Malaysian Touch pauses all activities due to nationwide lockdown

June 27, 2021 @ 0:00 UTC

Malaysian Touch Association (MTA) took decisive action as COVID-19 once again gripped the Southeast Asian country. Then once sports are allowed to recommence, MTA will launch the Malaysia National Development Tournament.

On the 27th of May 2021 President of the Malaysian Touch Association (MTA) Hj. Ahmad Sufiani Johari directed that all Touch related activities be halted. This was in response to an alarming spike in the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths in the South-East Asian country. 

Mr. Sufiani took this action before the Malaysian government imposed a strict lockdown on June 1 2021. “Currently we are undergoing a nationwide lockdown. The Covid-19 Delta variant has hit Malaysia and many deaths are being reported daily. I have instructed the MTA, all State Touch Associations (STA) and clubs to stand down. We believe this immediate action is crucial to protect and save as many lives as possible. All planned training, courses and tournaments have been put on hold.” 

Phased recovery

The Government of Malaysia has put in place the National Recovery Plan (NRP) which proposes a gradual and phased recovery from the current situation. According to this plan, certain benchmarks will have to be met before there can be any consideration given to an easing of lockdown protocols. The NRP also contains an expected timeline for achieving these benchmarks. 

The MTA has put in place a Pandemic Reset Plan which aligns with the 4 phases of the government NRP. This provides a road map for the Touch community to follow for each of the NRP phases. 

The most pertinent of the 4 NRP phases for Malaysian Touch is phase 3 because once phase 3 has been achieved some sporting activity can resume. The benchmarks that will allow a move to phase 3 are that Covid-19 cases are under 2000 nationally and that the healthcare system is not under stress. It also requires that 40 % of Malaysia’s population is fully vaccinated. The government is projecting that phase 3 could possibly begin in September 2021. 

The early signs are good, according to MTA President Mr Sufiani, with daily infection rates beginning to fall and nearly 14% of the population already fully vaccinated, “We believe MTA should be back on track to restart our Touch activities beginning September 1st while keeping our eyes closely on the country’s threshold indicator set in phase 3 of the NRP.” 

Big plans ahead

The MTA are highly motivated to overcome this interruption as quickly as possible. President of the MTA Hj. Ahmad Sufiani Johari set the sport of Touch in Malaysia some extremely ambitious development targets within the MTA 10 -year plan, which was unveiled earlier this year. The 10-year plan aims to have Malaysia become a fully developed Touch nation by the 2031 World Cup and to win Malaysia’s first World Cup medal at that tournament. 

The MTA has used the pandemic disruption to put in place measures that will assist in the rapid expansion of the sport in Malaysia. One notable achievement was having 100 people attend a FIT referee workshop for the 12 Asian National Touch Organisations (NTO) in March this year. 

The MTA has been active in its efforts to foster relationships with corporate sponsors. Malaysia Airport Holdings, Malaysia Airline Systems, Etiqa Holdings, Ambank and Konsortium Transonic Sabah are on the MTA “ List of private agencies for collaboration,” according to Mr Sufiani. 

The MTA plans to continue fostering the good relationship it has developed with the Malaysian government since before the 2019 World Cup and as such will seek to collaborate with government agencies such as the Olympic Council of Malaysia, the National Sports Council and the National Sports Institute. 

The 2019 World Cup generated significant media coverage for Touch in Malaysia with 12 local media organisations having covered the event. The MTA is developing a relationship with the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia to encourage continued media exposure for the sport.

Youth development will be crucial to the success of the MTA 10-year plan. There are already over 600 school-based youth players in Malaysia. The MTA Youth Commission is intent on increasing the participation of young people in all parts of the country through cooperation with the Malaysia School Sport Council and the Malaysia University Sport Council. 

Post lockdown plans

The MTA intends to hit the ground running as soon as the government allows team sport to recommence. It is planning to stage the Malaysia National Development Tournament in September. This will be followed by the Malaysia National Touch League tournament from December 3-5 this year. This important tournament will double as the selection trials for Malaysia’s high-performance teams. The tournament will take place at the 2019 World Cup venue in Putrajaya and will feature 7 divisions from Men’s and Women’s Open to Men’s 50. 

There will be a dramatic increase in the number of Malaysian teams at international tournaments going forward. The 2022 Asian Touch Cup and the 2023 World Cup could see 7 teams from Malaysia competing. Malaysia sent 3 teams to World Cup 2019. The MTA will also send at least 2 teams, Boys 18 and Girls 18, to the 2023 Youth Touch World Cup in England.

Malaysia rides out the storm

The pandemic has seen parts of the Touch world relatively unaffected and others unable to play for long periods. Malaysia is currently going through a difficult period however there is no doubt it will emerge from the lockdown in a strong position. The MTA, under the outstanding leadership of Hj. Ahmad Sufiani Johari has the vision and highly detailed planning in place to overcome any challenge. “We look forward to normalcy and hope that we can achieve it soon.”