Friday, March 21, 2014

The good, bad and ugly

Friday, March 21, 2014 - The Malay Mail

THE fans are back at most stadiums, packing them to the brim, which is certainly good news for Malaysian football.
State FAs and clubs should use this renewed enthusiasm to build a strong fan base for their teams for both home and away matches.
Another positive development is that Malaysia have jumped nine spots to No. 141 in world rankings, according to the Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa). This puts Malaysia on a par with teams like Belize (140), Turkmenistan (142), Lesotho (143), Antigua, Barbuda (144) and Hong Kong (145).
In Asean, Malaysia are behind Vietnam (125) and the Philippines (130).
But hold your horses, don’t celebrate yet. We don’t want complacency to set in before we achieve anything significant.
Yes, it is good to know that Malaysian football is moving in the right direction, but there is a long and winding road ahead and only the patience and continued dedication of all quarters will help us see light at the end of the tunnel.
Now, let’s take stock of our teams’ performance in the AFC Cup. Well, there is nothing to shout about as both Kelantan and Selangor are struggling to find their footing.
That is a clear indication our standard is still not good enough, not even for Asian club level competition. Even the fact that more foreigners were allowed to be registered for the M-League so they could be utilised for the AFC Cup, has not helped much.
Maybe, instead of looking at the quality of the players for the AFC challenge, we should look at the calibre of the coaches.
The AFC Cup is of reputable standard and requires top quality coaches to steer teams to success.
Generally, in the M-League, teams opt for affordable coaches, which does not necessarily mean the best brains in the game. Many of the coaches, local or foreign, have been around for some time now and are seen to lack new ideas to meet the challenges of the modern-day game.
With due respect to the current M-League coaches, for Malaysian football to grow at a faster pace and move on to the next level, we need high-calibre coaches in the staff. At the same time, there must be good coaches at the grassroots development level to ensure the young players are set on the right path from the start.
So, it is too early to rejoice over the improving fan support and world ranking.
SHAME GAME: Fans set flares during an international friendly between Malaysia and the Philippines at Selayang Stadium on March 1 Pic: RAZAK GHAZALI

In fact, fan support has brought about another problem for Malaysian football — hooliganism.
While this is not as bad as in Europe, where the fans of opposing teams often clash, it is already rearing its ugly head in Malaysia.
While fan support is much desired, their recent penchant for throwing smoke bombs and lighting flares onto our fields is fast getting out of hand.
It has come to a stage where the national team could end up playing to empty stadiums or worse still, not allowed to host any international matches for a period of time.
At the recent international friendly against the Philippines at the Selayang Stadium, the match was suspended for eight minutes in the first half after a group of fans, known as “Ultras Malaya”, bombarded the field with flares and smoke bombs.
However, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has yet to mete out any punishment for the incident after having earlier warned FAM for a similar incident.
Fan disruptions have already been happening in M-League matches and despite FAM having said that it is working closely with the police to tighten security, such incidents have continued.
This situation needs to be addressed urgently and the fans themselves have to act more responsibly if they really love the game and support their teams, as they say. The last thing we need is overzealous fans hampering the progress of the game.
In short, all is not rosy for Malaysian football despite all the efforts being made to take it to the next level.
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