Monday, July 21, 2014

Fans getting a raw deal

Chow Chee Keong is a rare breed among Malaysian sportsmen, but there is not much record of his career. Last week, in an exclusive interview with Tony Mariadass, he revealed many things not known about him.

IN this second part of the interview, the 64-year-old Chee Keong, who rarely speaks to the media, talks about local players, football administration andl fans.
IT was an era when goalkeepers were many and extremely talented, but Chow Chee Keong still emerged as the top custodian.
There was Lim Fung Kee, Wong Kam Fook, the late R. Arumugam and Ong Yu Tiang and Rashid Hassan who came to the scene a little later, but Chee Keong remains the best goalkeeper ever to grace the national jersey.
Not only was he voted Best Goalkeeper from 1966 to 1968 by the Asian Football Confederation, he was also sought by top Brazilian club Cruzerio FC. The great Pele, whom Chee Keong played against on numerous occasions while plying his professional trade in Hong Kong, became his good friend and had, not surprisingly, had many kind words about the Malaysian’s performances.
Other Malaysians followed suit
Chee Keong was instrumental in paving the way for many other Malaysians to play professionally in Hong Kong. These included Fung Kee, Kam Fook, the late Wong Choon Wah and Yip Chee Keong.
“These players approached me to help them find clubs in Hong Kong and I did. But sadly, many of them blamed me when they ran into diffi culties, coping with the conditions in Hong Kong,” said Chee Keong.
“Naturally, the local players were not happy with Malaysians playing in Hong Kong. They made it difficult for us, and we became their target in matches. It was no diff erent for me when I first went to Hong Kong, where I had to use my martial arts skills in goalkeeping to prevent myself from getting injured.
“I also had to be mentally strong and was determined to make a name for myself.”
Chee Keong said some of the Malaysian players who came to Hong Kong were not mentally strong and soon became depressed and wanted out.
“(Namesake) Yip Chee Keong was an exception. He adapted himself well and was a hit with South China FC.”
Chee Keong said Malaysian players should strive to play overseas because all over the world, the better players play in leagues outside their home country.
“That is the only way to improve one’s game and all the challenges they are faced with will only make them better players.
Chee Keong defies gravity during the Merdeka tournament in his heyday
Malaysian players
“It is sad that many Malaysian players who have had the opportunity to go overseas decided to return, citing weather conditions, food, language, homesickness and not being able to adapt to the tough training or blending with the team.
“As long as this continues, Malaysian players are not going to improve and reach high standards just by playing in the leagues at home,” he said.
He also took a dig at present day athletes who take things for granted, are pampered and who do not know what sacrifice is all about.
“I cannot believe that present day sportsmen and women lack the ambition to improve themselves and reach for the highest level of performance.
“They are so easily contented in the comfort zone. They do not push themselves and shun hard work.”
Naturally, he said sports in Malaysia must be administered by former sportsmen and women rather than politicians and people who do not have a clue about the sport.
“It is sad that many sports associations are run by people who do not have a clue of the sport or are not sportingly orientated,” said Chee Keong.
“Many helm the associations for their own personal gain or just to be popular and enjoy the benefits.
“We need officials who are passionate about sports and want to take sports to the highest level possible.
“Malaysia is very lucky to have loyal fans who pack the stadium week in and week out despite the poor quality of football dished out,” said Chee Keong.
“It is about time that something is done for the fans so that they get their money’s worth.
“Right now, they are being cheated as the football is of poor quality.
“The governing body, the coaches and players have an obligation to treat the fans to better quality games.
“These people have to remember that the day the fans decide to walk out on them, they will be playing to empty stadiums and the football will fall flat in country. I hope they do not take the fans for granted.”

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