Friday, January 30, 2015

Time for city football to rise

KUALA LUMPUR may be the baby of Malaysian football, but they have gone through a complete cycle.

Kuala Lumpur Football Association (KLFA) was formed in 1974 as Federal Territory FA (FTFA). It was a breakaway from the FA of Selangor (FAS) and was led by former FAS secretary Datuk K. Rasalingam and his team comprised Goh Ah Chai, the late Hamzah Muhammad, M.J. Vincent, the late Mohd Shariff Mustafa, Jeswant Singh and T. Manickarajah.

The late Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah was the association’s first president and after he became the FA of Malaysia’s president in 1977, FTFA deputy president Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Tengku Ismail took the helm. That year FTFA organised its first league with 30 clubs.

The city team entered the Malaysian league in 1979 as Federal Territory and was renamed Kuala Lumpur in 1987.

The city team started as minnows but rose to dizzying heights in the late 1980s before coming back to earth with a thud.

They were crowned league champions in 1986 and 1988 and won the Malaysia Cup from 1987 to 1989. They continued to enjoy success in the 1990s, winning the FA Cup in 1993, 1994 and 1999. The Charity Shield was theirs in 1988, 1995 and 2000.

The man who must be credited for the city team morphing into a powerhouse is former KL mayor, Tan Sri Elyas Omar. He replaced Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen as president in 1984 and held the position until 1996.

When professionalism was an alien word to Malaysian football, Elyas recruited players from other states and Singapore and hired top class coach Dr Josef Venglos.

As a mayor he was dedicated to making the city a sports hub and had various stadiums built in Bandar Tun Razak, including the KLFA Stadium, the KLBA badminton hall and a cycling velodrome.

Following their FA Cup victory in 1999, KL were relegated from the then Premier 1 in 2002. It took them seven years to return to top flight, finishing fourth in the Super League in 2009.

But they were relegated in 2012 and suffered the embarrassment of dropping to the FAM League the following year.

But after a season at the club level and third tier of Malaysian football, KL clawed their way back into the Premier League after finishing runners-up in the FAM League under coach Tang Siew Seng, a member of the victorious team of the 1980s.

There was a change in the top management last November with the chief secretary of Federal Territories Ministry Datuk Seri Adnan Md Ikshan elected president. Former president Datuk Astaman Abduk Aziz demoted himself to deputy president. Another former KL player from the 1980s, Ramlan Askolani, is the secretary.

However, it is sad Siew Seng has been replaced by Portuguese coach Ricardo Formosinho, who has been hired to get KL back to the Super League.

With Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor as the patron and KL mayor Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib and Putrajaya Corporation president Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat as advisers, the association has enough financial clout.

KLFA, recently besieged by a matchfixing scandal and financial problems, has allocated RM10 million for the Premier League and age-group competitions. It also gets income from outdoor advertising.

KL will also return to their real home – the Merdeka Stadium – as the KLFA Stadium is undergoing major renovations.

While everything points to better days ahead, it is hoped a tight rein is kept on the administration and management of the team, which has been one of the reasons for KL’s fall from grace.

The new officials will have to stay away from politics and put KL back where they rightly belong.

It won’t be quick – nothing happens overnight – so patience and continued support for KLFA and its team come into play.

A fortnight ago, KLFA held a gettogether for its clubs, past officials and coaches and introduced the players and officials for this season.

When I met Elyas Omar on Tuesday, he said he hoped this was the beginning of better times for the city team.

“It was really nice of them to invite me. I wish them all the best and hope they will see the glorious days of the 1980s again.

It is not going to come easy and they will require a good team, on and off the field, for the professional management of the association and the team,” he commented.

Indeed, the future is looking bright for KLFA but they must not start dancing or they will never see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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