Two recent announcements in Asian sports has brought back the issue of nepotism and favouritism in sports to the fore.
The first was the selection of cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar’s son Arjun as a member of the Indian Under-19 team.
And the second is the suspension of the Hong Kong Karatedo Federation (HKKF) by the Olympic Committee and Sports Federation of Hong Kong (SFOC) for maladministration and unfair selection policies.
While Sachin is considered probably the best batsman the game has seen, his son has been selected for his bowling prowess. Just as the cricket authorities were vehemently defending the decision to pick the player, social media is abuzz with questions on nepotism.
As for the HKKF, they have lost the authority to conduct the selection of their athletes for the Asian Games. The SFOC is expected to set up a special selection panel to ensure the athletes were not further ‘victimised’.
Nepotism and favouritism is not something new in sports, and Malaysia is of no exception.
Sports Associations promoting their own family members to take over the helms, has been a bane in Malaysian sports. There are numerous associations, including national sports associations where family members were promoted to lead when their own parents retired.
To ensure that this practice continues unabated, the associations put a freeze on new memberships, especially from those opposed to the idea.
The Sports Development Act does not address these issues, thus allowing nepotism to spread and be an integral part of Malaysian sports culture.
Perhaps there should some form of restrictions on whether family members should be allowed to replace leaders of sports associations without a cooling off period.
This was something that has been proposed by the Indian Sports Ministry to be included in their new Sports Code.
How about the number of times cries of nepotism were heard in the selection of players? .
At the recent SEA Games, it was also learnt that the key office bearer of a national sports association allowed his kid to get up to the podium for the prize giving ceremony when the kid was not even part of the official team.
Another national sports association president allowed his brothers child to be included in a national junior team at the eleventh hour without going through any selection process or training.
One national sports association leader chose his sibling as technical official to major competitions when there were numerous senior officials with better experience for the job.
There were also numerous cases of kids being included in squads for the sole reason that their parents also bankrolled the trip.
The culture of showing favouritism and nepotism is ingrained in sports as much as it is prevalent in other industries.
Everybody should be given the chance to show what he is capable of and how far he could go. But, the reality is quite different.
A large chunk of athlete selections and opportunities in Malaysia is not only plagued by favouritism and nepotism but sometimes also based on race and religion.
Back in 2007, following disastrous outing at the Asia Cup, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) had to fend off allegations that the selection of players were based on race, favouritism and quota system.
Athletes have been reluctant in the past to highlight issues of nepotism and favouritism for fear of repercussions. Some just give up sports and concentrate on their studies or career instead of taking up the fight.
Malaysia’s progress at the international level has been tremendous over the last decade or so, but it could have been much better if there was a level playing chance for the athletes.
This very much also depends on how transparent and open minded the management of sports authorities at all levels were going to be.
The question of whether our sports system provides enough opportunities to deserving talent must also be looked into?
Former Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin launched the Malaysian Talent Identification (MyTID) programme with a promise that the selection of students will be done in a fair and just manner. The effectiveness of the MyTID remains to be seen.
Sport, unlike movies does not have retakes. Favouritism and nepotism cannot work on the field in sports.