Saturday, January 28, 2006

Kicking up a fuss over MyTeam (27/01/2006 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 27/01/2006
Headline : Kicking up a fuss over MyTeam

THE MyTeam soccer programme, launched last week, has been getting a lot
of attention - both good and bad.
There are two schools of thought on this reality show, to be aired over
TV3 for 11 weeks starting on March 23 and culminating in the amateur team
(that are assembled through trials) playing the national team on May 28
at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
The selection process starts on Feb 18 at Dataran Bandaraya in Johor
Baru followed by other similar events in the other 12 States. The players
selected will then attend a training stint from April 10-May 27.
One school of thought feels this is a good move and a wake-up call for
the FA of Malaysia (FAM) and if successful, it will prove the national
body have not been doing their job.
This party also feels that finally, there will be some kind of talent
identification and a fair selection process with everyone having an equal
chance of vying for a spot. And above all, this programme will offer an
avenue for new players to make their mark.
While the FAM have sanctioned the programme and even allowed their
national team to be "sparring partners" in a match, the national body
have been getting a lot of flak for allowing their players to be
"degraded" in agreeing to take on an amateur team that would have only
trained for eight weeks in an official match!
This, many felt, is Malaysian soccer going to the pits.
Some questioned FAM's wisdom of being involved in a such a programme,
and others went further to ask whether FAM will sanction more matches
like these if proffered by other companies or that this was a special
one-off case.
But Jason Lo, the CEO of Maya Team Sdn Bhd, creator and promoter of
MyTeam, feels otherwise.
He said the formation of the team was not to challenge FAM, but just
offering another option to identify talent, and more importantly, to prod
the general public into talking about local soccer games.
"Much have been reported in the newspapers, television and radio about
the MyTeam playing the national team since we launched it last week. This
is something we were hoping for," said Jason.
"Whether good or bad, people are talking about local soccer. In recent
years, we have not been able to get this kind of hype for a match
involving the national team," said the the Sarawak-born Jason, who grew
up with the Ngap Sayot spirit.
While Jason seemed earnest about the project, it is former
international and soccer pundit Serbegeth Singh (above) - better known as
"Shebby" - who has stirred a hornet's nest.
Despite not having any coaching qualifications and no prior coaching
experience, Serbegeth has been appointed coach of the amateur team.
Fuelling criticism is Serbegeth's confident talk about the amateurs
beating the national team.
But Serbegeth remains unperturbed and believes his broadcasting work
involving EPL matches plays a huge part in bolstering his confidence as
he believes he has learnt a great deal and wants to apply it to game
Serbegeth is lucky that he is given this opportunity because he is
working without the actual constraints of the game - finances, pressure,
administration woes and being answerable to others.
Khairy Jamaluddin, executive producer and chairman of Maya Team Sdn Bhd
who is also an independent member of the FAM Council, concurs with Jason
on the programme sparking interest in local soccer.
But Khairy also has big visions of the programme showcasing local
talent and creating a multiplier effect that can become a catalyst for
changes in the way the game is played and governed in Malaysia - from
grassroots to the national team.
How this is going to be achieved is perplexing as, after all, this is a
reality show created mainly to entertain TV viewers.
Having handled The Malay Mail soccer team for 15 years and seeing them
progress from the KL Dunhill League to the M-League Premier Two, where
they competed from 2000-2002, I know the game's demands and rigours, its
constraints, problems, financial woes and difficulties in managing a side.
MyTeam have the luxury of not going through all this and they have a
golden path laid in front of them for a shot at the national side.
Thus, the MyTeam programme is basically a "reality show", and should be
accorded only that status and not be treated as a development programme.
It may create excitement in the local soccer fraternity, a source of
entertainment, probably unearthing a few new talents and giving an
opportunity for some to play against the national team. But what about
the future?
What happens after the programme? Is it a one-off effort or is it going
to continue? How much is Malaysian soccer going to benefit from this
exercise? Who are going to be the winners in this project? Is it a
money-making project?
Could the amount of money raised for this project through big sponsors
have been more wisely used for long-term development programmes, talent
identification projects in kampung and districts throughout the length
and breadth of Malaysia to secure a brighter future for the game?
These will be the questions asked by football-loving Malaysians as they
are kept entertained by the MyTeam act.
Maybe, after May 28, there will be some real answers forthcoming.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Putting the money to good use (20/01/2006 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 20/01/2006
Headline : Putting the money to good use

SPORTS is a defined activity for pleasure that also needs physical
efforts or skills.
Basically, it is all about enjoyment, with the elite taking their
participation to excel at a higher level, to compete against the best at
various levels, and also to win in their respective fields.
Sports is more often than not competed in a special area, and according
to specified rules.
While the general rules of sports are quite clear and do not cause
complications, it is the rules set to govern specific sports meets that
spawn countless controversies.
This is especially so when the rules are set with specific agendas by
certain parties who have vested interests or with ulterior motives.
If only the administrators of sports can stick to fair play, and are
passionate about the development of sports, everything will then fall
into place.
The Malaysia Games (Sukma), going into their 11th edition in Kedah in
May, have lost the essence and meaning of their inauguration in 1986.
It is now a a battle for the medals at all costs, building new
facilities for the sake of having them and seeing certain parties gaining
financially in the process.
Athletes have become the sacrificial lambs and pawns in the
bureaucratic battles.
The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) have rightly decided to take up
the case with the National Sports Council (NSC) to allow national
athletes, who did not win gold or silver medals in the recent SEA Games,
to compete in the coming Sukma.
It is baffling how young athletes are barred from competing in an
age-group competition meant for them, just because they have competed in
the SEA Games.
It is fine that those athletes who have won gold or silver medals at
the SEA Games - in any case the SEA Games is the lowest level of
international competition in the region - are barred from competing in
the Sukma, as they have attained certain standards and should not deny
other budding athletes a chance of tasting glory.
Besides, the presence of these SEA Games athletes at the Sukma will not
be healthy for the development of sports - which was the Malaysia Games'
prime objective.
Many States had not released their athletes to compete at the
Philippines SEA Games last month as they would be barred from competing
in the Sukma.
This was indeed sad, because the losers are the athletes themselves,
who were deprived of exposure at SEA Games level, which could have had
helped them improve.
If all the States are serious about the development of sports, the
number of medals won should be the least of their worries as they should
focus on how well their athletes fare or how much progress they have made.
However, the States will be complaining they have spent a lot of money
for the Sukma and thus need to see immediate returns.
This is rather subjective because in most cases, the money spent is on
attire, accommodation at top-quality hotels, allowances and handsome
monetary rewards for achievements at youth level, when the funds could
have been put to better use.
At the same time, money spent on the young athletes' training, food
supplements, allowances, coaches and facilities, will be with the
nation's sporting future in mind. And that itself is worth many gold
Development is about spending money for the right reasons and seeing
rewards at a later stage.
There is further controversy with the Sukma secretariat declaring that
the Federal Territories Ministry, Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya,
will compete in Kedah under one banner - Federal Territory.
In the past, KL and Labuan always competed in the Sukma as separate
However, last March, the three FTs were merged under the Federal
Territories Sports Council by the then Federal Territories Minister Tan
Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad.
Sports associations in Kuala Lumpur, however, do not agree on competing
as one team at the Kedah Sukma, and have appealed to Sports Minister
Datuk Azalina Othman Said (left) to intervene.
It is hoped that whatever decision taken on the status of the Federal
Territory teams, it will be in the athletes' interest, and also for the
development of sports in the country.
One has to look at the big picture and not be narrow-minded by making
decisions for selfish reasons, which will be detrimental to the country's
sporting future.
Big money is spent on sports. As such, let's forget about egos and
personal agendas by making the right decisions, so that sports and
athletes in the country will be the winners.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hire only foreigners with good records (13/01/2006 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 13/01/2006
Headline : Hire only foreigners with good records

SUCCESS always draws envy, jealousy and urges to be part of the
More often than not, the athlete who achieves success becomes the
victim and this may affect his or her performances.
With this in mind, it is indeed sad Nicol David's fitness trainer for
eight months before she attained world No 1 status in January - Allstair
McCaw (right) - is no longer in the picture.
Of course, there were many people who played a role in Nicol's success.
They include her parents, but coach Liz Irving and McCaw, certainly
played a huge role although Nicol herself should be given the bulk of the
McCaw, a South African, who is based in Holland, is a high profile
fitness guru who is reportedly sought by the Indian Cricket Board as a
replacement for Adrian le Roux, who joined the South African national
team earlier this month.
World No 5 squash player Natalie Grinham, is also said to be interested
in McCaw.
News that McCaw's application to join the AsiaCom Project team was
rejected by Damien Kelly, the head of the unit for the project, is indeed
Nicol, will now have her fitness training charted by Australian fitness
trainer Sean Strugess, together with other scientists and physiologists
from the National Sports Institute.
One wonders if Nicol was consulted when McCaw was left out of her
While it should be lauded there are foreign sports scientists,
physiologists, bio-mechanics, physiotherapists, fitness trainers and
masseurs who want to help our athletes, it is hoped they have a track
record of achievements.
There have been many cases in the past - especially in soccer - where
foreign coaches come to Malaysia to ply their trade but end up taking
courses conducted by the FA of Malaysia and the Asian Football
Confederation (AFC).
More often than not, these coaches just circulate in this region.
If they are that good, why aren't they employed in their own country?
We should seek foreign expertise in areas where we lack, but it must
not be for the sake of hiring a foreigner.
At worst, our athletes must not be short-changed at the expense of
someone out to gain something from the programme.
Good coaches remain in the background, especially in triumph but take
the heat when the going is tough.
It is an unrewarding job, but ask any good coach and he will speak of
his private moments where he has enjoyed his moment of glory without
There have been some good coaches who have come to our shores, but
their stints are cut short because they are true professionals with no
More often than not, it is the coaches who play politics that stay here
the longest - even if it means making compromises on their charges.
For the sake of Malaysian sports, let's all be professional in every
sense of the word and give sports a chance to strive in this country on
fair playing terms.

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Time to crack the whip, FAM (06/01/2006 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 06/01/2006
Headline : Time to crack the whip, FAM

IT is hoped the FA of Malaysia (FAM) disciplinary board, who meet today,
come down hard on errant officials and players, who have brought the game
into disrepute with their conduct in Super League matches, just one month
into the competition for the 2005/06 season.
It is also hoped the disciplinary board look into the unbecoming
conduct of fans. Assistant referee being hit by objects thrown by fans in
the match between Perak and MPPJ at the Perak Stadium last Saturday.
In an earlier match between Selangor and Negri Sembilan at the National
Stadium in Bukit Jalil, several Selangor players were involved in a
fracas with their own supporters who were disappointed with the Red
Giants' performance.
Treble champions last season, Selangor have only won one out of five
matches played so far and are second last in the Super League table of
eight teams.
Last year, Selangor fans were also in involved several incidents,
including the burning and vandalism of seats at the Shah Alam Stadium,
with an assistant referee being injured. I had asked the authorities to
take these matters seriously in this column, but my pleas seemed to have
fallen on deaf ears.
And last month, fans were fighting with one another in the terraces
during the Asian Under-20 Youth qualifying match between Malaysia and
This is certainly not the sporting culture Malaysians are known for,
and it is better to check the problem before Malaysian soccer is
associated with hooliganism.
Even worse, FAM could face heavy penalties from the Asian Football
Federation (AFC) as the international governing body, FIFA, view
hooliganism seriously.
In Europe, action has been taken where matches are played to empty
stadiums and heavy fines imposed by the authorities.
With Malaysian soccer not really making any headway in standards in
recent years, this ugly side of the game is the last thing the game needs.
FAM secretary-general, Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad, had said the
indiscipline of officials, players and fans will be viewed seriously and
action taken.
How stern the actions are going to be is anybody's guess.
Soccer managers and players who have brought the game into disrepute
have to be punished.
It may be the trend for managers in the English Premier League to make
comments on referees, but at least these managers are qualified coaches
who know the game and are not politicians who have hardly any foundation
in the game.
Perak team manager Jamal Nasir Rasdi's call for referee Manjit Singh to
quit was totally uncalled for.
Manjit was a FIFA referee two years ago and is now again fighting hard
to get back into the list of six FIFA-sanctioned referees and eight
assistant referees from Malaysia.
Manjit, from Kuala Lumpur, is among the rare breed of Sikhs who have
taken up refereeing and is one of two in the list of national referees,
with the other being Selinder Singh from Perak.
Among the previous top Sikh Malaysian FIFA referees were Sarban Singh,
Jeswant Singh and Karpal Singh.
Manjit, an engineer with Malaysia Airlines, has completed refereeing
courses to be where he is today and for Jamal to ask him to quit because
he was unhappy with some of his decisions, was unnecessary.
The men-in-black have always bore the brunt from managers, coaches,
players, fans and even the media, when things do not go well.
But they are, after all, humans and can make mistakes, especially when
under pressure.
The sad part is the match officials are not allowed to talk to the
media to voice their opinions, which will help in giving a more balanced
They are also subject to the scrutiny of the referees' commissioner.
When they do not live up to expectations, they are penalised, and are
left out of the roster for a period or at times even downgraded!
There is no doubt the standard of refereeing has been on the decline
for some time now, just like the standard of the game.
But Malaysia have still managed to see one FIFA referee, Subkhiddin
Salleh, being shortlisted among six Asians for the World Cup in Germany
in June.
Instead of taking swipes in the media, especially on the downgrading
issue, there are other channels for team officials to vent their
frustrations or dissatisfaction with match officials.
Player Amri Yahya, who received two red cards in five matches and has a
record of indiscipline with match officials, including spitting at a
referee in an international match, was fined and banned.
Other similar cases must also be severely dealt with.
Players, officials and fans are role models to the declining number of
the younger generation of Malaysian soccer followers, who prefer to watch
EPL and European matches.
And if these people cannot set good examples, it is certainly not going
to help the game, but only serves to worsen the situation and make it
less appealing.
The situation has to be addressed immediately and stern action taken
for the sake of Malaysian soccer's future.