How a sports university would benefit Malaysia

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A sports university will help us realise our Olympic dreams

It would lead to a nation that excels in sports and reductions in government healthcare spending as it would contribute towards a healthy, prosperous and progressive nation, writes Benedict Lopez.

Seldom do parents in Malaysia encourage their children to take up a a career in a non-traditional area like sports.

Maybe it has to do with our paranoia and myopic way of thinking that if our children do not enter a ‘highly regarded’ profession, they would not be achieve respectability in society.

Rarely do we see parents supporting their children if they express an interest in taking up a career in liberal arts, sports and health science.

The reverse is true in developed nations. Parents there encourage their children if they wish to pursue a degree in areas like sports science. In a country like Sweden, importance is placed on getting a degree in this area; the country has leading knowledge centres for sports, physical activity and health.

Courses in these areas include research, often in collaboration with sports associations, public and private stakeholders within the field as well as Swedish and international universities and colleges. Some of the outdoor courses are in the mountains and in the archipelago.

At these institutions, there is a strong synergy between education and practical experience. Undergraduate courses in sports and health sciences emphasise relevant programmes related to averting diseases such as cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart ailments.

Graduates holding degrees in these areas are offered employment which not only is geared towards the improvement of sports in Sweden, but also caters to the needs of hospitals, schools, colleges and universities.

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The result is a nation that excels in sports and reductions in government healthcare spending as this approach contributes towards a healthy, prosperous and progressive nation, with increased output and productivity.

Perhaps it is time for officials from the ministry of youth and sports, the ministry of education, and the national sports council to sit down with representatives of sports associations and respected sports personalities to evaluate the possibility of setting up a sports university in Malaysia.

An institution specialising in sports will not only help realise our vision of winning a gold medal at the Olympics, but also, more importantly, contribute towards a healthier lifestyle among the people.

In fact, the government should make sports mandatory for students in all schools, colleges and universities, with the only exceptions being for medical reasons. Too many of our young people are fixated on the internet, social media and tech gadgets while neglecting sports – a disturbing trend indeed.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. An eternal optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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