FOOTBALL: Playing with the best in Europe is the way forward
IT is heartening to learn that Nazmi Faiz Mansor, 17, has become the first Malaysian to sign a three-year contract with Portuguese Primeira Liga's Sport Clube Beria-Mar.
The player will pave the way for other players to break into Europe.
The way to improve Malaysia's football and its world ranking of 156 is to give young players stints in European clubs, such as Cardiff and Queens Park Rangers in Britain, which are owned by Malaysians.
This will expose Malaysian players to training and prepare them for high-level competition.
Nazmi follows in the footsteps of the first Malaysian football millionaire, Safee Sali, who is with the Indonesian Super League side Pelita Jaya. Safee has scored 16 goals in 20 games.
Malaysia must follow the Japanese and Koreans, whose players are well spread out across Europe.
Japan and South Korea feature in many World Cup tournaments.
Malaysia, in the 1970s, beat South Korea and Japan in the Merdeka Tournament and in the Olympic qualifying rounds.
Where are we now ?
For Malaysia to progress in football, hockey, squash and cycling, our athletes need to make sacrifices in the mould of world No. 1 squash player Datuk Nicol David, who is disciplined and works hard.
Nicol is a six-time world champion.
She won the British Open for the fourth time a few days ago, making it her 60th World Squash Association title.
Nicol lives and trains in Amsterdam under former world champion Liz Irving.
Nicol has improved her game by leaps and bounds with European exposure and training metho-dology.
Now Malaysia has captured the Junior Asia Cup hockey and there are many young players who are marked to play in Europe to gain exposure.
National cyclists Azizul Hasni Awang and Josiah Ng are also training and competing with the world's best in Australia and Europe.
Truly, the way forward for our athletes is to train and compete with the best.