The latest to experience Malaysian “in-hospitality” is national hockey coach Paul Revington, who, after having resigned before the World League semi-final in Johor Baru, has agreed to stay for the championship.
And on Tuesday, Revington was persuaded to fulfil his contract which ends in August next year.
Revington is not the first foreign coach to face problems working in Malaysia, as many others in various sports had had similar encounters and either left in a huff , terminated their contracts or were amicably dismissed by the sports associations.
I can remember as far back as 1986 when national soccer coach from England, Frank Lord, left with a game in hand in the pre-World Cup tournament in Seoul after the FA of Malaysia management decided not to entertain his request to extend his contract before the match.
Malaysia had defeated Korea 1-0 at home and needed only a draw in the away match to qualify for the next round, but FAM decided that they could do it without Lord. They named Mohamad Bakar as the coach and recalled the late Datuk Mokhtar Dahari from retirement for the match.
Malaysia lost 2-0 to Korea. To this day, I believe Malaysia would have got a draw in Seoul and qualified for the next round with Lord at the helm.
Lord had this to say about working in Malaysia before he left: “Malaysia is a beautiful country, warm and friendly people, great food and places to visit, but definitely not a place to work in sport.”
The list of foreign coaches who exited the Malaysian coaching scene, frustrated at not being given a free hand or forced out by the associations, is indeed long.
Among the notable ones are badminton’s Morten Frost (Denmark), Park Joo Bong and Yoo Yong Sung (Korea), Li Mao (China) and Rexy Mainakay (Indonesia), soccer’s Trevor Hartley (England) and George Knoble (Holland), Claude Le Roy (France) and the late Bertalan Bisskek (Hungary), and athletics’ Daniel St Hilaire (Canada).
Revington was quoted as saying: “I never experienced such situations when coaching in South Africa and Ireland. So it came as a culture shock and the fact that something that should have been resolved in about three weeks took five months was also a bane for me.”
Granted, foreign coaches have to understand the local culture and make adjustments, but when this means compromising on work ethic, it is indeed baffling.
Why must Malaysian sports associations or the National Sports Council hire foreign coaches, pay them well, with perks thrown in, only to tell them to do things the Malaysian way? How then will they be able to impart their expertise to the players and local coaches?
The associations should just hire local coaches, who come much cheaper, and get them to work the way the administrators want them to.
If Revington or other foreign coaches had problems working in Malaysia, it probably had to do with their personality, but when we have a string of them crying foul for the same reasons — interference from the administrators, lack of support from the local coaches, revolting players, the unfulfilment of the terms of contract, among others — we have to take a hard look at ourselves.
Is there something wrong with our sports officials? Are local coaches intimidated by foreign coaches? Are players shying away from regimented training and playing politics?
Foreign coaches are not here to stay. They will leave when their contracts end. So shouldn’t we tap their experience and knowledge so that local coaches can become better?
It is time the authorities who hire these foreigners acted more professionally.
More often than not, they do not take the trouble to understand what makes these coaches tick and how they work.
By the same token, the foreign coaches have to respect our culture. There have been cases where they were problematic, but we have to follow procedures when dismissing them. If local sports officials had dealt with matters, however trivial, properly, they would not have run into problems.
Why ruin it when we have a good thing going for Malaysian sport?
Local sports offi cials should stop playing politics, taking the side of players or officials and promoting their own agenda.
At the end of the day, sport is bigger than any individual.
With mutual respect, working towards a common goal and leaving politics and bickering out of the equation, Malaysian sport will surely see better times.
Let us not tarnish our image in the eyes of foreign coaches.