Monday, September 7, 2009

Keep feet firm on the ground

It's good to hear FA of Malaysia deputy president, Datuk Redzuan Sheikh Ahmad change his tune towards the target of the Laos Sea Games in December.

Earlier, after the friendly matches against visiting Manchester United, he predicted that the Sea Games gold was within Malaysia's grasp.(Read here)

But on Sunday, in The Sunday Times, Redzuan was reported as saying that FA of Malaysia will set realistic targets and will only set its target after analysing the draw which is expected to be made in November. (Read here)

Wise move Redzuan and no shame in going back on your bold gold medal prediction.

It is without doubt that the National Under-23 team coached by K. Rajagobal, is coming under tremendous pressure after a string of creditable performances against formidable teams.

Rajagobal's team have so far defeated visiting Zimbabwe represented by Monomotapa United (classified as A-International match) 4-0 and 1-0, lost to Manchester United 2-3, 0-2, played to a scoreless draw against visiting China and Kenya, before travelling to Middle East where they lost 1-2 to Saudi Arabia, 0-1 to professional outfit Al-Qadisiya and held Jordan to a scoreless draw on Sunday.

Already newspaper headings like "Malaysia lose again" and "Another draw", indicate the mounting pressure that is already on the shoulders of this team.

It certainly does not help to get added pressure from the FA of Malaysia.

However, at the same time, I am not saying that there should not be targets. There should be targets, but REALISTIC targets.

Redzuan's current stand to only set the target after the Laos Sea Games soccer draw only makes sense because if by the luck of draw, Malaysia gets drawn into a "Death Group" of top teams in the region, it is going to be tough to make the semifinals.

Let us not forget that Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Myanmar are ranked above Malaysia in Asia and teams like Vietnam and even Laos have defeated Malaysia.

Yes, the current Under-23 team is showing good signs of a fromidable team, but they cannot become champions over time but only through time.

A modest target for the Sea Games would be to reach the semifinals and then take it from there.

Let us also be reminded that the last time Malaysia won the Sea Games was at the Kuala Lumpur Games in 1989 under English coach Trevor Hartley.

While we cannot dream to be champions overnight, we also cannot continue to give the excuse that it has been 20 years since we won the title and thus it is going to be difficult.

Probably, this is a good chance for Malaysia to make the final, but let us not get our hopes high.

Rajagobal needs to be given some time to whip this team into shape. We still lack in several areas and one glaring area is our strike force.

And we cannot turn out strikeforce into scoring machines overnight either.

Another factor, Rajagobal should pay attention is to injuries to players. If it is injuries suffered in the course of game like a fractured leg, ankle or hand, it is part and parcel of the game.

However, if it is muscular injuries, then Rajagobal has to look at the condition of the players. Many of the players when they return to their respective States do not take care of themselves with proper nutritions and strengthening their muscles.

And when they report for national training, they come back not fully fit and when put through their tough regiment of national training, they breakdown.

Rajagobal is an experienced coach who adheres to sports science and keeps tabs of his players even they are not with him. He should be able to minimise this problem, but at the end of the day, it still boils down to the individual players as professionals to look after themselves.

Rajagobal is indeed on the right track with his team and it is hoped that there are no interuptions to his plannings and the best support is given to him. Playing against higher ranked teams, is certainly the best thing that could have happened to his team.

It is hoped that it is continued until the Sea Games and let us all hope that the team will give us something to shout about.

Afterall it has been a long time since Malaysian soccer fans have tasted success - even if it is at the lowest level - the Sea Games. Even an appearance in the final, will be something to shout about.

But whatever happens, this team must be given the full support and time to blossom into its true potential.

The squad:

GOALKEEPERS: Farizal Marlias (Perlis), Syed Adney Syed Hussien (MyTeam)

Mazlizam Mohamad (Perlis), Sabre Mat Abu (Kedah), Asraruddin Putra Omar (Selangor), Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak (N.Sembilan), Azmi Muslim (MyTeam), Faizal Mohammad (Harimau Muda)

Amar Rohidan (Perlis), Khyril Muhymeen Zambri (Kedah), Baddrol Bakthiar (Kedah), Amirulhadi Zainal (Selangor), Kunal an Subramaniam (N.Sembilan), Bunyamin Umar (MyTeam), Mahalli Jasuli (Harimau Muda), Muslim Ahmad (Harimau Muda), Gurusamy Govandar Kandasamy (Harimau Muda), Mahathevan Gengatharan (Shahzan Muda), Safiq Rahim (KL Plus)

Ahmad Fakri Saarani (Perl is), Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak (N.Sembilan), Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (MyTeam), Ahmad Shakir Md Ali (Harimau Muda), Farderin Kadir (Kuala Muda).

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