'Tampar Scandal': Minister caught off guard over social media judgementARNAZ M. KHAIRUL
While Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh seemed disturbed by a viral video in which a volleyball coach alleged to have slapped two of his players, the questions being asked within sports circles was about how easily she had been swayed from reality by mere social media narratives apparently set forth by netizens.
Even more worrying was the fact that while the said volleyball incident happened on Dec 16, it seemed to be put to work to drown out a more serious incident which comes directly under the purview of the Youth and Sports Ministry - a fatal incident at an unsanctioned motorsports event at the Dato Sagor Track in Kampung Gajah, Perak on New Year's eve.
It wasn't even the first death at what seems to be a growing number of unsanctioned motorsports events.
In fact it was a second death in two months, after a driver was killed in a drag racing event, the Battle of the King 2022 at the Gong Badak Drag strip in Kuala Terengganu, an event which was allegedly supported by the Youth and Sports Ministry, as their logo appeared on related banners, alongside sponsors.
Videos on the Dato Sagor Circuit incident, which showed the unfortunate spectator who was killed being mowed down by an out of control race car on a circuit with highly questionable safety infrastructure went viral as well, but Hannah response was merely a Tweet stating she would only respond upon conclusion of police investigations.
All while the motorsports fraternity has constantly been rocked by untoward incidents at such events in recent years, while suspicions are growing over alleged political connections at play in not just the growth in numbers of such events, but the swift covering up of untoward incidents, including fatalities, related to them.
If the motorsports fraternity has reason to worry, then Hannah's response to the volleyball incident has left questions being asked within the sports fraternity as well, particularly among coaches and athletes themselves.
Hannah's reaction seemed to quickly classify the act as a "slap", without first checking with the coach or the athletes themselves. It would have been so easy for her to do so, being the Youth and Sports Minister.
Instead, Hannah could be seen as the person responsible for blowing the matter out of proportion, be it through being ill-advised or simply by echoing former Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu's Tweet on the matter.
Now, this is the same Faizal who quickly jumped to conclusions over Paralympian Ziyad Zolkefli's disqualification from his event at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021, blaming Ukraine protests, triggering an embarassing level of social media insults being hurled at an innocent Ukrainian athlete, only to discover that the disqualification was valid and that it was due to failures of Malaysia's own officials responsible for the athlete.
This is the same Ahmad Faizal who upon appointment as the Youth and Sports Minister, promised Perak fans to "fix" the team's relegation from the Malaysian Super League, by ensuring his 'good friends' in the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) expanded the league to 14 teams so that they need not be relegated.
And this is the same Ahmad Faizal, who last year attributed the national football team's failure to score against Bahrain in a match at the National Stadium last June, to the loud cheering of spectators.
Faizal is clearly a politician unaccustomed to the sporting environment and as such, his comments on sports should not be taken seriously.
As a personal opinion, upon viewing the said video from the National Under-14 Championship in Johor, it did not seem like a 'slap' per se, neither did it look like any malice intended on the part of the coach involved.
Even the players at the receiving end of the 'slaps' did not seem disturbed by it.
Then, taking on views from coaches and athletes, even given a heads up of views from the parents involved, I concluded that Hannah, her deputy Adam Adli Abdul Halim and Education Minister Fadhlina Sidiq, would simply have to try to understand situations better before reacting to social media posts by netizens in the future.
Even the parents and the players involved are said to not believe any malice was intended, merely a nudge in the face as many athletes who have been coached in different sports have accepted as a means to 'wake' them up or motivate them.
In fact there are even more harsh methods used by coaches in other sports to get their athletes to buck up, stay focused while in pain or to stop them from failing.
In reality, it looked more like a nudge to the face, while on a more positive view the team looked to be well bonded and there was a sense of togetherness as they gathered around the coach for the team talk. It was far from an incident fit to be deemed 'unsafe' for the athletes, as their parents, who were on hand at the venue, and the athletes themselves would attest to.
All this, while allegations of actual sexual abuse, grooming, outraging of modesty and even rape in national camps, which have been raised by athletes past and present have often been swept under the carpet, points to a lot being amiss in terms of focus and priorities within the Sports Minister's office itself.
For sure, no information about the said cases of actual abuse will ever be aired on social media, thus the Minister, her Deputy and allies should begin to spend less time on their smartphones and find what's being hidden from them in the real world.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.