Monday, November 11, 2013

Don’t let the circus come to town

The Malay Mail (8th Nov, 2013)

THE 2013 football season ended last Sunday with the Malaysia Cup final, but already Malaysian footballers are up to all sorts of antics for the next season. Now, their ridiculous behaviour is expected to become full blown and probably bring shame to the Malaysian League, as it does each year.
One would think that since football in the country turned semi-pro in 1989 and fully professional in 1994, everything that is wrong with the game would be corrected. But no, we are still looking at ways to fine-tune the league. In fact, in 2015, the league is to be privatised and supposedly take the game to the next level.
When the league is put under the microscope, there are still many areas that need to be improved, or to be blunt, altered. Aspects like security, fan control, ticket sales, banned items in the stadiums, poor ground conditions, substandard refereeing and, above all, the management of teams in a professional manner.
However, over the next two months, all eyes will be on the movement of coaches and players for the new season. As I said earlier, this has already started. And from the news that has surfaced so far, football is getting a bad name.
Apparently, coaches and players have started negotiating with potential employers for the new season. There is nothing wrong with that, but some of them have already signed letters of intent and collected advance or signing-on fees. Well and good, but when these coaches and players use this as a bargaining chip with other teams and turn their backs on the teams they picked first, then they don’t know what “professionalism” means, or they just don’t care.
These coaches and players had the decency to return the money when they went back on their word to avoid any controversies. Those would-be employers let them go scot free, in good spirit, but it does not augur well for the game.
Coaches and players should be made to realise that they cannot take teams for a ride. They must be punished. Yes, they want the highest wages but there are procedures to follow.
They should behave like professionals if they want to be treated as such.
We hope we don’t see more of these cases in the coming weeks as coaches and players look for new teams. As the majority of coaches have found their teams for the new season, the players’ movement is going to be the focal point.
Several of them will move with the coaches as a package deal while others will move in a ‘player’s package’, where a few players get together and demand that they be signed on as a ‘pack’.
Then there are players trying to get letters of intent from teams and then negotiate with others with the letters in the hope of getting higher wages. Some will sign with one team and then go to another that offers better wages.
There are bound to be cases of players who have ‘double signed’, which would see the teams fighting over them.
All this is unhealthy for Malaysian football. Here we are trying to raise our standard to be on par with the leagues in South Korea and Japan, both of which started later than Malaysia’s.
The only way to eradicate these amateur ills of the game is to punish those who breach the rules of the game.
Make them sit out the season if that is the only way to educate them and make the league a truly professional entity.
The affected teams must take a stance and the FA of Malaysia must punish the guilty without any compromise.
There is no room for compassion if the game is to be cleaned up once and for all. Otherwise, Malaysian football will turn into a circus!

TONY MARIADASS is sports editor
of The Malay Mail. He can be reached

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