Nation On The Run

More please

It’s a Saturday with a hint of showers soon.

Having a run this weekend? Whethere, on a running track, or the park, smashing a shuttle-cork cross-court or attempting poorly a Rabona on a pitch, making as many Malaysians run over the weekend has to be a national agenda.

The community, playing sports.

If our sports minister is interested in the matter.

There has been much hue and cry over the lack of funding for national sportsmen, those in the elite programmes, I’d like to weigh in.

Man on top

Sporting glory matter to voters therefore it justifies spending. But how much, and to what end?

Previous ministers, enamoured by back page glory had been indifferent to community sports, but excited by their elite athletes hitting the podium.

To them the gold count at any SEA Games is far more important than if Malaysians were actually playing sports. Sure, they’d attend televised aerobic sessions which end with souvenirs for the VIPs, but they care not if millions of Malaysians don’t do sports.

Many of the nations we aspire to compete with, have sporting cultures to go with it. Being active is seen as important as being committed to the sporting teams and individuals.

We have dedicated pockets of sports enthusiasts, but they are desperately the minority here.

Facilities

We have the greatest woman squash player in history, there is only one Nicol David, but how many Malaysians play squash regularly? Easy enough to calculate, judge the total amount of functioning squash courts. Kuala Lumpur City Hall turned one of its two courts at Bangsar Baru into a gym extension. The single left is under-utilised anyways, but few want to play in a rundown court.

The KTM pitch in the city by KL Sentral is lost. The pitch by Puduraya was ripped twenty five years ago, so that it can be a disused construction site.

It does not matter who is FAM president, if there are not enough (playable) football pitches, are we a football playing nation?

The Mara-Japan Industrial Institute in Semenyih has a a field, albeit a small one. What is remarkable is that when it rains, it doubles up as a designated pool. So, it’s also site for their aquatics programme.

Klang pitch in shambles.

Perhaps the upcoming candidates for the by-election there can look into it.

There are inadequate facilities, and we continue to lose space to stupid meaningless development. Yet another empty shop-lot row with “FOR SALE” stickers colouring the buildings.

There needs to be a moratorium on our playing fields, and new ones have to be built.

They have to be managed, they have to be protected.

I’ll do a side pitch, local council elections would spur the protection of playing spaces, because locally elected officials are from there and live there, they have a vested interest and risk abuse from neighbours.

Currently, most available are private spaces. Fields, futsal courts, badminton courts, gyms and golf clubs, expensive beyond the reach of the B40, the very group Pakatan claims to defend.

Attitude

I get annoyed when I hear yet another statement from the minister about E-sports. I can understand he likes it, must be from his campus days, but it is not actually physical sports is it?

I’ll dial-down my admonishments since many Malaysians like video games, and he serves them too.

Though the claims on how it will spur economic growth I take with a tank of salt.

This is an obese country, the fattest in Asia, and every medical policy maker has been screaming that our sedentary lifestyle is a major contributor.

They are begging patients to just walk.

Attitude walls sap the will.

There is a car culture, there is an aversion to exercise because it makes you sweat, there is widespread lip service to sports in our schools and there are religious objections.

These are the sports ministry’s challenges. It may lack the resources, but it can easily shame the various ministries to act.

Inter-departmental sports leagues, sports hours requirements and time off to play, are among the various tools available to government.

There are many ways to skin the cat, our government has evaded all of them.

Our way of life has to be questioned. If millions are shamed to religious observations, which shows the power of persistent and committed application from interested parties, why not a sliver of the effort to get Malaysians to be healthy?

This is not an invite for the minister to pose in sporting attire. We already seen the previous minister parade his virility and eagerness for sports.

I’m indifferent about the photo-ops.

This requires policy rigour and widescale adoption.

Getting a sluggish nation to fitness might be a solution for more than just our physical health, it might change how Malaysians actualise life– values, time and purpose.

Over to you, Syed Saddiq.

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