Olympic silver-medallist Datuk Lee Chong Wei is currently badminton’s world number one singles player. Fortunately for us Malaysians, he is not the only among us to be ranked the numero uno in sports.
Our squash darling Datuk Nicol Ann David is ranked top of the pack for quite sometime now and this distinction puts both these Penang-born in the same league with tennis’ Rafael Nadal and Tiger Woods of golf!
Lee and Nicol did not only work themselves up to become world champions but are also internationally recognised to be “Best of The Best”. These are by far very rare outstanding achievements by Malaysians and we are proud, very proud of their successes that had made our country famous for the right reason, finally.
While others would only have one world champion the most at a time, Malaysia has two. Similarly when others built taller buildings to overshadow the one-time world’s tallest buildings Petronas Twin Towers (and they have achieved that) we have two structures which still put us in front in terms of achievement.
If prior to this Malaysia is well-known to be the home to two tallest buildings on the planet, we are now famous for producing two world numero unos. As far as I can remember no other country has achieved this feat.
Therefore it is practical to think that apart from themselves, their associations -- the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and the Squash Racket Association of Malaysia (SRAM) must have been doing the right thing and correctly all these while to produce world champions.
If they were just doing the usual stuffs like the rest the sports associations in the country, then Lee and Nicol would just be, at best Jaguh Kampung.
Fortunately and thank God, these associations produced world beaters.
I really hope they had in the process documented their respective sports development blueprints (or whatever they call it when they were preparing Lee and Nicol to be world champions). This would greatly help to produce more future champions and along the way give insight to the other under-achieving sports associations.
We need a lot more champions and against the obligation of the government and private sponsors who are pouring in the cash to keep them running, the other sports associations are practically shooting blanks!
This brings me to the Football Association of Malaysia or FAM, the other prominent sports association in the country. However and sadly FAM is famous for NOT producing results – either significant or otherwise.
In short, they have failed to live to the expectations but remains in the mind of some sports-loving Malaysians as the sports association that is muchly celebrated for talking the talk, but NOT walking the walk! There are lots of talking heads in the association doing the talk most of the times while the game rot to the dogs by the day and nobody seems to be doing anything right to arrest the regression.
Enough said about the FAM and the current state of Malaysians aptly describes it.
I am an ardent football fan, played football during my schooldays at St. Johns’ Institution Kuala Lumpur and was among the school players selected to be ball pickers (junior steward actually) for the Pestabola Merdeka and SEA Games football tournament during the late 1970s. I had the privilege to see from the sidelines how footballers including my idol the late Mokhtar “SuperMokh” Dahari played passionate football and put the game above everything else including themselves.
These days they don’t produce players like that anymore, let alone any Malaysians today even know by their first names who the first 11 of the national team are!
Today the game has changed tremendously the world over and if we are to apply and re-apply the same tactics and techniques of the yore, our football will be left behind completely and I would be least surprised if one day the latest independent state of Timur Leste’s national football team had to train in Kuala Lumpur en route to 2014 London World Cup Finals since they lacked adequate training facilities in Dili!
Today’s football is about planning, strategizing, execution, following-through and finally analysing the whole navigation, re-evaluate and finally the implementation. In short, it is all about real planning – something which the association seemed to lack blatantly.
For example, if we are to send a national team to compete at the World Cup Finals (definitely not the 2010 South Africa World Cup Finals as we have miserably missed the boat) then we must have a team created only for the mission -- meaning Malaysia must have a real national team to play in the World Cup Finals.
There is a distinct difference between the current so-called national football team and the made-for-World Cup national football team. These are two different subjects altogether.
In my opinion, after we have set the target clearly and precisely, then we should work backwards and getting on with filling up the details such as the assets, the facilities, the professionals, the blueprint, the supporting group and finally the cash.
For all this, we should name it The Malaysian National Football Mission or Misi Bolasepak Nasional Malaysia.
This mission MUST be endorsed by the Cabinet Committee on Sports and subsequently by the Cabinet and must only be on the-need-to-know-basis, meaning it is to be classified because publicity, good or otherwise will instantly kill the idea when it haven’t even started.
We have witnessed too many good ideas wasted due to unnecessary publicity and persons trusted with such assignments were only interested on being the celebrated talking heads rather than doing what he or she was tasked for.
After having thought out the mission the execution should began in the earnest – that we must immediately identify the assets of the team. In short we must get the football players or simply the raw materials.
Subsequently we need to engage real talent scouting teams to tour the length and breadth of our country to assemble a team of 50 youngsters of 15 years of age from all races and from all kampongs, new villages, estates, longhouses, orang asli settlements, kubang, cerok, wakaf and what have you.
Apart from having the basic skills in football these boys must be of certain height to be selected for the mission. The scouts must not compromise the quality of our selection who must be at least 5’11” with none wearing glasses.
We can always alter the weight -- either increasing or reducing it but you cannot do anything if the talent is short. The ideal height should be 6’.
Some may argue that the world’s best player Diego Armando Maradona (which happens to be my favorite player) is under-tall but the fact remains that almost all the best footballers in the world are way above him in height such as Johan Cryuff, Franz Beckenbauer, Jackie and Bobby Charlton, Euseibo, Michael Ballack, Ronaldinho, Didier Drogba and Cristiano Ronaldo to name a few.
Even Supermokh was about 5’10”.
Sadly, none of the players in our current national team is a six-footer, which is a crucial but unwritten requirement for players in the European leagues and that of the much-celebrated English Premier League or EPL. Europeans selectors will always consider height as the basic requirement more than anything else since football is a contact sport which is getting tougher and rougher everyday.
Our band of 50 boys will then train together, stay together and play together for the next 5 years until the squad is gradually trimmed to the best 30 for the final selection at the end of the tour.
The team is to be isolated and cut-off completely from the rest of country because the primary objective is to create a team of super Malaysian footballers with six-pack around the tummy and shoulder length and thigh as well as biceps and triceps crafted like Olympic century sprinters. With that in mind, its best that they are uninterrupted except for urgent family matters only.
They are to report for the mission’s base camp to be helmed by a director who must be a master disciplinarian, preferably a former military or a retired senior police officer. This will be the trainees’ home for the next five years and the director is the father of one big football family.
Their base will be at one of the National Service training centres with all the relevant amenities and basic requirements including counsellors and religious officers of all faith. The centre is to be regimentally managed under strict surveillance simply to get the players to focus on only one thing -- football.
For the next 5 years the trainees will only think football, eat football, drink football, sleep football and dream about football while their daily television allowances must only be about foreign football such as the Seri A, Bundesliga, the EPL and La Liga.
While undergoing the daily vigorous training schemes with the exception of Sunday which is an R&R day around the centre, they must be scientifically, physically and mentally prepared to be world champions. We should adopt some scientific techniques applied by the former Eastern European bloc countries known to have produced world champions in many sports disciplines.
The boys are only allowed visit by family members once in a month and their families are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement on their sons’ involvement in the project – meaning they are not to speak to anyone unrelated to the mission. The government who is the owner of this project will be fully responsible on all aspects on the well-beings of the trainees who will be paid allowances deemed fit by today’s standards.
Their mind must not be interrupted with other irrelevant things while undergoing the 5-year programme intended only to produce a world class football team of 30 players.
Local coaches and trainers will initially be involved in the first four years of building up the skills, physique (through special nutrition programme to produce an almost alpha male with above average height) and attitude of the players while well-paid foreign managers in the likes of Jose Mourinho will take over in the final 12 months to prepare them as world class footballers.
The foreigner(s) will lend his professional and artistic touches to create the best of the 30 players to finally present a team of 25 Malaysian football players ready for the ultimate football stage -- the World Cup Finals.
Then they will be ready for the tournament and their arrival will be announced at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur prior to their departure to the preliminary rounds tournament of the World Cup.
With a budget of RM 1 million a year (which worked out to about some RM 80,000 monthly) and RM 5 million for the duration of the programme then the Malaysian National Football Team is finally ready.
If we are serious about our football then we must be serious enough to do some serious planning to achieve our objectives because the game requires such. Teams from unknown countries such as Ivory Coast and Togo did not accidentally appear at the previous World Cup Finals in Germany for there must have been some serious plannings prior to the tournament.
Being a well-to-do developed country we can afford RM 5 million for the mission which, among others, to rejuvenate and uplift our dwindling image in the football scene.
We can do this because after all, Malaysia Boleh! So, lets walk the talk...
Part of this article appeared in the Metro section, The Star newspaper today, Sept 22, 2008.