The fact that national coach Dollah Salleh is running scared does not at all augur well for the future of football in this country.
He has included five guest foreign players – imports from the M-League – in the Malaysian selection team against Tottenham Hotspurs on May 27 simply because he wants to avoid an embarrassing defeat. But what is more embarrassing is that he does not have any confidence in his own team.
Granted, he will not have the services of 12 to 16 players from the Darul Ta’zim and Pahang teams because they are involved in the AFC Cup. But that is no excuse for not facing up to the challenges.
Dollah is being realistic, true, but if he can’t mould a respectable national team to overcome the numerous hurdles in his path, maybe he should not have accepted the job.
The present situation certainly points to poor planning by the FA of Malaysia and Dollah. Why accept a match against Tottenham when they knew what was on the international calendar? They should have worked around it.
And for Dollah to say that he does not have enough national team material because of the absence of the players from Darul Ta’zim and Pahang does not hold water.
What about all the fringe players who missed the cut in the past? Giving them an opportunity now will probably see a few rise to the occasion.
Agreed, Dollah cannot use the national Under-23 players because they have their Sea Games football campaign that begins on May 29 with a match against Timor Leste.
But surely, with 11 Super League teams (LionsX11 is the 12th) and 12 teams in the Premier League, Dollah could have found some players who were overlooked earlier?
He will be calling up 30 players for centralised training and if he cannot find 18 good football players for the final squad, then something is terribly wrong with the M-League.
More often than not, players from Sabah and Sarawak have a tough time making the squad. Maybe, now is the time to give them a chance to prove themselves.
If Dollah is so afraid of losing badly to Tottenham, then he should just call upon the M-League Selection, which compromises foreign players, to play the match. At least that way, we will not be ridiculing our national team.
In fact, instead of complaining that he cannot get friendly matches for his side, he should ask the foreign players in the M-League to form a team – with a foreign coach from the league to manage them – and get his team to play against them. It could also be a charity match to collect funds for a cause.
Or would Dollah be afraid his team would lose to such a team too?
The decision to use the five M-League players has been endorsed by FAM and also has the support of Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who agreed that they would strengthen the national team and have a positive impact as the local players would be able to learn from the best foreign signings in the league. Or will they, in just one match? After all, the local players have been playing with or against the foreigners week in and week out in the League and if they have not learnt anything yet, I doubt one match will make a difference.
Of the foreign players called up, four are strikers and one is a defender. So, as Dollah continues to moan about his weak strike force, the local players will once again be denied the opportunity to gain experience from playing against an EPL team.
The root of the national strike force’s woes is this – in the M-League, the foreigners are the strikers, leaving the locals on the bench and denied of exposure in their own league.
We need to address this situation first instead of taking stop-gap measures to avoid the embarrassment of defeat.
Dollah had earlier spoke of naturalised players for the national team – another desperate move. Now one wonders whether the inclusion of the foreign players to blend in with the locals against Tottenham has a hidden agenda – to show how the foreign players can help the national team and persuade the powers to be to accept his proposal.
We might as well take out advertisements calling for foreigners to play for Malaysia – not that we will get any top players, not with a FIFA ranking of 169 in the world.
So, what can we do? Several programmes are in place but nothing will happen overnight. We are already paying for neglecting long-term planning over the last three decades, so please no more half-baked ideas. Just face the truth and hunker down to real work, and don’t sell our soul.