It is fun to watch how Malaysia fares in soccer. The men’s soccer team of course.
I grew up watching Malaysian soccer from the time it was kingpins of Asia which South Korea and Japan would avoid meeting then. When we play the game every evening in the ditches we wanted to be SuperMokh, Sharuddin Abdullah, Santokh Singh, Shukor Salleh or Aru, just to name a few. I was in awe to see the Tengku Mahkota of Pahang, Tengku Abdullah wore a Malaysian jersey when he trains with the MSSD Kuantan team.
Besides became an all conquering team in the Merdeka Tournament which at that time was a platform to crown the best of East Asia, Malaysia notable achievements were winning the bronze medal in Asian games defeating Iran and of course twice getting qualified to the Olympics.
Nations like South Korea and Japan progressed and became a regular representative of Asia in the World Cup. Malaysia digressed into a state where the men’s soccer became a laughing stock. There are no more super talents that came out from the many efforts to unearth them. Kids were no more seen kicking footballs in the evening. School fields which we used to have unofficial inter kampong matches those days is today forbidden for such activities during weekends unless we write letters to the headmaster of the school. During the school team selection we could see the entire school will come and try their luck. At that point even getting selected to play for the school house team is considered an achievement!
Kids now heads for shopping complexes or stayed home in front of computers to play video games. They spoke about EPL games and idolize international stars. Those days we heard about the magnificent Pele but never get the chance to watch him play. But whenever Malaysia played international matches we always dreamt of going to the Merdeka Stadium to watch our local idols.
Although many detest comparing the game of today with that of yesteryears, soccer is still the same game played. The only immense contrast is the physicality of the game. The skills are still about the same but we see players trained hard for new tricks, technique and accuracy, just like the late SuperMokh did when he was at his prime.
Malaysian players today do not have those qualities. Some was trying to emulate the way their idols played but still it brought us nowhere. We even struggled to match our counterparts in ASEAN and to match the likes of Japan or South Korea we are way behind. Majority of our players are so small or short or skinny. We cannot match tall and burly players. Our players run very slow, jumped not so high and not as cool as Soh Chin Aun our stout as Santokh Singh, the two legendary center halves that complement each other during their hey days. The midfielders’ creativity and skills provides the bullets to the fast and steady SuperMokh, Isa Bakar, Sharuddin Abdullah and the tall James Wong and our wingers are rocket fast. These players did play with bigger sized players but they can match them! But not that of today’s team. Exhibition matches with EPL teams were played with the opponents that played on a very low gear. Some are half fit and far from the fitness when EPL progress.
Today, it is quite a norm to hear that our national players coming from MSL is not fit. Isn’t it funny? When former national coach B Sathianathan nag about the state of MSL teams and players, local coaches sing in harmony criticizes him. No one wants to admit about the sorry state of our soccer. All the local coaches would want is to gather the so called creame de la creame players which were only good in Malaysia and win MSL or Malaysia Cup. They can get big fat salary and that’s it. Who cares whether the national team did well in tournaments they participated. The regional clubs’ competition is not that important and more often than not we see the MSL champs cannot even match the champions club from Maldives what more those from the neighboring countries.
I have seen African kids so determined to make it big in soccer and they trained like there is no tomorrow. Many of these kids could not even afford a shoe. These young kids do not care if they could play in a premier division in a foreign country or the lower divisions as long as they could try out and make a living out of it. The African Cup of Nations today is the much sought after tournament where scouts would make a beeline to see cheap talents. We have seen countries like Ghana winning age group world tournaments and the others like Ivory Coast becoming team many other teams in the world fears.
Malaysia will be in the soccer pits for a very long time to come. It is indeed a waste of time and money for anybody wanted to invest in Malaysia soccer development. Probably too much money makes the payers becomes complacent. Just scrap the MSL as I bet it is not a profitable venture. Bringing in top European clubs that have large followings could be more profitable.
Just make soccer in Malaysia a leisure activity. Budding soccer players should now earn their soccer skills and ability anywhere they like. Malaysia only form a national team with whatever they have and reward players based on success but pay them good allowance when they train and represent the country.
What else can we do?