Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Let’s look at the big picture


Last Saturday, there was so much euphoria in the country despite Malaysia failing to wrest the AFF Cup from Thailand.
Many felt the team had tried their best and that Dollah Salleh had proved himself despite having coached the team for such a short time. They thought the senior players recalled to the team had performed well and that because we had taken the lead with 3-0, we were very close to victory.
It is great that the fans gave the team their undivided support and the turnout at the stadium that day was fantastic. Basically, Malaysian football is dying to taste success and even a sniff at it is considered cause for celebration.
What fans don't seem to realise is that Malaysia failed to win a regional tournament. I am sure many will accuse me of belittling the national team, but everything is not hunky-dory and Malaysian football is not headed in the right direction.
We are ranked 56th among 209 footballing nations in the world and 28th in Asia - nothing to be proud of, really. We might rise a few rungs with our second placing in the AFF Cup, but there is still a long way to go to join the best in Asia.
I have known Dollah since he was a Razak Cup player for Johor in the early 1980s and he was an excellent striker. He is a good coach and has a great personality, but whether he is ready for international assignment remains to be seen.
For starters, he has set Malaysian football back by bringing into his squad national players who had been put out to pasture. He claimed he did not have enough time to work with young players as he was only appointed in June. 
But there was a pool of young players readily available to him, ones Malaysia had been grooming over the years. Yet he chose to bring back the old-timers.
These players, fresh from the Malaysia Cup campaign, would have been fit and waiting to gell with the team. They may have been a little jaded, but that could have been overcome with the right training.
Yes, the team reached the final, but it was a stop-gap measure and the team is only good for one tournament and whether there was aid from the hidden hands to see the team reach the final, is left to our imagination.
Already Shukor Adnan has announced his retirement. And with the team clearly displaying that they are just a 70-minute team, it will be back to the drawing board for Dollah.
Would it not have been better to have used the younger set of players who would have gained additional exposure playing in the AFF Cup and move on to build the team further?
Maybe we can take a cue from the Thai team which average age was only 22.
Malaysia for too long has been relying on stop-gap measures and it has to stop.
We were heading in the right direction eyeing to qualify for the Asian Cup next month in Gold Coast, Australia, and although we missed the boat, something good was being built.
But now we have taken a few steps behind.
To make matters worse for Malaysian football, next year in the M-League it has been decided by our learned football officials that we allow four foreign players to play.
It is further going to do harm to Malaysian football, as another local player is going to be deprived of action in his own league and above the national team is going to suffer with dearth of calibre players in the strike force especially.
It is about time FA of Malaysia decide whether they want to promote the M-League or the national team. Bold decisions have to be taken by FAM that will benefit the national team, if they are serious about raising Malaysia’s football profile.
State FAs have to stop being selfish and thinking about their own team and give their cooperation to build a national team.
This will indeed be asking too much of them because we have seen it happen over and over and looks like nothing will change.
It is little wonder that we get all excited about the AFF Cup performance and make a mountain out of it.
It is pointless saying God willing we will do better in the next AFF Cup, when we do nothing positive to improve the standard of the national team. Nothing comes for free. We have to work hard for it with proper planning and long term vision.
Next we are all going to excited to win the Sea Games gold in Singapore in June and if that happens, we will be contended and celebrating if there is no tomorrow.
With such short-sightedness, Malaysia football is going to bask in victories in small leagues or hope for Santa Claus to wave his magic wand and cast a miracle for Malaysian football.
The sooner we start looking at the bigger picture and have bigger ambitions, the better for Malaysian football and at least we can have true hopes of being a footballing nation of reckoning.
Here’s wishing a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with hopes of a better sporting year for Malaysia.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than three
decades of experience and is ­­­­­
passionate about local sports. He
can be reached at tmariadass@ Twitter handle: @

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