KUALA LUMPUR: The recent sodomy case involving a volunteer coach from the national wheelchair tennis squad has highlighted the fact that para sports are in dire need of more attention and support.
National head coach Nadir Ashraf said volunteers have played a key role in helping develop wheelchair tennis in Malaysia over the years due to a lack of funds.
Nik Muhd Nik Ibrahim, who is able-bodied, had been a talent scout and coach with the national team on a voluntary basis, but was recently sentenced to prison for sodomising underage ballboys.
"We have always struggled with funding and depended a lot of volunteers in the past" said Nadir, when contacted by NST today.
"Sponsors don't really pay much attention to us and para sports in general, so we had to take whatever help we could get.
"In fact, I was also a volunteer with the national team prior to becoming a full-time coach. We have to admit that we still need able-bodied people to help us out."
Nadir added that Nik had helped fill in the void he left behind when he became the head coach.
"When I became head coach, I had little time to help out with other aspects and it was the volunteers, including Nik, who helped fill the gap.
"Nik came on board during the previous Wheelchair Tennis Malaysia (WTM) president's tenure (Datuk Zakaria Musa) and honestly, he did a great job for us.
"He was purely a volunteer and was not paid a single cent.
"We had no clue what he was up to in his personal life as he never took advantage of our athletes. Obviously we were all shocked by what happened."
Current WTM president Lenny Ghandi made an emotional appeal to the public, hoping that the incident does not give wheelchair tennis an undeserved bad reputation.
"We have worked so hard to build up the sport over the years and only recently have we seen some sponsors willing to help us out," said Lenny.
"I hope this does not ‘kill’ us entirely as we have players with tremendous potential. We need more support so we can go further in the sport."
National players won two gold medals and emerged overall champions of the wheelchair tennis competition at the Kuala Lumpur Asean Para Games last month.
It was the first time in history that Malaysia had won gold in tennis at either the Sea Games or the Asean Para Games.