March 22 2018
By Haresh Deol
IT was a talking point for days. Tunku Ismail Ibrahim’s statement that was posted on Johor Southern Tigers and the FA of Malaysia’s Facebook pages last week had set the football fraternity abuzz.
The Crown Prince of Johor said: “I think it is time that the president of FAM leaves football. Thank you for everything and it has been an honour for me to serve Malaysian football. Good luck.”
The bombshell came just days before his first anniversary in the hot seat.
There were those, however, who insisted nowhere in the statement Tunku Ismail said he had quit.
FAM general secretary Datuk Hamidin Amin has yet to receive anything in black and white from his president.
The reason why Tunku Ismail reacted in such a manner? It was possibly (and likely) due to the fact he was heavily criticised over the national football team’s continued depressing drop in the FIFA world rankings.
Harimau Malaya are placed 178 – at their lowest ebb – as they have yet to record a single win since November 2016.
Had a commoner done the same, he or she would have encountered scathing criticism.
There were those within Wisma FAM who panicked. Others felt Tunku Ismail was rather emotional and hoped he would “cool down” in days to come.
Those who felt jittery had flashes of the 2015 nightmare when Tengku Abdullah Shah announced his resignation following Malaysia’s 10-0 annihilation at the hands of United Arab Emirates in a World Cup qualifying match.
While they managed to keep the Crown Price of Pahang in the hot seat until last year’s elections, it was a trying period as Tengku Abdullah was clearly fed up with Malaysian football and the workings within Wisma FAM.
Tunku Ismail said since taking over on March 25, 2017:
- he lured in sponsors to contribute to football in the country and prepared a long-term plan for local football with the cooperation of La Liga.
- he fought for broadcasting rights for all competing teams in the M-League to help them manage and strengthen their financial stability. As such, all the teams have received between RM1 million and RM3 million annually, so they do not have to be dependent on (state) government funding.
- the Under-23, Under-19 and Under-16 teams made history when they represented the country at the highest level in Asia.
But there were those who remained critical of him.
It is an open secret that not many like the idea of having a member of the royal family helming sports associations. They believe the “Ampun Tuanku” lackeys will misinform their leaders of the real situation. They also believe too much time is spent on protocol instead of getting their hands dirty and making sweeping changes.
But no one blames the affiliates – including those boasting personnel who have served for decades.
One can do little at the top if the base is not strong.
This is 2018 and yet not many state FAs organise leagues, develop programmes or reach out to the locals. Some teams don’t even have proper online presence.
We live in an era where we better understand the sentiments of those around us. Feelings and views are now being shared in public. We can better gauge who are real, and who we should stay away from.
It is only human to feel slighted, angry or disappointed.
To expect acknowledgment or recognition – let’s put it this way, helming an association (or even being a journalist) is a thankless job. There will always be those who disagree.
If Tunku Ismail believes in what he does, he will allow his work to do the talking. Let the stakeholders and fans judge him at the end of his term.
As I wrote in 2017 and recently on Foul! (http://hareshdeol.blogspot.my/2018/03/so-whats-next-for-fam.html):
“He (Tunku Ismail) is, at the end of the day and given the current circumstances, the best man for the job.”
Haresh Deol is a multi-award winning journalist. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter (@HareshDeol)