APRIL 20, 2003 SUN

Malaysia tak boleh... at least not yet

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia boleh, the catchphrase that comes readily to the lips of Malaysians as a spur to their can-do spirit has taken a twist in one of the nation's populist pursuits: sport.
The country is not ready to become a sporting nation, according to its Acting Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
He said that to be a sporting nation, Malaysia must not only become a good event organiser but more importantly, it must be capable of producing world-class athletes.
'We certainly are a good sports organiser. As an example, our ability to organise the Formula One motor race.
'But what is more important is that our athletes must be consistent and achieve greater excellence at the international level,' he said in his speech at the Sports Writers Association of Malaysia Excellence Award night on Friday.
Several years ago, he had discussed Malaysia's ability to host the Olympics with the former chairman of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch.
'He told me that Malaysia is capable of becoming the best Olympics organiser but what is more important is to churn out world-class athletes beforehand,' he said.
The minister also criticised sports associations that are plagued by in-fighting for positions, thus neglecting the welfare and future of their athletes.
Sports fans in the country should also give an opportunity to national athletes to prove their abilities, but athletes must also be consistent, he said.
He added: 'Don't win just one competition and lose the other matches subsequently.'
He later presented awards to Malaysia's national swimming champion Lim Keng Liat and karate champion S. Premila for emerging Excellent Male Athlete and Excellent Female Athlete for last year. -- Bernama