Thursday, December 25, 1997

Drastic changes (The Malay Mail)

THE humiliation at the Jakarta Sea Games was the lowest point in Malaysian
soccer this year.
The unimaginable loss to lightweights Laos and the subsequent failure to
qualify for the semifinals led to some drastic changes.
The question is have we over-reacted to the Sea Games debacle by sacking
the whole national team?
Were the changes made by the FA of Malaysia in response to pressure
rather than an earnest desire to gain loss ground?
The only constant may be change but it has to be for the right reason
and in the right direction.
The change to the M-League format from one division to two next season
is another questionable decision.
We will have Premier 1 and Premier 2 but it is nothing new as the format
was used when the Semi-pro League was introduced in 1989 and it was in
force until 1993.
The only difference is that two club sides will be joining the ranks of
state teams in Premier 2.
But what is there to gain from playing teams of lesser quality?
The lower division is also unlikly to have a wide following and fan
support is one of the main ingredients for a successful league.
Pahang coach Jorgen Larsen said there is hardly any fault in the present
League system.
His only qualm is that league sides should be better managed.
He also feels it would be better for teams to play one match a week
instead of the current two so as to give the coaches time to work on their
The Olympic team are the new national team but with them playing in the
League too, the intention of allowing the national side to train more does
not make sense.
Prior to the Sea Games, the national team were hailed as saviours of
Malaysian soccer after their encouraging performances in the Tiger Cup,
Dunhill Cup and World Cup qualifiers.
All that changed immediately after the Sea Games.
Perhaps the better approach would be to identify and rectify specific
weaknesses instead of disbanding the team and erasing all the work put in
in the last two years.
Soccer in Malaysia has gone professional but many States FAs are hardly
run professionally.
This is another area Larsen pointed out for improvement.
For players to act professionally, the management must act that way
Self-serving officials, without a clue of the game, will have to go.
Rewarding mediocrity is self-defeating and Pahang's policy of rewarding
only achievements should be lauded.
Larsen was to be paid bonuses only for winning titles.
Teams should do away with team managers and appoint manager-coaches or
have an administrative officer handling the team's affairs.
We should not complicate things for the Sydney Olympics squad by giving
them too much responsibility.
Calibre coaches like Alan Vest, Ronald Smith, Jorgen Larsen, Karl
Weigang and Steve Wicks can help in the selection of players and their
knowledge of the game should be tapped to the maximum.
It was heartening to note that many young players featured in the
Malaysia Cup final on Saturday.
The performances of Aizal Lamin, Mohamad Rizal Mohamad Hassan, Nazzab
Hidzan, Abdul Hadi Tahir, Jalaluddin Jaafar, Khairuniza Mustafa, Ahmad
Shahruddin Rosdi and Suhami Mohamad Nor gives hope of a bright future.
State FAs have to spend more time on youth development and the rewards
to Selangor and Pahang should serve as an eye-opener to others.
And constant changes in the Malaysian soccer set-up and to their
blueprints are not going to help any.
There is nothing much that is wrong with Malaysian soccer, except that
it should be managed more professionally at all levels.
Let us hope 1998 will be a better year.

You cowards! (The Malay Mail)

IT is a blue Christmas for Pahang skipper Zsolt Bucs in Budapest today.
Bucs, 34, is upset with comments that he does not deserve the Man-of-
the-Match award given to him in the Malaysia Cup final last Saturday.
He is also unhappy about allegations that he did not give his best in
several matches this season, including the final against Selangor.
A player and an official told Mailsport on Monday that it was no
surprise the Pahang management had decided to drop Bucs for next season
because of his indifference in several matches including the final.
Bucs, contacted in Budapest on Christmas eve, was highly upset with
developments here after he had left for home with his family and fellow
Hugarian Istvan Borsos on Monday morning.
"I challenge the player and the official who accused me of pulling
punches in several matches to identify themselves," said Bucs.
"I am really disappointed such reports have come out after I have left
the country.
"Why didn't they say it to my face when I was in Malaysia or even after
the Malaysia Cup final.
"It is an act of cowardice. They are just looking for excuses for Pahang
failing to win the Malaysia Cup."
Bucs said he has no qualms about the Pahang FA's decision regarding his
continued stay with them.
"Maybe they should have been professional enough and informed me of
their decision, but otherwise I accept their decision," said Bucs.
"Pahang were just an average team but every one of us worked very hard
to reach the Malaysia Cup final.
"I did not ask for the award. It was the sportwriters who felt I
deserved it and I was honoured to receive it.
"But I would gladly trade it for the Malaysia Cup winners' medal.

"If I had pulled punches in the final, Selangor would have run rings
around us, especially when we were reduced to 10 men in the 47th minute
after Khairulniza (Mustafa) was sent off.
"I am a professional and I give my best in every match but even the
world's greatest player cannot perform consistently well in every match.
"I may have had my off off days but I gave my all in the final.
"If we had won, I am sure there would have been no such allegations.
"I am disappointed no one from the Pahang FA informed me officially of
my future but I did not let it affect my performance because I am a
Bucs can take heart that Pahang coach Jorgen Larsen and manager Datuk Dr
Yusof Ali came out in support of him in yesterday's Mailsport.
However, both said that news of his contract not being renewed had
affected Bucs.
"Even if Pahang do not want my services, I would still want to continue
playing in Malaysia.
"Negative and untrue reports will hurt my cause.
"I hope those responsible will have the courage to come out in the open
and clear the air.
"I am taking this matter seriously as it affects my livelihood and I
will go to any length to clear my name," said Bucs.

Tuesday, December 23, 1997

Dane Larsen's local touch (The Malay Mail)

THINK global, act local.
That seems to be Pahang coach Jorgen Larsen's policy in handling his
The Dane, who signed with Pahang this season, did not impose the
continental style on his team and it turned out to be quite a fulfilling
debut for him as Pahang finished Malaysia Cup runners-up.
"When I first came here, I noticed the Malaysian players were a skilful
lot but lacked the physique of the Europeans.
"I could not ask them to play a particular style when they were not
built for it.
"Instead, I used the strength of the players to build the team.
"Since I had skilful players, I used it to keep the ball more on the
ground and move it around.
"We kept our crosses sharp and low.
"We made use of set pieces to get goals and worked hard on our fitness
to last longer than the duration of the match.
"I even had small players as stoppers and critics questioned my wisdom,"
said Larsen.
He was obviously referring to stopper Khairulniza Mustafa who, despite
his small built, proved effective with a high workrate, strong tackles,
close marking and good vision.
The aerial balls were well covered by a tall sweeper in Kopi Ampiah.
"We did not adopt any style but played the style we know best alaysian the
Malaysian style.
"And our results should be ample proof that we had taken the right
Larsen also emphasises on specialisation.
"I had at least two players for each role and it is not my style to move
players around.
"With two specialised players, we don't have to worry in case of injury
or suspension.
"It is also important to have depth in the reserves. We did not have it
this season but I did my best with what I had.
"I will have to go on a scouting mission to get more players to
strengthen the reserve bench for the new season," said Larsen.
Larsen also said that bringing the best out of players means
understanding them and taking care of them.
"When players are happy they will perform.
"The players did well for us despite their limited experience."
Larsen is a true professional and is not afraid of stepping on a few
toes or ruffling a few feathers.
He is paid to do a job and he does it well.

Friday, December 19, 1997

Thanks for the favour (The Malay Mail)

PAHANG'S Danish coach Jorgen Larsen attributes his present position to
former Kedah FA deputy president and team manager Datuk Ahmad Basri Akil.
Larsen, 52, believes it was Ahmad Basri who had given his name to Pahang
FA president Tengku Mahkota Tengku Abdullah.
"I met Ahmad Basri when the Kedah team went to Qatar last year for their
pre-season matches," said Larsen.
"He made me an offer but I was with the Qatar national team then.
"But he told me to get in touch with him when I had finished my stint
with Qatar.
"I was in Phuket last year after my stint with Qatar and had called
Ahmad Basri from there.
"He insisted I go to Kedah and after much persuasion, decided on a trip
to Penang for a short holiday.
"From Penang, I went to Alor Star, where I watched my first M-League
match between Kedah and Penang.
"Ahmad Basri asked me to get in touch with him at the end of the season
but before I could do so, I got a call from Pahang.
"I was really surprised and did not even know where Pahang was.

"I have always been interested in ending my coaching career in the Far
East and when Pahang got in touch with me, I decided to give it a shot.
"Till today, I believe it was Ahmad Basri who gave my name because I
checked with my agent in England and they did not know anything about it.
"I am indeed grateful to Ahmad Basri."
Kedah's loss is indeed Pahang's gain.
Ahmad Basri did not get the opportunity to hire Larsen because he was
out of the Kedah FA setup at the end of last season.
Larsen has a two-year contract with Pahang FA and all indications are
that he will see it through.
He has proven to be a good coach, having steered a relatively young and
inexperienced Pahang team to the Malaysia Cup final.
But like most foreign professional coaches, Larsen is still not totally
satisfied with the management aspect of the team, which he intends to sort
out before continuing his services.
On Wednesday, he received an irresistibly good offer from Egyptbut
Larsen said he not only works for money, but also job satisfaction.
"I have a good team in Pahang and I like it here very much. I want to
continue with them but need to sort out a few grey areas.
"I will only contemplate to move if I fail to settle some matters."
But for now, he has only one thing in mind - to steer underdogs Pahang
to victory in tomorrow's Malaysia Cup final.
Besides a personal achievement, Larsen also stands to get a handsome
bonus if they do win.
Unlike the players, Larsen did not get any bonus this season. His
contract stipulates e is only entitled to it if Pahang win anyone of the
trophies, be it the FA Cup, League Cup or Malaysia Cup.
However, if Pahang do not win tomorrow, he will not receive a sen.
The players have already received RM7,000 for qualifying for the
Malaysia Cup and another RM6,000 for reaching the final, which was paid on
Wednesday night at a dinner in Kuantan.
Larsen has no qualms about the deal because he believes the bonus is
seen as a reward for the team's success.
Not many coaches would take a deal or challenge like Larsen, but he has
proven to be a true professional who only strives for excellence.

Sunday, December 7, 1997

Teong Kim - coach up for grabs (The Malay Mail)

FORMER national midfielder Lim Teong Kim, currently based in Germany, is
keen to coach Kuala Lumpur for next season's M-League.
And he has written in to the Kuala Lumpur to apply for the coaching
The 34-year-old Malacca-born player, who has been abroad the last three
years, attained an A Licence from the German FA in Cologne in August.
Teong Kim had earlier got his German B Licence in November 1995 and was
appointed as one of the assistant coaches to the Bayern Munich youth team.
And he had to coach for two years before he could sit for his A Licence.
KLFA secretary-general K. Rasalingam confirmed that the association had
received Lim's application which will be forwarded to their management
The KLFA have yet to make a decision on getting another coach for next
season or continue with the services of Chow Kwai Lam.
Rasalingam said: "There has been no decision as to who will coach the
team next year and it is still premature to talk about Lim's application.
"Our management committee have already asked Kwai Lam and team manager
Abdul Rahim to submit their reports on the team's performance and make
recommendations for the 1998 season.
"Datuk Seri Megat Junid Megat Ayob, the KLFA president, will have a big
say on who will coach the team. We leave it to him to determine if KL need
continuity or a change.
"Players, whose services that we require, and those whose contracts we
will not be renewing, will also be informed after the Council meeting
(which has yet to be fixed)."
Teong Kim has the credit of being the player to have represented the
most number of States in the M-League. His last outing here was for Kedah
in 1992 and 1993.
He started off his career with Malacca in 1993 and played two seasons
for them before moving to Selangor (1984-86). He also played a season for
Negri Sembilan.
From 1987 to 1991, Teong Kim played for KL and had the honour of
collecting Malaysia Cup winner medals for a record three consecutive times
from 1987 to 1989.
Lim also played professional soccer with Hertha Berlin FC in Germany in
1992 while on loan from KL.
It is learnt that Lim has also sent in applications to Negri Sembilan FA
and Kedah FA.

Saturday, December 6, 1997

Divided Loyalty (The Malay Mail)

R. NALLATHAMBY is an ardent Selangor soccer fan, having played for the
team during his heydays.
He will be at the Shah Alam Stadium tonight to watch Selangor play
Perlis. But only this time, he will have mixed feelings.
Nallathamby has not not lost interest in Selangor. Neither has he turned
coat. Trouble is, his only son, Suresh, now plays for Perlis.
Suresh, 22, joined Perlis this season after having failed in trials with
Kuala Lumpur and Pahang.
Suresh is not a regular with Perlis. But the midfielder has featured in
three matches in the first XI this season and come on as a substitute on
numerous occasions.
One of those matches was in the 2-1 win over Selangor at Shah Alam
It is not only Nallathamby, attached with Police, who will be feeling
awkward. Suresh was a member of the Selangor back-up squad in 1995-96.
And players like Nazzab Hizan and Aizal Lamin were his teammates.
"On one hand, it is my favourite team playing. On the other, my son is
playing against Selangor.
"I would like both teams to win. But that's impossible. Under the
circumstances, it's best to take a neutral stand," said Nallathamby, who
played for Selangor in the Burnley Cup (now Razak Cup) in 1969-70 and the
Selangor Under-21 and Under-23 team in 1970-71.
Nallathamby also played in the Asian Youth tournament in 1971.
Nallathmaby, a right-sided midfielder, also played for Police in the FAM
Cup for two years from 1972.
Currently, he is the assistant coach of Police in the FAM Cup.

Nallathamby was also a national referee until he suffered a knee injury
On the possibility of Selangor losing tonight through a goal scored by
his son, Nallathamby said in a professional era the player's loyalty
should be to the one who employs him.
"I know Suresh would have loved to play for Selangor. But he did not
make the squad. He needed the experience and decided to try his luck
elsewhere," said Nallathamby, 47.
"I am happy for him because Perlis saw the potential in Suresh and gave
him a break.
"And nothing must be sweeter for him than having reached the semifinals
with the team in his debut in the M-league."
Suresh hails from Hot Springs in Setapak which has produced several
footballers for Selangor. Noteworthy are Santokh Singh, K. Rajagopal, R.
Suresh, who used to play for a local team called Hotspurs. could realise
his dreams of playing for Selangor if he perseveres.
But for tonight, Suresh will be moving in for the kill against Selangor.
Dad, in the meantime, will have his heart caught into his throat.