Saturday, June 18, 2005

PLAGUED BY INCONSISTENCY (17/06/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 17/06/2005

IS Malaysian sports suffering from the inconsistency syndrome?
At the rate that yo-yo performances are being dished out by many sports
of late, one tends to believe disparity is fast becoming a Malaysian
sports culture.
Just when diehard fans thought Malaysian hockey has risen from the
dumps when the national side beat India in the recent Azlan Shah Cup
tournament, they were sighing once again when Malaysia lost their
subsequent matches to Korea and New Zealand.
And Malaysia reignited hopes once again by defeating Pakistan, but only
to lose to India in the play-off match.
Then, we had the Malaysian soccer team going down tamely to Singapore
by two goals in the first leg of the Causeway Challenge in the Lion City,
only to see them producing a more gritty and determined performance in
the return tie in Penang, but still losing 2-1.
This changed performance from the Malaysian footballers could be
attributed to team skipper, Muhamad Shukor Adan, who declared at a
pre-match Press conference that he and his team-mates would be putting in
120 per cent effort!
Shukor did not play in the return leg because of flu, but the team did
perform better.
But there is the niggling question of what transpired in the first leg.
Didn't the players give 100 per cent, let alone 120 per cent?
The last time I covered the Malaysian soccer team (although it was the
national Under-23 side then) was at the Vietnam SEA Games in December
I have not covered a single Super or Premier League match since the
2004 season, and I was really looking forward to the Causeway Challenge,
hoping to see some progress in the game, which had been on the slide for
a while now.
In Singapore, the national team were a letdown, as they were like a
bunch of schoolboys playing without any purpose at recess-time.
In Penang, the Malaysians played with more commitment and a more
organised game plan to to shut out the Singaporeans.
The Malaysians failed to convert the chances, and I was hardly
surprised because all the top scorers in the M-League are foreigners.
Fine, the Malaysian team did not have several strikers like Indra Putra
Mahayuddin, Akmal Rizal Rakhli, Liew Kit Kong and Khalid Jamlus, due to
various reasons, but it was no excuse for failing to get the goals, which
seemed as if they were offered on a silver platter.
Generally, the performance was not up to par, and losing to Singapore
twice in a week was really underlining the poor state Malaysian soccer is
What was really disappointing was that despite lacking flair and
skills, the Malaysians also did not have the basic ingredients required
for any sport: passion and charac- ter.
In the end, it was a foreigner, coach Bertalan Bisckei of Hungary, who
showed some passion, albeit in a strange way when he rushed out of the
technical box to push the Singapore player who had tackled Zainuddin
Ariffin in a dangerous manner.
What Bisckei did was wrong and was against the rule of the game and
sport and he has been punished.
But the fact remained this foreigner showed more pride, passion and
commitment to the game than any of his players that night.
After all, he did not have to rush into the field, as the player was
not a Hungarian.
But he rushed to protect his charge, and that speaks volumes of his
dedication to the team and his players.
If only only some of the Malaysians had played with the same kind of
passion and commitment, half the mission to beat Singapore would have
been achieved.
The players did not show character in their game nor in carrying
themselves on the pitch.
And it all boils down to the training and foundation provided by the
players' States and their clubs.
It was obvious these players lacked professionalism in many aspects of
the game. And it is not surprising to see teams in local leagues
emulating this trend where they would win matches convincingly one day
and then going down to minnows by incredulous scores.
But all is not lost for Malaysian soccer, at least.
There was much to celebrate for the country when the National Under-19
team won the Lion City Cup on June 10 in grand fashion by showing
tremendous character in coming back from a goal down.
But will these fine lads, under the tutelage of K. Rajagopal and
manager Datuk Jamal Nasir (two former internationals), slip into a
similar rut as their seniors once they return to their States or clubs?
Rajagopal and Jamal would certainly hope not because they see
tremendous potential in many of their charges.
These players do not have any airs about them, and they give their best
in every match.
They play their hearts out, enjoy each outing and the national flag on
their jerseys means everything to them.
There was no interference in Rajagopal's selection of players from the
Youth and President's Cups sides as well as Academy teams.
Players who attend training but are not up to the mark are replaced,
and there are no prima donnas in the team.
This team are preparing for the Asian Zone World Youth qualifiers at
year's end, and if they continue to keep their feet firmly on the ground
and their heads on their shoulders, they may just be heading in the right
But the team also have flaws, with the main one being the absence of a
clinical finisher.
There are no prizes for guessing why, when our country are flooded with
foreign strikers who become overnight stars.
With high salaries paid for local players and with the scoring job
falling upon the foreign legion, is there any reason for the locals to
work hard to improve or even produce consistent performances?
What happens at lower level will take place at national level, and
until we get our act sorted out at grassroots level, Malaysian sports
will continue to see performances at extreme ends.
But we have exceptions too.
Look what Lim Teong Kim has achieved in Germany and if our coaches and
players are driven by the same passion, Malaysian sports will definitely
move on to a different level.

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