Friday, January 25, 2002

Foreign Mercenaries vs Local Guns (The Malay Mail)

PERHAPS to the frowns of local players but to the excitement of fans, the
foreign legion are returning to the 2002 M-League.
The presence of these international soldiers of fortune of the game will
mean fewer places in Premier One and Premier Two for local players.
After an absence of three years, the FA of Malaysia are reopening the
doors of the M-League to foreign players in order to inject more
excitement into the league.
After three seasons of all local players in the league. we will get to
judge whether the return of the foreign players will make a difference, at
least in gate attendance. if not in standards.
In recent years, teams have complained of poor gates as few fans showed
up at the stadiums to watch fellow Malaysians play.
Generally, the return of foreign players is seen as a timely injection
into the league to rekindle interest, and hopefully improve the standards
of the game and fill the stands.
But one cannot deny that the absence of foreign players has given local
players more opportunities to make their mark. And the success of the
national Under-23 squad in reaching the SEA Games final last year is ample
proof that talents have surfaced over the last three years.
Significantly, not all teams are rushing into hiring foreign players and
some, determined to prove a thing or two, will stick to an all local cast
season this time.
This will enable FAM, and fans to see for themselves what influence the
foreign players have on Malaysian soccer.
After the Semi-Pro league was introduced in 1989 and it went fully
professional in 1996, this is a significant year for the game as we will
see which direction it is headed.
The inclusion of foreign players will deny at least two local players
each team a first XI spot if every outfit are to fill up their foreign
At an average of one foreign player per team, at least 24 local players
are going to be denied action in the Premier I and II League.
If this pushes back Malaysian soccer, one wonders how much it would
dilute the pool of the national team.
But at the same time, another school of thought is that the
participation of of foreign players will help Malaysian soccer rise.
In retrospect, from 1989 to 1998, 453 foreign players graced the M-
How much has it helped Malaysian soccer?
A breakdown of foreign players who have played in Malaysia is as
follows: 1989 (34); 1990 (45); 1991 (45); 1992 (48); 1993 (48); 1994 (48);
1995 (47); 1996 (32); 1997 (55) and 1998 (51).
Granted that, this time FAM have introduced stringent measures that only
quality foreign players are hired, but still, the move to bring them back
is debatable.
Is it the crowds in the stands that we are interested in, or the
development of the game in the country?
If the State FAs only use the money they spend on foreign players on
soccer development, the benefits will certainly be far larger and
Everything points to the teams being more interested in trophies than
Malaysian soccer.
Penang, one of the States who have decided to stay fully local, should
be applauded for their stand. And if they can achieve results against the
foreign players powered teams, they will have proved a point.
The other interesting factor will be the performance of club teams,
especially Johor FC, who won Premier II last season, and Negri Sembilan
Chempaka I - as they make their Premier I debut.
A lot has been said about club soccer, but more often than not, it is in
a negative manner, despite the achievements of teams like Johor FC.
For reasons best known to the State FAs, there have been moves to deny
clubs the opportunity to play at the highest level.
Many State FAs seem to feel insecure over the presence of these clubs,
who more often than not, are better managed than State teams, the former
however are quick to deny this.
Many fail to realise or even accept the fact that Kedah, Police and
Armed Forces last year finished below the clubs in Premier II.
Kedah got RM1 million while Police and Armed Forces got RM300,000 each
but yet faltered behind clubs who received only RM200,000 each from FAM.
Thus it is ironic that Police and got an increase of RM100,000 to a
subsidy of RM400,000 for the new season, It is indeed sad that some State
FA officials are short-sighted and blinded by personal agendas, leaving
the game to suffer.
Thus, it is important that Johor FC and Chempaka do well in Premier I to
prove that club soccer is thriving and leading to the betterment of
Malaysian soccer.
The 2002 M-League certainly has all the trappings of an exciting season
for many reasons but at the end of the season, is Malaysian soccer going
to benefit?

Norizam Ali Hassan (Perak): 13
Khalid Jamlus (Perak): 11
Rusdi Suparman (Selangor): 11
Wan Rohaimi Wan Ismail (Ter): 10
Hasmawi Hassan (Penang): 9
Liew Kim Tu (KL): 9

2001 FACTS
Total goals (Premier One)
362 in 132 league matches for an average of 2.09 per match.
Best Attack
Penang (45 goals)
Best Defence
Penang (concede 14 goals)
Highest Scoring game
Pahang 6 Negri Sembilan 2