Thursday, April 30, 2015

So, what's new?

 Level Field  

 Recently, there has been a lot of noise about the exorbitant salaries earned by M-League players that did not quite gel with Malaysia’s sliding Fifa world ranking. So, what else is new on our football scene?
It has been an open secret for some time now that Malaysian football is plumbing new depths. But clearly, the authorities, ardent fans and critics are hoping for a miracle.
The blame for the current sorry state of Malaysian football falls squarely on the state FAs and clubs. You may ask, what about the FA of Malaysia (FAM)? Yes, FAM has to accept part of the blame but as the national body, they can only do so much.
This column has stressed time and again that the state FAs are the limbs of FAM. The national body can implement the best programmes in the world, but if they are not properly executed by the state FAs, they will come to naught. After all, the state associations are the ones that touch base with the grassroots.
If my memory serves me right, when the Semi-Pro league was introduced in 1989, FAM placed a cap of RM5,000 on players' salary and the state FAs had to declare what they paid their players.
But then, the associations declared one figure to FAM and paid the players another to entice them to represent their states. Local players were already earning between RM15,000 and RM20,000 at the time.
Then came the hiring of mediocre foreign players who came for trials without even a pair of boots but commanded between US$3,000 and US$10,000 plus accommodation and a car, not to mention bonuses! There was also the sign-on fee.
State FAs were already getting subsidies from FAM and what started at RM400,000 a year quickly passed the RM1 million mark. But money that was meant for development, the referees and coaching courses was used up for the M-League team. And even back then, the state FAs were running at a deficit.
Initially, the teams were managed at RM700,000 to RM1 million but this scaled up to about RM30 million to RM40 million and is now probably double that amount.
The players became more demanding when they realised that the state FAs were willing to pay them well. And with all the states competing for a small pool of good players, the wages skyrocketed.
Then the players began to offer their services in packs of three or four and the states had to secure all of them or none at all. Thus began the era of very high wages for very average players.
Needless to say, the players got accustomed to the finer things in life and lost their focus on the game. Representing the nation was no longer their priority as they were sitting pretty at state and club-level competition. Indeed, there seems no end to the vicious circle.
With the state FAs not paying any attention to development, talented young players became a rarity.
At the national level, we continued to hope for overnight success and thought changing the coaches was the answer to our prayers. 
The media, football officials and the layman became experts in the game and started campaigning for players to be included in the national team.
Gone are the days when finding a place in the national team was like winning the lottery. Today, anyone can be a national player and the turnover is high.
Those days, national players could keep their places for seven to ten years and some players, though talented, had to warm the bench and wait for their turn to make the grade. These days, all we have are highly paid footballers who dish out ... nothing.
The foreigners playing here are hardly used for development programmes. They just collect their hefty wages and more often than not, create problems on and off the field.
If there is a way for Malaysian football to rise again, it has to be through a proper development programme that runs for eight to ten years. We have to be patient, start at the grassroots, especially the schools, and wait for the players to mature.
If we continue to look for shortcuts, we will only face disappointment over and over again.
Our programmes have to be transparent, equitable and cover the whole country. We need the best coaches to handle the programmes and the state FAs to be well administered.
It is going to be a long process and the sooner we come to terms with our current status and address it the right way, the sooner we can rise. Otherwise, it will just be big bucks down the drain and more humiliation.
TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​

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