Many fallen sports icons not getting assistance

ON Thursday, one of the headlines in the sports page of this publication caught my eye and it reminded me of something that a mate of mine spoke to me sometime last year. And what my mate told me was quite a sad tale regarding a mutual friend of ours who has passed on, bless his soul.

The headline that caught my eye was the one about the monetary assistance rendered to Bujang Taha, a former body builder and two-time Mr. Asia, whose house burned down earlier during the week. It (monetary assistance) was from the government through the Ministry of Social Development and Urbanisation. Certainly it was a kind gesture on the part of the government to help Bujang Taha in his hour of need. But I believe Bujang is not the only former athlete who has represented the state and country and brought honours to them, who have fallen on hard times.

There are many more out there who have not been rendered any assistance in alleviating their hardships. This brings me to the crux of today’s story.

It is about James Yakub who was a multi sportsman who represented his employers, the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), Sarawak contingent in a few disciplines of sports like football, rugby and I believe hockey too. He also represented the state in rugby and football, and was a squad member of the national football side in his heydays.

When James retired from the police, there wasn’t any fanfare to mark his retirement and I believe, did not receive any kind of token or recognition for his many years of service to his employers and state in sports.

He joined a local firm as a farm manager after his retirement but sadly, he passed on and did not get to enjoy his retirement years with his family.

My friend told me that James’ family are in some financial difficulties after his passing and he and a few friends have passed the hat around to help alleviate James’ family’s hardship and suffering. The family need more to alleviate their hardship now that James is gone but this is something that nobody out there in the world knows about. And James’ is not the only case to have slipped under the radar of the government and the sports bodies. Unfortunately in James’ case, he was involved in team sports rather than individual sports, so he was just one of the numbers.

I personally know of a number of ex police players in rugby who have, upon their retirement from the police, gone through difficult times but they never once complained or whined about their lot in life after retirement. It is a case of when you are active, everyone worships you but once you stop, you become just another brick in the wall, anonymous amongst the sea of humanity.

The union has tried to help these souls but as the union does not generate any income, depending on grants from the state, and minimal sponsorship from a few individuals or firms, it can’t do much. Most of the funds that are in the union’s coffers are spent on the various activities of the union during the calendar year and in these times of high inflation, a few hundred ringgit does not go far. The union has tried in other ways to help by assisting these former players to get jobs with slightly better pay but not many firms are willing to take a chance on them. And with them being away from the office or their posts during their years of active involvement in sports, their chances and prospects of career advancement are very much diminished, and so when they retire, their pensions are soon gone.

These are former players from the game of rugby over the years, what about sportsmen and women from other sports in the state?

There must be hundreds of them, if not thousands, and their plights are very often not known at all.

Maybe the state and the sports bodies can set up a trust fund for assisting these former sportsmen and women who had sacrificed so much in efforts, sweat and tears, to bring honours and glory to the state, and country, to get them started in life after sports and retirement.

And also, a certain body should properly register them and this could become a safety net for them when times are hard. By doing so they could be kept tracked of and given assistance easily during hard times.

Sports in Malaysia is still mostly amateurish and any prize money that these sportsmen and women win when representing the state and nation does not go into their pockets but to the sports associations.

So these sportsmen and women do not get paid for playing sports except for badminton, squash and football that get allowances for training and during sporting events.

In Bujang Taha’s case, he was lucky that his misfortune was highlighted in the news but what about those who never received any kind of publicity? There are so many of them out there, and any little bit of help extended to them is, I’m sure, very much appreciated but unfortunately nobody really bothers with it.

There will be a game today for all who turn up at the field before 4.00 pm. For those new to the city, the field is located behind the Everise supermarket along Padungan Road. All that is needed for playing is a pair of boots, stockings and sturdy shorts, as jumpers will be provided.

Look out for a certain orang putih who will sort you out, if you are new to the city and ground. Cheers.

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