Friday, January 20, 2017


Foreign legion stunt m-league


  THE Malaysia League kicks off today but not all is well, with teams threatening to pull-out owing to financial problems, venues not finalised, incomplete registration forms and a host of other problems.
It is indeed sad that after the having gone semi-pro in 1989, professional in 1994 and the league now managed privately by Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership, we are still having problems.
The league kicks off with the Charity Shield match between Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and Malaysia Cup champions Kedah.
In all probability, these two teams will battle for honours with PKNS, Pahang and Perak pushing them.
In the Premier League, it could well be close battle as a majority of the teams are of the same level, although Armed Forces, JDT II, Terengganu and Kuala Lumpur could have an edge.
Sadly, it is the foreign players who are expected to hog the limelight — even though we don’t have top notch imports to begin with.
The top scorers have been foreigners for many years as nearly every team opt for them as their main strikers.
Little wonder every national coach who comes along, laments the lack of top strikers.
That FA of Malaysia still allow four foreign players (one must be from Asia) is puzzling.
If all teams in the Super and Premier Leagues use their full quota of foreign players, we will have 96 players plying their trade in Malaysia.
Gone are the days when teams had open trials for local players or go to districts and kampung in search of talent.
Today, the same local players move from one team to another. Yes in yesteryears, players played for a long period too, but they remained because of their high quality.
Today, average players remain in the game because there is an increase in teams and a dearth of talent.
If there are any fresh players breaking through, they come from the President’s Cup. But their quality too is nothing much to shout about because they play too few matches in the youth league and the quality too is much left to be desired.
In the last 25 years, we would have easily had more than 700 foreign players — from Asia (21 countries) Africa (24), Europe (25), South America (six), Oceania (two) and North America, Central America (four) — playing in the M-League.
Malaysia’s world ranking is 161 as compared to below 100 when we did not have foreign players.
Even the Chinese FA, who have cash-rich clubs to lure top quality international talent, have announced their Super League teams would be able to field no more than three foreigners per match this season.
Previously four non-Chinese players were allowed, provided one was from Asia.
Their reasoning was the decision would be “advantageous for the overall development of Chinese football for the cultivation of Chinese local footballers and the advantageous for raising the level of China’s national team.”
When China, ranked 82nd in the world, having qualified for the World Cup finals in 2002 and President Xi Jinping having declared three goals for the country — to host, qualify, and win a World Cup — are concerned about “foreigners impact”, it is surprising we do not see it the same way.
The Asian giants had made improving youth football programmes a national priority, with an official plan promising 20,000 academies and 30 million elementary and middle school pupils within four years.
China have worked since 2009 to promote grassroots football and crush illegal gambling syndicates.
The sooner we get our priorities right, the sooner we will see light at the end of the tunnel. Otherwise, we will continue groping in the dark.

TONY is a sports journalist with close to four decades of experience and is passionate about local sports. He can be reached at

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