Saturday, December 13, 2014

Media icons inducted to OCM Hall of Fame


 Last man standing Ian

By Tony Mariadasss

The Malaysian sports fraternity has gone through many phases over the years, but one man who can testify each phase is sports journalist extraordinaire Ian Pereira.

Ian is the last man standing in the sports print media who has served with passion and pride for more than 45 years since the 60s era.

Till today, Ian who is 73 is fit as a fiddle and would put to shame many younger sports journalists, is still employed with the Malay Mail. He swims every day without fail.

He today remains an elder statesman of Malaysian sports journalism, with regular insights into sports personalities of the 1960s and beyond via the sports pages of the Malay Mail.
Ian brings to his reporting the precision, patience and sporting shrewdness and human understanding which are the stamp of his work, but history, research and humanity remain his love.

Ian built a career in journalism, starting out as a rookie reporter with the Straits Times in Kuala Lumpur in April (? Year please) under the editorship of Norman Siebel whom he considered the best of the lot he worked under. He always wanted to be all that Mr Siebel was.

So what has kept him going all these years?

I kept to journalism because it was the second best thing I enjoyed doing other than my first which was engineering. I wanted to be an engineer, but that was not to be,” said Ian who will be among the pioneer members of the print and electronic media to be inducted into the Olympic Council of Malaysia Hall of Fame tonight.

Frankie D’Cruz, Emeritus Editor of Malay Mail and who grew up reading sports reports written by Ian had this to say: “Hallmark journalist Ian Pereira could very easily amaze you with the sharpness of his journalistic insight. He is the definite professional, someone blessed as he inevitably will be with a lifetime spent totally immersed in journalism.

Twice-honoured national Sportswriter of the Year in 1973 and 1983, Ian is a humble hero, a team player who has never capitalised on his celebrity even as the current crop of journalists wax lyrical about his inimitable art of thoughtful writing.

“With ferocious work ethics, Ian remains a fine example of courage and tenacity to inspire his present colleagues at Malay Mail to display professional detachment and reserve while reporting.

 “Sport needs a robust stable of talented journalists whose job is to get below the surface and under the skin of those who ruin the character of the human spirit. Ian is still there for them.

“It's risky journalism but carries a higher value and Ian has been the light of young sports journalists wishing to make the most of their careers.

Working with Ian is a gift, an inspiration, and a special thrill. He tells young sportswriters: “Make history, or lose and be history”.

In recent years, Ian whose desirable trait of human understanding is imposing has stamped a credible mark on remembering the dearly departed, including sportsmen and officials, in his regular column in Malay Mail ‘A Life Remembered’.

His love for 'human interest' stories and his great art, born out of his generous natural sympathies, was to get people to talk about their lives without reserve or artifice.

My first lesson in sports journalism as a stringer with the Malay Mail in 1978 was given by Ian.

I still clearly remember how much interest he took in me and went through each article I wrote with a fine tooth comb and not every encounter was pleasant.

He would tear me apart for mistakes on tables and taught me how it done. Till today, whenever I have tabulate a table, Ian’s face appears before me.

He was a strict teacher. Critical most of time. But that is Ian for you. He is a stickler for perfection.

Till today, he still remains the same telling the younger reporters off when they spell names wrongly, get their facts wrong or hand in slip-shot work.

The only difference is that Ian is now seen as the ‘grumpy old man’ by Gen-Y journalists. But what they fail to realise is that he is just practicing what journalism was at its height and the high standards that were achieved.
But nothing will stop the hard-core sports journalist Ian is. He still plods on.

 Away from work, Ian is a delight to have around especially at parties.
Having spent his time picking his guitar during his free time, he will be ever-ready to render the beat of country music and songs which in turn has rubbed on to his three children, Lyn-John, Jo-Ann and Dwight.

The song most associated with Ian was Johnny Horton's North to Alaska, which he sang well playing the guitar since his early teenage years.

Ian also remembers birthdays of friends and relatives at home and abroad and sends them greeting cards and notes of encouragement and words of wisdom.

In one such birthday greetings, he sent a card to Bill Clinton after he read both volumes of the president's memoirs - the Early Years and the Presidential years - and made comments on them in the card.

In response President Clinton sent him a short sweet note concluding: "It means a lot to me that you have taken such a personal interest in my work.
"I deeply appreciate your warm words of support.
"All the best to you, Ian." Signed - Bill Clinton.

Ian received similar letters of appreciation from Singapore President Wee Kim Wee and American Country music legend Johnny Cash.

Still, Ian's old fashioned charm and ways contrasted strikingly with an enthusiastic boyishness which never left him.

He believes that difference in people are important and makes life more interesting, but our common humanity mattered more to him.

His words of wisdom to the younger generation of journalists: “Like in any other profession, utmost dedication matters most. I gave it my all. You give the world your best and the best will come back to you. It's also 99 per cent perspiration and one per cent inspiration. I also had a fair share of scoops and worked under some great men.”

Congratulations Ian. You truly deserve to be inducted into the OCM Hall of Fame and have done the sports journalism fraternity proud. We salute you Ian!


OCM honours the voices of sports

Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) for their 60th anniversary have decided to give them long overdue recognition and honour sports journalists and commentators.

In conjunction of OCM’s Annual Dinner and Awards tonight (Saturday) which will held at the Tan Sri Hamzah Arena at Wisma OCM which will be graced by the hourable youth and sports minister, Khairy Jamaluddin,  five sports journalists and three commentators will be inducted into the Hall of Fame for the very first time.

The International Olympic Council (IOC) Women & Sport Achievement Diploma, OCM Women & Sport Awards and IOC trophy will also be awarded tonight.

Four of the journalists will be inducted posthumously and these writers were household names during their era.

“We have decided to induct sports journalists and commentators among sportsmen, sportswomen and sports administrators because they have played an equal role in the development of sports, highlighting the sportsmen and women, giving coverage to events and even spotting talent,” said OCM secretary-general Datuk Sieh Kok Chi.

“Those who are inducted certainly are icons of sports for without them, sports would not have flourished to what it is today.

“Be it their coverage of events, their comments even if it is critical, their observations as an independent person, their recommendations and above all promoting the athletes has shaped what sports is do.

“The media both print and electronic play a very important especially in modern times when wide coverage is given to sports. But in past when sports coverage limited, it is these personalities who are inducted today that gave the much needed publicity.

“Their writings and commentaries were much valued and have set benchmarks for the younger generations of sportswriters and commentators to follow, which is indeed a hard act to follow.”

Indeed, those inducted are considered “gurus’ to the sports journalism fraternity.
Many of the current sports media personnel may even know or even heard of the many being inducted, but rest assured these names will definitely ring a bell to the older generation of athletes, sports officials and sports followers alike.

Heading the list is the late Norman Hope Leslie Siebel one of Malaysia's finest sports journalist of his era. He wrote with passion and authority with deep understanding of the game.

He wrote from the dirt tracks of the Kampong Pandan sports complex to the Olympic heights of Mexico City which was the last of many Olympic Games he covered for the Straits Times and later the New Straits Times.

Norman Siebel as he was more popularly known was sports writer, sports and columnist.

Besides the daily reporting, Norman had a weekly highly acclaimed commentary column titled Sportsfront which ran for years.

The high esteem with which Norman was held was reflected in the fact that FAM's founding president Tunku Abdul Rahman always wanted Norman present before starting the association's annual general meeting. 

“I was present once when delegates stood up at the FAM House along Birch Road when Tunku walked in, but before taking the chair, he turned and asked secretary late Datuk Kwok Kin Keng if Norman was present. No, said Datuk Kwok. "Then call him, we'll wait for him," said the Tunku,’ recalled rookie reporter than Ian Pereira. 

Another legendary sports journalist inducted today is the late Mansoor Rahman.

Mansoor Rahman migrated to Malaysia from Sri Lanka in 1963 to begin a career as sports reporter with the Straits Times and later The News Straits Times in Kuala Lumpur.

Soft-spoken and unassuming in character, Mansoor generally covered all sports with a sense of authority leading to his becoming Sports Editor some 12 years later.

Mansoor passed away when he collapsed while playing social tennis in 1997 aged 58.

Also to be inducted is the late Francis Emmanuel who is synonymous with sports.

He was a fond figure in the Malaysian world of sports journalism.

His genius lay in drumming up a thread of wit and humour through a dull day's play.

Then perhaps he repaid editors who allowed him a degree of licence for some ripe gossip from the beer tent.

All said and done, Francis was aloud, lusty, likable guy who won many front-paged scoops and always had two olives in every glass of Martini he held.

In his low baritone voice, he often sang Blueberry Hill in the likeness of Fats Domino, much to the cheers of his piers.

He even befriended World heavyweight boxing champion Mohammad Ali as no other Malaysian reporter did. He followed Ali on his early morning workouts in preparation for his World Heavyweight title fight against Britain's Joe Bugner at Merdeka Stadium on in June 1975.

When a foreign reporter asked Ali if his next fight was to be in Manila, Philippines, Ali asked the reporter for the source of his information. The reporter told Ali that it was Francis Emmanuel to which Ali replied: "If Francis told you that, then it must be true."

From the Bahasa Malaysia sports journalism, the late Zainuddin Bendahara has been honoured to be inducted to night too.

Zainuddin joined the English newspaper The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad in 1962.

Zainuddin did well to ascend the Sports Editor's chair of Berita Harian at a time when Malaysian sport enjoyed some of its finest moments.

 A general news reporter and later as entertainment writer for Berita Harian he was promoted as the Sports Editor of Berita Harian from 1978 till 1990.

He left the NST group at Balai Berita to join the national news agency
Bernama in corporate news. At the same time he was Editor for Nusantara Publishers as well.

He later joined the subs desk in general news for Bernama until his retirement.

Zainuddin was elected as the President of Sportswriters Association of Malayisa (SAM) from 1980 till 1990. He was again picked to head SAM one term 1998-2000.

He passed away in 2007.

From the sports commentating world Datuk Abdul Rahim Mohamed Razali or popularly known as Rahim Razali is legend who is regarded as the ‘voice of Malaysian sports’.

He is rightly inducted to the Hall of Fame as an icon for the younger generation of broadcasters to emulate.

The 75-year-old Batu Gajah commentator who still commentates started
As a temporary broadcasting assistant Grade 3 in the Malay Service of Radio Malaya in 1958.

Since his interest was in sports since schooldays, he was asked to try his hand at sports commentating for Radio. Thus began his career as sports commentator/presenter.  He was sent to Bangkok to cover the inaugural SEAP Games for Radio Malaya in 1959.

His career as a TV Sports commentator/presenter spanned over a period of more than 40 years, starting in 1965. During that period he had covered five Olympic Games, six Asian Games, four Commonwealth Games, numerous SEA Games, five World Cup Football Finals, four World Cup Hockey Finals, numerous Thomas Cup finals (Beginning 1967), Merdeka Football Tournaments, Malaysia Cup Tournaments, and various other championships and tournaments involving a variety of sports, including the live commentary for the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship between Muhamad Ali and Joe Bugner in KL in 1975.
Apart from his involvement in sports as Commentator/Presenter for TV and Radio, he was also past president of the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM). And apart from a career in the corporate sector, he also established himself as an award-winning Director, writer, producer and actor in the country's Film, TV and Theatre industries. 

Amran Hamid is another broadcasting icon being inducted today.
Born on 7 December 1940, he joined Radio Malaysia in 1963 as broadcasting assistant, the year TV Malaysia was launched in the country.

It was a case of a hobby turning into vocation. Amran was a keen radio listener as well a follower of sports. He was at the right place at the right time. Radio Malaysia was extending its broadcasting hours in the 60s. Sports had a great following. It was natural for Amran to be the early sports commentator when he joined RTM. He later became team leader for the broadcasting coverages taking him all over the country.
At that time TV Malaysia was looking for experienced commentator for its sporting coverages. Amran fit in well as his official duty was mainly office hours and the TV coverages were mainly in the evening. He was better known as a TV personality then.
This saw him travel to many countries hosting big sporting events. He was the commentator at the Olympics in Montreal Canada 1976, Football World Cup Buenos Aires 1978, The Commonwealth Games in Chrischurch, New Zealand 1974, The Hockey World Cup in Holland 1973, Kuala Lumpur 1975 and Bombay 1977 and many more international and national events including the Asian Games and the SEA Games.
Amran was also active in the Malaysian Sportswriters Association (SAM) being its Deputy President under the late Zainuddin Bendahara for two terms in the 80's bringing it out of the doldrums to its present status.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Give priority to security

IN the wake of acts of hooliganism by local fans at last Sunday’s AFF Cup semifinal first leg between Malaysia and Vietnam, it is time the FA of Malaysia, all state FAs and clubs appoint security chiefs.

I am not talking about incorporating police officers into their security committee but hiring professional security officers for their respective stadiums.

These officials will be responsible for planning the security and deploying their men to ensure everything is in order. This includes closed-circuit television through which the security manager can monitor the stadium, spot trouble and act swiftly.

This is going to cost money but shouldn’t FAM, the state FAs and clubs spend money on security rather than wait for lives to be lost?

It is no secret some Malaysian fans are turning into the kind of hooligans seen in Europe.

This is a dangerous trend that needs to be nipped in the bud.

It is great the stadiums are filling up again these days, whether it is an international, M-League or Malaysia Cup match. Cheer all you want for the national or local team, but don’t forget your sporting spirit.

For more families today, football matches have become a way to spend time together.

The last thing we want to see is the women and children getting hurt in the stadiums.

It was indeed a sad sight to see Vietnamese women cowering in fear as their male companions were assaulted by some unruly Malaysian fans last Sunday.
I was told by a fan – Nur Fatin Najihah, a final year physiotherapist undergraduate – who, on the way home from the match with her family, saw a Vietnamese man being assaulted while his wife who was holding a baby watched in horror.

Fatin’s father Fadzil immediately got out of their car to stop the assault. He showed the Vietnamese fan that there are Malaysian fans who believe in fair play.

I am writing this column before the return leg clash in Hanoi. I don’t know what will transpire at the My Dinh Stadium, but I hope the Vietnamese fans don’t reciprocate the action of a small group of unruly Malaysians.

It is worth mentioning smoke bombs and flares have become a common sight at matches in Malaysia despite being banned.

FAM and various states have been fined for such incidents. In fact, the national body was only recently fined US$10,000 (RM34,895) by the Asian Football Confederation for poor spectator conduct in a friendly between Malaysia and the Philippines.

This is money that can be better spent on beefing up security at the stadiums to avoid trouble in the first place.

Then, security heads can be held responsible for any breach as was the case in Spain where the government ordered the sacking of the security heads of football clubs Atletico Madrid and Deportivo Coruna.

On Tuesday, Junior Security Minister Francisco Martinez announced the move to a parliamentary commission investigating the incident where fans went on a rampage with metal bars and knives hours before the Nov 30 match. One fan died.

Spain’s Football Federation and government-controlled Higher Sports Council have said tougher sanctions on clubs over violent behaviour by supporters will come into force on Dec 15.

Surely we do not want to wait for a riot before acting. The Selangor police did well in swiftly releasing photographs of the individuals involved in the fracas on Sunday.

Five of those surrendered to the police, had their statements recorded and released.

They will be called to assist the investigation.

Ten others have yet to surrender and been have asked to do so quickly. But I feel the police should be firmer by issuing warrants of arrest.

The police need to show that they are serious about clamping down on hooliganism and take stern action to deter others from following suit in the future.

Above all, we have to clear the bad image that these few unruly fans have painted to our visitors and football fraternity. We need to show that we do not condone violence in sports.

Tony Mariadass is a sports journalist
with more than three decades of
experience and is passionate about
local sports. He can be reached at
Twitter handle: @tmariadass

Saturday, December 6, 2014

'Prof' returns to grassroots

By Tony Mariadass

If there is complete footballer in the country, it must be Abdul Nasir Yusof or better known at ‘Prof Nasir’.

The former international who hails from Johor has spent almost his entire life with football and he is not about to give up at his late age of 53.

Complete footballer

Nasir is among the rare breed of footballers in Malaysia who had started as a schoolboy star to graduate from one step to another to become a national player and then when he quit, he continued as a coach.

And at each level Nasir has acquired success which many can only dream of.

Having from the 80s era when under coach K. Sugumaran, Johor became a force at the youth level emerging joint Razak Cup champions with Kelantan in 1981 and champion in 1982 defeating Terengganu, Nasir logged in more than 40 years of life to football.

Nasir, who was already noted for his midfield prowess from his early playing days playing with the likes Lahad Datu, Khalid Shahdan, Ismal Ibrahim, Salim Mohd Noor, Dollah Salleh and Nasir Mohamad Noor.

These group of players went on to win Johor’s first Malaysia Cup in 1985 defeating then Federal Territory (now Kuala Lumpur 2-0). Nasir played for Johor for 15 seasons.

Nasir, a member of the first Tiger squad in 1982 under coaches by Ahmad Shafie and Abdul Rahman Ibrahim, graduated to the national team the same year making his debut in the New Delhi Asian Games.

Nasir also had the honour of playing alongside legendary George Best when he appeared as a guest player for the Tiger’s team against the national team. Kevin Keegan had also played as a guest player for the Tiger’s team in the Merdeka tournament in 1984, but Nasir was already playing for the national team coached by the late Englishman Frank Lord.

Nasir capped 76 international caps before he quit in 1994 after playing in Pre-Asian Cup tournament.

Family of footballers

Nasir who comes from a family 15 siblings was the apple of his late father Haji Mohamad Yusof, who played for Johor in 1938 and 1939 and left disillusioned because some of the bad habits that came with the game which saw players indulging in drinking and smoking.

But that did not stop the headmaster of Lembaga Kemajuan Tanah School in Tebrau in 1967 from encouraging his children to take up the game when he formed the school team with six of his sons and Nasir was only seven.

While Nasir went all the way don national colours and make football his way of life, his younger sister Samiaza had played for the state and national women’s team, while his brothers Taibah played for Johor in 1984-85 and Nor Hakim and Nor Halim (1986-1987).

Among Nasir’s proudest moment with Johor include winning the double title in 1991 when they bagged the Semi-Pro League and Malaysia Cup title under coach Michael Urukalo.

As a national player, Nasir played in the Asian Games, Sea Games, Merdeka tournament, pre-World Cup, pre-Olympic, pre-Asian Cup, Bangladesh President Cup, Seoul President’s Cup and the 1991 Malaysia versus England friendly international match in June 1991.

Coaching career

With football in his blood, it was only natural that Nasir with all his experience gained from his playing days and known for his brains for the game, he imparted his knowledge to the up and coming players.

Nasir being among the early FA of Malaysia A Licence holders (his licence number is  0021), has been involved in coaching at various levels – from youth academy in Johor (1998-1999), assistant coach with Johor State team (1997-1997; 2003-04; 2008-2010), Johor President’s Cup (2002), MP Muar Fc (2011-2012) youth development coach at national level (2007-2008) and national assistant coach (2004 – 2007).

Asked if he had any regrets that he was not given the national coach job, he simply replied: “It is every football coach’s dream to be a national coach. But I was not given an opportunity, but I do not begrudge it.”

Asked if he had applied for the national coach job recently which was given to his teammate and friend, Dollah, he said: “No I did not. I believe that the national body know the coaches in Malaysia and if they feel that someone has the credentials and capabilities to coach the national team, they should offer him the position.

“But I am glad for Dollah and even last week him in Singapore and we met and exchanged some notes. I wish him all the best for the semifinal match against Vietnam. He is doing his best under the circumstances, but we cannot expect overnight miracles.

“Everyone coach needs time to instil his philosophy of the game and finalising his team. I strongly believe that Dollah is a good coach with great amount of experience, but he needs time.”


Nasir who has earned the reputation as a midfield maestro and for his thinking qualities as ‘Professor’ has won several awards during his career which includes the Best Midfield player award from SAM Glamoir World of Sport 1992 and even in his veteran days, he earned the best midfielder player’s award in 2011 at the 1st Ex-Internationals Veteran Football tournament.

And more recently, Nasir was inducted to the Johor FA Hall of Fame – the first local player to be given the honour – after Yugoslav Ervin Boban was inducted earlier.

Back to basics

Having gone through the cycle in football, Nasir in May decided that he wants to give more to football and this time which remains a legacy.

Nasir, has setup the ‘D’Prof Football Academy’ (D’Prof Legends – DPL) to groom fresh talent from the state of Johor.

“I have always wanted to work at grassroots and develop players. But I have been busy with one thing or other. But now finally, I have time on my hand and have decided that I start this academy,” said the father of four.

“I believe there is tremendous amount of talent in Johor waiting to be tapped and given the opportunity to be guided to nurture their talent.”

Nasir has setup two centres - one in Skudai and the other in Setia Tropika.

“I have about 100 children aged from eight to 15 attending and have ten coaches who are assisting me.

“It is my wish to develop several players for the future of Malaysian football as part of my contribution to the game that has been my life.”

Nasir also hopes that Malaysia will soon come with a Malaysian style of play to stamp their authority.

“We have done it in the past with players like the late Mokhtar Dahari and his teammates and I see no reason why we cannot do it again. It is no use trying to copy styles of other nations when we do not have the players of that calibre to play that way.

“We have our own qualities and strength. Let us use it to make a formidable team. We are a Malaysian team with qualities from a multi-racial society. Blending all the qualities we will make a very versatile team.”

While Nasir dreams on to see the day Malaysian football will be branding their very style of play, he is contended with a full life from football as he returns to continue do his small part to keep on contributing to Malaysian football.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Keep your feet on the ground


 Level Field  

Keep your feet on the ground

Everyone, from players, officials, fans and politicians to even sports journalists and commentators, seems to be euphoric about Malaysia qualifying for the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup semifinal after having - narrowly - beaten Singapore last Saturday.
I don't want to be a party-pooper but the win must be seen for what it truly is and we have to approach the first leg of the semifinal against Vietnam with humility.
There is nothing great about beating Singapore. After all, it is a traditional rival that is ranked lower (158) than us (155) by FIFA.
To top it all, the victory came during injury time through a penalty kick awarded by the brave Omani referee Al Kaf Ahmed Abu Bakar Said after Singapore’s Hafiz Abu Sujad challenged Amri Yahyah in the box.
The Singaporeans protested but to no avail. In the replay, Hafiz is seen making contact with Amri’s back, although the latter was already on his way down after jumping high to meet a cross. It just looks as if Hafiz and another defender Shakir Hamzah went for the aerial ball too and there seems no intention to bring Amri down.
But the referee saw something else and his decision was final.
Malaysia were lucky to have got that break in the final minutes of the match for Safiq Rahim to step up and score.
Indra Putra Mahayuddin’s goal that came minutes later, to me, is nothing to shout about. 
In a tactical decision, Singapore pushed all eleven men into Malaysia’s box when they got a corner in the dying minutes as an equaliser would have seen them qualify for the semifinal. At that point, it did not matter if they lost 2-1 or 4-1.
As it turned out, their gamble did not pay off and in the counter- attack, while goalkeeper Hassan Sunny was trying to get back to his position, Indra had an open goal in front of him.
Of course, it took composure for Indra to score with the Singapore defenders rushing towards him, so all the credit goes to him.
All I am saying is that let us not go overboard.
Can you imagine the hullabaloo if the score had remained at 1-1 and Malaysia were shown the exit?
Meanwhile, the scene of a group of commentators from a private Malaysian station celebrating like fans went viral in social media. Where is the impartiality of sports journalists and commentators? They should have been doing their job instead of joining the fans in their celebration.  
The same people who sang the team their praises, jumping from their seats screaming with joy, would have been the first to tear the team apart if they had lost.
National coach Dollah Salleh would have been crucified, goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat would have been massacred for his blunder in Singapore in finding the equaliser, Safee Sali would have been a punching bag for indiscipline -- he was caught on camera smoking -- and the brickbats would have been endless.
Let us not forget how we ranted against referee Al Kaf Ahmed after he flashed Gary Steven Robbart a second yellow card, thus expelling him from the game against Myanmar before halftime.
This is the same referee who gave Malaysia a lifeline on Saturday.
Everyone must realise that all that the victory over Singapore has given Malaysia is borrowed time.
If we take Vietnam lightly just because we are playing at home first, we may suffer the consequences.
A good friend of mine and a senior sports journalist from Singapore, Suresh Nair, assessed the game in this manner:
"It's a truism that you play your hardest until the final whistle. The defending champions (Singapore) just let their guard down after the late 1-1 equaliser and paid a heavy price.
"Penalty row? Absolutely not from a referee trainer's view as there was an unwarranted aerial tug in the penalty box.
"Fixing? No evidence in this patriotic marquee match. Lucky? Maybe, but in life, everything hinges on luck but you have got to work your butt off before Lady Luck delivers.
"My longer-term worry: Singapore and Malaysia appear to have lost their 'hunger' while the rest of Asean have awoken from their slumber. If Malaysia can get over Vietnam over two legs, it will be short of another miracle. But after what the Tigers achieved at the Singapore Sports Hub, miracles can happen again.”
Now, this is an unbiased assessment and what the readers want to know.
Yes, I am Malaysian and I support my national team. But as a sports journalist, the fan in me stays out of sight.
I seriously hope Malaysia qualify for the final, but I will not be surprised if the Philippines won the Cup this time around.
As for Malaysia, what we have now is a stop-gap measure and probably a team good enough for a tournament. Try using the same players for another tournament and disaster awaits Malaysia. At the end of the day, we need long-term planning.
Let us not rejoice in wins over minnows in regional tournaments. Let us look at the big picture. Otherwise, we will have teams like the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos and maybe even Timor Leste making us a laughing stock soon.
Everyone has a role to play but let us play it professionally.
 TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than three
decades of experience and is ­­­­­
passionate about local sports. He
can be reached at tmariadass@ Twitter handle: @