THEMalaysia League kicks off today but not all is well, with teams
threatening to pull-out owing to financial problems, venues not finalised,
incomplete registration forms and a host of other problems.
It is indeed sad that after the
having gone semi-pro in 1989, professional in 1994 and the league now managed
privately by Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership, we are still
The league kicks off with the
Charity Shield match between Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT)
and Malaysia Cup champions Kedah.
In all probability, these two
teams will battle for honours with PKNS, Pahang and Perak pushing them.
In the Premier League, it could
well be close battle as a majority of the teams are of the same level, although
Armed Forces, JDT II, Terengganu and Kuala Lumpur could have an edge.
Sadly, it is the foreign
players who are expected to hog the limelight — even though we don’t have top
notch imports to begin with.
The top scorers have been
foreigners for many years as nearly every team opt for them as their main
Little wonder every national
coach who comes along, laments the lack of top strikers.
That FA of Malaysia still allow
four foreign players (one must be from Asia) is puzzling.
If all teams in the Super and
Premier Leagues use their full quota of foreign players, we will have 96
players plying their trade in Malaysia.
Gone are the days when teams
had open trials for local players or go to districts and kampung in search of
Today, the same local players
move from one team to another. Yes in yesteryears, players played for a long
period too, but they remained because of their high quality.
Today, average players remain
in the game because there is an increase in teams and a dearth of talent.
If there are any fresh players
breaking through, they come from the President’s Cup. But their quality too is
nothing much to shout about because they play too few matches in the youth
league and the quality too is much left to be desired.
In the last 25 years, we would
have easily had more than 700 foreign players — from Asia (21 countries) Africa
(24), Europe (25), South America (six), Oceania (two) and North America,
Central America (four) — playing in the M-League.
Malaysia’s world ranking is 161
as compared to below 100 when we did not have foreign players.
Even the Chinese FA, who have
cash-rich clubs to lure top quality international talent, have announced their
Super League teams would be able to field no more than three foreigners per
match this season.
Previously four non-Chinese
players were allowed, provided one was from Asia.
Their reasoning was the
decision would be “advantageous for the overall development of Chinese football
for the cultivation of Chinese local footballers and the advantageous for
raising the level of China’s national team.”
When China, ranked 82nd in the
world, having qualified for the World Cup finals in 2002 and President Xi
Jinping having declared three goals for the country — to host, qualify, and win
a World Cup — are concerned about “foreigners impact”, it is surprising we do
not see it the same way.
The Asian giants had made
improving youth football programmes a national priority, with an official plan
promising 20,000 academies and 30 million elementary and middle school pupils
within four years.
China have worked since 2009 to
promote grassroots football and crush illegal gambling syndicates.
The sooner we get our
priorities right, the sooner we will see light at the end of the tunnel.
Otherwise, we will continue groping in the dark.
TONY is a sports journalist with close
to four decades of experience and is passionate about local sports. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org