The news of former Penang and national footballer Salahuddin Che Ros’s severe financial woes which has resulted in him sleeping on the streets on his regular trips to IJN in Kuala Lumpur for treatment is saddening and cannot be ignored.
An exemplary footballer, Salahuddin’s contributions, not only to Penang, but to the nation are many and his lack of finances today is a sad reflection of how former athletes are taken care of by the government.
I note that the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and the Penang state government have initiated efforts to contact and assist Salahuddin which is very much appreciated and commended.
However, there is a bigger problem here i.e. that of the long term interests of such athletes who, after donning state or national colours, ought to be looked after financially as well the same way government servants receive pensions after their retirement.
As I understand it, there are no long term benefits currently for former athletes with the exception of former Olympic and Paralympic medalists who draw a lifetime pension from the government.
In this regard, the new PH government ought to lead by example by introducing a pension scheme for all former national and state athletes and also perhaps provide for medical insurance for them post retirement as they are no different from former government servants as far as I am concerned.
No doubt, such an effort may not be easy given the current financial status of the country but it should be a priority of the government in the near future.
Furthermore, such incentives will certainly encourage more to get involved in sport from a young age as they would be confident of some form of security upon retirement.
In the meanwhile, I call upon Youth and Sports Minister, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman to intervene in Salahuddin’s case by providing some form of temporary financial aid to him at this time given his urgent need for the same. There can be no doubt that his case is a genuine one which concerns his health condition which must be looked into immediately.
It is hoped that cases such as Salahuddin’s do not recur in the future and the government must play its part in looking after the interests of these former athletes after the end of their careers.
It is the least that the government can do in recognition of their contributions to the nation.