Friday, December 20, 2013

Sports as a national agenda

Friday, December 20, 2013 - The Malay Mail

GREAT development plans are being put in place or plans are underway for football, hockey and sepak takraw, thanks to the vision of Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
And for once we are not talking about short-term or ‘jumpstart’ programmes, but longterm ones leading into 2020. This is not just talk. The National Football Development Programme is already in motion.
With the recent Junior World Cup hockey team’s fourth place in New Delhi, a long-term programme for hockey, looking at the 2016 Junior World Cup and 2020 World Cup, is also expected to get underway.
Then with the continued dismal performance of sepak takraw, a similar long-term programme but with a different approach is also in the pipeline.
If these programmes are carried out in all seriousness and with the right people at the helm, the future looks bright.
My only concern is what will happen to all these programmes when Khairy is no longer the sports minister. Will they get buried as soon as the sports minister vacates his seat?
We have seen it happen time and again as every new sports minister who takes office wants to leave behind his or her own legacy or trademark. And in all fairness to many of the past sports ministers, several great programmes were launched, but sadly once they left office, these were shelved.
Millions of ringgit have been spent on past programmes, from talent identification and sports culture to mini-stadiums in every parliamentary constituency and grassroots development.
But sadly, there has not been proper follow through after the respective tenure of the ministers.
But Khairy has gone a step further to ensure that the programme he has initiated does not end up the same way.
He is proposing to make the NDFP a national agenda and get the cabinet’s approval to make it a national policy so that there is continuity and its full potential is realised even if he is no longer in the sports ministry to steer it.
It is hoped similar plans are also made for hockey and sepak takraw.
I am not being pessimistic, but even the Cabinet Committee for Sports Development, whose members included 15 Cabinet ministers and was chaired by the then deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, no longer exists.
What was seen as a fast track to developing sports with the involvement of all the relevant ministries and headed by the DPM himself has been derailed.
So I am wondering if Khairy’s proposal to make his plan a national agenda will bear fruit.
I seriously hope so because Malaysian sport needs strong foundations with long-term planning. And if this is not going to be put in place now, we are going to continue to face disappointment after disappointment in the coming years as other nations continue to progress and leave us far behind.
That is why I have always wished that the sports and education ministers were long-term appointments or held by nonpoliticians.
But I suppose that is wishful thinking and for now Khairy’s national agenda looks the best bet.
The National Sports Policy introduced in 1988 by Najib when he was the minister of culture, youth and sports was supposed to drive Malaysian sports, but there have been several calls to revisit the policy and make it more relevant.
The National Sports Council (NSC) is supposed to be the financier of sports in the country, but then again, their policies also vary with each new sports minister and sometimes they go overboard with their own visions and policies.
There is no denying that a policy to streamline sports development on a long-term basis has to be in place and followed through no matter who helms the sports ministry or the NSC.
And the sooner this happens, the brighter the future.

TONY MARIADASS is sports editor of
The Malay Mail. He can be reached at

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How low can we go?

Monday, December 16, 2013 - The Malay Mail

ENOUGH is enough. The Sepak Takraw Association of Malaysia (STAM), headed by Datuk Ahmad Ismail (pic) , will have to once and for all take responsibility for the continuous rot in the game.
The latest debacle was at the Myanmar Sea Games on Friday where the men’s sepak takraw team picked up a bronze medal after finishing last and failing to win a match. It is indeed embarrassing for a nation who were kingpins of the game not too long ago.
Malaysia ended the four-team round robin competition with a 2-1 defeat to Indonesia, lost to host Myanmar 2-1 and Thailand 3-0.
Sepak takraw was introduced by Malaysia and we once ruled the sport. Now Thailand rule, with Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and even Myanmar taking us to the cleaners.
The current state and status of the sport did not arrive overnight. In fact, the writing has been on the wall for the last five to six years, but STAM seem to be in denial.
Sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin had taken STAM to task two months ago after the team’s loss to South Korea in the ISTAF Super Series leg in India and threatened to stop their RM1 million allocation per year.
But Ismail is immune to threats, as it had happened during previous sport minister’s terms and when National Sports Council (NSC) took a firm stand to cut financial aid, he accused them of not supporting the sport.
Ahmad is known for his controversial actions and remarks made in the fields of politics, business and sports. He normally has his way in the end and with new promises and plans, he continues to stay afloat.
However, the sport is the loser because it has hardly shown much progress.
Maybe Ahmad simply has too much on his plate to give his full-time attention to revive the sport.
But plans, Ahmad has many. Like pursuing to get an allocation of RM8.8 million to run a development programme for 17 months which was supposed to have been started in August.
When Malaysia are struggling to save their reputation, STAM are more interested in hosting the World Cup which they did two years ago.
Money spent on organising the world tournament, could be better used for the development and promotion of the game with the future in mind.
STAM have to seriously look at the sport and determine whether it enjoys popularity among the masses.
Is sepak takraw still played passionately every evening until failing light in the kampungs, districts and schools? Are there development programmes in place? Are the state associations doing enough to develop young talent? Are there enough coaches to coach the young? Are there enough or even any talent-scouts going the length and breadth of the nation to scout for fresh talent? Are the players passionate about the game and above all disciplined, determined and dedicated to excel in the game? These are questions that need to be answered urgently and with immediate solutions coming forth.
The last thing we need is to be still struggling by the time Malaysia host the Sea Games in 2017 and to face the embarrassment of losing to minnows in our own backyard.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winning ... losing for solidarity

Friday, December 13, 2013 The Malay Mail
NATIONAL Sports Council director-general Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong has expressed dissatisfaction at biased judging in the 27th Sea Games' wushu competition that ended on Tuesday. He claimed that Malaysia were robbed of several gold medals.
Zolkples should not have feigned ignorance because biased judging had been prevalent in previous Sea Games. It usually happens in events where the points for performance are given at the judges’ discretion.
Although there are certain criteria which the judges have to follow in awarding the points, at the end of the day, they are the 'lords' and the results cannot be disputed.
Zolkples said he was puzzled why the judges did not favour Malaysia, although the medals were evenly distributed among the participating countries.
"I am baffled as to how all the countries obtained at least one gold medal. If a certain country deserved to win, it should have been awarded the medal.
The medals should not have been distributed evenly," he was quoted as saying in Naypyitaw.
The national wushu squad ended their challenge with three gold medals, which were won by Diano Bong Siong Lin, Phoon Eyin and Tai Cheau Xuen.
The team achieved the Sports Ministry's target of three gold medals while the association had targeted five. Obviously, when the ministry set the target, it would have taken into account gold medals that would be lost in the name of solidarity.
A total of 23 gold medals were at stake in the wushu competition. But it is the norm to distribute them among the participating countries to ensure these countries support the inclusion of the sport in the next biennial series.
There has been this unwritten ‘understanding’ ever since wushu was included in the Games. Karate, taekwondo and other traditional events have a similar arrangement
I still remember when the Malaysian karate team, who were the favourites to pick up a few gold medals at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, had nothing to show after four days of competition.
When I asked the team official what was happening and if Malaysia would win a gold medal at all, he answered: “It is not our day yet.”
When pressed for an explanation, he said: “I will let you know when we are going to win the gold medal.”
Sure enough, in the last few days of the competition, he said: “We will win the gold medal today and maybe even two.”
Malaysia went on to win two gold medals in the kumite light category through M. Chandran (55kg) and M. Rajoo (70kg).
While I was interviewing the exponents, the said official, grinning from ear to ear, remarked: “I told you we would win gold medals today. Today is our day."
Then he added: "We cannot afford to have one or two nations dominate an event like ours. Then, the others will lose interest in the sport and will not support it for the next Games.
We distribute the medals so that everyone is happy.” So much for fair play in sports!
Biased judging will continue to surface in subjective events unless the Sea Games Federation (SGF) take a firm stand and weed them out. Otherwise, this will be part and parcel of the Games in the name of solidarity.
Maybe, the SGF should consider holding a separate tournament for indoor games and call it the ‘Family Games’.
This way, the medals won by measurable sports on merit — distances and times — will not be diluted by medals raked from subjective sports.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Let the Games continue

Friday, December 06, THE MALAY MAIL

CONTRARY to general consensus that the Sea Games have outlived its importance and needs to be revisited, the biennial Games — which was inaugurated in 1959 as the Seap Games — is still very much relevant.
Myanmar host the Games again after 44 years from Dec 11 to 22, although it began unofficially yesterday. The country's new capital Naypyitaw is the main venue for the Games while events will also be held in Yangon, Mandalay and Ngwe Saung Beach.
Although things are expected to be chaotic in Myanmar as they attempt to shine in the international arena just two years after the end of military rule and the lifting of Western sanctions, the Games will go on in the true spirit of sport and the people of Myanmar are likely to get pats on their backs.
It was no different when Brunei, Vietnam and Laos hosted the Games for the first time in 1999, 2003 and 2009 respectively when they were faced with many uphill tasks, but managed to pull through in the end.
Even experienced hosts like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia had had teething problems whenever they hosted the Games.
Trust me I know. I covered 12 consecutive Games from 1983 in Singapore to 2005 in Manila and every Games had its own problems. But it was a great experience soaking in the electrifying atmosphere of the Games, something money cannot buy. These are memories I will treasure for life.
The point here is that the Games help Southeast Asian countries, athletes and officials in many ways. For example, the managerial skills gained from hosting the Games prove invaluable to local sports officials when preparing for bigger international events while home athletes gain a platform to shine and achieve higher targets.
Some may argue that the Sea Games has lost its importance because many nations have already established themselves as leaders in sports and their athletes have attained high standards in the international field.
That may be so, but the Games can still be used to groom young athletes. The argument to hold the Sea Games for just under-23 athletes may hold water, but we need to look at the big picture. Yes, football in the Games is already confined to the under-23 as the sport has grown tremendously. But the same cannot be said of all sports, especially athletics.
Besides, there are enough events to expose young talent, from the Asean Schools Games, Commonwealth Youth Games, Asian Youth Games and Youth Olympics to the youth and school championships for the respective sports.
In any case, it is up to the nations or national associations of sports whether they want to send seasoned athletes or development athletes to the Games, depending on the status of the sports concerned
Although at times some host countries have too many sports and include traditional events to ensure they win extra medals for the overall tally, generally all sports included in the Sea Games are either Olympic events or those competed at the Asian or Commonwealth Games.
Statistics show that in the last seven Games, 28 Olympic sports were part of the Sea Games. And with the exception of the 1999 Brunei Games and 2009 Laos Games, there have been an average of 22 Olympic sports in the Sea Games. Of the 28 Olympic sports, 24 were included in four or more in the past seven Games.
As for non-Olympic sports, 13 were added in four or more Games to a total of 28 sports in the last seven Games. But these sports, such as billiards and snooker, tenpin bowling, karate, sepak takraw, bodybuilding, lawn bowls, squash and wushu, were also competed in the Asian or Commonwealth Games.
Thus, to say that the sports competed in the Sea Games do not serve any purpose is totally wrong.
Other areas where the Sea Games provide a training ground include media (television production), marketing, Games technology, sponsorship, merchandising and security, to name but a few.
Of the five regional Games in Asia, namely East Asia, Sea, Central Asia, West Asia and South Asia, the Sea Games is ranked second and its athletes have gone on to win Asian and Olympic medals.
Thus, with the Sea Games serving as a foundation for the ultimate goal of being the best in Asia and the world, it cannot be said that it does not serve a purpose or that it is irrelevant.
Ask veteran sports official Datuk Sieh Kok Chi — adviser to many nations that host the Sea Games, including Myanmar — and he will tell you how the Games have put Southeast Asian countries on the map over the years.
At the end of the day, how relevant the Games are to a certain sport depends on the sports associations and use it accordingly to send development or seasoned athletes.
But as long as associations do not use the Games as a holiday or biennial reward trip, the Games will continue to be relevant.
Besides, the Sea Games has proved time and again that it bridges political, religious and ethnic diversities.
So let us enjoy it and savour the moments.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A rock and a hard place

Friday, November 29, 2013 - The Malay Mail


THE FA of Malaysia have put themselves in an awkward position in relation to the appointment of deputy president Tan Sri Annuar Musa (pic) to the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) simply because they did not strictly enforce their ban on him.

Annuar was suspended in April last year for violating FAM's Article 88 (for speaking to the media on policy matters without consent) and his ban only expires next October.
The suspension bars the former sports minister from involvement in any football-related activities sanctioned by FAM.
However, the Kelantan FA president has been going about his business as usual with the state football team, holding press conferences, attending team functions and giving press statements, without being hauled up by FAM for violating his ban.
Matters came to a head when Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin invited Annuar to join the NFDP as a committee member — the committee tasked at ensuring Malaysia qualified for the Under-20 World Cup in 2019. Things got worse when Annuar attended the revamped committee’s meeting on Tuesday.
FAM representatives did not attend the meeting, claiming that they had to attend an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) meeting at the same time. However, they also said they had sought clarification from AFC on the appointment of Annuar to the NFDP.
Annuar was magnanimous, saying after attending the NFDP meeting that he would resign from the committee if the governing bodies Fifa and AFC ruled that he couldn't be actively involved in the programme.
He also said the national body needed to be involved in the NFDP for the betterment of football. He offered to step down if that was the only way FAM could join the committee.
The National Sports Council (NSC), which is the secretariat for the NFDP, defended the appointment, claiming that it was valid because Annuar was sanctioned by FAM statutes, not the Sports Development Act (SDA) 1997 and that the sports minister had the authority to appoint anyone as a member of any committee under the SDA.
The NSC also claimed that the ministry had received the nod from the sports commissioner's office last weekend.
However, it is learnt that the sports commissioner's office has said 'it was a grey area' when the matter was brought to their attention.
Fifa responded to a Mailsport query on Annuar’s suspension by saying they would not get involved. So now, it comes down to AFC’s response and FAM’s final stand.
"The matter seems to be of internal nature, which shall be dealt with in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Malaysian FA. Therefore, we are in no position to comment," was the reply from Fifa media relations officer Sascha Rhyner.
It is learnt that AFC have verbally responded to FAM on Annuar’s ban and FAM are now awaiting an official letter before making a press statement.
Whatever AFC’s reply, the national body are caught in a difficult situation.
To start with, FAM are shying away from making a firm decision because they had allowed Annuar to continue to be involved in Kelantan's football activities. Maybe, they were just glad that he stayed out at national level, so they chose to ignore what he was doing in Kelantan.
But now that Annuar has been brought back to national-level activities with the NFDP, FAM have to take a stand.
All indications are that AFC are going to tell FAM the same thing that Fifa did and ask FAM to act in accordance with their rules and regulations.
This will leave FAM with no choice but to make a decision on Annuar.
If FAM choose to ignore his appointment to the NFDP, then they cannot sit on the committee with him.
Whether Annuar steps down on his own accord or FAM enforces the ban remains to be seen.
FAM could complain to Fifa about the ministry appointing people they had banned, which will boil down to government interference which Fifa do not take lightly.
But FAM are very unlikely to do so. They would not want to tangle with the government from whom they get their funding Sour relations with the sports ministry would only mean more trouble for the game.
But for FAM to ignore NFDP meetings would be odd because it is a football development programme and without the involvement of the national body, the programme would face complications.
So, how will FAM resolve the matter? Whatever decision they make will work against their favour.
FAM cannot blame anyone for the current situation but themselves. They should have strictly enforced the ban on Annuar in the first place.
To witness such a wrangle when it involves the development and future of Malaysian football certainly is a shame and does not augur well for the game.
What kind of example are we setting for the young who are taught to abide by the rules and play fairly for the love of the beautiful game?
Maybe the sports minister, FAM and, maybe even, Annuar should sit down to resolve the matter once and for the good of the game in the country.
Otherwise, FAM have to make a firm decision and face the consequences.
TONY MARIADASS is sports editor of
The Malay Mail. He can be reached at

Monday, November 25, 2013

Words of wisdom from German football legend

Something the aspiring footballers can use as their motto to success!
21 Nov 2013

Kuwait: German football legend Lothar Matthaus has advised the future generation of footballers that only dedication and hard work can lead to success.

Matthaus, who played in five consecutive World Cups from 1982 to 1998 and holds the record for the most World Cup matches played by any player with 25 appearances, was addressing the Olympic and Sport Education Seminar at the OCA headquarters in Kuwait on Thursday.

“It’s always good when we talk about sport because sport can bring out our personality and show us what we can achieve,” said the 52-year-old Matthaus.

“There is no doubt that sport is important for everybody. When you have information about anti-doping, the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the history of Olympic Games, it opens the eyes of the young generation to know more about the Olympic Movement.”

When asked to give a message to the future young athletes and footballers, Matthaus said: “First you have to like sport and football; you have to have passion, always give your best and enjoy what you do. Don’t think you can be the champion tomorrow because you must work hard in your everyday life.”

Matthaus, a midfield driving force for the national team during his 150-cap, 20-year international career, captained West Germany to victory in the 1990 World Cup final and was named European Footballer of the Year in the same year.

In 1991 he was crowned the first ever FIFA World Player of the Year, and remains the only German to have received the award. - OCA newsletter

Merry-go-round begin

Displaying Tony Mariadass.png

WILL there be a fresh breath of air in the 2015 M-League season? I personally doubt it. I do not want to sound pessimistic, especially with the FA of Malaysia trying to make the league exciting and one of the best in the region, but it has been cosmetic changes all this while.
And continuous tweaking of the format since 1989 – when football in the country went semi-pro — the composition of teams and the direction adopted have not helped one bit.
Now M-League intends to go private in 2015. All I can say is good luck because I do not see much changing when the same coaches and players, especially, are expected to be involved.
Let us just look ahead to the 2014 season. Do we expect to see fresh faces, a new breed of coaches and established foreign players who can lift the profile of the league? Probably not on all three counts.
For starters, the same players will be making their rounds, either following their previous coach to a new team or marketing themselves to new teams as a package of players or individuals.
The fact that most teams and players have signed one-year contracts will see the players move to new teams.
While professional football is all about the movement of players, when it is about the same players year in and year out, things become stale and predictable.
And the fact that the local coaches are the same faces – some of them have been around for as long as 30 years – is certainly not going to light up the league.
The last time we saw new coaches in the M-League was 10 years ago when the likes of Zainal Abidin Hassan, Dollah Salleh, Mat Zan Mat Aris, K. Devan, E. Elavarasan and Azuan Zain, to name but a few, surfaced. Among the older coaches still on the scene are Abdul Rahman Ibrahim, Wan Jamak Wan Hassan and Irfan Bakti.
And with Malaysia virtually out of the Asian Cup in Australia in 2016 after Tuesday’s solitary goal loss to Qatar, fans are calling for the resignation of national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal and FA of Malaysia’s officials.
Is that going to change anything?
The root of the problem is the quality of the national players we have and the strength of the national team is always reflected by the strength of the national league – the M-League.
In all fairness to the current national team, they did well based on their current strength. To have lost to Middle Eastern countries like Qatar and Bahrain narrowly only underlines the fact that the national team’s overall standard has improved because we used to get whipped by these teams not too long ago.
But to expect the national team to become world beaters overnight and on their current strength is beyond the wildest dreams.
The national team’s major let-down was its strike force. The M-League’s top scorers in the last two seasons have been foreigners – Jean-Emmauel Effa Owona (15 goals in 2012) and Marlon Alex James and Matias Conti (16 goals each this season).
Top scoring national players this season are Amri Yahya (8) and Norshahrul Idlan Tahala (7).
And we still want to increase the quota for foreign players! How on earth are we going to develop local strikers if we continue to rely on foreign players?
And development is the last thing on the minds of most teams with the President's Cup (for junior players) getting low priority and running for only a few months.
Can we expect the MLeague, whether or not it is privatised, to suddenly come to life and improve the game in the country?
It is indeed wishful thinking, but the majority still believe it is the only way to go and then scream blue murder when the national team fails to do well. We celebrate, go overboard and give holidays for regional level and mediocre success and fail to get a reality check. Only when the truth hits the face when up against international opponents do we realise that we have been living on false hopes. Too late, isn’t it?
The only way for Malaysian football to go forward is to have a long-term plan and start with the young. Nothing is going to happen overnight.
The M-League needs more new faces and a younger composition to make it tick.
If we try to teach ‘old dogs new tricks’, we are going to continue to face disappointments. We cannot make race horses out of circus horses and the sooner we realise it the better.
The National Football Development Programme with a five-year vision is a good move, provided that it is not sabotaged or not given enough support by the stakeholders of the game.
Let us start building our football home from the foundations and stop trying to fix it from the roof!

sports editor of The Malay
Mail. He can be reached at

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

No shortcut to success

Displaying Tony Mariadass.png

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FOOTBALL FRENZY: Pahang fans lined the streets of
Kuantan to welcome and take photos of their heroes
who brought home the Malaysia Cup after 21 years

SUCCESS comes with time, patience, dedication, hard work and self-belief.
Pahang took 21 years to win the Malaysia Cup again a fortnight ago. It was a long wait, but one which was worthwhile as they savoured the victory with even more meaning. Everyone, from the fans, players and officials to the man on the street, celebrated the victory with joy.
Tengku Abdul Rahman Sultan Ahmad Shah, the Pahang FA president for the last 10 years, played a vital role in the team’s path to glory. Maybe, other state FAs could take a leaf out of his book. Pahang did not find success by splurging their money, which may be why they had to wait so long for it.
Other teams just go on a spending spree, buying players, only to realise a year or two down the road that they have to keep doing this to stay at the top because they do not have their own pool of players to fall back on. Many clubs that adopted this strategy have collapsed because their game plan was unsustainable or their backers had dumped them.
Pahang, whose budget is only about a quarter of most other teams’ RM6 million to RM10 million, have a wealth of talent in their Shahzan Muda, a development team started 13 years ago.
Yes, this is an era of professionalism and one has to spend big money, sometimes as much as RM16 million to RM22 million.
But when we are still struggling to put together a decent national team, shouldn’t the emphasis be on development and long-term planning? It is not as if Pahang have not won any honours or come close to it since 1992. They bagged the Super League title in 2004, the FA Cup in 2006 and lost in three Malaysia Cup finals — in 1994, 1995 and 1997.
They also had their fair share of woes, having been demoted to Premier League in 2011. But they bounced back to the Super League the next season and triumphed in the Malaysia Cup final this year. If anything, they are true champions.
Pahang now plan to go big on their development programme, tapping footballers from all the towns and districts in the state, besides having their local league at full throttle.
And then we have teams like Kuala Lumpur. They were the underdogs of the League when they made they debut in 1979, but with a visionary like then mayor of Kuala Lumpur and president of KLFA, Tan Sri Elyas Omar, guiding them, they became the kingpins of Malaysian football in the late 1980s.
But today, Kuala Lumpur have tumbled to FAM Cup level — the third tier league for amateur clubs — for the 2014 season.
For a team that represents a thriving metropolis to sink so far is indeed a shame. And they have no one but themselves to blame for their present predicament.
By right, the officials responsible for this, some of whom hold posts at the national level, should resign and hand over the reins to people who are more committed and passionate about the game. Butwill they? No, they will continue to sit pretty.
Malacca, who have a long and glorious football history and were also once a force to be reckoned with, are in the FAM Cup league for the third consecutive season in 2014.
Penang, another former football powerhouse and four-time Malaysia Cup champions, were in the FAM Cup league for two seasons before finally earning promotion to the Premier League next season.
These three teams have a lot in common: lack of player development, poor management and resting on their laurels. They should take their cue from Pahang and start working their way up again.
If only more states paid attention to development, managed their teams prudently and truly loved the game instead of placing selfinterest above everything else, football in this country will certainly move to the next level.
So, before we think of privatising the teams and the M-League, let's put our house in order. Let’s get the right leaders and experts to manage the various divisions of the game and run the associations professionally.

editor of The Malay Mail. He
can be reached at tonym@

Monday, November 11, 2013

'I don't want to wait another 21 years'

FOR THE LOVE OF PAHANG: Tengku Abdul Rahman speaks passionately about the development of football in his state — Pix: RAZAK GHAZALI


5 Questions


TENGKU Abdul Rahman Sultan Ahmad Shah, Pahang FA president for the last 10 years, saw his dream come true when the state won the Malaysia Cup last week after 21 years. It has not been been an easy path to glory, but the football passionate prince never gave up hope. In an exclusive interview, Tengku Abdul Rahman tells Mailsport's TONY MARIADASS what's next after this victory.

Mailsport: Congratulations on this long awaited triumph. Talk us through your journey and the Malaysia Cup success after 21 years?

Tengku Abdul Rahman: It has been a long and winding road. When I was asked to act as president of Pahang FA in 2003 by the Tengku Mahkota, it was supposed to be for a year. Next thing I knew, I was asked to stay and it has been 10 years now. But I must say that it is a journey I have thoroughly enjoyed despite the ups and downs. We had a good team in the 90s, but from 2000 onwards, we went through a rocky patch. That was when I took over, and decided that we should focus more on local players. It was then that we formed the Shahzan Muda Football (13 years ago) to develop young talent and give them exposure through the FAM Cup.

This comes with commitment and patience over the years. What we are experiencing now are the fruits of that labour. Today, the majority of the players from Shahzan have graduated to the senior team although the youth team are still in existence and continue to produce players. When we were demoted to the Premier League in 2011, that was a crucial stage for us. We had to come back to the Super League the very next year, or things would have really gone bad for us. Thank god, we returned but by the skin of our teeth when we booked our Super League berth, beating Kedah on penalty kicks in the qualifier.

Mailsport: What were the main challenges that you faced?

TAR: It was a dramatic season for us from the time we qualified for Super League. We started the season with two bad foreign signings and only managed to find our footing after the April window when we changed our foreign players. At the rate things were going, I was hoping that we would survive the season. But things picked up and we finished fifth in the league and lost in the FA Cup semifinals. Just as we were looking forward to a good outing in the Malaysia Cup competition, we ran into problems and again we made the knockout stage on a better goal difference. From then on, we knew it was now or never. The players were fired up and despite the odds stacked against us, we showed that we were more hungrier and passionate about winning the Malaysia Cup trophy and we were duly rewarded. Mind you, Pahang are a low — budget team — we spent about a quarter of the highest spenders in the league.

Mailsport: Did you ever think that 2013 would be the year for Pahang to win the Malaysia Cup?

TAR: Seriously, after what we went through this season, I did not. But we had waited 21 years to win the Malaysia Cup and that is a long time. I certainly do not want to wait another 21 years. I was a young man when Pahang last won in 1992 and I have waited this long for this to happen again. I hope we will not have to wait that long again (for another trophy) as I am not getting any younger. We will do everything possible to cash in on the success to make things happen for Pahang more regularly. But despite the wait, we had won the Super League title in 2004 and the FA Cup in 2006. The Malaysia Cup now completes the three titles in Malaysian football during my tenure.

But this season would not be what it was if not for the fans. They made it happen for us. The fans constitute 75% of our success, the players 24% and 1% from the administration and management of the team. I salute the fans. Many a time I have sat with the fans to cheer the team. They were there for us in good times and bad times. They made it happen for us.

Mailsport: Now that the Malaysia Cup has returned after 21 years, what next?

TAR: Everyone knows that winning a trophy is easier than defending it. All teams will be coming at us with guns blazing. Every match is going to be like a cup final. But I believe that the fans will understand that and will be behind us all the way as we try to do our best and bring more honours. However, I will not do anything different from all those years.

We will still be a low budget team striving on the passion for success. Of course, we will have to strengthen the team and look for both local and foreign players who can add depth, experience and strength. But these players will first have to gel with the team. We want players who share our vision and passion. A majority of the players have signed to stay with us, thus the core of the team will be the same. As for coach Dollah Salleh, give me a week and we will have everything sorted out. I wish to respect the wishes of all and everyone is free to make their own decision with my full blessings.

We will continue to focus on the Shahzan team as our feeder squad. But this time around, I intend to move further into grassroots development and may even hire a foreign coach to handle the development and talent scouting programme. I believe Pahang have an abundance of talent and with a programme in place, we should see a steady flow of talent coming through. I also intend to ensure that local and inter-district leagues are in place. We are certainly not going to rest on our laurels, but use our success to move forward and put Pahang football among the frontrunners.

Mailsport: Having done so much for Pahang, would you be interested to help at the national level?

TAR: I"ll just stay with Pahang. Of course, I care about national football and already doing my part by ensuring Pahang can give a wider base for selection for the national team and unearth fresh talent. There is still a great deal more to be done in Pahang and my total dedication is to my state. I really need more time in my state because our success this year is just the beginning.

Don’t let the circus come to town

The Malay Mail (8th Nov, 2013)

THE 2013 football season ended last Sunday with the Malaysia Cup final, but already Malaysian footballers are up to all sorts of antics for the next season. Now, their ridiculous behaviour is expected to become full blown and probably bring shame to the Malaysian League, as it does each year.
One would think that since football in the country turned semi-pro in 1989 and fully professional in 1994, everything that is wrong with the game would be corrected. But no, we are still looking at ways to fine-tune the league. In fact, in 2015, the league is to be privatised and supposedly take the game to the next level.
When the league is put under the microscope, there are still many areas that need to be improved, or to be blunt, altered. Aspects like security, fan control, ticket sales, banned items in the stadiums, poor ground conditions, substandard refereeing and, above all, the management of teams in a professional manner.
However, over the next two months, all eyes will be on the movement of coaches and players for the new season. As I said earlier, this has already started. And from the news that has surfaced so far, football is getting a bad name.
Apparently, coaches and players have started negotiating with potential employers for the new season. There is nothing wrong with that, but some of them have already signed letters of intent and collected advance or signing-on fees. Well and good, but when these coaches and players use this as a bargaining chip with other teams and turn their backs on the teams they picked first, then they don’t know what “professionalism” means, or they just don’t care.
These coaches and players had the decency to return the money when they went back on their word to avoid any controversies. Those would-be employers let them go scot free, in good spirit, but it does not augur well for the game.
Coaches and players should be made to realise that they cannot take teams for a ride. They must be punished. Yes, they want the highest wages but there are procedures to follow.
They should behave like professionals if they want to be treated as such.
We hope we don’t see more of these cases in the coming weeks as coaches and players look for new teams. As the majority of coaches have found their teams for the new season, the players’ movement is going to be the focal point.
Several of them will move with the coaches as a package deal while others will move in a ‘player’s package’, where a few players get together and demand that they be signed on as a ‘pack’.
Then there are players trying to get letters of intent from teams and then negotiate with others with the letters in the hope of getting higher wages. Some will sign with one team and then go to another that offers better wages.
There are bound to be cases of players who have ‘double signed’, which would see the teams fighting over them.
All this is unhealthy for Malaysian football. Here we are trying to raise our standard to be on par with the leagues in South Korea and Japan, both of which started later than Malaysia’s.
The only way to eradicate these amateur ills of the game is to punish those who breach the rules of the game.
Make them sit out the season if that is the only way to educate them and make the league a truly professional entity.
The affected teams must take a stance and the FA of Malaysia must punish the guilty without any compromise.
There is no room for compassion if the game is to be cleaned up once and for all. Otherwise, Malaysian football will turn into a circus!

TONY MARIADASS is sports editor
of The Malay Mail. He can be reached

Monday, November 4, 2013

Is the buzz for real?

Time to take game to the next level (Published in The Malay Mail on Nov 1, 2013)
Monday, November 04, 2013 

THE pride of Malaysian football is at stake when Kelantan face Pahang in Sunday’s Malaysia Cup final.
But is the crowd frenzy and charged atmosphere that preceded the final a true reflection of the state of the game in this country?
Undoubtedly, the Malaysia Cup competition, since its inception in 1921, has never failed to exude magic and capture the imagination of Malaysians from all walks of life, young and old. And even those who are not sports fans.
It is considered the culmination of a football season. Yet, as we await the 2013 final at Shah Alam Stadium on Sunday, it begs a question: Is Malaysian football heading in the right direction to regain the glory days of the 70s and early 80s?
No doubt, the game has evolved, with a large fan base, professionalism, and teams spending big-money.
But there are still many areas lacking to take the game to the next level.
There are moves to privatise the MLeague in 2015 and a seminar was held recently to discuss this process.
Asian Football Confederation assistant secretary-general Winsdor Paul gave the keynote address and several pointers were given on setting up the independent league management body.
Also discussed was what the league management company needs to possess and what FA of Malaysia and their stakeholders need to look out for in the organisations that may approach FAM.
It is indeed a huge step to take but one which has to be taken to raise the level of game.
But the big question is whether it can happen and be a success?
While many believe that it will work this time around, there are critics who say not much is going to change.
The latter may have a point because the M-League has gone through many changes but the desired result was never achieved. The main reason being the people involved.
As much as they want to see good in Malaysian football, they are the very people who do not pull their weight.
However, it is hoped that things will be different this time as Malaysian football makes a serious attempt to emulate the level of the game attained in South Korea and Japan.
Perhaps, this Malaysia Cup final could be the stepping stone to a new football era for Malaysia.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Collector's items treated with disdain

Friday, November 01, 2013 - The Malay Mail
IT is downright disrespectful that our officials and athletes dumped the official attire for the 2012 London Olympics in the Games Village.

No excuse they give can justify their discarding the Malaysian “uniform”. On top of that, sponsored goods and medical supplies were left behind in the rooms.

This goes to show how little regard the officials and athletes had for the equipment given to them by sponsors and paid for by taxpayers’ money. They take for granted the luxuries accorded them in sports and behave like a pampered lot.

And to make matters worse, the results produced by the athletes are nothing to shout about.

What I cannot understand is how these officials and athletes could throw away official attire that had the national flag embroidered on it. And it is the Olympics we are taking about.

This brings me to the excuse national diver Yeoh Ken Yee gave for leaving behind the official baju Melayu used in the march-past: he thought he would not be using it again and that it could be better used by others (did he mean the people who would have cleaned the rooms after the Games ended?).

His reason is rubbish, of course. It is common for us Malaysians to wear our country’s various traditional costumes, especially when we celebrate our many festivals. Second, the official attire is a collector’s item. I cannot believe Yeoh did not want to keep his for posterity.

SENTIMENTAL VALUE: The scribe's Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Media Village room key holder

My colleague Haresh Deol proudly wore his late father’s wedding tie for his own recently. That is how most people treasure items of sentimental value.

As a journalist, we did not have the luxury of being given blazers, tracksuits, shoes or bags when we get a rare chance to cover the Olympics — which normally is once in a lifetime chance. I had the opportunity to cover the 2000 Sydney Olympics and till today I have the Media Village room key holder which was given to us as a souvenir at the end of the Games.

Yeoh is now a diving coach. So, what kind of inspiration is he going to be to his wards?

Even I have three sets of baju Melayu which I used when I was with the Sports and Tourism Ministry and I still use them whenever the opportunity arises.

Cycling coach John Beasley left behind his official suit and his excuse was that he and his team had come to London from training in Europe and were not returning to Malaysia after the Games.

The suit, made by one of the high-end tailors in the country, would have easily cost RM1,000. Maybe, Beasley has expensive tastes, but the fact remains that it was a Malaysian blazer with the national fl ag on it and it was left behind. And we don’t even want to talk about the public funds wasted.

Malaysian officials and athletes seriously don’t know how lucky they are compared with athletes even from developed countries.

I know for a fact that athletes from Australia and New Zealand have to fi nd the money for their air tickets for the Commonwealth Games and when they win medals, all they get is a handshake and a certificate.

Here in Malaysia, not only is everything taken care of – from training both at home and overseas, food and lodging and medical care and supplements to allowances – but athletes are also handsomely rewarded with cash for medals won.

We have heard of athletes who come to the Olympics with minimum sports equipment or none at all, some of them even running barefooted.

The way Canadian athletes fund their Olympic dreams includes knitting toques and writing cookbooks. Others do part-time jobs, share lodgings and hold fundraisers to help fund their athletic training and travel.

Here in Malaysia, officials and athletes pay for nothing and make no sacrifices. No wonder they don’t value the good things that come their way.

It is about time the Olympic Council of Malaysia or the National Sports Council stopped providing official attire for Games for free. Either make the athletes and officials pay for it or make the respective sports associations pick up the tab. In this way, there will be some form of responsibility and accountability.

In a nutshell, make the officials and athletes realise nothing comes for free.

TONY MARIADASS is sports editor of
The Malay Mail. He can be reached


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jalaluddin is ace in the pack

Coach Dollah has 'gut feeling' skipper could be match winner for Pahang
Thursday, October 31, 2013 - The Malay Mail

PAHANG coach Dollah Salleh has singled-out his captain and veteran player, Jalaluddin Jaafar, as his trump card against defending champion Kelantan in Sunday's Malaysia Cup final.
When Pahang last won the Malaysia Cup in 1992, Dollah was a member of the team with current team manager Zainal Abidin Hassan. English coach Mike Brown, had picked rookie rightback Zulhamizan Zakaria as his ace in the pack.
Mailsport had highlighted the story and it turned out that the 23-year-old Zulhamizan was the match-winner against Kedah in the final scoring the only goal in a record 98 seconds.
It was off the first corner kick awarded in the game to Pahang, which Mubin Mokhtar took. The ball was cleared by the Kedah defence to midfield, where Pahang skipper Allan Davidson picked up the loose ball and sent it behind the Kedah defence where Zulhamizan had overlapped to face Kedah goalkeeper Azmi Mahmud in a one to-one situation. Azmi made a blunder in wanting to clear the ball at the top of the box and Zulhamizan won the ball to coolly put in into an empty goal.
Dollah is naturally hoping that history will repeat itself.
"Without doubt, it is going to be difficult final for us as Kelantan are the experienced finalists. The majority of my players have not played in a Malaysia Cup final," said Dollah.
"That is why I am picking Jalaluddin as my ace in the pack. He is the most experienced player in the team, and despite his age (38), is among the fittest player in team. Although he operates at rightback, he lends support in attack and the very next instance is back in defence.
"Don't get me wrong. Every player who takes the field on Sunday is equally important and have to carry out their duties effectively for us to do well.
"But it is just that my gut feeling says Jalaluddin will do something special for us.
"Besides, he has not won a Malaysia Cup medal and he will be eager to make it happen," said Dollah, who turned 50 on Oct 10.
"I am hoping that winning the Malaysia Cup will be my belated birthday present."
The Pekan-born Jalaluddin, who signed for Pahang in 1997 after guiding the Malaysia Games team to the football gold medal in the 1996 edition, has indeed come a long way in his football career.
He helped Pahang win the Premier League title in 1999, Super League in 2004 and the FA Cup in 2006.
He also played for Shahzan Muda FC – a development team of Pahang FA for two seasons. He was loaned back to Pahang in 2009 for the Malaysia Cup campaign and stayed with the team ever since.
The Malaysia Cup is the only medal missing in his trophy cabinet.
The closest he had come to lifting the trophy was in 1997 when Pahang, then coached by Dane Jorgen E. Larson, were beaten 1-0 by Selangor.
Jalaluddin is planning to call it quits next year and naturally he wants to end his career with a Malaysia Cup winner's medal.