Friday, December 2, 2016



 Level Field



TRANSFORMING MALAYSIAN FOOTBALL was the topic at a National Football Symposium organised last Sunday by students of the inaugural Professional Football Business Management course as part of their syllabus at University Malaya. Speakers included Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Prof Dr Khoo Kay Kim (management challenges in transforming football); Stuart Ramalingam (commercialisation of football); Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz (role of sports science in the transformation process) and B. Sathianathan (coach education and youth development is an investment). For the plenary session, chaired by symposium advisor E.R. Subramaniam (former FA of Malaysia assistant secretary), the panellist besides Sathianathan and Stuart, were former national midfielder Bakri Ibni and Subang Jaya Community Sports Club president Farouk Hashim. Among those present were National Sports Council director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi, Olympic Council of Malaysia general-secretary Datuk Low Beng Choo and her assistant Datuk Sieh Kok Chi and former Asian Football Confederation general-secretary Datuk Peter Velappan. Topics ranged from good governance, management of teams and funds, commercialisation, professionalism, embracing sports science and grassroots, youth and coaching development. These have been discussed many times over with papers presented to the relevant authorities and stakeholders which has since gathered dust. One of the questions asked was whether Malaysian football has a future? The panel except Bakri, diplomatically said they believe there was. Sathianathan bluntly said the set-up needed to be reformed before we talk about transformation. There were almost 200 at the auditorium at the start of the session in the morning but after lunch, only half remained. To top it all, the relevant people who can make a difference in Malaysian football were not present. FAM representatives also skipped the afternoon session! Nothing is going to change Malaysian football because the rot is too deep. Many will argue we cannot give up and must try to make changes. But if the very people who were supposed to make the changes don’t want to, or won’t make way for younger, more passionate and professional people to initiate changes, there is nothing much then that can be done. Just look at our M-League. It began as the Malaya Cup in 1921 and having gone semi-professional in 1989 and fully professional in 1994, we still don’t have a well organised league. Changes happen almost every season and even now as it is managed by a private entity — Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLPP) — nothing has changed. FMLPP are struggling to manage the league smoothly and have triggered a controversy by sending the participation form for 2017 to PKNS — who earned promotion from Premier League to Super League — directly and accepting their invitation. In
accordance with the rules, PKNS’ entry should come through FA of Selangor, but when registration for the 2017 Malaysia Super League closed on Wednesday, Selangor had not endorsed PKNS’ participation.
PKNS have been granted an extra week to get the approval. The strength of the national team lies in the strengths of the domestic league. When we can’t get our act right, how can we expect higher level performances? State FAs and clubs too must take the blame for neglecting grassroots development and ignoring local coaches. Instead of looking for players from Asia, they look to Europe and South America and pay hefty payments to players, coaches and agents. Sadly, most of the time we get half-baked products. Whether a change of leadership in FAM will put Malaysian on the right track is a million-ringgit question. It is about the stakeholders — State FAs, clubs, and schools. Whether they are willing to change their mindset and have the game at heart instead of their own agendas, is something only they can answer. The National Football Development Programme (NFDP) initiated by the Sports Ministry in 2011 — has 123 NFDP centres with 19,252 trainees and 966 coaches — is seen as a redeemer for Malaysian football. But this programme needs to be monitored closely so it doesn’t lose direction and objectivity.
At the end of the day, it is FAM’s council who can make a difference.
But if the members have vested interest and agendas, football will continue to be in the doldrums.
TONY is a sports
journalist close to
four decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at

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