IF Kedah’s humiliating exit from the AFC Cup on Tuesday does not open the shuttered eyes of Malaysian football administrators, nothing will.
Almost every decision taken by the FA of Malaysia over the past two decades has seen Malaysian football regress rather than going forward.
Malaysian fans have become numb to defeats suffered by the national team and the state teams on the international stage so much so that nothing surprises them anymore.
But for Kedah to succumb 8-2, in such devastating fashion, to Vietnam’s Binh Duong in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday, is one humiliation too far.
It is one thing to lose by such a margin to a Japanese J-League team as Sarawak did in a 10-0 capitulation to Kashima Antlers in the 1999 Asian Cup Winners’ Cup, but to a fellow Southeast Asian side? Surely this cannot be possible.
But alas, nothing is impossible where plunging to new depths is concerned for Malaysian football.
It mattered little that Kedah were the double treble champions (2007 and 2008), such was the ferocity with which Binh Duong tore them apart.
Now, in an attempt to redress the wrongs of the past, FAM president Sultan Ahmad Shah has directed another restructuring of the Malaysian league.
But we have been down this road before, first with the introduction of the Semi-Pro league in 1989, then the launch of the fully professional M-League in 1994, the re-introduction of a two-tiered system in 1998 with the inclusion of clubs and finally the re-branding of the league to the highly deceptive “Super League” in 2004.
In Kedah’s defence, their misadventure in Vietnam is partly FAM’s fault for banning foreign players this season.
Having taken the excitement out of the league, the quality too has suffered immensely as Kedah can attest to.
In the pre-match press conference, Kedah coach Azraai Khor Abdullah played down the absence of foreign players in his team but he will likely be singing a different tune now.
Such is the impact of foreign players that one veteran journalist is fond of reminiscing how Perlis fans were drawn to the Utama Stadium in Kangar just to watch Zambian striker Philemon Chepita train and then jostle to get his autograph.
These days, you would be hard pressed to get them to attend matches let alone watch players in training.
FAM deputy president Datuk Redzuan Sheikh Ahmad, after the FAM Congress last Sunday, hinted foreign players may be brought back next season although he did not say it outright.
He contrasted the fortunes of Premier League leaders Young Tigers, the national Under-19 side, who struggled last season against teams with import players but are beating all-comers this season.
That in itself shows how much of an impact foreigners have in raising the quality of the local league.
But to entice the foreigners back, only teams with the financial muscle to hire them ought to be allowed to play in the professional league as Sultan Ahmad Shah envisions.
FAM’s biggest battle however will be to convince its own affiliates to toe the line, as naturally none wants to be left out of the new league.
But with history as a guide, we all know what is going to happen next — nothing.