Opinion

A much-needed intervention for the good of Malaysian football

A 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Kuwait last Friday was Harimau Malaya's sixth consecutive loss in international friendlies.

Off the field, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has come under criticism by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, a former FAM vice-president himself, on issues ranging from the "jurassic" methods of ticket distribution for the Malaysia Cup final, as well as the aforementioned string of disappointing performances by the national team.

With the impending National Football Project in January, Malaysians are in a wonderful position to observe the ability (or willingness) for either party to work in unison for the long-term benefit of the sport.

The dependency on the Harimau Muda programme to provide all local teams (state and clubs) with talent does very little to help the long term development of football in Malaysia.

There is little doubt that the players in the Harimau Muda programme are the cream-of-the-crop, but when state sides and clubs refuse to cultivate talent on their own and instead throw money at the Harimau Muda graduates (once they pass the age of 23, they are no longer allowed to stay within the programme and thus need to look for professional teams), what sort of talent development is done, truly?

Khairy stated quite frankly when the programme was first implemented at the national level, that it was not a sustainable long-term resource for developing local talent. For many local teams, there seemed to be no need to cultivate talent on their own when it is simply easier to throw money at these boys when they "graduate".

What we have then is a long line of suitors for what amounts to anywhere between five to 20 graduates a year. With a population of more than 28 million, surely there has to be more talent out there?

Feasibly, to begin the true development of football on a national scale, we need a football philosophy – a style of play, a standardised method of coaching youth and/or consistent competitive exposure. We then need a syllabus to implement this philosophy.

We need specialist youth coaches to impart this syllabus so we can all then develop the brand of football which is our philosophy. We also need leagues for the proposed 7-17 year olds.

Read my lips, we need leagues and not tournaments!

There is a lot to be said and shared on this subject of football. After listening to all and sundry, let us discuss and debate the above.

With Lim Teong Kim as Technical Director of the National Football Project, we have sounded our intention to adopt the German football philosophy. With Kim's extensive knowledge and insight of Bayern Munich, the syllabus is thus in hand to be implemented.

We now need to educate the coaches, for they are the ones who will impart this knowledge to the kids. The selection of coaches is key here.

I personally would not like to see coaches above 35 years of age coaching kids below 10 years of age. Yes, the time has come to cultivate a younger set of coaches for different age groups.

I have no qualms if a 40-year-old coaches the under-17s or Under-18s, but a 40-year-old running around trying to impress 7-10-year-olds? Nah! I don't think so.

What we need are fresh minds ready and willing to implement a new style of play under the aforementioned syllabus – minds which have not yet been disillusioned to the revolving door of coaches that has come to infest our national football leagues.

Far too often, failure is rewarded with more failure – a manager finds a new job in a different team, often on a one-year contract and proceeds to not develop anything for the future. After all, why think about the future when the "win now" mentality is enough to ensure a contract extension?

There you go, it is not rocket science!

However, the 64-thousand dollar question is, whose responsibility is this? The FAM or the Government?

Too often both parties have come into conflict with each other over footballing matters (many sporting associations in Malaysia can also say the same) and too often the finger-pointing leads to annoyed individuals, bruised egos and absolutely no resolution found.

A reasonable in-between needs to be established as the government cannot simply keep pumping FAM with millions upon millions yearly and see little or no gain. Let us not kid ourselves, as even your friendly neighbourhood bookie can tell you – professional football is big business, and what good is a business which yields only losses?

In my opinion, the FAM should stick to the administration of the National teams and Professional leagues.

The development of football, however, should be the responsibility of the Government. This responsibility of cultivating the health and well-being of kids and youth through the sport of football belongs to the Government.

And with this, I applaud the Youth and Sport Minister for having the best interest of the game at heart. His efforts are noble and deserve the support of all the stakeholders. Not drive stakes into the holders!

Actually, the Government should really develop and manage all sport. No disrespect to the parties involved especially the Malaysian Athletics Union. – November 15, 2013.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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