Column - We do not celebrate our athletes

EARLIER this year, Mohd Faiz Subri received the FIFA Puskás Award for his swerving free kick that resulted in the best goal of 2016. The young footballer received close to 60% of the popular vote, among millions of votes, for his kick in the Malaysian Super League against Pahang in February last year.

It must have been such a great moment for Faiz. The first Malaysian – nay, the first Asian – to win this prestigious award. What's more, being presented the award by football legend, Cristiano Ronaldo, a photo of which Faiz happily shared on his Instagram account.

What kind of person wouldn't want to celebrate with him? Especially considering the glory he has brought our country? Well, first, there was a photo of Faiz giving his acceptance speech that made his bow tie and microphone look like a cross. So there was a big religious ruckus about his evening attire looking like a cross. Where is the roll-eyeball emoji?

Second, there was an extremely critical piece on Faiz's English language proficiency. Personally, I think the piece unjustly compared Faiz's acceptance speech to that of the speech given by our deputy prime minister at the UN General Assembly in September last year. One speech was a representation of the country, while the other was a speech of gratitude for recognition of ability.

Let me ask you this: if after years of toiling for your dream, you actually receive your dream and thank people to the best of your ability, how would you feel if some wet blanket came along and said, "Your English so bad, bring shame to our country!" From my perspective, anyone who says this suffers from the complaint of want of empathy and inability to distinguish context and issues.

In addition, criticism of Faiz's English should be assigned to the correct quarters, namely the education system, not the athlete. Finally, Faiz was awarded for his kick that scored a goal, not his stellar performance in English language. Critics of his language fluency should go kick a ball and win the award!

And that is always the case with any of our athletes, I notice. Not one athlete can do well without criticism. Take the case of Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, who won six medals, including two golds, at the SEA Games in 2015. Rather than celebrating the victory for our nation, and for her, some people had to criticise her attire that apparently revealed too much. Then I scratch my head at our bodybuilders who wear far less and receive barely a complaint.

I used to think that if Malaysia had better athletes, perhaps those athletes, could be role models to help motivate us to be healthy. As it stands, we are the fattest country in Asia.

But I was wrong. We do have good athletes, and they aren't celebrated enough. When it comes to things like this, I believe that the complaint reflects the state of mind of the speaker, rather than the object. Why are people negative when athletes do well? Athletes work very hard for what they achieve, whether they be amateur or professional athletes. For most of them it is their passion.

It looks like people don't want others to do well. People prefer to gaze at their navel rather than go do some activity, whether it be dragon boat racing or anything at all that helps them burn the calories they are storing from their nasi kandar from lunch. They don't like being unable to perform the way these athletes do, so better to burn 20-50 calories through formulating criticism than actually work hard like these athletes.

For the athletes, amateur and professional, I would say keep up the good work! Work hard, play hard, rest well; your health insurance will probably be less affected in your old age than those sitting around trying to tear you down.

Daniel has a deep passion for health, fitness, sleep and travel. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com