Athletes’ welfare our priority, says minister

|     Danial Norjidi     |

THE topics of capacity building for athletes as well as the welfare of retired national athletes and care for senior citizens were among those raised during the 15th Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting yesterday.

In the afternoon session, LegCo member Yang Berhormat Iswandy bin Ahmad asked on what capacity building is given to athletes so that sports can become a viable career.

“An athlete not only thinks about sports performance, but also needs to have skills in sponsor management, financial management, contract negotiations, marketing and others to have a successful career,” he said.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Yang Berhormat Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin responded, “The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) always supports athletes not only in terms of employment but also in providing opportunities for increasing capacity, including by pursuing study at higher education institutions.”

He noted that the ministry also provides athletes the opportunity to continue their career in coaching with the cooperation of several agencies such as the Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council and the Sports Centre for Medicine and Research, as well as the National Sports Institute of Malaysia.

He cited as examples conducting coaching courses, sports technical courses, sports management courses, sports science courses, study tours, sports camps, etc.

The minister shared that through the Sports Excellence Incentive Scheme, two national wushu athletes who won medals at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games were awarded financial assistance for their tuition fees at Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

He added that with the coaching certification attained, some athletes have served the Youth and Sports Department and the Ministry of Education as coaches for sports such as wushu, badminton, squash, football, pencak silat and lawn bowling.

Another question from Yang Berhormat Iswandy was what support is given to ensure the welfare of national athletes who have retired from sports.

The minister said that the MCYS will always support and recognise as well as provide incentives to national athletes, including those who have retired. He shared the methods through which this is done.

First is through associations, he said, noting that some retired athletes have set up their own veterans groups, such as the Association of Sports Veterans and the Senior Golf Association of Brunei Darussalam. “The ministry continuously supports them, including through providing assistance.”

A second method is on an individual basis, where the MCYS works together with government and non-government agencies with a Whole-of-Nation approach in looking after the welfare of retired athletes.

“For example, there are athletes who need specialised treatment abroad, such as in Singapore. The MCYS has worked together with the Ministry of Health to give priority to such national athletes,” he said. “In addition, charity events are organised with the cooperation of various national sports associations to raise funds to cover medical costs for retired athletes.”

The minister also noted that honorary state recognition is awarded to retired athletes, especially those who have won medals at regional and international tournaments, and added that the athletes’ successes are exhibited in the Sports Gallery at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium.