Saturday, February 14, 2004

Prove me wrong (The Malay Mail)

THE new season kicks off today with the FA of Malaysia (FAM) hoping to
change the image of Malaysian soccer.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding the inaugural Malaysian Super
League (MSL) which is seen as another incarnation of the same game.
But FAM deputy-president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah's seriousness
is underlined by the fact he is prepared to quit if the League is not
successful in three years.
A change in names matters little when it is the changing of mindset that
is needed to rejuvenate the game.
It will take clear thinking by parents, teachers, coaches, players,
officials, administrators and fans to make it work.
What has changed from yesteryears is the passion for the game.
We have improved in terms of facilities, finance and technical knowhow.
Semi-pro soccer came in 1989 and we went on to professional status in
Now, 15 years down the road, Malaysian soccer still cannot make an
Most Malaysians enjoy the English Premier League and are very
knowledgeable of it.
It has, sadly, come at a great cost to the local game.
FAM are right to insist on professionalism when it comes to the players
and officials especially since MSL champions get RM500,000 and the
runners-up RM300,000. The third-placed team will take home RM200,000.
But when foreigners take the place of local players in the league, the
selectors will have a hard time coming up with a decent national side.
Tengku Abdullah has said it should serve as a wake-up call for the local
players to fight for their places with improved performances.
But the average Malaysian soccer player is a lowly educated, laidback
character who is happy to earn between RM3,000 and RM10,000 a month for
working 18 to 20 hours a week.
The key roles would be going to players like Phillimon Chipeta of
Zambia, Keith Gumbs of St KItts-Nevis, Slovak Ivan Ziga or Argentine
Ricardo Silva.
Foreign players may draw the fans to watch teams like Perak, Pahang,
Sabah and even Public Bank but it is not going to help local soccer.
The MSL is an attempt to see Malaysian soccer improve but has enough
thought been put into organising a competition that would produce calibre
players like in Japan, Korea and China?
The priority should be to develop a wide base of quality players before
moving to the next level - excellence.
There were many new faces when FAM decided to ban foreign players for
three seasons since 1999 but they may well be discouraged with the arrival
of the imports.
A lot of money is being spent by State teams and clubs on the foreigners
and it would be wise but only if the foreigners were top brains who can
coach and develop players in the States.
This will ensure quality players, with a command of the basics, coming
through from the development programmes and youth teams.
The MSL would be great if it produces the players who go on to become
household names, like it was all those years ago.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

True football man

DELL was a soccer fan since he was just a schoolboy and naturally, it was
Matt Busby's side, Manchester United, that got him hooked on the game.
It was the great players like George Best, Bobby Charlton, Dennis Law
and Nobby Stiles who inspired him to become a footballer.
Of course, his elder brother Sadar Khan, a national player, also played
a part when Dell began training with the Sultan Sulaiman Club in Kampung
It was not long before Dell's talent, as a defender, was noticed and he
was selected to the Malaysian youth team in 1968.
The following year, he had already made the senior team and went on to
earn about 30 caps before a serious knee injury forced him out of the
Before he bowed out, however, he had the honour of being part of the
national team who helped Malaysia qualify for the first-ever Olympic
soccer tournament in Munich in 1972.
It was in 1971, in the pre-Olympics, in Seoul, that Malaysia booked
their ticket when they topped the group after beating South Korea, Japan,
Taiwan and the Philippines.
Till today, Dell still recalls the proud moment where he played in all
the matches except against Korea.
He still remembers how Syed Ahmad had headed in a cross from left winger
Looi Loon Teik to give Malaysia the solitary goal for the win.
But sadly, Dell was not on the plane to Munich because he suffered a
knee injury in the run-up training stint in Cologne.
He was among the six players from the pre-Olympics squad of 1971 who had
failed to make the trip to Munich for one reason or another.
The other five were goalkeeper Wong Hee Kok, defender Chan Kok Leong,
midfielder M. Kalimuthu and strikers Yap Eng Hock and Syed Ahmad.
That exclusion and his injury ended his soccer career prematurely when
he was 31.
While he concentrated on his police work after that, his love for sports
never deserted him.
In 1978, he was the secretary for the Royal Malaysian Police Sports
Council and in the 80s, Dell got back to being involved in soccer as an
official, when the former Mayor of Kuala Lumpur and president of KLFA, Tan
Sri Elyas Omar invited him to come on board the Council. He was then co-
opted into the FA of Malaysia disciplinary Board and in 1996 was made the
national soccer team manager where he took charge of the side that
featured in the 1997 Jakarta Sea Games.
Before that, he had already managed the boxing team in the 1978 Sea
In 1998, he was made the independent delegate in the FA of Malaysia.
Dell went on to assume the position of FA of Malaysia secretary-general,
taking over from Datuk Paul Mony Samuel in June 2000, a post which he
still holds.
Dell has not only moved in ranks in the police force, but in soccer too,
where he progressed from a fan to a player and then official and
He is now regarded as a top soccer official in this region and is fast
gaining recognition in the world scene.