Monday, December 13, 2004

Football Malaysian Style.

If I call it a religion, I would be accused of being blasphemous. But is it not a fact that the game is like religion?.

In Malaysia and in Vietnam now the South East Asian (SEA) nations are playing football, competing in for the Tiger Cup. I do not see much skills in Malaysian football nowadays, I see them as being far below standard. But I see other nations in the South East Asia region as progressing well in their football skills. Thailand and Vietnam for example are having very dedicated and skillful footballers, so are Cambodia and Indonesia. But Malaysia, and perhaps Singapore, are just trying to show off. Probably I am prejudiced but watching them on TV I feel like having a second heart attack. Malaysia has a long way to go.

The sad situation about Malaysian football is that they think that they are of certain acceptable standard. In reality they are not. Some months ago they had this Malaysian Cup matches and the Malaysian FA Cup matches. They were big events then, but they were just fighting among the minnows, not much skills but as they are very local they had big followings. I think they were just being patriotic to the State football teams, so the big following. In fact I am told that the team that won the Malaysia Cup was awarded RM 700,000.00 by the State (?) as prize money. Can't blame them as it was the first time that they have ever won the Cup after being in the competition for over 70 years (?). The State was Perlis, a small State up the North of Peninsular Malaysia.

On TV, you see the showings of the English Football League and the European League and Cup matches. I watch these sometimes, to get my mind off the mediocre standard of the Malaysian or even the SEA football. Its a pleasure watching these foreign teams playing, the skills, the commitment, the professionalism, in fact these are the good characteristics of footballers for which these SEA players should look up to and work towards achieving. When at times, these Europeans come to Malaysia to play against our local national team, I feel that it is only out of pity that they do not score dozens of goals against the national team. At times we imagine that our players are as good as these European (or South American) players or even the African players, but in reality we are not. We are too far behind in skills, in fitness and in commitment.

Let us see whether our Malaysian standard of football has gone up or down. We used to be the model nation for football in this part of the world in the early 60s. I suppose at that time the other nations in this part of the world were just starting to play football while we have been playing the game while the British was here. Then the other nations went up in their football skills, and technique and even commitment and we have become what we are today, a mere small nation wanting to look big in foot balling.

Let us examine ourselves as to why we have become what we are in football. Lets put a mirror in front of us and be frank about it. let us even see our pimples and all. I suppose in those days players played football for the love of the game, where as today its a question of what they can earn out of playing football, in terms of money (and facilities). I realise of course in Europe and South America foot balling is a profession but they have the skills and they are committed to their 'trade'. In Malaysia we neither have the skills nor are we committed - anyway that is just my opinion. Maybe a few others will agree with me (or maybe disagree).

Are we organised to play football? Maybe amateur football. But professional football, I have certain doubts in my mind. We all think that we are organised but let us look closely. Firstly the officials never seem to change. They become official, for almost the whole life, either because of their social standing/position or political position. Without being rude, I would say that if these positions are held by 'real' professional, maybe our standard of football will rise. What are these 'real' professionals? Look at the other countries in Europe and South America and we can see where we are. Its too sensitive for me to say more.

We have the money, we have good sponsors. In those days we have the cigarette companies but nowadays we have squeezed the other big companies to sponsor football in this country. So we have the money - and the Government also help. With the money we managed to pay the officials, and coaches who are either local or imported. In those days we had local coaches but to raise the standard we imported foreign coaches. I think it was in late 70s that we began to import foreign coaches. They helped to better the techniques our football playing. But then it was in late 70s that we began the decline in our football records. Was it just coincidental? Or was it because at about the same time, or a few years later maybe, we have professional football in this country where we imported many foreign players to take part in our local leagues and championship. Maybe because of that our local players have lost their skills. Or was it because the local players have lost their skills that we imported foreign players for our league and championship? And when these local players are given the chance to represent the country they have less skills then and now.

We must admit that our physique are not really the physique of footballers as in Europe or South America. But can we really blame on our physique? Some of the better footballers are not really big but they are muscular and skillful. Is it because of our lack of foot balling skills that we are not a good foot balling nation? I have seen how our footballer when playing against others who have better physique get injured, and if not injured they get easily thrown out of balance when trying to control the ball or when trying to get the ball or on physical contact. And how far can we get the ball close enough to the goal mouth to get to score goals? Not that far really, most of the time we have to wait to be right in front of the goal mouth before we can score goals. There are exceptions but the exceptions are few, in Europe the scoring may be more from a physical distance than us the this region. Are other players in this region more better physique than us, so how come? But these others are tougher, they have been living hard lives where as our players had have it 'easy'.

Back to foreign coaches, we have many by now. We have had English, Germans, Polish, South American. These coaches in their heydays may be good either as players or as coaches. But when they arrive in this country they are only half as good physically and their skills have been done for even though they have good track record. I mean they are already 'used'. So what can they really do with our players in this country, all factors considered as I said above.

Let us consider other factors that may be for or against us. The food that our players eat may not be advantageous to them. Their staple food is rice, is rice good for football players? Too much carbohydrate. Long term energy but to my mind not good for shot term energy burst required during a 90 minute football match. Someone may contest me on this, but I believe in what I say. What do football players in other countries eat? Of course someone may say what do football players in this region eat? Maybe just like in Malaysia, I do not know but for sure they eat something else with rice better that what we Malaysian eat. Or they add to what they eat by more physical tests to enhance their stamina to be ready for the 90 minute match.

Our players are disciplined to a certain degree, but their discipline at times are much to be desired. But of course at time to discipline them can be very difficult as well, they have their godfather or sometimes they seemed to be 'indispensable'. Many have got away with that in those conditions. Can we condone indiscipline?

I have said enough. I have been involved in football, not as a player but in management. I have looked after Club football teams, and I have also managed a State team. Have not been very successful in both areas but I have involved myself in football to see enough.

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