The concerns expressed by the Malaysian Cricket Association (MCA) regarding the use of naturalised athletes in the Cambodian SEA Games are well founded, said Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh.

She said her ministry will look into the matter more deeply after the Games in Phnom Penh end on May 17.

“We’ll wait until all the competitions are over, I also had a discussion with the other sports ministers. MCA were confident they could win gold, but when they came up against an opponent who fielded many naturalised athletes they couldn’t,” she said after launching the Basic Sports Training Skills Programme (KLAS): Swimming in Kepong here today.

Hannah also urged everyone to pray that Malaysia’s target of 40 gold medals can be achieved with four days left before the curtains come down on the Games.

“I’m also nervous… We have missed out on medals that were targeted, while events that were not targeted won medals. We still have hockey, judo, taekwondo, sepak takraw, dancesport and badminton still going on,” she said.

As of this morning, Malaysia remained in seventh position with a collection of 28 gold, 35 silver and 61 bronze, with the target set at 40-37-64.

Earlier, MCA in a statement expressed their concerns and asked the SEA Sports Federation (SEAGF) and the Olympic Committee involved to conduct an in-depth investigation into the organisation of cricket and conduct an audit of the qualifications of the athletes participating in this Games.

“In the men’s tournament, Cambodia fielded 13 foreign players out of 15, all of whom Cambodia claims are naturalised citizens. Albeit sighting only a few passports, we noted that the passports were issued on 23 April 2023, the first match was played on April 29, whereas the deadline for the shortlist was March 3.

“This begs the question; can amendments be made for as many as 13 players? If so , what is the purpose of a shortlist? Is this kind of behaviour within the spirit of the SEA Games or the spirit of cricket?,” said MCA, adding that there needs to be a ‘cooling off’ period of one year before players play for a new country.

MCA also claimed that both the national men’s and women’s teams were targets of harassment by the technical director of the tournament as well as the match schedules which were only released the day before the competitions.

Malaysia, who were favorites for the gold medal, had to settle for silver in the men’s 50-overs and T-20 after losing to Cambodia in the finals, while the women’s 50-overs team won bronze. Malaysia are currently competing in the men’s and women’s T-10 contests.

When cricket was contested for the first and last time at the biennial Games at the Kuala Lumpur 2017 edition, Malaysia won the men’s 50-overs gold, the men’s T-20 silver and the women’s T-20 bronze.

In the meantime, Hannah said her ministry allocated RM400,000 this year for the KLAS: Swimming programme targeting the involvement of 720 children aged 6-12 years from the B-40 group, which aims to reduce the death rate due to drowning.

“According to statistics before the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 500 children died from drowning a year, which is a high number. Instead of wasting existing swimming pools and not using people’s money for a noble purpose like this, let’s start this programme,” she said.

She said, for a start , the programme will be held in 18 districts in eight states this year – Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan, Kedah, Johor and Pahang – before being expanded to other places.

Following the hot weather phenomenon affecting the country currently, Hannah said some measures such as the use of closed facilities were being taken for safety’s sake.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency