The fact that Myanmar used to be at the top of Southeast Asian and Asian sport competitions might raise a disbelieving eyebrow from the current generation. But whether they believe it not, it is the truth.
There once was a time when Myanmar collected all the gold, silver and bronze medals for running, high jumps, long jumps, vaulting, discus throwing, hammer throwing, javelin throwing, swimming, diving, tennis, badminton, basketball, volleyball, weightlifting, judo, gymnastics and even soccer.
Bahar Duu, Hla Htay, Tin Aung, Khin Maung Tun, Ba Pu, Aung Khin, Shin Bwe Gan, Mi Tone Naw, Jimmy, Jennifer Tin Lay, Ma Khin Pu, Than Than, San San Aye, Ba Wai, Ma Khin Win, Nanda Kyaw Swar, Aung Khaing, Tin Win, Khin Khin Yi, Hla Hla Yi, and Nu Nu Yi were celebrated athletes in Myanmar and across all of Asia.
But these accomplishments were all made more than 40 or 50 years ago. Myanmar has fallen from the pinnacle of sportsmanship to a position where there aren’t many teams left below us. The gradual decline of athletic capability is both a sad trek for Myanmar and one filled with lessons.
To flourish in any sector, one needs the drive to succeed, systematic learning and training, and support from the nation. Now, Myanmar is seeing individuals achieving success in badminton, chess, lethwei and even soccer, where international teams are picking the single skilled players to come kick on their team.
The nations who were once left behind by Myanmar in international sporting events are now far ahead in the lead. We cannot get to where we once were if we merely clap when our home team wins and swear loudly or throw water bottles when we lose. This will in no way help Myanmar to reach the top of Asian or global sporting events.
Generally speaking, sports are an important component of a nation. The general wellbeing of every citizen alleviates the healthcare burden of the country. Children and youths will appreciate the value of teamwork when playing sports.
The spirit of sportsmanship is the pinnacle of fair play that translates well into everyday life. The nation and the people would do well to promote our athletes and reclaim our place in the global sports arena.