By Haresh Deol
November 14, 2017
IT has been a horrible journey for Nelo Vingada. Since being appointed national football coach in May, the Portuguese has not tasted victory with Harimau Malaysia.
Under Vingada, the national team drew one match and suffered five defeats. The losing streak continued yesterday after Malaysia lost 4-1 to North Korea in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers at the I-Mobile Stadium in Buriram, Thailand.
The national team ends the year without a win for the first time since 2006.
Based on the latest Fifa rankings (Oct 16), Malaysia is placed 170, behind Vietnam (121), Thailand (138), Myanmar (155), Laos (162) and Indonesia (165).
Mind you these countries lack the infrastructure and sports science expertise enjoyed by our players.
But why does Malaysian football continue to be in the doldrums? Is it fair to just blame Vingada or the national players?
What we see today is the result of a failed system.
Former Kedah FA coach Azraai Khor Abdullah agrees.
“Yes, you are right. Don’t blame the FA of Malaysia (FAM) president (Tunku Ismail Ibrahim) or the coach (Vingada). Our system has failed and the rot starts at the grassroots,” said Azraai, who guided Kedah to win the double treble in the 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 seasons.
He took a swipe at those, including former players, critical against the national team but offered no solution.
“Playing football is one thing. Coaching is a different ball game altogether.”
“Some teachers and former players who are now coaches are not doing it right. Look at their training programmes … they are outdated and are killing the players,” said Azraai who donned the national jersey in the 70s and was named Harimau Muda A head coach in 2010.
He now coaches on a freelance basis.
Azraai, a qualified fitness coach who went through the Level 1 (1991) and Level 2 (1994) sports science courses, insisted sports science should be injected in all training modules.
As an immediate measure, he said the current national squad should be revamped.
“Let’s start all over again, start on a fresh page. At least we can manage expectations.
“This senior team seems to have lost its appetite. It’s time to groom the younger players and give them a place in the senior squad.”
Azraai said the stakeholders should engage with those eager to bring about changes in Malaysian football and not those who “continuously condemn but offer no solution”.
Ex-internationals and fans have, over the years, lambasted the national players and coaches for their poor performances. However, they should also train their guns on state FA officials.
Many who occupy positions within the state associations have vested interest. Some are only interested in securing a position at the state level as a ticket to be a decision-maker in FAM. The national body, after all, consists of the state FAs.
Not many within the state FAs are zeroing in on football at the lowest level.
Till today, funds — mostly tax-payers’ money obtained from state governments — are generally wasted on teams competing in the M-League. Little is allocated to the junior squads and for grassroots development.
There seems to be little focus or vision at the state level. No Key Performance Index (KPI) is set or revealed, allowing officials to do as they please until the next election.
The lack of focus is apparent but these officials, some hogging positions for decades, tend to get away with murdering Malaysian football.
It is 2017, yet:
· M-League teams struggle to draw fans to the stadiums.
· the ticketing system remains flawed.
· sales of merchandise are not fully exploited.
· import players continue to dominate the top scorer list.
· not all M-League teams have websites / information about their players.
The Youth and Sports Ministry has embarked on several initiatives to rejuvenate football at the lower levels.
Hopefully the programmes will continue when a new minister takes over.
The onus, however, should not solely be on the government. The state FAs should play an active role and work closely with the state education departments and local academies.
Malaysian football does not belong to a select few. It belongs to all.
Those who have failed should be named, shamed and given the boot — publicly.
The rot has to stop. If massive changes and revamps are required, so be it.
Malaysian football fans and stakeholders have nothing to lose anymore.
Multi-award winning journalist Haresh Deol spent close to two decades in the newsroom. He last served as executive editor of Malay Mail. He is now a media and communications strategist. Haresh can be reached on Twitter (@HareshDeol) or via email: email@example.com.