Friday, June 18, 1999

It takes yen and zen (The Malay Mail)

MALAYSIAN officials can scour the whole world for a recipe for soccer
success but it just will not work without the right cooks in the FAM
Following Wednesday's 4-0 loss to Japan which all but ended our Sydney
Olympic dreams, we embark on a `Look East' policy.
Fifa's latest world rankings, which pushed Malaysia down to 118th, is
our worst ever and another bitter pill to swallow.
The FAM study group to Japan might as well buy some chrysanthemum tea
leaves as a panacea for the ills of Malaysian soccer.
We have seen FAM delegations going to England, Germany and to World Cups
in the USA and France and coming back with fantastic reports for a cure.
Where has all that taken us? World No 118. The root of the matter is
that no matter what the group to Japan comes back with, the problem lies
in implementation of the programmes.
The observers to Japan are FAM head of academies, Datuk Paduka Ahmad
Basri Akil, Director-General of Education Datuk Dr Shukor Abdullah, FAM
assistant secretary Yap Nyim Keong, head of reserarch and development
Winsdor John, director of coaching Ronald Smith, council member and former
international Dell Akbar Khan.
And who are the ones going to implement the recommendations of the `Look
East' policy? Definitely not these people going on the study tour.
In fact, ask any of group members what needs to be done to salvage
Malaysian soccer and they can come up with the answers without going to
It is certainly not that we do not know what is wrong with our game and
what needs to be done.
It is a case of not having the right people to carry out the programmes.
Malaysian soccer's failure is because of impatient people.
We all want instant results. And going to Japan, who give the world
instant noodles, is not going to help.
Now with Japan making sushi out of our boys, we start talking of the RM6
million spent in building Olympics 2000.
Do we honestly think that the course of Malaysian soccer can be changed
by RM6 million and four years of hothousing?
To select a squad of 25 players, more than 3,500 players from all over
the country were assessed.
When a nation cannot name a squad of 25 players around 17 or 18 years
old off-hand, the problem is obvious.
Mike Brown, who was the Pahang coach in 1992, once asked me if I could
give 10 names of the top Under-12 players in the country.
I couldn't.
Brown's point was that Malaysia, while making preparations to host the
1997 World Youth Cup, should have assembled an Under-12 training squad
first. As it turned out, FAM only assembled a team two years before the
By then, it was already too late to develop the skills of players around
16 to 17 years old because most of them are already set in their ways.
No matter how much money is pumped in, turning uncut diamonds into fine
gems in two years is next to impossible in soccer.
The same fate met the Barcelona and Atlanta squads. When are we going to
What we need is a vision for players between eight and 10 years old with
a specific programme tailored to their age. We must wait patiently for
them to mature and that is not going to happen without sheer hard work.
But when State FAs are busy with the M-League, who has the time for
Looking to Japan is fine. But one factor which we have to consider is the
different cultures of the two countries.
Coming to mind is the Tidak Apa attitude and the procrastinating habit
of Malaysians who are just not hungry enough and unwilling to make
But the Japanese are a race full of pride and honour and their warriors
were known for committing seppuku for failures.
So how can Malaysian players embrace the teachings of the sensei?
Besides, the Japansese certainly did not reach their current level
overnight. It took years of blood, sweat and tears to get there.
The yen is only part of the ingredients for success but it is the zen
and the spirit of the Japanese soccer administrators that contributes to
their success.
Getting the right people who are willing to go through the hardwork,
sacrifices, patience and long term planning.
And success does not come overnight.

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