prosthetic leg and RM300 for medical fees for six months.

Noorul rejected a recent allegation that members of the 1972 Olympic football team were not given passes to attend local matches.

“FAM (the Football Association of Malaysia) often provides tickets and allows ex-players to sit in the VIP corner, but in limited quantities,” he said.

“Most of these tickets are for games in Bukit Jalil and elsewhere around the Klang Valley. But it may be difficult for those living in other states to attend these matches as they would need to travel and find accommodation, which can be troublesome.”

Noorul added that all Yakeb members were provided with career development opportunities, such as entrepreneurship training courses.

Former Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary Sieh Kok Chi, who used to represent the country in water polo, urged sports associations to show compassion to former athletes, saying many of them gave up their studies to pursue their sporting careers.

He said these organisations should rope in former athletes for administrative roles.

“We have been too focused on winning medals,” he said. “This has caused a lot of problems for athletes after they retire as many do not have an education background to fall back on.

“These former athletes should be part of executive committees or hired as coaches without forcing them to take certifications just to train new champions.”

Referring to the 1972 football team, Sieh said they had been inducted into the OCM Hall of Fame for playing at the Munich Olympics.

He urged the team members to promote themselves on social media.

“They should do something to make a name for themselves online,” he said. “They could raise their profile in this way and other former players would follow suit. Keeping quiet will only make people forget about them even more.”