Tue, 25 Oct 1994

Asiad: Complacency led to poor performance

Why did Indonesia show a poor performance in the recent Asiad? Sports expert Mangombar Ferdinand Siregar attributes it to com placency. In an interview, this former assistant to the sports minister, with an illustrious 44-year career, says that sports activities involve many parties, who should act in unison.

Question: How do you see our performance in the recent Asiad?

Answer: In sports we use straightforward language. We call a failure, a failure. We failed to start planing as soon as the 1990 Beijing Asian Games were over. At the time, I proposed concentrating on six sports. It is true that in the span of four years other sports might emerge too, but there should be a criterion to measure this.

Q: Has a criterion been set?

A: No. And out of the blue we decided to take part in 23 sport events in Hiroshima. For example, Kenya only takes part in track and field in every Olympics and wins three or four golds. Kenyans can understand it. And we have not discussed other things such as regeneration of players, or the quality of trainers and coaches. Will KONI (the National Sports Governing Body) and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports provide them with books, or send them for training abroad? What about their remuneration? Why do we pay US$5,000 to foreign coaches and Rp 300,000 ($150) to local ones? Their responsibility is the same. I am no hypocrite and I think coaches should be well paid. And we haven't talked about managing athletes. They have to be nursed as if they are fighting cocks, meaning that we need to maintain the quality of their food and earnings.

Q: It seems that there are so many intermingling factors?

A: There are. We should never underestimate any of them. The irony is that we are all well aware of this, yet we have failed to pursue them diligently and have chosen to be complacent. We are in the dark about the progress of sports in Asia. Only a week before Hiroshima did we realize that six or seven Asian sports have reached the world level. Can you imagine it? Haven't we read the newspaper for four years? What have the research and development people been doing?

Q: What has gone wrong?

A: My criticism of our sports scientists is that they have never translated what they have learned in various seminars abroad into practice. I have one experience. During my days at PBSI (Badminton Association of Indonesia) I found their proposal for various tests was questionable. So I devised well-proven tests myself as a substitute. Isn't it lamentable?

Q: Back to the criterion you mentioned earlier. Do you think that so far KONI has not been transparent enough on this matter?

A: The criterion should involve things like the ages, mentality, talent, potential and peak performances of the athletes combined with a thorough knowledge about their opponents in order to set up a strategy. A month before Hiroshima we quarreled about who would be going there instead of discussing the most important thing: What strategy is to be used? Our outlook remains traditional, we are not creative enough. This is disastrous.

Q: How could this happen?

A: Because we felt superior and did not see the need to learn more. I am well advanced in age and yet I never stop learning. Sports is a complex mixture of inter-linking activities. Why? Because responsibility in this field is formidable. It is for the good name of the nation. Imagine Qatar, a state with only 500,000 people, is better than us. A half million people we can find in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. The more painful fact is that we were behind Malaysia. I couldn't but question the patriotism of this bunch of sports patrons and prime movers in afterthought. This is an injustice to PBSI who fought tooth and nail to win the gold.

Q: Why could PBSI make it?

A: I have said: "Why not learn from PBSI?" Use it as a model. Copy the good things from PBSI because not everything is rosy in this association either. I also have said not to let PBSI stay alone at the top. It will crack because its burden is tremendous. It can't survive unless it is complemented with other top performing sports. Without such an environment it will crash. It has been on the top and is inviting other sports to the top as well. PBSI has shown how to turn athletes into the best professional sportsmen in the world. It is a fact. The momentum of Beijing 1990 and Barcelona 1992 has not been exploited by sports activists in Indonesia. And, in sports, unless we have an obsession we are not going anywhere. Hence, it is the love of sports that drives people to devote themselves in this field. They don't crave anything. Their only wish is to see to it that their athletes can win and are better than athletes from other countries.

Q: It seems that the majority of patrons or prime movers are generals, ministers or tycoons.

A: This should not pose a problem as long as they have time, love sports and have the ability to lead, to create an atmosphere of togetherness, and are not patronizing in their approach. Look around and you will know that money is not everything in sports.

Q: Compared to the 1960s, it seems that there are fewer sports activities at today's schools?

A: Yes. So far we have been talking about the "organizational lane" of sports with KONI and the sports ministry. Schools are the "educational lane" where the values of sportsmanship are taught. Young students must learn to win and yet remain respectful of their opponents, or to loose without breaking down. Now that classes are being held at schools which run in day and night shifts, the students are left with no playground. And when they fight in the streets the blame is put on them.

Q: Do you see a way to create a lively sports program today?

A: The sports ministry must become the front runner in the widest sense of the word. It must become a unifying force to consolidate all the potential and must be able to dampen rifts among sports activists. We no longer have to be engaged in slinging matches. The ministry must be imbued with fresh ideas, new ways, new motivation, new spirit. It must also be willing to go out and communicate with KONI and the education ministry people rather than simply giving instructions. (amd, hbk)