Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Malaysian call for legends to help rescue game

Following the demise of Malaysia's national team in the Asian Cup group stage, The Star reminded its readers that Malaysian football had plunged to greater depths before. "We have been beaten by Laos (1997), we have been beaten by the Philippines (1991). Those were more shameful," the newspaper commented. "The process of re-shaping the face of Malaysia football should have started then. But it's more than the Football Association of Malaysia. It's almost all encompassing. In the name of development, fields are being taken away from housing areas. In the name of security, schools are locking the gates, denying access to children who want a field to play on. Even school teachers are hardly into sports. Gone are the days when teachers roamed the streets, looking for that active boy who could turn out to be a long-distance runner, or forced everyone to handle a cricket bat whether or not they knew anything about the sport.

"Football? It was what you did before the school bell rang and immediately after the end of school. Now, we have a whole new, well, school of teachers. They are either into academia or religion. Nothing wrong there but it's sports that takes the beating ... The Education Ministry has promised a team good enough for the World Under-17 Youth Championship in 2011. For that to happen, they need a new breed of teachers, one that's more like the sportsmen-schoolteachers of old. At district and state level, we need selectors who understand meritocracy, and put political and other affiliations aside when it comes to sports. And at national level, we need leaders who are really into the sport.

"In football, as in any other sport, perspiration alone is not enough. You need inspiration as well. The likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini have shown us that in their countries. We have our own legends, too. These people should now step up and give back to the sport. They could take over the mantle of leadership from the current crop who are largely politicians, often with an agenda of their own. And our legends could live out dreams of re-living the golden years of old. The Isa Bakars, the M. Chandrans and the Soh Chin Auns need to come out of the woodwork and stand up to be counted. Abang, anneh, towkay. The country needs you. Like never before."

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