Saturday, 19 January 2019

Yayuk Basuki, Four-time Asian Games Champions: Bonuses are Poison

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Yayuk Basuki once brought glory to Indonesia in the Asian Games. The two golds she won in women`s doubles and mixed doubles with the gold bagged by boxer Pino Bahari helped catapult Indonesia to the seventh position in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.

    That in fact was the last time Indonesia, which ended as the runner-up when it hosted the event in 1962, cracked the top 10 in the final medal count in the games participated by athletes from all over Asia. In Incheon, South Korea four years ago, Indonesia was on the 17th. For the coming event to be held from August 18 to September 2, President Joko Widodo has aimed an ambitious target: to make it to the top 10 again.

    Yayuk who won four golds in three Asian Games-in Seoul (1986), in Beijing (1990) and in Bangkok (1998)-at first made light of the high target which will take 16 golds to achieve. However, she turned optimistic after seeing a plethora of non-Olympic sport branches-which Indonesia excels at-lined up for the games. "It’s a realistic target. But, we certainly must refer to Olympic sports," she said during a special interview with Tempo’s Reza Maulana and Angelina Anjar at the Plaza Senayan, Jakarta, last week.

    The professional tennis player who was once ranked 19th by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) said that Indonesia’s performance continued to slump due to the disarray in the sports management. One of the nagging issues is the national sports system law itself. Yayuk singled out the clause that prohibits governors to head the regional chapters of the Indonesian National Sports Committee (KONI). She said the law enforced in 2005 left athlete training in the regions in limbo due to fund restraints. After all, the national training camps depend largely on regional athletes.

    That is one of the reasons why Yayuk, in full Nany Rahayu Basuki, decided to become a legislator-to revise that law, among others. The National Mandate Party (PAN) politician also wants to fight for pension benefits for athletes through the revision of the law. She said it was time to regulate provision of rewards for athletes, though not in the form of billions of rupiah. "Bonuses can distract athletes," said the member of the Commission X of the House of Representatives (DPR) which, among others, oversees sports-related matters.

    Do you see the top 10 target for the 2018 Asian Games as realistic? 

    I laughed it off when I first heard last year. But, as days go by, I saw that so many non-Olympic sport branches of the host’s choices would be placed and I felt it was realistic as the target could be achieved through these non-Olympic sports. We need at least 16 golds.

    Can it be higher? 

    People who are not very familiar with sports, including my colleagues in the (DPR’s) Commission X and the government sometimes asked for more. They said we should aim at the top seven. I just kept quiet because they don’t understand.

    As a former professional athlete, do you see the difference in priority between the Olympic and non-Olympic sports? 

    No problem. It’s just that our objective is to play at the international level. So, certainly, sports should be Olympic sports. Roller-skating, for example, doesn’t belong to Olympic sport, but rather the community sport. Not that we should sideline that sport, but, if we want to focus, that sports branch can be managed by the Indonesian Recreational Sports Federation using a different budget.

    What Olympic sports can contribute medals? 

    Not many. Badminton and athletics at most.

    Indonesia’s wins and ranks continue to drop in the Asian Games and SEA games. What went wrong? 

    This is the reason I joined the DPR. I want to work towards revising the national sports system (SKN) law. Actually, we don’t need to revise much; just three or four clauses. But, it couldn’t be revised before the Asian Games. 

    What points need to be revised? 

    The most crucial point is the prohibition of governors to head the regional KONI. The rationale was to turn sports into an industry to avoid conflict of interest. But, in reality, we can’t do that yet. In the past, many entrepreneurs wanted to help. Nowadays, who wants to help if there is no benefit in return.

    What is the problem if the regional KONI is not headed by the governor? 

    At this time, the regional KONI that can still be chaired by governors are those in the special autonomy regions, namely Papua and Aceh. They are backed by the regional budget. If the chairmen are from the private sector, it won’t be easy for them to get the budget. Meanwhile, the private sector is not willing to sponsor activities. That’s what caused the drop. So far, the central programs rely on regional athletes. There will be adverse effect if there are no more athletes in the regions or their quality declines. It will also be difficult for us to urge parents to steer their kids to become athletes. They always ask, "After being an athlete, what’s next?" So, when we revise the SKN law, athletes’ retirement benefits should also be included.

    Isn’t there a regulation already regarding reward in that law? 

    There is a point on benefits in the reward clause but not in detail. In the end, they are given only bonuses. Bonuses are poison. They don’t educate.

    Do you disagree with giving bonuses? 

    I don’t disagree but I’m talking about how they affect the mindset. Sometimes, I tested athletes by asking, "What are you seeking by becoming athletes?" They replied, "Seeking money, aunty." Gosh, I feel old being called aunty, (laughs). Well, it’s not wrong but not fully right either. What we need to nurture is the mindset to become champions. Don’t get easily satisfied before you become champions. When you do become champions, wealth will come on its own. If you become an athlete just to earn money, then you misfocus. You don’t focus on winning.

    How much did you earn when you won the Asian Games titles? 

    In the 1986 Asian Games, I received Rp500,000-perhaps about Rp5 million in today’s value-and a thank you message. In the 1990 games, it increased to Rp1million. So not in billion.

    What are you proposing for athletes’ pension benefits? 

    I want to have everything written in detail. How much benefits for the Olympic, the Asian Games, SEA games champions, etc. But, personally, I don’t agree if SEA games champions get pension benefits. I don’t mean to belittle their roles but pension benefits are permanent. Options can vary. Could be monthly freebies. Or like in Italy and Romania, Olympic champions can join the military and are immediately given the rank of colonel. My friend, Thai tennis player Tamarine Tanasugarn, joined the police force. Sometimes, she goes to work but sometimes she plays for them in certain events. Or sometimes, she acts as the brand ambassador. 

    Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine