You could almost hear the full sigh of relief all over Sabah on 27th June when it was announced that our illustrious CM Datuk Musa Aman was now the Sabah FA President. Undoubtedly this can be the boost that Sabah Football needs as Datuk was a proven successful businessman even before he’s political career blossomed and undoubtedly football within Sabah needs to be run as a business.
However, I urge all Football people throughout Sabah not to fall into the trap off thinking the job is done and that Football in Sabah will now simply fall into place. This would be unfair on Datuk as without correct planning and a collective group effort then Football will not progress as it should within Sabah. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but successful Football clubs don’t just rely on one man and now more than ever is the time when everybody must work together for the common cause.
Football is the Worlds No 1 sport, is played by more people than any other sport and is rightly called the peoples game. I urge everybody associated with the Sabah FA or football in general to put aside their egos, personal vendettas and what’s in it for me mentality and starting focusing all there energy on how they can help the development of football in the State.
I was personally delighted to see KH Tan accepting a position on the Football committee. I wish we had more KH Tan,s to help with the development of Football in the state. What KH and his older brother Vela Tan have accomplished in there development of Rugby within Sabah is simply astonishing and should be used as the measuring stick for all sports associations within the state. There biggest asset is that they bring to the table a sporting background in combination with being highly successful businessmen which gives them the ability to see the big picture and what’s required to develop the sport of Rugby..
The great thing about Football is that everyone has an opinion . You throw a few different opinions together and it leads to great talking points in all walks of life. I don’t profess to know it all and have all the answers for Sabah Football. However, having represented my country in World Cup Qualifying games in intimidating places like Israel and Iran plus having progressed to Quarter Finals at Seoul Olympics in addition to my 15 years living and playing for Sabah gives me in my opinion a rough idea of what’s required to take Football in Sabah forward.
From my perspective Sabah is the most liveable state within Malaysia as vindicated by my decision to live here with my family even after retiring as a player. Ask any expatriate where he would most like to live in Malaysia and 9 times out of 10 its Sabah. So why not go one better and make Sabah the yardstick for all other states to aspire in terms of there Football programme’s. And by this I mean we start with our Youth Development Programme to our Coaching Education Programme to our School Community Programme through to our Elite Academy and finally to the performance of our Senior Professional Team.
I know personally that a 10 year old Malaysian kid is a more talented Footballer than a 10 year old Western lad. He has more natural talent, is quicker over 10 yards, is more coordinated and has better flexibility and agility. So why is it that by the time these two kids reach the age of 18 that the Western lad is a better Footballer. Simply put, the western lad has had more opportunity in terms of exposure and being taught correct technique and principles of Football. Amazingly – yes it’s that simple.
The Senior Professional team is the one that brings all the glory and that has been the primary focus for all the State FA,s and National body over the last 15 years. This has led to short term glory from time to time for the States such as Sabah in 1996 but it’s also led to long term heart ache which is why Sabah has found themselve’s stuck in Division 2 for 4 years now.
In my opinion what needs to happen is as follows,
1/ START JUNIOR LEAGUES ALL OVER THE STATE
Appoint one person whose sole job is to co- ordinate and organize League’s for under 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 in all the various towns such as KK, Sandakan, Keningau, Tawau, and Labuan to name a few. I recently started a 10 team under 12 League in KK with a budget of rm8000 so as you can see it’s not expensive. This means 5 age groups in KK could be done for rm40 000 and all over the state for an estimated rm300 000.
How can we expect our budding young junior footballers to improve and develop as footballers if they are not playing in weekly competition. Its not rocket science and you don’t have to be Einstein to work out how vital these junior leagues are. As a young child in Sydney I went all the way through the Junior system going from junior club football to rep football to representing my state NSW from under 13 to under 18 level to being selected for Australian schoolboys . From there I was selected for the Young Socceroos and finally the Senior Socceroos.
This was a natural progression made available to me simply because my country had good organized junior leagues and coaching and for that I will be eternally grateful. It’s for those same reasons that I feel so sorry for our young Malaysian footballers who are simply not being given the most basic of opportunities to develop and improve.
2/ DIRECTOR OF COACHING
On top of playing weekly games, our junior players need to attend training minimum twice a week and be taught correct technique and principals of football. For this to happen , our local junior coaches need to be taught the correct principles for coaching kids.
The answer is to appoint a Director of coaching whose sole job is to travel throughout the State and teach the coaches exactly how to coach junior players. This will ensure that by the time they reach age 14 our players have correct technique meaning coaches can start focusing on important tactical work and personal development of players in terms off there strength, speed, agility and so on.
Only when the Leagues have been going for at least 2 years should we look at forming Academies. In the past throughout the country Academies have been set up even though there is such a small amount of players to choose from.
Does it not make sense that you have much more chance of identifying talented young players with a greater pool of players. If the whole country had a data base of over 1 million players then I guarantee that fantastic young kids will come through the system.
The Sabah M- League is obviously the team that brings all the glory or heartache. My argument is that in order to have a successful senior team you need to get the basics right from the ground up which means junior leagues upwards. Form your pyramid from the bottom up and 10 years from now we wont have to rely so highly on imports. However, all this takes time and we do have a professional Sabah team to cheer.
In order for Sabah to hit the ground running and have a good chance of gaining promotion next year we need to start planning right now. Identify who the coach is going to be and start identifying what type of players we require to take the team forward and start negotiations with these players as soon as possible. Don’t leave it to the last minute and then wonder why the team is struggling.
We have good football people all over the state, for example Hassan Sani in Labuan. We need to get a quality scouting system going so as to identify what talent we have in the regional areas who may be good enough to play for the State.
The Sabah State Team is the peoples team. It should be a team that brings pride to all Sabahans throughout the state. In my opinion it’s a community team which is why I feel the successful local corporate companies should start supporting the local State Football team.
Imagining the 25 most successful local companies all contributing rm100 000 to the State FA. This will give 2.5 million ringgit to be used for both the professional team and football development throughout the state. The days of relying on the president only to fund the team is unreasonable.
To summarise, undoubtedly it is possible for Sabah Football to make a u – turn and start progressing. People talk about the glory days off the 90,s when Likas Stadium would be packed to the rafter’s with success hungry fans. Well let’s stop dwelling on the past and get Sabah football back to the top where it belongs.
A combination of good planning, hard work and perseverance goes a long way in Football and fortunes can turn around very quickly. It’s time for legacies to be built and attitudes to change. Mediocrity can be no longer tolerated and high standards need to be set. Learn what humility means and lets all start working together for the common cause.
AT THE VERY LEAST, LETS GET THINGS GOING FOR THE KIDS AND GIVE THEM THE DEVELOPMENT THEY DESERVE.