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FOOTBALL FIASCO: Focus is key to regaining lost glory
GET politics out of football!" He did not say it that way of course, but that was the message from a former international over dinner the other night. The footballer was rather incensed at the state of Malaysian football, and he said politicians and their politics are killing the game. Apparently, yet another thing we are blaming politicians for.
There are no ex-nationals at the highest echelon of the Football Association of Malaysia. Horror of horrors, he said, even the Towkay, the man with the rolled-down socks -- Datuk Soh Chin Aun -- could not get enough votes to be in the exco, when politicians, who presumably might never have to kick a ball in anger, won. The ex-international asked a rhetorical question, in between buttered prawns: who among the exco members has the authority to talk about football more than Chin Aun?
He cited the Towkay's contemporaries in Asia such as South Korea's Kim Jae Hun and Japan's K. Kamamoto, who had gone and held senior positions in their country's respective football associations, giving insights and understanding of the game and the people who play them.
Incidentally, my dinner companion was a member of the illustrious 1980 national team that qualified for the Moscow Olympics but did not get to go because of our boycott of the Games in protest of the then Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan.
Football fans of a certain age could get misty-eyed over the evening of April 6, 1980, when Malaysia beat South Korea to qualify for Moscow. It was one of the highlights of Malaysian football, at least for me.
The players were R. "Spider-Man" Arumugam, Jamal Nasir Ismail, the Towkay, Santokh Singh, Kamaruddin Abdullah, Bakri Ibni, Shukor Salleh, Khalid Ali, Abdullah Ali, Hassan Sani and "King" James Wong, and they were drilled as a team by German Karl Weigang.
Who among the fans does not remember Wong's winning goal from a pass he collected from Hassan who had just torn through the left flank? My newfound friend remembered that well, and he was pleased that I did, but he still could not let go of the subject that is the state of Malaysian football.
You need people who not only know football, but have played at the highest level to be involved in decision and policy-making; someone who knows the difference between skills, technique and tactic. You do not need someone who sees football as yet another stepping stone to somewhere else, he said.
We should get former internationals to contribute, but be flexible and not require them to go back to school to get a coaching licence. Not many will be keen to do so, hence we lose talents who could have passed on their footballing knowledge to the next generations of players, he argued.
For the record my recent acquaintance has an overseas coaching certificate, but he gave up and merajuk when he saw what was happening to the game.
The man, who at his prime was known for his coolness on the field, was lost for words when asked about Malaysia's 156th position among footballing nations.
He said there were then only 500 players then and four competitions to pick players for the national team, but the country was on a par with current Asia powerhouses Japan and South Korea.
We now have sports schools for talented youngsters at the state and national levels, and much more money is being spent on the sports, but we seem not to have progressed.
It all boils down to the basics -- we need good instructors, coaches and trainers. The Football Association of Malaysia must think only football, and nothing else, he said.
Without this, he said, there would not be any new thunder-thighs Mokhtar "Supermokh" Dahari, or the Towkay.
I told him of a conversation I had with yet another 1980 alumnus, Khalid Ali, who said he asked his son to put on hold his footballing dreams, and the boy was going places with his football, at least until he had completed his studies. He is worried about his kid's future and there is no guarantee football will help him once the adulation is over.
I am not sure you can blame politicians for that. But since we are already at it, why not.