MALAYSIA— Hannah Yeoh, the Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister in Anwar’s Cabinet, has highlighted the adverse effects of political instability on Malaysia’s athletes and their performance, including in the recently concluded SEA Games.
“Not to mention Palestine, a country at war, but their football team has a higher ranking than Malaysia,” Ahmad Fadhil said.
Financial implications and training challenges
In her response, Mrs Yeoh brought attention to the absence of a specified allocation for the podium program in 2022.
Consequently, the National Sports Council (NSC) had to reorganize athlete preparation programs for major sporting events taking place this year, such as the Vietnam SEA Games, Commonwealth Games, Birmingham Games, and Asian Games in China.
“As a result, 220 athletes were unable to continue their training, as there was no specific allocation provided for the implementation of senior training programs under the podium program.”
Hannah Yeoh explained that to address this situation, the NSC had to utilize internal funds to ensure uninterrupted athlete training allowances and coach salaries.
This situation persisted for two months, from January to February 2022. Eventually, the ministry sought additional funds from the cabinet, resulting in an approved allocation of RM 240 million (approximately 52 million USD) as part of Malaysia’s Plan 12, spanning from 2022 to 2025 — RM60 million for each year.
Speaking in the Malaysian Parliament, Hannah Yeoh highlighted that the delays in allowances and coach salaries, coupled with the lack of allocated funds, directly impacted the athletes’ training routines, especially those requiring international travel for competitions and specialized coaching.
“I have discussed this with athletes and associations, and they confirm that in these four years, while we were busy with politics, our neighboring countries have advanced.”
“It would be easy for me to shift all the burden of answering and providing reasons to the national sports associations. But I believe that would be an irresponsible action, ” she added.
While emphasizing that she does not attribute all factors solely to political instability, she hopes that Members of Parliament recognize that in the past four years, following the Sheraton Move, political instability disrupted numerous government efforts aimed at supporting the economy and education.
Malaysian media described the outcome of SEA Games 2023 as a “heartbreaking game” for Malaysia
Despite fielding the fifth largest contingent of 677 athletes and setting a target of winning 40 gold medals at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games, Malaysians were left disheartened as the country recorded its worst-ever performance in the SEA Games, raising concerns about the future of Malaysian sports.
The New Straits Times, a Malaysian media outlet, in an article described the outcome as a “heartbreaking game” for Malaysia, raising questions about the state of Malaysian sports and the reasons behind the significant decline in performance.
The Malaysian contingent secured the seventh position in the overall rankings, earning a total of 175 medals, including 34 gold, 45 silver, and 96 bronze.