Saturday, February 14, 2004

Prove me wrong (The Malay Mail)

THE new season kicks off today with the FA of Malaysia (FAM) hoping to
change the image of Malaysian soccer.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding the inaugural Malaysian Super
League (MSL) which is seen as another incarnation of the same game.
But FAM deputy-president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah's seriousness
is underlined by the fact he is prepared to quit if the League is not
successful in three years.
A change in names matters little when it is the changing of mindset that
is needed to rejuvenate the game.
It will take clear thinking by parents, teachers, coaches, players,
officials, administrators and fans to make it work.
What has changed from yesteryears is the passion for the game.
We have improved in terms of facilities, finance and technical knowhow.
Semi-pro soccer came in 1989 and we went on to professional status in
Now, 15 years down the road, Malaysian soccer still cannot make an
Most Malaysians enjoy the English Premier League and are very
knowledgeable of it.
It has, sadly, come at a great cost to the local game.
FAM are right to insist on professionalism when it comes to the players
and officials especially since MSL champions get RM500,000 and the
runners-up RM300,000. The third-placed team will take home RM200,000.
But when foreigners take the place of local players in the league, the
selectors will have a hard time coming up with a decent national side.
Tengku Abdullah has said it should serve as a wake-up call for the local
players to fight for their places with improved performances.
But the average Malaysian soccer player is a lowly educated, laidback
character who is happy to earn between RM3,000 and RM10,000 a month for
working 18 to 20 hours a week.
The key roles would be going to players like Phillimon Chipeta of
Zambia, Keith Gumbs of St KItts-Nevis, Slovak Ivan Ziga or Argentine
Ricardo Silva.
Foreign players may draw the fans to watch teams like Perak, Pahang,
Sabah and even Public Bank but it is not going to help local soccer.
The MSL is an attempt to see Malaysian soccer improve but has enough
thought been put into organising a competition that would produce calibre
players like in Japan, Korea and China?
The priority should be to develop a wide base of quality players before
moving to the next level - excellence.
There were many new faces when FAM decided to ban foreign players for
three seasons since 1999 but they may well be discouraged with the arrival
of the imports.
A lot of money is being spent by State teams and clubs on the foreigners
and it would be wise but only if the foreigners were top brains who can
coach and develop players in the States.
This will ensure quality players, with a command of the basics, coming
through from the development programmes and youth teams.
The MSL would be great if it produces the players who go on to become
household names, like it was all those years ago.

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