KUALA LUMPUR: The former stars have spoken — unanimously holding the FA of Malaysia (FAM) responsible for the sad state of affairs in Malaysian football.
And their prescription for the ills of Malaysian football is simple: “Let us, the former national footballers, play a more significant role in reviving the fortunes of the game in the country.”
About 70 ex-national players attended a one-of-a-kind “Save Malaysian football” dialogue with Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob at the National Stadium Complex in Bukit Jalil.
Some came from as far as Penang. Even “towkay” Soh Chin Aun, sacked as team manager by the FAM on Sunday, was there to give his two cents’ worth.
So were football pundit Serbegeth Singh, “Raja Bola” Datuk Mohd Ghani Minhat, Datuk Rahim Abdullah, Bakri Ibni, Khaidir Buyong, Shukor Salleh, Abdullah Ali, Reduan Abdullah, Wong Choon Wah, Khalid Ali, K. Gunalan and many more.
The general feeling is one of utter disappointment at the way FAM have let Malaysian football’s standard drop to such a low level.
Former winger Abdullah, the ‘banana kick’ specialist, hit the nail on the head when he said that heads of associations should not be allowed to hold office for more than five years without showing any results.
Sultan Ahmad Shah has been the president of FAM for 25 years.
“We cannot allow someone to hold court for 25 years with no results. They should set a KPI (Key Performance Index) and not let the association rot before looking at remedial plans … this is basically poor management,” said Abdullah.
All the ex-national players urged the powers-that-be to give them a more useful role in helping to lift the standard of football in the country, especially at the grassroots level.
Khaidir said they had voiced their interest to work with FAM but they never got much support.
“It is sad to see unqualified people heading the various departments,” he said.
“You can’t have an administrator heading the coaching or the technical departments. It has to be someone with vast playing and coaching experience. But why are the right people being left out?”
Serbegeth also hit out at FAM and said it was time the Sports Ministry worked directly with the former players to get the job done at the district level.
“We have the people with the right expertise and knowledge to get the job done and we are more useful,” he said.
Most of the other views were nothing new, though some blamed the Education Ministry for the lack of facilities in schools. Among their grouses were the lack of playing grounds, youth coaches and inter-school competitions.
Reduan felt that the emphasis should be on youth development programmes. “We must have good and experienced coaches at the youth level if we are to produce mature players for the country,” he said.
Gunalan agreed, saying the schools used to play a big role in youth development. “But the present system does not help promote the game,” he said.
Ismail later thanked the former players for their suggestions and ideas.
He said although Malaysia still lagged far behind other teams in the region and are languishing in 158th spot in the FIFA rankings, the fans still expected the national team to do well at international competitions.
“It is not like bowling or lawn bowls. When they lose at the world level … there is not much public outcry. But football is different. It is still the No. 1 sport here and is talked about almost everywhere, even at Cabinet meetings,” said Ismail.
“Their input will be useful when we meet with FAM officials tomorrow to decide on the future of Malaysian football.”