Friday, December 18, 2015

Football's puzzling decisions


Malaysia want to move forward in football to pull themselves out of the doldrums, but as long as strange decisions are made by the authorities of the game, it could well be a dashed dream.

Several decisions made, or going to be made, in the football circles at national and state levels make one wonder if Malaysia are headed in the right direction.

For starters is the Football Association of Malaysia’s (FAM) decision to hire former Estonia youth coach Frank Bernhardt instead of the favourite – national interim coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee.

While we respect the decision of the interview panel – comprising three representatives from the FAM technical committee and the National Sports Council who were thorough and obviously impressed by the German – giving him a two-year contract and a key performance indicator (KPI) to win the 2017 SEA Games gold medal does not seem right.

Do we need a foreign coach to steer the team towards a SEA Games gold when Datuk K. Rajagobal and Ong had already done it in 2009 and 2011 respectively?

If it was Bernhardt’s expertise in youth development that impressed FAM, they should have given him a longer contract – at least four years – to lay the foundations for a strong supply of fresh players for the national team.

With a two-year-contract, Bernhardt’s contribution will be limited and he is only going to concentrate on winning the SEA Games gold medal and will not or have the time to work on a wider scale.

The 46-year-old starts work in January and although it was reported that he does not have a team to work with because FAM had disbanded the Harimau Muda A, B and C squads and most of the players had signed contracts with their state sides for the M-League next season, his first job will be probably to identify Under-21 players for his squad.

This is because the Asean Football Federation (AFF) has proposed to the South-East Asian Games Federation (SEAGF) that the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games Under-23 football competition be made an Under-21 tournament.

SEAGF is expected to make a final decision on this soon and is expected to adhere to AFF’s recommendation.

Coming back to Ong, it will be interesting to see what FAM’s next move will be.

The national body is expected to name the national coach by the end of the month and is vetting the 70 odd candidates who had applied for the job, including Ong.

The question is whether FAM, after having given the Under-23 job to Bernhardt, will make a compromise and decide to offer the national job to Ong, who has been with the national setup since 2009 when he took charge of the Under-19 squad.

One can only wait and see.

Other strange football developments include the speculation that Pahang’s coach Zainal Abidin Hassan is all set to coach Selangor next season, especially since Pahang have named their Zainal’s assistant, former international Ahmad Shaharuddin Rosdi, as their new coach.

This season’s Selangor coach Mehmet Durakovic, who steered them to their 33rd Malaysia Cup victory last Saturday after a ten-year wait, still has a year left in his contract.

So, why remove a winning coach and bring in home-grown Zainal whose team lost to Selangor in the Malaysia Cup semi-finals? It is said that Mehmet will be made the technical director.

Mehmet’s assistant, former Selangor player P. Maniam loyal and faithful to the state and even a caretaker coach looks to be booted out. Another former Selangor stalwart, P. Gunalan, is set to join the state as Zainal’s assistant.

Strange moves indeed if they become a reality.

Then we have Perak, who have appointed 72-year-old Ken Worden as their technical director.

Worden has been in the region since 1992 when he joined Selangor and had several stints with them besides coaching the national team, the Singapore national team, Sabah, Terengganu and from May this year a stint with SPA KL (Public Services Commission) in the Premier League.

Worden had earned his coaching A licence in Malaysia under former FAM technical director Richard Bates in 1990.

Are Perak moving forward or backward with the appointment of Worden, especially when they have a much more qualified and experienced coach in Datuk M. Karathu in their state?

It is their prerogative, true, but if FAM or the state FAs make decisions that will not benefit Malaysian football in the long run, their actions have to be questioned.

Professional decisions need to be made with football at heart if Malaysian football is to move forward.

We went semi-professional in 1989, professional in 1994, and next season the league is going to be privatised. But so far, we have been professional only in words, not in action. It’s time things changed.

 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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