HOW do you go about fixing Malaysian soccer.
Well, if you ask Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, he will insist you start
with the youngsters.
The Frenchman says hard work must be done at youth level for Malaysia to
climb to greater heights.
"You will have to start with players from the ages of 10 to 18.
"This is the learning stage and a strong foundation is a must.
"I am confident if you put in hard work, in line with the requirements
of the game, Malaysian soccer and Asian soccer will rise," said Wenger who
once coached in the J-League.
He observed Malaysian players, like most Asian players, lacked a good
physique and the power and strength that comes with it.
He says success in modern soccer requires physical strength in addition
to technical ability and that is where the Europeans have an unfair
But Wenger says there are ways of getting around the handicap.
"Asian teams could be built on mobility, skills and stamina," said
"And they will certainly do better with more exposure to high level
However, Wenger stressed things are not going to happen overnight. It
is going to take years of work.
On the current Malaysian team, Wengers said: "I thought they were
committed, good in offensive play and had good tactics.
"But I was convinced they were not going to score after watching them
miss the early chances because the strikers lack confidence.
"You may get only one or two chances in a match and you have to put them
away," he said.
Wenger was happy his team won last night's clash at the National Stadium
"We always play to win. My players gave a reasonably good account of
themselves despite being tired."
Arsenal played at almost walking pace for most of the game but did
enough to strike twice through French internationals Nicolas Anelka (54th
minute) and Emmanuel Petit (62nd).
Arsenal could have got a hatful but Anelka muffed some easy chances in
the first half.
Still, Malaysian goalkeeper Azmin Azram Abdul Aziz and the defence,
marshalled by V. Thinkaran, did they part to keep the Gunners at bay.
Arsenal, nevertheless, gave their opponents a lesson in soccer with
their simplicity, keen understanding of one others game, zonal play and
effective invasion and utilisation of space.
Arsenal's play also forced the Malaysians to keep their game simple by
moving the ball around, providing effective support and working hard.
Malaysia did enough to keep the game interesting and competitive.
Arsenal may have been a club side but they had an array of international
stars from several countries and Malaysia soccer gained valuable
experience playing them.