Sunday, 17 January 2010

Best Male Olympian 2009 Award Should Have Gone to the Football Team

(Photo courtesy of OCM's official website)

Daniel Bego’s win as the Best Male Olympian 2009 is questionable. No fault of his but how did the Awards Committee of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) arrive at this?

Looking at the possible athletes who may have been a better selection, the U-23 national football team would have made a better winner and story. Why?

Looking at Daniel’s case, winning five gold medals at SEA Games level and breaking four records in the process is nothing to shout about. I mean, we had better swimmers in the past like Nurul Huda, Jeffry Ong and Lim Keng Liat. This is only the SEA Games, not Asian Games where the likes of China, Japan and South Korea are around. Swimming is also not in the doldrums unlike football. We have been producing good swimmers, year in, year out – only at SEA Games level.

On the football team’s gold, yes, nothing to shout about. But then, we have really gone down to the abyss of football, even at the SEA Games level. Winning the SEA Games medal after 20 years is a good start, and probably, a little glimmer of hope for the future. In case you never noticed, many team’s have made inroads at even the SEA Games level like Singapore and Vietnam while we slowly slipped down the pecking order.

Are We Sending Any Aid to Haiti or ...

(Photo courtesy of AFP)

The speed of aid rushing to Haiti in the wake of the 7.0-magnitude quake is shocking when refer to my beloved country.

Why? Until today, i have not seen any form of aid coming from us to Haiti. I find rather strange when other countries (no need to mention, as everyone knows what countries are they) get immediate attention, corporates running off to have their cheque presentations and some media companies even start sending their staff to cover the catastrophe with human interest stories the main news fodder.

I just wonder when the ball will start rolling for donations to the victims. I always thought we Malaysians are a caring lot but I noticed it only happens to selected countries and people.
In that tiny little corner of my mind, I think I have the answer but I don’t want to share it for fear of offending anybody out there. I think people out there can form their opinions in why Malaysia sends aid (money, NGOs specialising in disaster relief) to certain countries super-fast but Haiti, habuk pun tak da!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Interview with Lim Teong Kim

(Thomas Muller, one of players in the senior team whom Lim Teong Kim worked with previously - Photo courtesy of

This a well written interview by Ajitpal Singh of New Straits Times with our former star, Lim Teong Kim who is now the Assistant Coach for the Bayern Munich U-19 squad.

His views are honest and straight to the point and coming from a club with Bayern Munich's stature, it is best we pay heed to his views. I am not going to say anymore but re-produce the interview courtesy of New Straits Times Sports Desk. Of course, let us hope that the "powers-that-be" read, understand and take the proper action rather than follow the 'consultants' advice which hovers around them - always claiming to have the best solutions for what ills Malaysian sports when until today, we are still in the backwaters of international sport save for badminton, squash and bowling.

Here is the interview:

Lim Teong Kim was the first Malaysian footballer to play in Europe when he turned out for German club Hertha Berlin in 1987. A member of the national team that won the 1989 Sea Games gold medal, the Germany-based Teong Kim is on holiday in Malaysia. The 47-year-old shares his thoughts about Malaysian football with Timesports’ AJITPAL SINGH.
Q: What is your opinion on Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek's move on forming a full-time national team?
A: It is not practical if you talk about the technicality of the game. It is pointless to spread the players out to different clubs in Europe as their playing styles will differ when they play as a unit. It will be a huge barrier for the coach and players. Each European country have their own brand of football. The government should not spend millions on this. It is a waste of taxpayers' money. There are other means to develop local football but not like this.

Q: What do you recommend?
A: The national team players should remain in the Malaysian League. I suggest they go on playing tours in Europe three or four times a year. However, they must play with top teams and clubs to learn. Never mind if the team lose 5-0 or 10-0. They should not lose hope if they lose big at the start.
Teong Kim will consider a job here when there are proper facilities. It is a long-term process but it will definitely help in the progress of the team. However, European teams may not be able to accommodate the national team due to their busy international and club-level schedules.

Q: Your opinion on the National Under-23 team's gold medal success in the recent Laos Sea Games?
A: I am not surprised with their achievement as there are often surprises in football. I must congratulate the players and coach K. Rajagobal for their effort. But how do they take their football from here? Proper planning must be made to ensure the team make progress.

Q: Do any of the local players have the ability to make it in Europe?
A: I am not sure of the present team's ability. But the FA of Malaysia (FAM), instead of making big plans, should ask the players whether they want to ply their trade in Europe.The national body and those concerned should not make the decision for the players.In the past, Akmal Rizal and Rudie Ramli had short stints with Bayern Munich at different periods. They stayed and slept in my house in Munich but I noticed that they were getting bored after just three weeks. The duo wanted to go home. A player must have the heart for it or they will fail. However, if a player has the ability, then he should try his luck in Europe.

Q: Is it easy for a footballer to be successful in Europe?
A: It is not easy. When I went there in the late-1980s, I faced many challenges including the language barrier, weather, food, and competition from 'your future' teammates. These factors may affect the player mentally and his confidence level will suffer. The European leagues are very challenging and a person on trial with a club normally gets the cold shoulder from other players. You have no friends in the club as your teammates are thinking about their own importance in the team. They feel you are a threat to them. It was like that when I attended trials with Hertha Berlin, a Division Three Bundesliga team then, in 1987.

Q: Your overall assessment of the infrastructure in Malaysia?
A: How can people talk about football, where there is no proper infrastructure. The current infrastructure is 30 years behind time. Malaysian football will not develop unless the infrastructure here improves. What we have and what I have seen here is not good enough. Maybe it was good enough 20 or 30 years ago but not at the present time.In Bayern Munich, for example, there are seven fields and other facilities are also top class. We have 11 youth teams in age-groups between eight and 23, with more than 100 players. The club allocates E2 million (RM9.7 million) annually for its youths teams. The system is almost the same with other clubs in Europe.We don't have that in Malaysia. Instead, the government and local councils are taking away football fields. I used to play football in my youth days in Bandar Hilir, Malacca. It had three fields but now malls have been built on them. What do we get by building malls? Does it help in the development of a sports culture in Malaysia? We need proper infrastructure in Malaysia. Taxpayers' money, which the government wants to use to send the national team to Europe, should be allocated to building facilities for football. If you want kids to play football then you have to invest in it.

Q: Who should be responsible for developing youth football in Malaysia?
A: The states should play a bigger role in developing youth football. They should do the work and run the programmes but infrastructure must be there first. Sports schools like Bukit Jalil and Bandar Penawar should be supplementary ingredients in this case.

Q: What do you think of the Malaysian League?
A: It is ridiculous not to have foreign players in the league. It does not help in the development of local players. How are Malaysian teams going to compete against bigger Asian clubs in the Champions League and AFC Cup? A Malaysian team cannot rely on local players against clubs with foreign players. It is a huge loss in revenue as they are not good enough to compete against the best in Asian.Why did FAM decide on barring imports from the league? Is it because some teams could not afford foreign players? The association should allow those who can afford to hire them. One cannot look at all teams in the league as equal. Teams, who do not have money for development and foreign players, should be left out. It should be left to the respective clubs on whether to hire foreign players. This is professional football. You cannot tell Bayern Munich not to have foreign players as they need their services in the domestic league and Champions Leagues. The revenue of the club depends on Bayern's first team's performance in the Bundesliga and Champions League and if they don't do well, the club cannot generate income.

Q: Several club-based teams withdrew from the Malaysian League in the past few years. What are your comments?
A: I believe they were there for personal gains. Teams, owned by private and government entities, just wanted to promote and sell their products. It was more of a publicity venture. In the end, who gains? Not Malaysian football, but the ones who sponsored these teams.

Q: Should local football rely on foreign coaches?
A: Yes, because foreign coaches have comprehensive knowledge about the game. I am not saying that local coaches are no good but we need foreign help to take our football to another level. If our ambition is to develop good players, then we have to hire good coaches. For instance, Japan are now Asian giants because they hired top-notched foreign coaches to develop their game at the start.

Q: Will you consider a coaching job in Malaysia?
A: I have been linked before with FAM and state teams but it was only speculation. I will consider working in Malaysia but first several conditions of mine must be accepted. What I want is infrastructure. I will consider a job here when there are proper facilities. The government should start by developing proper infrastructure for a few state teams before developing the rest. It is a slow process but the nation will gain in the long term.

Q: Are you still with the Bayern Munich youth team?
A: Yes I am. I am attached to the Under-19 team as assistant coach. It is my third season now. I have been with the club since 2000 and then I was the coach of the Under-12 team before moving up the ranks. I have worked with two players, when I was coaching the Under-13 and Under-14 teams before, who are now in the Bayern Munich senior side. They are striker Thomas Muller and centreback Bad Badstuber. The duo were not as gifted as some of their teammates in the youth teams but they made it big because of their dedication to training and matches. Muller could be representing Germany in the World Cup.
Q: Coaching a Bundesliga team is a dream for many people. Do you think you can do it?
A: Why not? It is my ambition to coach a team in Germany. I will definitely take up the challenge if given the opportunity.
Q: Are your children following in your footsteps as a footballer?
A: My son, who is now 16, was in the Under-12 Bayern Munich team but he now represents his school. As for my two daughters, the older one is into rock climbing while the other is involved in athletics.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Can't We Look at Middle East For A Change?

(Photo courtesy of The Malaysian Insider website)

Everybody has been talking about a full time national team after the SEA Games success. Now, I think i'll give my two cents worth of opinion.

Let's be frank, to send Malaysia players on overseas attachment is not a good idea - just look at past players who went and came back from Europe, Akmal Rizal, Juzaili Sameon and Rudie Ramli to name a few. No matter how much we tried to make them feel as comfortable as possible, look at them now, back at where they started, M-League.

Former AFC supremo, Dato' Peter Velappan, my former Boss, said it right when he reiterated this phrase that has seem to have stuck in my head during my media officer days, "clubs are the nucleus for football development".

Without club football, how can players improve match fitness, tactical awareness and team cohesion. How many competitive matches can a full time national team offer compared to a club? Friendly matches and club matches fighting for a trophy are two different situations. Also, clubs (not Malaysian ones though) put more pressure on a player to perform rather than national teams, who have longer period to axe players if they under perform. Of course, this creates stress for a player but this is the only way to move forward, akin to setting KPI in a corporate setting.

Going back to clubs, sending our players to Europe is another accident waiting to happen. As usual, same reason like food, weather, language. You can't blame them as most of our good players come from kampungs not from Bangsar, TTDI or Bukit Damansara.

For a change, why can't we consider clubs from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait? They are Muslims countries, weather may be hotter, and they speak Arabic. But, we all don't live in a perfect world eh? However, it would suit our players seeing the majority are Muslims, hence the cultural adjustment are not too huge. So, no complaints of food, weather or language either.

If they can make it there, at least, they have a chance to go to Europe in future as a player, not to just warm the bench there due to some higher connection between governments or FAs.