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Malaysian football scene; a post asia cup review

    Malaysia started the campaign on 10th July 2007 against formidable Cina. Not much hope was given to the Malaysian team even before the tournament start. The team was placed in Group C along with China, Iran and Uzbekistan. The three other teams already had a chance to play in the previous World Cups, and several of their players are playing in European leagues.

    Nobody of a sound mind would say that our team will advance to the next stage. But this had not stop the FAM officers and some fans from dreaming that the team could at least sprang a few surprises. I must admit that I was one of the fans that still think that the team can at least hold their might against the other teams. What I did not forsee was that even the Malaysian players could not say much about their prospect other that the promises of playing out their best and not fearing the opponents. To date, no Malaysian player is able to ply their trade in any professional soccer league outside our shore. The nearest we had was when Akmal Rizal Rakhili had a temporary stint with a French 2nd Division club- FC Haguenau after ending his training stint with another French club. He was touted to be the messiah of our footballing world. Although performing quite well, he was sent home when his contract expired and he continues to play with his state club of Kedah. China has several players playing in the English Premier League, Iran has Andranik Teymourian playing with Bolton in the same league and Asia best player Ali Karimi in the Bundesliga, while Uzbekistan has Maxim Shatshikh in the Dinamo Moscow team and 2 other players in Serie A. These player are not just parking their names in the club’s roll, but are actively challenging their skills and fighting for the first XI places.

    Malaysia was able to hold their fort for the first 15 minutes against China. The Malaysians played a 4-4-2 formation. Coach Norizan Bakar said that it was supposedly the best line-up available to him at that point of time. However, I beg to differ. The centreback pairing of skipper Khaironnisam ‘Botak’ Shahabuddin and Norhafiz Zamani Misbah was such a mess. They had played together for sometime, but still did not have the understanding. They were supposed to be the best centrebacks in the country, but judging from their performance, another pairing should have been prepared. Both of them lack in height and that made the Chinese having a fun time of crossing the ball into the box. They lacked speed and was ran down multiple times by China forwards. The midfielders were in their own world. Shukor Adan and Fadzli Shaari were non-functioning entities. The wingers lost the ball with their first touch and seemed did not know where the ball should be brought to. Akmal ‘messiah’ Rizal did not have any chance and drifted out early in the game and Hairuddin Omar was not able to stamp any marks. But at least he did fight the high balls, hoping that he could at least headed in one goal similar to the one against Chelsea 3 years back. Malaysia was routed 1-5 that night with the consolation goal coming from Indra Putra after a good work from Eddy Helmi. All sorts of headlines came out the next day; NST: Say no more, Malaysia as bad as ever. Harian Metro: Tak makan nasi ke?….etc. Everybody was furious, including me, but at least my aim was achived: Malaysia did score a goal. I’m proud of that.

   Malaysia’s second game was played in the early kick-off. I missed it as I was catching a plane back after visiting my daughter. I only got the news from my brother of another bashing when I reached home. This time we let another 5 passed us. Just this time we were not able to reply any. Maxim Shatsikh scored twice, we also gave out a penalty. By now, Malaysia already let in 10 goals. Is there any of our players out there in the field, or we just put some cones for Uzbekistan to dribble? If there was any, was there a goalkeeper, defenders or midfielders? I don’t want to ask the strikers because I know they were not there that night.

    Malaysia wrapped up the campaign on 18th July 2007 against Iran. Everybody was expecting flood of goals. Iran was being lined with at least 5 prominent experience players with the other playing in the neighbouring leagues of UAE, Qatar etc. The flood gates should had been opened earlier, but God saved Malaysia. The Iranians shot were either saved, just missed the goal or hit the woodwork. However, our own skipper gave out a penalty after that. The second penalty we gave out in the tournament. Ah, I really felt it was a dubious decision. I had to concur with Shebby Singh that time. The Iranian player was acting as if being bundled from behind when he lost the challenged for the high ball. It mesmerized me that why on earth an Arabic referee was given the duty that night. It should had been someone from say Japan, Korea so that there will be no conflict of interest or bias. His linesman kept his flag down but he still point to the spot. The keeper was helpless with the penalty. The other goal came from Andranik Teymourian after a fine run of play. That was what we want to see, a fine footballing skills and technique, not another bad refering decision. I also pity the Indonesians with a bad decision that had cost them a game, and indirectly the tournament. Malaysia lost 0-2.


    FAM vice president Tunku Abdullah Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah stepped down after the second defeat. He cited that he had done everything he was capabled of but to no avail and it was time a new blood took over. I strongly agrees with him. He had been at the helm of Malaysian football for almost 25 years, and look at the team now: Is there any improvement? Did we ever qualify for another Asia Cup on merit? Did we manage to qualify for another Olympics? Don’t ask about the World Cup, it is another dream.

    The football scene was in the dump for the past 25 years. We had scandals after scandals, from bribery that took out one generation of footballers to indisciplined players ie ‘the disco boys’ to drug-taking professional players. Yes, we did had a time of wealth, when Dunhill poured so much money into FAM’s and state FAs coffin through their sponsorship. But where on earth did the money go? Is it towards grass roots development projects? If it so, where is the result? Why there are no young players that are good enough to play for the national team? Did the money just went into the officers’ pockets? Or the state FAs used the development money to get another import players so that their team can win Malaysia Cup? Now FAM is saying that it is going to face a financial problem after Dunhill pulled out from the sponsorship. And some the state FAs are going into the red as well… Look at Sarawak, once an up and coming giant, now they struggle to run the FA and had to organize a charity match to get some money. By the way, do anyone think any body would want to fill up the filthy sits just to watch some ‘school boys’ playing? I rather watch MCKK vs STAR match in the Premier Cup to be entertained. At least it will be real school boys playing, not just so-called professionals that played quater-heartedly.

    I think the whole upper echelons officers of FAM should call it a quit. This includes the president. But how? Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah is holding the post for as long as he lives, unless…… Coach Norizan Bakar was axed. The sacking news even made it into the Soccernet website. Hehehe, not bad for a team ranked 149th in the world.

    Everybody in the media, the critics, the fans want an overhaul of the team. My plead is that please don’t disband another national team. We had done it before. Remember when we lost 0-1 to Myanmar in the SEA Games some years back? FAM disbanded the whole national team and putting the U-23 team for all international duties. What had we achieved from that? Are the former U-23 players making an impact now? I don’t think so.

    Our players lack everything; the mental power to fight, the concentration to play, the motivation, the physical features, the stamina, the technique, the skills, the determination etc. Not many can argue back when some quaters said that they were playing like ‘school boys’. The players looked as if they were afraid to hold the ball. Are they being pressured by us? If they cannot take the pressure, why call themselves professionals? They should be amateur players, have a nice daytime jobs, and play football for fun. Maybe that way can bring back their passion for the game.

    It is of no use if we continuously bash our players. They are not fully responsible. It THE OFFICERS of the management who are at fault. Like I said, these are the FAM and state FAs. The national players became demotivated even more when we keep on saying that they are these and that. Yes, they are also responsible. But why can’t we have a larger pool of quality players? Why aren’t our players be exposed to the more challenging leagues outside. Why aren’t the state FAs promote our players to neighbouring leagues and why keep on depending on ‘awang import’?

    Japan and Korea came to learn from us back then when Mokhtar Dahari and friends were stamping their marks. “We come to learn from Malaysia”, the Japanese and Koreans would say. We feared no one that time. We even scored against England B with a wondeful goal that would made headlines if scored at Wembly and we even won against Arsenal and Argentinian clubs. What had happened to us? Now even Singapore is making progress. Singapore had a friendly against the Soccerroos and their play was superb and was only beaten with goals in the second half. Imagine our national players pitting their skills against Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Tim Cahill, Bret Emerton and Mark Bresciano. Imagine that we win that game. Huh, the power of dreams? Thailand had already in front of us, and Vietnam even made it to quater finals of the Asia Cup.

    It may take another 20 years to repair 20 years of mismanagement. But it had to be done. New faces and new blood need to be given a chance. Radical changes in system should be undertaken. All might be lost for now, but all is still not lost forever. Insyaallah I’ll still be alive in 20 years time. I hope to watch Malaysia win against the world’s football powerhouse.

All hail the Tigers!  


Friday, July 20, 2007 - Posted by | Sports

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