BRUNEI Darussalam has been ploughing a lot of money into sports at the international level but is yet to create a world class athlete.
The country has a Sports School that has existed for about 13 years. It was set up especially to create sporting excellence, but has not delivered champions.
Much has been written on this subject and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has responded saying that they are making every effort to achieve excellence.
Why then do we finish way down the medals tally even in regional competitions?
For example, in SUKMA Games that we take part in neighbouring Malaysia, our national athletes come way behind some of the athletes from Malaysian states.
We have tried both local coaches and foreign coaches, but the results have been the same.
There have been brief sparks in swimming but sadly they were not sustained.
Should we announce big incentives for winners such as national awards, free houses and cars like in our neighbouring countries?
To help local athletes have a fighting attitude and “never say die” approach, they must be toughened mentally by making it mandatory for them to do sports like karate, judo, taekwondo, tai chi and other martial arts.
This will build up their mental resilience and long-term competitive spirit.
Local athletes should undergo training on a long-term basis and in a professionally-developed format.
The system we have now won’t be able to produce champions as our athletes start training only a few months prior to the actual event.
Athletes should train professionally fulltime. Their salaries and allowances should be footed by the relevant government department though they are not employed fulltime.
Aren’t they involved in fulltime training to bring laurels for the country?
My next suggestion could be contro-versial but it’s not new.
Brunei should consider importing talents from other countries.
For a start, maybe the country can look into importing half of a dozen talented athletes in various disciplines and give them permanent residency just like Singapore and Australia do.
These athletes will relocate to Brunei permanently and train in our country and will compete under the Brunei flag.
Why I called it controversial is that there will be opposition from certain quarters.
Some would say that it is better to let our athletes perform at regional/international events and return home empty-handed rather than let a few imported athletes bring home some medals whose value may not be the same as a Bruneian winning it.
But on the other side of the coin, the chance for our local athletes to rub shoulders and train with talented and world class athletes will be invaluable.
One can never get that experience even if he/she is willing to pay a fortune.
Singapore has a few imports from China playing table tennis under the city-state’s flag and they have done wonders for the country.
Not only have they brought home medals but have taken the level of the sport by a few notches.
Needless to say opinion is divided among Singaporeans with many saying the victories aren’t sweet like it would have been had a Singaporean achieved the feat.
But smaller countries like ours have very few options if they want to make a mark on the international stage.
If Singapore with a population of around four million can radically think to improve their sport, Brunei with one-tenth of Singapore’s population need to also look at ways that can put us on the global map and also help our athletes train with some world class stars.
People cannot be stopped from criticising if Brunei were to take such steps, but if such critics are asked for solutions they may not be able to offer a constructive one.
If we need to progress we need to look at overseas talent to achieve that.
It’s like currently having many foreigners as part of our workforce to improve the economy.
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports should seriously give this a thought.
– Sports Fan