Monday, November 25, 2013

Merry-go-round begin

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WILL there be a fresh breath of air in the 2015 M-League season? I personally doubt it. I do not want to sound pessimistic, especially with the FA of Malaysia trying to make the league exciting and one of the best in the region, but it has been cosmetic changes all this while.
And continuous tweaking of the format since 1989 – when football in the country went semi-pro — the composition of teams and the direction adopted have not helped one bit.
Now M-League intends to go private in 2015. All I can say is good luck because I do not see much changing when the same coaches and players, especially, are expected to be involved.
Let us just look ahead to the 2014 season. Do we expect to see fresh faces, a new breed of coaches and established foreign players who can lift the profile of the league? Probably not on all three counts.
For starters, the same players will be making their rounds, either following their previous coach to a new team or marketing themselves to new teams as a package of players or individuals.
The fact that most teams and players have signed one-year contracts will see the players move to new teams.
While professional football is all about the movement of players, when it is about the same players year in and year out, things become stale and predictable.
And the fact that the local coaches are the same faces – some of them have been around for as long as 30 years – is certainly not going to light up the league.
The last time we saw new coaches in the M-League was 10 years ago when the likes of Zainal Abidin Hassan, Dollah Salleh, Mat Zan Mat Aris, K. Devan, E. Elavarasan and Azuan Zain, to name but a few, surfaced. Among the older coaches still on the scene are Abdul Rahman Ibrahim, Wan Jamak Wan Hassan and Irfan Bakti.
And with Malaysia virtually out of the Asian Cup in Australia in 2016 after Tuesday’s solitary goal loss to Qatar, fans are calling for the resignation of national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal and FA of Malaysia’s officials.
Is that going to change anything?
The root of the problem is the quality of the national players we have and the strength of the national team is always reflected by the strength of the national league – the M-League.
In all fairness to the current national team, they did well based on their current strength. To have lost to Middle Eastern countries like Qatar and Bahrain narrowly only underlines the fact that the national team’s overall standard has improved because we used to get whipped by these teams not too long ago.
But to expect the national team to become world beaters overnight and on their current strength is beyond the wildest dreams.
The national team’s major let-down was its strike force. The M-League’s top scorers in the last two seasons have been foreigners – Jean-Emmauel Effa Owona (15 goals in 2012) and Marlon Alex James and Matias Conti (16 goals each this season).
Top scoring national players this season are Amri Yahya (8) and Norshahrul Idlan Tahala (7).
And we still want to increase the quota for foreign players! How on earth are we going to develop local strikers if we continue to rely on foreign players?
And development is the last thing on the minds of most teams with the President's Cup (for junior players) getting low priority and running for only a few months.
Can we expect the MLeague, whether or not it is privatised, to suddenly come to life and improve the game in the country?
It is indeed wishful thinking, but the majority still believe it is the only way to go and then scream blue murder when the national team fails to do well. We celebrate, go overboard and give holidays for regional level and mediocre success and fail to get a reality check. Only when the truth hits the face when up against international opponents do we realise that we have been living on false hopes. Too late, isn’t it?
The only way for Malaysian football to go forward is to have a long-term plan and start with the young. Nothing is going to happen overnight.
The M-League needs more new faces and a younger composition to make it tick.
If we try to teach ‘old dogs new tricks’, we are going to continue to face disappointments. We cannot make race horses out of circus horses and the sooner we realise it the better.
The National Football Development Programme with a five-year vision is a good move, provided that it is not sabotaged or not given enough support by the stakeholders of the game.
Let us start building our football home from the foundations and stop trying to fix it from the roof!

sports editor of The Malay
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