Don’t despair. Malaysian football will bounce back from the debacle in Manila.
It is only a matter of learning from the mistakes in the Sea Games and ironing them out accordingly for future tournaments.
However, the defeats to the Philippines last weekend and to Cambodia on Wednesday should serve as an ominous warning to the FA of Malaysia (FAM).
It is a sign that the national senior and youth teams are in danger of becoming the ordinaries of Southeast Asian football. While it is true that the national Under-22 team had no business losing to minnows, FAM and their coaching staff should instead look deeper into the failure. It is easy to shift the blame to coach Ong Kim Swee and his Sea Games squad, but FAM also need to come up with answers on why this team looked jaded, ill-prepared and demotivated throughout the tournament.
Kim Swee’s squad had 10 players with international senior caps, but still their experience was not good enough to guide the others in the squad and lead the team to glory.
FAM must take responsibility for the failure. Sacking the coach for the country’s most embarrassing outing in the history of the Sea Games is not the only answer. We, the fans and media, need answers for the questions below from FAM.
Why did the team look so disjointed during the tournament? Were most of the players playing regular football for their M-League clubs this year before the Sea Games? Were the shortcomings due to Kim Swee’s inability to understand his team’s strength and weaknesses? Did the team play the right formations? Why wasn’t in-form striker Safawi Rasid selected for the Sea Games? Did Kim Swee alone make the decision not to select Safawi or were there orders not to select him? Did the striker opt out from the tournament? Was the team given enough time to prepare for the Sea Games?
These are the questions FAM need to answer. We do not want “damage control” or “passing the buck” press releases from the national body.
We need to know why this team failed to shine, considering that the senior and Under-19 squads have done quite well this year.
Overall, Malaysia’s attack was a problem. Kim Swee was forced to depend on Hadi Fayyadh Razak, a player who has not played competitive football for almost a year in the J2-League.
Although Hadi did creditably well with three goals, he still lacked the cutting edge during matches. A lot was expected from forward Akhyar Rashid but the 20-year-old was a pale shadow of himself.
Akhyar has been poor this year, and if he does not bounce back soon, he may just stew in mediocrity.
Except for one or two players, the others failed to spark and it seemed like they were not focused on doing well. FAM must take lessons from this failure and review their national team and development programmes.
It is not the end of the world. Let’s move forward and think how we can bounce back stronger in upcoming tournaments. But for Kim Swee, Manila is his last Sea Games outing as a coach.
“There were ups and downs during my tenure as a coach for five Sea Games editions, but there were no regrets.
“In football, there is always a chance to bounce back from failures. I must thank the fans for supporting me and my team all these years. As for our outing in this Sea Games, everyone is disappointed. For a coach, his tenure depends on results and yes, this is my last Sea Games,” said Kim Swee.