Saturday, December 27, 2003

Still stumbling in the dark (The Malay Mail)

SOON it will be the end of yet another year and in retrospect, Malaysian
soccer is still struggling to find its footing, both locally and
For more than a decade, promises have been made to resurrect Malaysian
soccer, and millions of ringgit spent. But there is little to show we are
heading in the right direction.
FAM are certainly not short on resources or ideas but somehow, they
always get shortchanged by players and officials. One of the reasons is
that the national body change courses once too often, coming out with
short-term plans.
Bringing in the best coaches in the world is not going to help Malaysian
soccer because the rot has set in at the grassroots. Until this is
remedied, we are going to face disappointment after disappointment.
And strengthening the grassroots is going to take time, determination,
hardwork and above all, patience.
For four or five years, FAM have been focusing on the same set of
players but nothing good comes out of them. The sad fact is that these
players have been overpaid and overrated and made to believe that they are
the best in the country.
Even FAM's efforts to expose these players to top international matches
have made little difference.
We need a new breed of players with ethics and not just make-believe
professionals. FAM have to go down to players as young as eight years old
to start all over again.
And for FAM to be successful, they have to depend on their affiliates
but the latter often let the national body down. FAM can have the best of
development programmes, but no one will carry out the plans well at
grassroots level.
There has been so much emphasis on the M-League that hardly any work is
done at the lower level. FAM are partly to blame for the current state of
Malaysian soccer because time and again, they keep changing the format of
the domestic league.
A few months into the season, a new format for the 2004 league was
announced this year and this caught many teams by surprise. Now, you have
the Super League and this may set Malaysian soccer back by a few years.
The influx of foreign players is going to deny the already half-baked
local players the exposure. With teams focusing on foreigners as their
backbone, where is the national team going to get their players from?
The last two years saw some quality players coming through mainly
because of the ban on foreign players for three years. If there was a
bright spark, it must be the emergence of club teams - Selangor Public
Bank, who qualified for the Super League while MPPJ emerged as Malaysia
Cup champions.
These two clubs proved that with proper financial backing and
management, results can be obtained.
What do we want from Malaysian soccer? Is it to pack stadiums (with
foreign players as the drawcards) or build a strong national team even if
it means playing to empty stadiums with local players?
In two major assignments this year under coach Allan Harris, Malaysia
finished third behind Iraq and Bahrain in the Pre-Asian Cup and won a
bronze in the Vietnam SEA Games. Certainly not the best of results for a
team who have been preparing for at least four years.
Changing the coach is not going to help much because that is all the
talent we have - a situation that we created.
And with news that FAM want another foreign coach to take charge of the
team for the pre-World Cup tournament (in March next year), Malaysian
soccer looks like heading for more trouble.
And to suggest that even local coaches like Abdul Rahman Ibrahim and
Chow Kwai Lam can take over (if a foreign coach is not found), it is
indeed an irony.
Why have we not been using these coaches? Have they become top notch
coaches overnight or is it a matter of convenience or another short-term
Or is it because technical director Karl Weigang has a soft spot for
these coaches, having worked with them?
It is indeed puzzling to note that FAM are considering this option, just
three months before the competition.
After all, the Asian Football Confederation sit in our own backyard and
if we cannot get first hand information on the game, then something is
drastically wrong.

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