Heads you win, tails I lose. Basically it is a no win situation.
This is the exact predicament, national coach K. Rajagobal (left) is facing with his team.
While most of the media were fair to him when his team played to a scoreless draw on Wednesday night against Kenya, who are ranked 105th in the world, there were some who took him to task.
There were critics who claimed that Rajagobal played a defensive game and to make matters worse, they based their criticism on what Kenya's German coach Antonie Hey had to say.
Hey even went to say that the Malaysian players did not have pride or passion and that the team was average.
In all probability he was basically covering his rear(mind the language) with his comments, because otherwise he would have come under fire from his employers for having just managed to play to draw against Malaysia who are ranked 152nd.
The 39-year-old coach who hails from Berlin certainly has not stayed very long with any team since taking up coaching in 2003, after he ended his playing career as a midfielder in the German Bundesliga with VfR Neumunster.
Check out his career below;
Hey began his management career in Germany with VfR Neumünster before moving to Africa to manage Lesotho. He was also manager of Gambia from September 2006 until March 2007. His spell with Gambia was marred by concerns over money. He was appointed manager of Liberia in February 2008. In February 2009 he was appointed coach of the Kenyan national team.
I am sure it will not be long before Hey will be applying for a job in Malaysia
In all fairness to Rajagobal, one cannot expect him to whip a winning team in a few months. He certainly cannot be held responsible for the sins of Malaysian football over the years.
And talking about defensive play in soccer, it is a very subjective subject.
In defensive play too, there are merits. Sometimes, one has to go defensive because the opponents are more formidable, but how well they withstood the pressure in defending, should also be taken into consideration.
From what I gather, the Malaysian Under-23 certainly did not start with a defensive lineup. In fact, Malaysia missed some opportunities to score ( certainly an area Rajagobal will be working overtime before the Laos Sea Games)
Instead of giving encouragement to the young team, to take them to task, certainly does not augur well giving confidence to these youngsters.
In any case, Rajagobal was not thumbing his chest with the result. He was the first to admit that the team has a long way to go, but the experienced they gained in playing Kenya will certainly help them in the long run.
Mohd Zaquan Adha shielding the ball away from two Kenya players - pix courtesy of Utusan
And matches against teams who are ranked higher than Malaysia is what the team needs to gain experience. Malaysia will play the Chinese national team on Saturday and this another tough match on the cards which Rajagobal is looking forward to.
Talking about defensive play, I cannot but help recall an incident in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in March 1997. I was there to cover the second leg of the pre-World Cup qualifier where Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Bangladesh and Malaysia were grouped.
Malaysia then coached by Wan Jamak Wan Hassan and Ifran Bakti had gone to the holy land with much confidence after having held Saudi to a scoreless draw and beaten Bangladesh (2-0) and Taiwan (2-0) in the first leg at home.
However, it was a disastrous start in Jeddah when Malaysia were held to a scoreless draw by Taiwan in the opening match.
After the match, both Wan Jamak and Ifran lamented how defensive the Taiwanese were and it was not the way to play football.
Saudi Arabia, coached by Brazilian, Eduardo Vingada, played Taiwan next and the Taiwanese did the same thing they did against Malaysia- staying in their half and defending .
The Malaysian team had tried everything to penetrate the Taiwanese defence and were attacking relentlessly, but only to be disappointed of not finding the net.
We had striker like Azman Adnan, Che Zambil Ahmad, Rusdee Sulung, Idris Kadir, Samsurin Ali Suharmin Yusof in the team captained by Zainal Abidin Hassan
Saudi on the other hand, had approached the game differently. While the Taiwanese fell back in their half to defend after the kickoff, The Saudi did not attack, but started to pass the ball around in their own half.
The Taiwanese could not just stay in their half because the Saudis were not coming at them. Slowly but surely, one, then two and then three Taiwanese players come out of their half to play in Saudi's half. And then next think we saw was gaps in the Taiwanese defence and Saudi attacked to score SIX past them.
I asked Wan Jamak and Ifran, how Saudi managed to score six, while Malaysia failed to and they answer : "Oh today Taiwan came out to play." Really now. It was the Saudi tactics which forced them to come out play.
The point is, there are many ways to skin a cat and for Hey to blame Malaysia, he was merely exposing his weakness as a coach.
Judge Rajagobal when it matters. Not when he is trying to get something good going. I say this not because I know Rajagobal from his playing days and for about 30 years now, but because I see Malaysian soccer finally trying to stand up and walk after almost 20 years of being in the doldrums. Let us give it chance and not kill it.
Do not forget that the last time we won the Sea Games gold medal was in 1989 when English coach Trevor Hartley coached the team.
And the last thing we need is Hey to give us a shout.