Friday, July 15, 2005

STILL A LONG WAY TO GO (15/07/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 15/07/2005

PATIENCE, persistence and perseverance are the key words in development.
But more often than not, many programmes have been abandoned midway
either because of lack of financial resources, interest or waning
patience to see it mature.
In fact, development programmes should be ongoing and as a nursery for
the various sports.
This is where the various sports associations should have programmes
all laid out for children from as young as eight years-old up to 18.
There is no association in the country with such an elaborate programme.
That's the reason many sports do not realise their true potential.
Talent only surface through their short term programmes for specific
targets or through the schools.
More often than not, sports associations do not get involved with
primary schools where budding talent should be nurtured.
There have been many cases where we put the cart before the horse in
trying to get results.
Take for instance when Malaysia hosted the the 1997 FIFA Youth World
When Malaysia won the rights in 1992, I was in Kuantan to cover a
Malaysia Cup match and that night I was having dinner with Pahang's
English coach Mike Brown.
As the news was flashed on television, Mike turned to me and asked me
if I could name the country's top XI Under-12 players.
I was stunned by his question as I did not have the answer.
Mike then explained Malaysia should have already had a Under-12
training squad before they went for the bid.
Mike, who took Pahang to the League and Malaysia Cup that year, left
for home after that because of ill health.
But what he said that night still rings in my ear because the national
team for the 1997 Youth World Cup was only assembled two years before the
The fact Hateem Souissi had to search the whole of Malaysia and had
trials for more than 3,000 players before he could assemble a squad, was
indeed a sorry state for Malaysian soccer.
Hateem should have had the players at his feet the moment he called for
training, if only all the State FAs had in place a proper development
programme where the players had already identified and had formal
There was a hue and cry that the FA of Malaysia had spent RM6 million
on the Youth World Cup squad over two years, but that was not the point.
In fact, more than RM6 million would have been spent in total by all
the State FAs if they had their programmes running.
What was done was a short term exercise with the hope to see some
While the team did not progress past the first round, Hateem's two-year
work certainly left behind some better players for the States and
national team.
Just imagine, if Hateem had worked with the players from a younger age.
In contrast, Michael Owen, who played for England and the rest of his
team-mates, came to Malaysian with about at least 10 years of proper
coaching from development programmes from their respective clubs.
In an interview with Owen in Johor Baru, where England played their
first round matches, he revealed he joined the Liverpool development
programme as an eight-year-old.
Was it a surprise then when the majority of the players from he
tournament went on to don national colours and are still top names in the
international soccer scene.
Among some of the top names who emerged from the championship besides
Owen were Theiry Henry, David Trezequet, Pablo Aimar, Nicolas Anelka,
Damien Duff, Danny Murphy and Jamie Carragher to name a few.
Many of our Malaysian 1997 Youth World Cup team players are still
playing in our Malaysian League, but their standards leave much to be
desired, while others have vanished.
It all boils down to proper development programmes and until such
machinery is in place, we have a long way to go.

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