Saturday, July 12, 1997

Club soccer still crucial (The Malay Mail)

THE FA of Malaysia will not allow club soccer to disintegrate. Even though
it is largely amateur, it is crucial for the development of the game in
the country.
It is for this reason that FAM are persisting with the national amateur
league even though it lacks publicity and fan support.
FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Shah Sultan Ahmad Shah said for the
national amateur league to gain more support, State FAs should upgrade
their own leagues.
"There is certainly a urgent need for a facelift in local State leagues.
They have to be more competitive," said Tengku Abdullah.
"Just because we have gone professional in the M-League, we must not
neglect the grassroots.
"Our future is still with them. With competitive and well organised
local leagues, we will see better quality matches. That in turn means
better teams playing in the FAM Cup.
"The FAM Cup should serve as a feeder tournament to the M-League
besides. There is also the Reserve League which is for the younger
"The FAM Cup is the transit point from the Reserve League to the Premier
League. That's how important it is."
Indeed, the FAM Cup, which has a history dating back to 1952. Until
1974, it catered for State teams. Eventually it was contested by club and
district sides.
The tournament then received wide media coverage because of the presence
of teams like UMNO, Kuantan FA, Kilat Club Kelantan, PKNS, NS Indians,
Hong Chin, UMBC, Penang Port Commission, City Hall SC, Cheq Point, Sultan
Sulaiman Club, UMBC, Kuantan FA, Penang Development Corporation and KIA to
name just a few.
Besides, these teams boasted of some of the top national players. Some
matches were as good as Malaysia Cup clashes.
In 1993, the concept of the FAM Cup changed. From a knockout tournament
it became a national league for clubs.
Subsidies were given to clubs by FAM as the national body wanted club
soccer to flourish and become a reservoir of talent.
However, the desire was not realised. The tournament became a pasture
for older players from the M-League and for has-beens.
But the trend is slowly but surely changing as more corporate teams are
taking the game seriously.
There are more younger players and the clubs themselves have become more
The FAM Cup is also seeing better known coaches. That augurs well for
the game and the coaching fraternity.
However, the FAM Cup can still be more glamorous and it is indeed sad
that States like Selangor and Sarawak are not represented.
Selangor especially have one of the better organised local Leagues.
Their league champions are quite wealthy and yet they chosen not to enter.
FAM provide RM25,000 to all teams in the first round and another
RM25,000 for those who qualify for the second round.
FAM can only assist to a certain extent. There should be sacrifices and
contribution from the State FAs and their clubs if we want to see soccer
There is a strong indication this year's FAM Cup will see better quality
Even the number of foreign players has risen.

KL's debutants looking good (The Malay Mail)

KUALA LUMPUR, ardent suporters of the FAM Cup, have entered two new teams
for the tournament that kicks off tomorrow.
The two teams are Maybank and Malay Mail, who emerged champions and
runners-up in last year's KLFA Dunhill League.
However, missing in the FAM Cup are stalwarts, City Hall SC, who pulled
out of the tournament even though they were among the top four teams at
national level. They even competed in the FA Cup this year.
It is indeed a sad exit for City Hall who used to boast of big names in
KL soccer. At one time, they were the backbone of the M-League side.
Even in the local League, City Hall are having problems fielding a
respectable team.
Thus, it is now left to teams like Maybank and Malay Mail to keep the
city flag flying high as the new representatives in the national League.
Both the bankers and the newspaper teams had to compete in the national
qualifying tournament earlier this year to earn the right to compete in
the FAM Cup.
The debutants, drawn in different groups, have been preparing diligently
with the hope of making an impact.
Malay Mail have roped in former State and national players S.
Balachandran and T. Gopinath Naidu to name a few.
Maybank selected their players from their branches from all over the
country and with their own Sports Complex facilities, they must surely be
among the best prepared teams. They are coached by former Penang custodian
and current national women's soccer coach Richard Scully.
But they are aware they will be up against some tough opponents,
especially those who have been playing the tournament.
Among them are defending champions Malacca Telekoms who dethroned Johor
FC last year to deny them a hat-trick of wins.
Then of course, there is Police and Armed Forces who are full affiliates
of the FA of Malaysia. They receive subsidies as much as the State FAs.
However, both Police and Armed Forces have yet to win the title.
Teams like Chempaka Textiles, who also played in the FA Cup tournament
this year, have a generous. They have been preparing seriously for the
challenges ahead.
Pahang LKPP, who have lately emerged as a force to be reckoned with,
have engaged former Pahang M-League coach Yunus Alif. They should be a
team to watch.
Other teams like debutants Kelantan TNB and seasoned campaigners Kedah
JKR and Kedah PKNK have their own aspirations.
Everything certainly points to a more interesting tournament.

Manager: Faiz Ishak
Deputy Manager: Ahmad Talib
Official: Fauzi Omar
Official: Abdul Wahab Mohamed
Official: Charles Peter
Coach: S. Gunasegaran
Convenor/ Asst. Coach: Tony Mariadass
Squad: Hasnul Ramlan Khairuddin, S. Balachandran, Masaaud Md Zain,
Alagenthiran Perumal, Sivaprakash Subramaniam, K. Sivakumar Krishnan,
Roshaidi Ramli, U. Supramaniam, Taso Notaras, Bathmanathan Nadarajah,
Azizul Jamaluddin, Ku Azmi Ku Saad, R. Subramaniam, Jegasegaran
Rethinavelu, Chandran Nathan, Mohd Imran Ahmad, Venaigam Packirisamy, M.
Pavalamani, Prem Raj Ramachandran, Viajantheran Krishnan, Gopinath Naidu
Thambirajah, Mathen Sundram, Idowe Adenubi Adesola, Sizwe Mchunu, Gunalan

Friday, July 11, 1997

What's happened to reason? (The Malay Mail)

IT is about time the national sports associations, local coaches and even
the National Sports Council (NSC) took a hard look at themselves before
faulting foreign coaches in the country.
Once too often we have heard of foreign coaches leaving in a huff, being
sacked with petty reasons because someone does not like their face or
professional work.
Or because these coaches do not want to play "yes man" to the powers
that be.
This has been going on for years but with the Commonwealth Games less
than a year away, it is troubling to see more and more foreign coaches
being given the boot.
Sackings are part and parcel of sports, but it must be done for valid
reasons and with tact.
Taking stock after a period of time and assessing progress is
But again, everything should be above board and professionally done.
Recently, the NSC sacked three athletics coaches - Daniel St Hilaire,
Uwe Freimuth and Oleg Dmitrounsenko - after the Jakarta Sea Games, while
the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia will not renew the contract of
their national elite coach, Jamie Hickox.
The irony in all the sackings is that the athletes under the charge of
these coaches only had good words for them and their training systems.
A few even went on record to say their improvement was due to the
foreign coaches.
But obviously the views of these athletes were of little or no value, as
the administrators felt they knew better and stuck with their decisions to
get rid of the coaches.
Whether the removal of these coaches were because of jealousy,
manipulations or because they were simply too professional to the liking
of the authorities, are questions that need to be answered honestly.
It is no secret that most local coaches look at foreign coaches with
envy and do everything possible to make their life miserable by not
Instead of trying to learn from the foreign coaches who are naturally
better exposed internationally, they work against them.
After all, the foreign coaches are not going to be here forever. It is
the local coaches who will eventually be taking over. But these local
coaches cannot wait for their time.
They rather go for overseas courses, which are more holiday trips, than
work as understudy in their own country.
While the authorities are impatient for results, the local coaches run
down their foreign counterparts.
Then we also have people who hold power in sports associations
interfering in every aspect and expect the foreign coaches to kow-tow to
When some of the foreign coaches do not agree with these officials, they
just fall into the black book and it is a matter of time before an excuse
is found to get rid of them.
Then, we also have athletes who undermine foreign coaches just because
they are not prepared to work hard.
The boxers are a case in point.
Some of them found Cuban coach, Nivaldo Pacheco, too tough and staged a
walkout and wanted him out before they returned in preparation for the
Jakarta Sea Games.
But at least the national boxing association did not give in to the
demands of the boxers who were instead asked to check in or ship out.
Not many associations would have done what the the boxing association
did and they should be applauded for standing firm and supporting the
Now let us look some examples where foreign coaches have been given full
backing to do their work with ample time to make a difference.
Sid Allen, who has been in Malaysia the last seven years, gets a free
hand in coaching the national bowlers.
The association's administrators and coaches fully support Allen and
they work as a unit instead of against him.
Thus, it is no surprise that bowling has brought us international
Sarawak's soccer coach Alan Vest has also been allowed to do his job
He has been around for six seasons and look at what he has achieved over
the years with limited resources.
Sarawak are this season's League champions.
Of course, there have been cases where incompetent coaches were engaged
and it is only right they be dismissed.
But then, whose fault is that they landed on our shores in the first
The problem with many associations is they hire foreign coaches just for
the sake of hiring them.
And where true professionals are hired, the associations should not be
telling them what to do at every turn.
Still, it must not be forgotten that there are some dedicated local
coaches who are denied recognition.
These are the people who do their best without any interest in personal
They are also the ones uninterested in the politics of the associations
or getting into the good books of the powers that be.
It seems that sports administrators are easily pleased with average
results like being tops at the Sea Games.
At the rate we are going, the the public is in for a big letdown in the
Commonwealth Games.
Let us not fool ourselves even for a second that we can do it without
foreign expertise, at least for now.
Winning in backyard meets is no victory at all.
Perhaps sports like bowling, squash and badminton may have a pull effect
in raising the professionalism and standards of the other sports.
But that will only happen when there are open minds and reasonable
people handling the sporting affairs of the country.

More of an eye-opener (The Malay Mail)

STAGING the Youth World Cup soccer championship, which concluded at the
Shah Alam Stadium last Saturday, was not meant to be just a showpiece.
More importantly, it was an eye-opener and experience to help upgrade
the game in the country.
This was the hope of Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, the FA of
Malaysia deputy-president and Local Organising Committee chairman of the
World Youth Cup.
He was attending yesterday's briefing on the latest changes by FIFA on
the Laws of Games for referees, coaches, team officials and FA secretaries
in Petaling Jaya.
"We received accolades from all quarters for our fine staging of the
World Youth Cup, but I hope it will be more than that for us in Malaysia,"
said Tengku Abdullah.
"For us in the soccer fraternity, it should be a learning experience in
all aspects - organisation, administration, the professionalism of the
players and coaches, the tactics and techniques of the game, the
refereeing and everything associated with the game.
"We should now use all these experiences to upgrade the game in our own
M-League and achieve an even higher standard in all aspects.
"The referees, coaches, players, team officials and administrative staff
of each State should have benefited from what they have seen during the
World Youth Cup.
"The very fact that we brought the championship to Malaysia only
underlines our seriousness about the game.
"We certainly did not stage the tournament just as a showpiece."
Tengku Abdullah's hopes of the local soccer fraternity benefiting from
Malaysia staging the tournament should be the norm, but how much really
was our gain is left to be seen.
For starters, the local coaches were not in organised groups to be at
all venues to study the various teams or share knowledge with the foreign
coaches except for a handful picked by the FAM to assist the FIFA
technical study group.
Many State FAs gave their M-League players a break during the
championship when they should have organised trips to matches to witness,
study and analyse the game patterns of the various teams.
In some States which were hosting the group matches, their M-League
players did not have tickets or passes made available to them.
While coaches make a beeline to go overseas in search for foreign
players for their teams, many did not take the opportunity to scout for
talented and world class youth players in action in their very own
While coaches from France, talent scouts and private agents were in
numbers here, our local coaches were probably contented to watch the
action from the television screens.
Probably, it was the administrative and organisational staff of the
various host States' Local Organising Committees who would have benefited
from the high standards set and required by FIFA.
But then again, unless whatever has been learnt is implemented in the
local scene, it will just be a case where it was done to please FIFA only.
Tengku Abdullah was certainly on the ball when he underlined the
importance that the local soccer fraternity should place on the lessons
learnt from organising the Youth World Cup.
And it is also hoped that this will reflect on the M-League, which
resumes tomorrow with the second round after a month's break.