Thursday, September 30, 1999

Enough of half-baked schemes (29/09/1999 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 29/09/1999
Headline : Enough of half-baked schemes

WE seem to be missing the essence of it. Malaysian soccer, trying to
regain lost flavour, is being treated like instant noodles.
While it is heartening that the powers-that-be are putting extra
emphasis on development by having long term plans, the attempt to "curry
it" with a quick fix is very much evident.
The fact that the Ministry of Education, together with FAM and State
FAs, have embarked on making soccer a more serious sport in schools with
year round programmes is indeed welcoming.
As Malaysian international soccer standards stew in bad taste, don't
talk about fast results when it comes to development. The very word
"development" in the dictionary means something that grows or changes over
a period of time into a better form.
But it is disturbing to hear of the annoucement that Malaysian soccer
fortunes will be determined in three to six months.
This came about with the challenge thrown to Briton Allan Harris, who is
expected to coach the national Under-21 team for the KL 2001 Sea Games.
Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, head of the FAM technical committee,
had said they wanted to see Harris bring instant results.
Harris has been offered a three-plus-six month contract during which the
committee are expected to evaluate his performance. While Harris comes
with impressive credentials, he surely cannot be expected to be a Midas.
If Harris had that kind of capabilities, he would certainly be the most
sought after coach in the soccer world.
Are FAM being impatient? Or is it that they have to "play along" with
the National Sports Council (NSC) and the Ministry of Sports who
apparently are results oriented?
Short term goals have happened once too many times in Malaysian soccer,
leading to a curtailing effect. What can be expected of Harris in six
months? It all boils down to the material that is available and how our
players can be moulded.
If Harris can really produce results in six months, it only means one
thing -that Malaysian soccer has talents that are already polished. And if
that is the case, why do we need a foreigner to work the levers to make a
formidable team out of them?
The sad truth is that Malaysian players have a poor foundation of the
game. And even at national level, coaches end up having to teach them the
basics, not to mention professional ethics.
Under the circumstances, for any coach to cook up a winning combination
overnight is impossible.
It was no different when Ronald Smith was appointed FAM Director of
Coaching a few months ago. He was offered a one-year contract with an
option for another year.
Do we expect results in one or two years when the work involves
development? Probably, a five-year contract with an option for another
five would have been justifiable.
Sure, FAM need to evaluate their employees first before any long-term
commitment. But is it fair to assess people on short terms when their very
tasks involve development which means a lengthy process?
When a coach is appointed, his credentials and past records will have
been scrutinised. From this exercise itself, FAM would have a good idea
of his calibre. Sure, the risk factor is always there but we have to live
with it.
When coaches are given short-term contracts and asked to produce
results, they would be inclined to go for proven players and inevitably
the same old players hog the limelight.
With short term contracts, coaches would be unwilling to spend time
working with players or experiment with ideas.
The big side-effect of this is that Malaysian soccer ended up having a
`rojak' coaching system as coaches come and go.
Can we all be a just little more patient? Be ready to go for that extra-
time goal if Malaysian soccer is to be a winner.

Monday, September 20, 1999

More bite, less bark (19/09/1999 - Sunday Mail)

Publication : SUM
Date : 19/09/1999
Headline : More bite, less bark

MALAYSIAN soccer players need to be kept on a short leash to stop the game
from going to the dogs.
Drastic measures are needed to arrest the rot and rehabilitate the
system that is littered with players without a clue to the meaning of
The rape of Malaysian soccer reputation has gone on for far too long -
leading to our degradation by seemingly impotent teams like the
Philippines, Laos and Singapore.
Something has to be done, starting with the attitude and behaviour of
the players who are making a mockery of the word `professionalism.' And
last week, several young players from Negri Sembilan were alleged to have
gang-raped a salesgirl.
The only thing our players equate professional soccer with is money,
never mind that their performances shortchange the fans. How they look is
more important than the waning texture of their game.
Going for the latest soccer boots, the coloured ones that match their
jerseys and doing up their hair as though they were going to a ball
instead of the field is more important than their game.
While they can afford to be flashy in their clothing, they couldn't get
themselves properly attired for training like wearing shin-pads - a
required protection in soccer.
They think they are mature enough to take care of themselves and abhor
being treated like kids if put under the supervision of officials. A
regimented camp life represses their freedom of expression and dulls their
skills. They clamour for `freedom' and be allowed to manage their own
When FAM granted "freedom" to the Olympic 2000 players and let them
reside in apartments instead of the Wisma FAM dormitory, they gave
themselves a bad name.
They gambled all night long at their apartments, sneaked out to discos
and had no proper rest for training. They even trashed the apartments just
before the team were disbanded.
And these were the very same players who were taught to live like
professionals by no-nonsense coach Hatem Souissi. The first thing they did
when free of Hatem's control, was to express themselves in all the wrong
Then, we had some players wearing slippers on a recent trip to
Bangladesh for a tournament and sneaking out of Wisma FAM for midnight
No one is denying these youths the joy of growing up. There is always
room for fun and frolic but it should be tempered with moderation. Just
get the priorities right.
The only way to deal with the situation is for the authorities to act in
an authoritarian way - subject the players to a regimented lifestyle. That
seems the only way because no amount of advising or educating on the
requirements of professionalism seems to work.
The rot starts in schools where the attitude of players leaves much to
be desired with poor attendance for training sessions and sloppy dressing.
At M-League-level, players perpetrate a lot of nonsense - like partying
into the wee hours of the morning, getting drunk and skipping training,
getting into brawls, quarreling over women, getting booked for speeding
or drink driving. And there have been accidents with players getting
If such a drastic measure is not feasible, then probably, our soccer
should return to the amateur days where at least the players will be fully
occupied the whole day - having to work 9 to 5 and play soccer in the
evenings. This way, they might be too tired to think of having late
But it is better to put them on a leash before someone gets killed.