A slow death awaits cue sports in the country.
Snooker and Billiards are among the minor sports in Malaysia facing a bleak future following the Sports Ministry’s budget cuts amid the challenging economic circumstances.
The Malaysian Snooker and Billiards Federation (MSBF) have found themselves “snookered” and helpless in getting out of the desperate situation.
MSBF president Melvin Chia described cue sports here as “half-dead” as the national body have no funds left to keep their athletes going.
With about seven months before the Philippines Sea Games, the MSBF are struggling to put up a squad as some of their disheartened seniors consider leaving the national set-up due to the bleak future.
MSBF have found themselves in dire straits following the discontinuation of the Kita Juara programme after the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games in 2017.
And MSBF feel that the National Sports Council (NSC) are not making it any easier for the national cueists in not providing them with a training centre.
MSBF have appealed to NSC several times to let them have the snooker and pool tables, used for the 2017 KL Sea Games, for training purposes.
However, NSC have yet to agree to MSBF’s requests, claiming that the equipment concerned has not been audited yet.
Meanwhile, the MSBF could only wait in frustration, as the snooker and pool equipment lie like junk in a NSC storeroom in Bukit Jalil, rotting away and collecting dust.
“Snooker in Malaysia is ‘half-dead’, and we are losing players. We have been chasing NSC for a meeting in the hope of getting a budget to prepare our athletes for the Sea Games, but nothing has happened yet,” said Melvin yesterday.
“Do they expect us to bring back gold medals without funding and a training centre?
“Since the discontinuation of the Kita Juara programme, we have received only RM4,000 from the NSC. It was to cover our players’ allowances for a few tournaments. The players had to cover their own lodging and travelling costs.
“Officially, we have gone for only one overseas tournament in the last 12 months. The Sea Games selection committee will decide on the team based on the results of the 2017 edition and also the performances of athletes in the last 12 months.
“As our players have hardly gone abroad in the last 12 months, I am wondering how they are going to classify our athletes?”
Melvin revealed that some of the national players are jobless and struggling financially after many snooker and pool centres cut costs due to the economic situation.
He said former Sea Games champion Moh Keen Hoo is jobless after being retrenched by a snooker centre, where he was an in-house player.
“Keen Hoo is getting desperate and may take up an offer in China as a player-cum-coach for a training centre. If he goes, it will be a huge blow to us.
“Basically, cue sports in the country have no future. The lack of funding is gradually killing the sport, and it will be dead soon.”
Melvin, however, said MSBF have listed 10 athletes for the Philippines Sea Games. They will compete in eight events: men’s snooker singles and doubles; men and women’s nine-ball singles and doubles; and men and women’s 10-ball singles).
Melvin admitted that many companies are reluctant to support MSBF as they fear the sport’s image is not suitable for their products.
“It is very tough for us. Basically, we do not have money coming in. We have been relying on funds from NSC to support our players and coaches but it has all stopped.
“We wrote to the Sports Minister (Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman) about six months ago to request for a meeting but he hasn’t replied. I also gave a copy of that letter to his representative about a month ago, but we have not heard anything.
“It is really tough for us. Our athletes have won Sea Games, Asian Games and World Amateur Championships medals and yet we are being treated dismissively,” Melvin added.
Meanwhile, the Lawn Tennis Association of Malaysia (LTAM), headed by Mirzan Mahathir, are also suffering a similar fate in getting funds.
But it has been easier for the national body to persuade sponsors compared to the MSBF.
“We have scaled down our senior and junior programmes but we are getting by as we have sponsors. Frankly, we have not received money from the NSC since the discontinuation of the Kita Juara programme,” said LTAM secretary Rahizam Rahim.