Friday, September 30, 2005

Professionals must earn their keep (30/09/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 30/09/2005
Headline : Professionals must earn their keep

TWO capacity-crowd stadiums in as many weeks is ample proof that
Malaysian soccer is alive and kicking.
The FA Cup final between Selangor and Perak last Saturday saw Shah Alam
Stadium almost filled to the brim with 72,000 fans paying RM1.2 million
in gate collection.
The Malaysia Cup final between Selangor and Perlis at National Stadium
in Bukit Jalil tomorrow night is not expected to be any different.
Though Perlis are a small State, they have shed their minnows tag since
winning the Malaysia Cup last year, and this year's Super League title.
And with Selangor being the Premier League champions, a battle royale
is on the cards.
The Cup finals in the last few years have never enjoyed the support as
it has this year. In addition, stadiums in the country have also seen an
increase in fans turning out to support their respective teams.
There surely must be some good developments in local soccer for the
crowds to be flocking back to the stadiums. And State FAs should do
everything possible to keep them coming back for more.
The fact is there is a bigger following for English and European soccer
in this country - no thanks to the neverending and countless number of
matches televised - than local soccer.
But we have been able to fill stadiums, which even even the top English
Premiership clubs cannot boast of. This bears testimony to the fact that
local fans will back their teams, provided they have something decent to
Of course, there is no denying the "foreign factor" in the Malaysian
teams, especially Selangor, whose "Indonesian connection" of Bambang
Pamungkas and Elie Aiboy has lured Indonesians in the Klang Valley to add
to their fan-base.
The quality of performances by the top teams has also been
entertaining, as was evident in the FA Cup final, which Selangor won 4-2.
Perak's never-say-die attitude, which saw them fight till the final
whistle and even scoring a goal two minutes from regulation time when
they were 1-4 down only underscored the entertainment value.
But that goal by Mohd Nor Ismail for me, not only demonstrated Perak's
fighting qualities and offered a fitting end to an exciting match, but
was more of a face-saving goal for Malaysian soccer.
Yes, Mohd Nor's goal was the only one of the six scored that night by a
local player!
And this is where the relevant authorities have to decide what they
want from local soccer.
Fine, the crowds are coming back. Is that all Malaysian soccer wants?
Isn't the local league supposed to be the breeding ground for future
national players?
Fine, there were a few new talents unearthed this season, but
Malaysia's perennial problem at international level has been scoring
goals, or rather the lack of it.
If all the teams in the M-League are going to opt for foreign strikers,
who are dominating the League, where are we going to find our local
Yes, we have Khalid Jamlus, Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Liew Kit Kong, K.
Rajan, Fadzli Saari, Mohd Nizaruddin Yusof and Rudie Ramli to shout
about, but they are all playing second fiddle to the foreign strikers.
With the rising local strikers and new finds not getting the exposure
because of the 'foreign legion', how are they going to improve and excel
at international level?
The fact that the foreigners are not utilised to the maximum in
boosting the game in the country, such as conducting clinics at schools
in their respective States, especially with them being paid high wages,
is disheartening, and the fault of their employers who are only keen on
the silverware and the glory the State will get.
Malaysian soccer is not just about winning the FA, League and Malaysia
We have to think beyond that and, for starters, start conquering the
region, maybe kicking off at the Asian club level and then, seeing our
national teams win matches at South-East Asian level before venturing out
into Asia.
It is even sadder State FAs do not demand the maximum from their
so-called local "professionals" who earn between RM4,000 and as much as
RM15,000 per month.
But all these players do is train two hours a day - four or five times
a week - play a match or two a week and even get paid bonuses for winning
This is nothing compared to professionals overseas who are required to
put in at least six to eight hours' work daily.
They are also involved in coaching clinics, working with their junior
players and doing charity projects.
If there is anybody to be blamed for the current state of the game, it
is the State FAs for not demanding what is required of professional
Coaches and managers are also responsible for not professionally
executing their duties. And then there are the management who are only
interested in seeing their sides do well in the local scene but are not
keen on the overall development of the game and progress of the national
State FAs should also immediately demand their professionals, be them
locals or foreigners, deliver what is expected of them, which is to help
the game improve in the country.
FAM alone cannot raise the standards of the game in the country. They
need the help of State FAs and clubs, who are considered the arms and
legs of the national body.
And if FAM or State FAs have any fears there will be empty stadiums if
they work with more local players, this should be dispelled because the
local fans will always be there to support a good cause.
After all, the stadiums used to be packed in the past, when we only had
the locals playing.
And our national team then were also doing much better, even qualifying
for the Olympics, and were rated among the best in Asia.

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