KUALA LUMPUR: It can be a daunting task for one, as a mother, to take care of seven children and serve as a board member of an international corporation as well, but this has not deterred Mimi Afzan Afza from being a sports administrator too.
And, in sports administration, she has taken on futsal, a sport dominated by men.
The request for her to get involved in futsal administration came in 2004 from a group of six players of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) when she was accompanying her children to a futsal game. Mimi, 54, fondly known as ‘Aunty Mimi’, never looked back since.
Mimi’s journey took her to the founding of the MAC Futsal Club, which has 96 members, to winning the inaugural men’s Malaysian Premier League Futsal (MPLF) tournament in 2019 as the team manager of the Selangor MAC team.
When the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) mooted to convert the National Futsal League into the MPLF in 2019, it was only open to state teams.
However, Football Association of Selangor (FAS) secretary-general Dr Johan Kamal Hamidon got Mimi’s club to participate under the state logo as it (FAS) was solely focused on football.
Under the guidance of Mimi, Selangor MAC won the inaugural season title with 10 wins in 13 games played, though many did not see them as a threat in the beginning.
“Of course, initially, when I managed and brought up the (futsal) team, people did not take them seriously or closed an eye when looking at the Selangor team,” she told Bernama.
Asked about challenges, Mimi replied: “I do not really foresee challenges in a male-dominated area. At the semi-pro/pro level of futsal, people tend to ignore that women can be equally good, if not better, in managing a team.
“In addition, some think that because I am a woman, I can be pushed around. That is where they are wrong. Since I am in a men’s world, I have to push and work myself harder to succeed.
“Being a woman manager, I think I brought about the type of culture that males do not bring in. Maybe, it is more like a family kind, motherly, more understanding, open and so on. The players call me aunty, even the coaches and management from my team and other teams, besides the FAM officials, call me aunty,” she said.
What’s more surprising is that the vice president (People & Culture) at Lynas Corporation Ltd is never too busy in fulfilling her responsibilities and lives up to the credo “when you don’t have time, you make time”.
Mimi said that before the Covid-19 pandemic hits, she used to travel from Kuantan to Shah Alam weekly to monitor the team’s training but, now, with the movement control order (MCO) in place and travel restrictions, she spends a few weeks in Kuantan and a few in Shah Alam.
Now that the 2020 MPLF has been called off due to the pandemic, Mimi is eager to defend the title when the 2021 season kicks off in June.
Prof Datuk Dr S. Shamala, (48), is another woman who has vast experience in sports administration spanning more than two decades.
She said it is time for women to fight against men for their place in administrative positions in sports bodies.
The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) deputy president and Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) vice president said the time when women were merely dependent on a 25 per cent quota of places in sports associations is over.
“You need to work as hard as men because they do work hard to make money and devote time for (sports administration) responsibilities. You should hold a position because you can contribute something, not because of your gender.
“Penetrating into the system, the level of the seriousness is the challenge that women have to overcome because women have a lot more obstacles than men, especially those who are married,” said the former international who started her administrative role as the Malaysian Women’s Hockey Association secretary in 1999.
Shamala, who is an academician at the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), advised married women involved in sports administration who want to focus on family and raising children to continue to be involved in sports on a smaller scale to keep abreast of things rather than a full stop.
OCM Women and Sport Committee chairman Datuk Mumtaz Jaafar, 59, said the involvement of women in sports administration in Malaysia is encouraging but she hoped to see more women take up the challenge in sports associations.
“More young women, especially the former athletes, should come forward to contribute to sports associations, while the leaders in the associations and the government should encourage them,” said Mumtaz, who is also the OCM vice president and the first woman to become deputy president of the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF).
Besides Mimi, Shamala and Mumtaz, many notable sports administrators have carved a name for themselves in the Malaysian sports scene while many others are still trying to enter.
They include former OCM secretary-general Datuk Low Beng Choo, who is also World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) general secretary; former swimming great Nurul Huda Abdullah, who is now a National Sports Council board member, and Malaysian Olympians Association (MOA) first woman president Noraseela Mohd Khalid. – Bernama