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Sunday, August 30, 2015

 

Melaka Are Back!

PETALING JAYA: It was a proud moment for Malacca as they won the FAM Cup with a bunch of drop-outs.

On Saturday, Malacca edged Perlis 3-2 in the final at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca. They will return to the Premier League next season after a five-year hiatus together with Perlis.

Former Harimau Muda B striker Nurshamil Abdul Ghani scored a hat-trick, including a stoppage-time winner for Malacca’s first silverware in 32 years. Nurshamil was on target in the 39th, 70th and 90th minutes while Syafiq Azmi replied for the Northern Lions in the 16th and 60th minutes.

Malacca coach Mat Zan Mat Aris was proud of misfits in his team.

“The players who could not fit into other teams or clubs were given to me. I was not confident at first, but credit goes to the players for proving the odds wrong. They worked hard and should be proud of themselves,” said the former international midfielder.

The drop-outs who shone for Malacca were Mohd Azizan Baba of Penang, Kelantan’s Muhd Faiz Suhaimi, T-Team’s Muhd Hafizan Talib, Sabah’s Abdul Thaufiq Abdul Haq and Rusmanizam Roseland and Reeshafiq Alwi of Sarawak.

Malacca and Perlis qualified for the Premier League by virtue of emerging champions in their respective groups.

Malacca won promotion from Group A by the narrowest of margins, finishing ahead of Malaysian Indian Sports Council-Malaysian Indian Football Association (MISC-MIFA) on goal difference. Both teams had 36 points.

“There is still plenty of work ahead for Malacca. My contract ends in September. I have not discussed my plans with the management yet. But I am happy with the working conditions and the support of the Malacca FA (Mafa),” said Mat Zan.

The 56-year-old Mat Zan was Harimau Muda B’s assistant coach to Razip Ismail before joining Malacca.

As a player, Mat Zan won the Malaysia Cup on three occasions with Kuala Lumpur. He also won the league title twice. Mat Zan’s last job as head coach was with Terengganu in 2012. In his first stint with Terengganu, he led them to their first Malaysia Cup title in 2001. He also guided Kuala Lumpur to the FA Cup title in 1999. 

COMMENT - a crowd of 38,000 watched this game at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Melaka...or Malacca. Contrast that with the 400 who turned up for their last game of the season away at Young Fighters. It has been a good season in Malaysia for the likes of Melaka and Penang, two of my favourite places in the country. Good to see them back in the big time of local football.

It is worth pointing out Malaysia's national team were held to a 0-0 draw by Bangladesh in a friendly in KL in front of a much smaller crowd. To be fair political protests may have done something to stop people attending the game...

 

Familiar Names, Unfamiliar Clubs

With Persipura, Semen Padang, Perseru and Persiram sitting out the President's Cup for whatever reason, they have allowed some of their players to play for other clubs on loan for the duration.

Leading the way is Boas Solossa. The veteran Persipura striker will be wearing Pusamania colours for their group stage games in Makassar, a real coup for the club that only made its debut in 2014 after taking over Perseba Super Bangkalan and moving them to Samarinda.

Persija have snapped up a couple of well known faces; Liberian international James Koko Lomell is one of those players who seems to get younger every year...with Persiram sitting out the President's Cup he has moved to Persija where he will link up with another loan signing, Nur Iskander from Semen Padang and the timeless Bambang Pamungkas. Not that it did the Kemayoran Tigers much cop, they lost their opening game 3-0 in front of a sell out crowd against Bali United.

ISL champions Persib have also been active in the loan market, bringing in the highly rated Zulham Zumrun from Persipura while they also welcome back Vladimir Vujovic and Ilija Spasojevic.

Hardly unfamiliar but the promising Evan Dimas has returned from his trial in Spain with praise ringing in his ears but no contract. Many will be watching to see how he does with Persebaya, now rebranded Persebaya United but still boycotted by most of their fans.

And a big signing for Arema as they have brought in another big name from Persipura, Lancine Kone in their bid to lift the Cup.

The President's Cup started today with Bali United defeating Persija 3-0 as mentioned earlier.



Friday, August 28, 2015

 

ASEAN Vet Darby Looks Forward To WCQs

When it comes to South East Asian football, coach Steve Darby has forgotten more than most have ever known. He has been there and done that in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and most recently Laos where he is busy, as I type this, plotting South Korea's downfall in their World Cup Qualifier next week.

Definitely a pint glass half full kind of guy, Darby feels an exciting end to the little known domestic season can only benefit the players as they dig out their passports ahead of the next step of their careers. 

'It's coming to an exciting end with ... Lan Xang, SHB and Laos Toyota pulling away and the title may go to the head to head rule,' enthused the affable coach. He also pointed to an improved atmosphere at games, saying 'Lan Xang have made their new stadium very fan friendly and they are getting full houses.'

Traditionally of course there has been little excitement with Laos for their own league and attendances have been on the small side so for players to get used to faces on the terraces has to be a massive boost to their confidence as well as go some way towards preparing them for more hostile arenas. Some way being the operative words!

With an eye to the future, Darby has included five players from the SEA Games squad which defeated Timor Leste and Brunei in Singapore earlier in the year but admits only one is likely to stretch his legs on the pitch.

After one point from their two opening qualifiers, a 2-2 draw at home to neighbouring Myanmar following a 2-0 loss at home to Lebanon, Darby is going for experience over youth. 'I brought back senior players for these games (South Korea and Kuwait a few days later) as you need tough men with experience to play at this level. I don't care how old players are...it's all about ability.'

Among the players earning recalls are two players who had been suspended for their involvement in a major incident a few years back plus a couple of others who had been put out to pasture despite being in their late 20s! And South East Asia's reputation for non football matters also played its part when Darby sat down to select his squad; 'we have two players still suspended for match manipulation'.

 '(29 year old Ayutthaya striker)Khampeng is still a quality player (and) Khouanta Sivongthong (from the SEA Games squad) has a great future ... but the reality is we are based on team work. It 's too late as national coach to work on fitness or technique so we work on tactics, set pieces and the mentality of the players.'

Games against South Korea and Kuwait are a meaty enough double header for most Asian nations, even more so for a nation starved of resources such as Laos. However a friendly has been pencilled in against Cambodia and while the coach admits they may not be the most glamourous opposition in world football there are at least points available which could improve the national team's rankings.

In the South Korean ranks is a player who has left the Bundesliga to join English Premier League side Tottenham while Kuwait have two sides with one foot each in the AFC Cup semi finals following convincing wins midweek. Against that pedigree Laos are most definitely small time but the beauty of football is David can sometimes take on Goliath and leave a mark and Steve Darby will be hoping his players can at least leaving the big name stars of South Korean and Kuwait knowing they have at least been in a game.



Thursday, August 27, 2015

 

The Paradox Of Singapore Football

SLeague

1 - DPMM (Brunei)
2 - Albirex Niigata (Japan)

Singapore Cup semi finalists

DPMM, Albirex Niigata, Global (Philippines)

Malaysia FA Cup

LionsXII Winners!!

Discussions are ongoing as to whether LionsXII will continue playing in Malaysia but apparently there has been a request field foreign players.

Daft idea. If you are going to have a side playing north of the causeway then go ahead but use the Young Lions. The LionsXII players, scatter them round the SLeague clubs, god knows it looks like they need some infusion to stay alive.

The job of the FAS is to foster, develop and support football within its territory. Any success in Malaysia really should be meaningless unless it is translated into success closer to home but as can be seen above that just ain't happening...indeed things seem to be getting worse.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

 

Advantage Qadsia In AFC Cup Quarter Final

Good result last night by Qadsia as they put one foot into the AFC Cup semi finals after overcoming Syrian side Al Jaish. Goals from Fahed Al Ebrahim, Abdulaziz Alenezi and veteran Bader Al Almotowaa were enough but there could have been more as the visitors visibly wilted in the second half under the 40 degree heat.

The second leg will be played in Kuwait on 15 September,

In other Kuwaiti news, their World Cup Qualifier against Myanmar next Thursday has been switched to Qatar for some less than clear reason. In addition the AFC Under 16 qualifiers due to be played in Kuwait from 16 September will also be moved away. Not sure why though there has been some confusion about the readiness of the stadiums.

This news comes after Kuwait asked for the GCC Cup which it was due to host in December 2015 to be put back 12 months.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

 

Qadsia Face Up To Syrian Challenge In AFC Cup

Today sees the AFC Cup return after a lengthy hiatus with Qadsia taking on Al Jaish in Kuwait City. It will certainly be a funny old game with the Syrian visitors having just won their local league while the hosts haven't kicked a ball in anger since their season ended in May.

These circumstances probably mean both coaches have their excuses ready and primed with one suggesting they have just started pre season training and the other saying they have come off the back of a long season!

Qadsia of course are the holders and will probably go into the game as slight favourites but Al Jaish have AFC Cup pedigree of their own having won the trophy back in 2004.

Having lost the services of Omar Al Soma, Qadsia will be looking to new striker, Congolese Doris Fuakumputu to hist the ground running after being brought in from Saudi club Al Fateh where he averaged almost a goal every other game.

Another new foreigner looking to impress will be Seydouba Soumah, a 24 year old midfielder from Guinea who Qadsia have signed on loan from Slovan Bratislava.

Looking to gel the new recruits as quickly as possible will be the evergreen Bader Al Mutawa. The 30 year old has been with Qadsia since 2002 and scored almost 200 goals in his career since as well as clocking more than 150 caps for the national team. With three goals already in the competition the experienced Al Mutawa will be pivotal to Qadsia's chances in the first leg if they are to reach the semi finals.

 

Jacksen's Golden Touch

My latest Jakarta Globe column looks at Jacksen F Tiago's successful first season with Penang and the Indonesian influence.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

 

FIFA To Visit Indonesia In October

Since banning Indonesia from competing in any football under its auspices several months ago it seems like FIFA has been in no rush to welcome the country back to its warm, loving embrace.

Now comes news they will put together a team and will visit the country in October to see what the problem is. Are. October? Some 6 months after the suspension!

The sports minister has said he will take the opportunity to 'explain everything' to the game's governing body though whether they will want to talk to him and in what capacity is unclear. After all Indonesia was suspended because of government interference.

At present clubs from the second tier Divisi Utama are competing in the Independence Cup organised by the Transition Team, a body set up by the government to help reform football.

In other totally unrelated news it appears the Indonesian owners of ALeague side Brisbane Roar are looking to sell the club as they struggle to pay wages on time. I know what you are thinking...

The owners of Brisbane Roar are massively influential in Indonesian football and it remains to be seen whether or not FIFA will be wanting to talk to them when they do hit town. At various times over the years they have had links with Pelita Jaya, Arema, Deltras (pictured in red) plus no doubt a few others. There can be no meaningful reform of football without them at least being at the table...


 

Can The Arabian Gulf League Attract Expat Fans?

The National is an English language newspaper based in the UAE that produces excellent coverage of the local Arabian Gulf League. Amid the usual pre season previews they have had an article or two about how to entice some of the expats based in the country to games, a noble desire of course.

When I lived in Australia back in the late 80s early 90s I used to follow St George over land and sea as well as to Wollongong. My German interlude saw me attend games at different stadiums while I knew of one lad who would never miss a Fortuna Koln game unless he was laid up somewhere from too much elbow bending.

Then I moved to Asia. Football of course wasn't invented in Thailand until 2009 but the Premier League is perhaps the one league that does boast a significant number of expats watching games. A fair few residents, drunks, resident drunks and drunk residents follow and or followed Pattaya United for a while plus of course there is the granddaddy of them all Chonburi Dale who started following his local team when they first formed and went for years without missing a game home or away until the league rather inconveniently became more national and travel times became longer.

Interestingly enough some of those who 'fell in love' with Thai football when it increased in popularity have since fallen out of love with it. But go to places like Port and Bangkok Glass and you can be tripping over expats sipping their beer and calling the gammagarn a kwai.

Such is the popularity in Thailand a whole cottage industry has built up with converts producing blogs and going on to carve a niche for themselves writing about the game they love.

Indonesia? Without wanting to blow one's trumpet I can't think of many other expats who regularly attend games there, a nod to the lad in Samarinda, though I hope to have people prove that comment wrong! But even now when I go to games there, well when they used to have games there, people would ask me if I was a coach or a scout! Malaysia? Singapore? Well, I can think of one lad who follows Geylang International and indeed there is someone based in Jakarta who has a soft spot for the Eagles as well.

So why has Thailand managed to attract so many expat football fans and is there anything the Arabian Gulf League can learn from the land of smiles?

In some ways I think the obverse is true and it is Thailand who can learn from the UAE. As mentioned at the start of the piece there is good newspaper coverage of the local league. In addition the AGL website ain't that bad and is regularly updated...in both Arabic and English. And many clubs have their own bi lingual websites so English language information is readily available and quickly disseminated. In Thailand that void is filled by fans who learn the Thai script to keep ahead of the game and ensure the news gets out in a timely manner.

Football matches in Thailand are like tail gate parties. There is plenty of food and drink available and there is much to keep fans amused both before and after the game. The UAE? Well, at the game yesterday I saw between Al Shabab and Sharjah I did see some fans nibbling away at what looked like birdseed but I have no idea where they got it from as I couldn't see any food or drink stalls around the main stand.

And when you have 6pm kick offs you need a regular flow of liquid. Fair play to the players on the pitch, it was noticeable the game improved markedly as the temperature dropped, but sat in the main stand I was sweating buckets each time I breathed. Sweating is good, sweating is healthy but so is drinking but while I was offered the opportunity to sweat all I want there was nowhere to buy a drink.

At one stage in the second half some bloke did start dishing out small plastic ups of waters to fans around me...not to me but to everyone around me. 

You may recall earlier I mentioned expat fans at Thai games drinking beer. Sorry but for many football fans having a beer or two is an essential part of the match experience. Now I appreciate the UAE's reputation as a tolerant country, one reason I like Oud Metha with its mix of social clubs and schools and restaurants cheek by jowl. While I understand the sale of alcholic beverages is a no no surely some soft drinks and snacks can be made available on match day? Kebabs, shwarma etc.

There is one other reason perhaps why the UAE will struggle to get numbers of expat fans watching games in the way Thailand does and that is the demographic make up of the expat community. You can't go for a walk anywhere in Thailand these days without falling over English teachers. And they are the ones with the time and the money and the passion to get out and go to games. Hugely unscientific I know but I get the impression the UAE doesn't attract large numbers of itinerant young people attracted by the prospect of teaching English for a few years.

Like I said before, I believe some of the building blocks to attracting expat interest in the AGL are already in place; coverage from the paper is excellent and consistent. As I sat in a pub before heading to Al Shabab it didn't strike me many would leave their air conditioned comfort to head to an unknown part of town just to sweat and watch a game of football in difficult conditions. And if they knew no refreshments were available then a call to join me in the taxi would have gone unheeded.

Mind you, I fear my experiences yesterday would also go someway towards nipping any nascent interest in the bud. Why the big no no over taking pictures inside a stadium? Travelling football fans love this sort of stuff...arbitrarily banning cameras, especially on football fans who have travelled long distances just to experience the local football scene, will encourage no one to leave the bar and take a seat in the stand.

 

Refused Admission To Arabian League Game

In more than 40 years of watching football in some 20 countries I had never but never been refused admission to a stadium.

There are times when I wish I had; a particularly dire 0-0 draw between Aldershot and Rochdale in 1980 springs to mind as well as an IPL game between Jakarta and Semarang United back in 2011.

But nope, on something like 1,000 occassions I have gone to a game, bought a ticket and entered the stadium. You may think that was fairly normal and yes so did I. Until last night.

After watching Al Shabab secure three points against Sharjah in the Arabian Gulf League I waited yonks for a taxi before heading to Oud Metha to catch Al Nasr take on Emirates in their first game of the season. Some people visit Dubai for tall buildings or malls, me I go for the football.

In good faith I handed over my 50 AED, got my ticket and had the stub torn off as usual. I climbed the stairs and offered my bag to security for them to check. Now in recent weeks I have had my bag checked at places like Hibernian and Hartlepool and Al Shabab without any issue but not this time.

Over officious security at Al Nasr wanted me to remove everything from my bag. Everything. And there at the very bottom of the bag they must have come up trumps. They found not a stash of drugs nor a dangerous weapon but a camera. Not a professional job, just a slightly battered D40 with a small lens.

Sorry, they said, you can't take the camera inside. Better you put it back in your car.

Car? I came by taxi I replied.

Well, leave your bag on the table and pick it up after the game.

Yeah right. I played the dumb tourist to no avail, these jobsworth were not going to budge.

According to these men in uniform taking a camera into the stadium was a breach of the rules.

So I have scanned the terms and conditions on the sale of tickets to Arabian Gulf League game and lo and behold among the list of prohibited items...there is nothing about cameras. Nothing.

There is however an interesting clause, 6, which states that should anything happen to my property, vis a vis my bag, then no one would claim any responsibility.

Now I could have tried buying a ticket for another part of the ground and see how I fared but I decided sod it. I went to the pub for a few before flying home.

The irony is a local paper in the UAE has been doing articles about attracting more expats to games, something of course I fully agree with. But small minded men in uniform deciding who can or cannot enter a stadium on their own whim will soon nip that in the bud.



Friday, August 21, 2015

 

Penang Question T Team's Seven Goal Triumph

GEORGE TOWN: The gloves are off in the battle for the Premier League’s two promotion spots.
The Football Association of Penang (FAP) have lodged an official complaint to the FA of Malaysia’s (FAM) integrity committee over the nature of T-Team’s 7-0 Premier League victory over basement club SPA Putrajaya in Kuala Terengganu on Tuesday.

The Terengganu club side’s huge win has all but extinguished Penang’s hopes of gaining promotion to next season’s Super League.

With one game to go on Friday, T-Team and Penang are tied on 42 points, three behind leaders Kedah.

The islanders started the match against DRB-Hicom at the City Stadium on Tuesday with a one-goal advantage over T-Team.

Ninety minutes later, Penang found themselves with a five-goal deficit to overcome despite winning 2-1.

“The manner in which the 7-0 result was obtained was dubious. I watched all the goals on the internet, and SPA’s attempt to defend was comical to say the least,” said FAP vice-president Datuk Gary Nair.

“I can accept one or two freak goals in a match, but there were simply too many comedy of errors by SPA.

“We lodged a formal complaint with FAM on Wednesday because it is not fair to Penang. We poured in so much effort, money and time to chase promotion, and to lose out in this manner is a shame for Malaysian football as a whole.

“The integrity of Malaysian football will be tarnished if FAM choose to sweep this matter under the carpet. A thorough investigation is needed.

“Our fans at the City Stadium were stunned when they heard the 7-0 result and the Penang players were in tears. I fear fans will stay away from Malaysian football if nothing is done by the authorities to prevent suspicious performances and results in important matches.”

Kedah only need a draw in their final game against DRB-Hicom to be crowned league champions.
With their five-goal advantage, a simple victory over second-last Kuantan FA should be enough for T-Team to secure the second promotion berth.

Penang, who face UiTM FC at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca, must hope for either Kedah to lose or T-Team to falter in Kuantan to sneak into the top two.

One FAP’s request which has been approved by the FAM competitions committee is to have all the final day matches to start at 8.45pm.

Earlier, the UiTM FC-Penang tie was scheduled to kick off at 4.45pm.

The switch is music to the ears of Penang coach Jacksen Tiago.

“It is good psychologically for our players to play at night because we have not done too well in afternoon kickoffs. If we had played earlier, our rivals also would have an advantage as they would know what they need to do,” said Tiago.

“People tell me UiTM will be easy because they have nothing to play for, but I disagree. They can play without fear and pressure, and will be dangerous. It is our duty to fight for the three points against UiTM. I hope it will be good enough to get us promoted to the Super League.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

 

Arabian Gulf League Kick Off

I arrived in the Middle East just as the mercury was rising and the regional leagues were coming to a close. I managed to catch a couple of games in Kuwait as well as a President's Cup tie in the UAE but it was all really minimal. It was all a bit like catching the tail end of a movie, all very exciting for a climax aficionado or some glory hunting tosser but but knowing how the season ended didn't really interest me. I wanted to know about the twists and turns that brought us to that destination.

So I knuckled down for a hot summer with little football. Information is perhaps even hard to find in this part of the world than it is in Indonesia, especially for a non Arabic speaker but somethings don't change. For example Kuwait recently announced it would be cancelling the 2015 Gulf Cup because their stadiums aren't ready.

That decision seemed to have had a knock on effect around the gulf as leagues, which had already started preparing for the new season which took into account a break in December for regional rivalries, scampered to react to this drastic move. The UAE's Arabian Gulf League had already announced its fixtures, how would they react for example?

Other countries like Kuwait and Bahrain had promised to announce their domestic fixture lists during July but till now nothing appears on their website, at least in the English language sections, while we are still waiting on the Qatar Star's League to post theirs. Oman's Premier League kicks off tomorrow according to its website.

But it is the Arabian Gulf League that will be attracting my attention, at least until the action kicks off closer to home and tomorrow sees Al Ahli kick off their campaign at home to Al Fujairah. I popped round to their ground on a visit back in May but the turf was being dug up and while the stadium, left, looked a nice tidy affair, and right next to Stadium metro station, it was a bit like seeing a high class courtesan stripped of her make up...am looking forward to catching a game their anon.

The six time UAE champions, once coached by David O'Leary, have the obligatory Brazilians including 26 year full international Everton Ribeiro in the squad now in the hands of Romanian Cosmin Olaroiu, overcame 2014/2015 champions Al Ain in an all UAE AFC Champions League tie back in May and they face Iranian side Naft Tehran in the quarter finals with the first leg on 26 August, hence the early staging of their opening AGL game.

Champions Al Ain start their defence with a home game against Al Dhafra on Saturday...now I am no expert on geography but does this count as the longest journey to be made in the league? Al Ain have lost the services of prolific Ghanaian striker Asomoah Gyan, who has headed east for the lure of the yuan, so they will be looking to Nigerian Emmanuel Emenike to fill the gap left by the former Sunderland man. The 28 year old striker has come in on a season long loan from Turkish side Fenerbache.

When it comes to glamour clubs fallen on hard times, Al Wasl fit the bill. They play Al Jazira in their opening game on Saturday with Portuguese international Hugo Viana recently added to their ranks, coming in from Al Ahli; Viana spent a few years with Newcastle United in the early days of his career.

Seven times UAE champions and once coached by Diego Maradona, success has been evasive in recent years with just one title to their name since 1996/97. The success of the 1980s seems a long time ago but it seems their fans have stuck by them...a bit like Liverpool I guess in England!

A final word about an ex Arsenal lad. Denilson conjours up memories of Wenger's failed Project Youth when he strived to build a title winning side around supposedly hungry young players brought up on the Arsenal ethos. Unfortunately many of them just weren't good enough and Denilson fell into that category. Such is the apathy towards him even his English language wiki entry hasn't been updated to show his arrival at Al Wahda.

Champions in 2010, Al Wahda also boast a Kuwaiti international in their ranks, Hussein Fadhel, so they could be a team I will be keeping an eye on for the coming season though it is unlikely they will be mounting any serious title bid over the coming months. Still, could be an excuse to visit Abu Dhabi...sod all other reason to visit!

As for my backyard? Both Al Qadsia and Kuwait SC feature in AFC Cup quarter final action next week so something to look forward to there at least. Certainly it would be nice to jump on a bus and catch a game rather than heading to the airport.

Let the season(s) begin!

COMMENT - this is not meant as a preview, more the ramblings of a football starved expat stuck in the 50 degree heat of the Middle East gagging for a gargle and a game. A more informed preview can be found on the excellent Ahdaaf website.


Monday, August 17, 2015

 

Harimau Muda C Show Slovene Promise

PETALING JAYA: The Harimau Muda C’s playing tour of Slovakia was a roaring success.
The Under-19 coach Hassan Sazali Mohamed Waras said the 11-week stint (May 27-Aug 13) saw the boys winning 15 of the 17 matches.

“The boys settled down fast to their new surroundings after losing the opening game (June 2). All the 29 players had their fair share of playing time. We did well with 15 wins, a draw and a defeat. There are plenty of positives to take from the stint.”

He said strikers Mohd Syamer Kutty Abba and Muhd Jafri Chew who scored 11 goals during the stint were among those who gave a good account of themselves.
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“The players showed a lot of promise and I hope they maintain the same momentum when we play in tournaments,” said Hassan.

The boys’ first test will be in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-19 championship in Vientiane, Laos from Aug 23-Sept 3 followed with the Asian Under-19 qualifying rounds from Sept 26-Oct 6.

A total of 23 players have been picked for centralised training for the AFF, including two players from Frenz United.

Malaysia are drawn in Group B with hosts Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore and Timor Leste while Group A consist of Thailand, Australia, Cambodia, Brunei, the Philippines and Laos.

Hassan added the players can expect stiffer oppositions in the AFC qualifying rounds as they have been pitted against China, North Korea and Macau in Group I.

The 10 group winners and the best five runner-ups will advance to the final rounds in Jordan next year. 

Results in Slovakia
FK Inter Bratislava (2-1)
FK Puchov (3-1)
Cermansky FK Nitra (4-0)
FK Dac 1904 Dunajska Stredaula (3-2)
MFK Ruzamberuk (5-1)
FK Lokomotiva Tranava (2-0)
MFK Dubnica Nad Vahom (3-0)
MFK Topvar Topokany (1-0)
FKM Nove Zamky (5-1)
Inter Dubravka SKP (2-0)
Jaslovske Bohunice SK BL (4-0)
Vion Zlate Moravce (2-0)
FKM Karlova Ves (2-1)
Spartak Myjava (3-0)
FK Slovan Levice (3-1)
MFK Skalica (2-2)
FC Banik Horna Nitra (0-2)

COMMENT - I know many have been critical of these sorts of tours, expecting near immediate results from the players but it doesn't work like that.  But it certainly doesn't do any harm to have some teenagers more than hold their own playing in an alien environment and should, as long as they keep grounded, hold them in good stead for the future.

Certainly there is likely to be more benefit to Malaysian football in tours like these rather than pointless friendlies against visiting EPL sides who aren't even fully fit

Saturday, August 15, 2015

 

President Cup 2015 Fixtures

Group A:
2/9: Persebaya vs Martapura, Persib vs Persiba
6/9: Martapura vs Persiba, Persib vs Persebaya
10/9: Persebaya vs Persiba, Persib vs Martapura

Group B:
1/9 Sriwijaya FC vs PSGC, Arema vs Persela
5/9: Persela vs PSGC, Arema vs Sriwijaya
9/9: Sriwijaya FC vs Persela, Arema vs PSGC

Group C:
30/8: Bali United vs Persija, Mitra Kukar vs Persita
3/9: Persija vs Persita, Bali United vs Mitra Kukar
7/9: Bali United vs Persita, Persija vs Mitra Kukar

Group D:
31/8: PBR vs PBFC, PSM vs Gresik United
4/9: Gresik United vs PBFC, PSM vs PBR
8/9: Gresik United vs PBR, PSM vs PBFC

19-20 /9: Quarter Final 1st leg
26-27/9: Quarter Final 2nd leg
3-4/10: Semi-final 1st leg
12-13/10: Semi-final 2nd leg
18/10: Final

Of course this may all change!

 

Independence Cup Begins As Indonesian Football Ends Drought

Football returns to Indonesia today with the start of the Independence Cup. Organised by the government the cup features 24 teams drawn in four groups in Java and Sumatra. There is even a website though in the finest traditions of Indonesian football it is incomplete and full of dead links!

Group A

PSMS, Kalteng Putra, Persitara, PS Kwarta, Lampung, Persires

Group B

Perserang, Cilegon United, Yakuhimo, Persika, Mojokerto Putra, Persidago

Group C

Persis, Persiba Bantul, Persibangga, PSIR, PPSM, Persinga

Group D

Persepam Madura United, Madiun Putra, PSS, Persekap, Persatu, Persebo

Group A
Persires vs Ps. Kwarta, Stadion Teladan, Medan.
PSMS Medan vs Persitara, Teladan Stadium, Medan

Group B :
Perserang vs Persidago, Stadion Maulana Yusuf, Serang.
Mojokerto Putra vs Cilegon United, Stadion Krakatau Steel, Cilegon.

Group C:
Persis Solo VS PPSM Magelang, Manahan Stadium, Solo
PSIR Rembang VS Persiba Bantul, Sultan Agung Stadium, Bantul.

Group D:
Madiun Putra VS Persekap Pasuruan, Wilis Stadium, Madiun
PSS Sleman VS Persepam MU, Wilis Stadium, Madiun

Interesting that while Madiun and Medan get to host two games on the opening match day, the other groups feature two stadiums. The last thing anyone wants is rival fans not following the script and engaging in fisticuffs!

Note that all the teams entered are from Divisi Utama...the ISL clubs are apparently waiting for their own 1 Indonesia Cup to begin, that is being organised by their own league!

There is little of the hoo haa that greeted the LPI back in the day, little of the calls for football reform we all know the game needs but we still look in vain for any chap on a white charger. Given the government backing there is little likelihood of brawling players and fans like we witnessed in the Central Java Police District Cup, especially on the opening day when the Indonesian president will be at Serang watching the opening game.

The PSSI are not happy but will they really want to take on the government? Meanwhile they hope the Indonesia Super League will kick off at the end of October.

 

Gulf Cup Delay Has Knock On Effect

The decision by the Kuwait Football Association to postpone the Gulf Cup by 12 months hasn't only forced a change to my plans for this December. It seems to have had a knock on effect in the region with many leagues, well the Arabian Gulf League at least, having built their fixture lists around a one month break for the international tournament.

The AGL will at least go ahead with its Super League this weekend but until know there seems to be confusion as to whether the season will start next week as planned. Many are in favour of delaying the start not least because the weather will be a tad cooler come September!

However moves are afoot to persuade Kuwait to go ahead with the competition in December as planned and it seems no final decision has been made yet.

Once, just for once it would be nice to live somewhere I could actually rely on a football fixture list!

 

11 Minute Fandi Hat Trick Lights Up Lion City Cup

It is a name that has been making waves for a while now within the small world of Singapore football but blistering 10 minute hat trick against Liverpool in the Lion City Cup will have turned a few more heads beyond the city state.

Ikhsan Fandi, son of Singapore football's favourite son Fandi, hit three as the NFA came from 3-0 down to level against the kids of Liverpool to bring some cheer to local fans at a time when the local league is struggling for its existence.

Ikhsan, along with his brother Irfan, have long been tipped for success in their chosen careers and not just 'cos of their dad. They can both play a bit as well. They have both enjoyed stints in Spain and Chile and of course do not forget the Arsenal connection; when their old man was coaching Pelita Jaya in Indonesia they made their mark at the Arsenal Soccer School where they had coach Dale Mulholland drooling even though they were not yet teens!

Of course scoring a hat trick in a friendly game is no guarantee of a glorious career in football, just ask Yaya Sanogo, but for Ikhsan at least it is one more entry on an already impressive looking football resume.

 

Update #SupportYourLocalLeague

What's that I hear you say? What is the latest on the book?

Well, I have just returned from a trip to England and while I was there I got to meet up with the publisher. And a very productive meet it was to. They offered some useful tips, no not rewriting the whole bloody thing, but to provide a thread running the seemingly disparate chapters.

This is why I am happy to work with these guys. As a writer it is easy to get so immersed in your work you need an outsider to take a look and offer some neutral feedback and that is what happened. The easiest thing in the world is to go off and get thing self published willy nilly but I don't want to write just one book. I have a whole series planned; get the first one wrong and that will be the end of the line.

So, starting next week, I will be revisiting the work to try and link the whole piece into one and in the finest literary traditions I will be starting in a hotel room near a bar!

What is that I hear you say? Who am I working with? None other than Ockley Books and In Bed With Maradona.

Not only am I excited about the book, I am also genuinely excited about working with these guys to get the book done as professionally as possible. As Wham once sang, yeah I know, sorry, 'if you're gonna do, do it right'!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

 

Hassan Sunny Earns Recognition. Overseas.

I loved this quote in the Guardian. A Liverpool fan in Malaysia was asked the crowd for the recent circus game, sorry high profile friendly against a genuinely world class football brand, sorry club, attracted such a pants support.

This football genius said Malaysian Liverpool football fans stayed away because 'Liverpool fans are annoyed with the organisers who did not organise the event properly. The fans could not even meet the players.'

I have been going to football for over 40 years and I don't get to meet the players either. But then you have to wonder do they support the club or the players? This next quote, from one of the organisers, is telling. ' After Steven Gerrard’s departure, the attendance certainly dropped as most fans wanted to see him and Sterling as well.'

This is not a dig at EPL teams and their half tired tours of Asia. This time. But rather the role players play in promoting the game and their club.

Take a tweet from Hassan Sunny, the Singapore goalie playing for Army United in the Thai Premier League. He said there is 'so much love from the fans/people here. Unbelievable! Me or football players will never get all this in Singapore'.

Why is this? Why does a country with such a passion for football not have its own heroes? Why aren't the likes of Sahimi, Hassan and Safuwan praised to the hilt, promoted and turned into role models for young Singaporeans? Kids love stars and Singaporean kids are no different, just check out the wannabes on the metro there with their Liverpool/Man Utd replica shirts boasting names like Gerrard and Rooney.

Why isn't anyone doing their bit to develop a generation of stars? What are the clubs doing? And the FAS?  It is almost as if the people who run football don't want players to become bigger than the organisers are. Keep the players in their place, players are after all just workers.

There seems to be talks about turning the SLeague semi professional as no one seems to have a clue about marketing the game. Perhaps those suits should ponder the quotes in this piece and ask themselves the hardest question of all. Why?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

 

End Of The Road For Green Fingered Coaches?

The last couple of years has seen a spate of coaches being given 'gardening leave' by clubs. This extra time allocated to pottering around the shrubbery usually follows a poor sequence of results and is not to be construed as some CSR commitment by charitably minded football clubs.

As a fully qualified football coach there can surely be nothing worse than a limbo land where you leave your whistle, stopwatch, bibs and cones in the garden shed and pick up the shears and trowel in the full knowledge the team you spent months, or even weeks, preparing are off being courted by another man with his own whistle and stopwatch.

Among the big names it has happened to in recent times are George Boateng at Kelantan, Sathianathan at ATM and, just to prove cuckolded coaches ain't a purely Malaysian thing, Gary Stevens at Army United.

Being a sensitive soul at heart I have yet to ask a coach how they see this extra time working on their marrows but as an outsider looking in it does appear to be the sack...without the pay off.

Now, any coach will tell you the sack, and not the one used for gathering up the leaves, is part and parcel of their job along with win bonuses and that ego centric centre forward who can't score on the pitch but has tattooed the names of his other conquests in Hindi on the back of his neck.

But gardening leave stinks, not just of compost and apple peel, of the sack via the back door. What the club is hoping for is the coach will tire of watering his azaleas everyday and hand in his notice therefore freeing the club from that messy 'obligation' of paying off his contract.

Anyway it appears a ruling by the Football Association of Malaysia could well put an end to the practise.

PETALING JAYA: Coach B. Sathianathan believes that “justice has been served”.
The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have declared the “rest” status issued by his employers, the Armed Forces, to be “null and void”.

And Sathianathan hailed FAM’s ruling on Monday as “the right moral judgement.”

FAM player status committee chairman Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan explained that Armed Forces did not follow the right procedures and added that to “rest” Sathianathan from his duties was a vague decision. 

“The decision by Armed Forces to ‘rest’ Sathianathan has been ruled as void,” said Takiyuddin on Tuesday. 

“Sathianathan must now return to his former position as head coach of Armed Forces and he is entitled to all the allowances and benefits stated in the contract.”

Armed Forces have 14 days to appeal against the decision.

Takiyuddin said that a coach’s contract can only be terminated if he did not meet the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) stipulated in the contract. 

Armed Forces, he added, failed to follow that procedure. 

Sathianathan was ordered to “rest” on April 14 – two days after his team lost 3-1 to Selangor in the Super League. At that time, they only won one game out of seven and were in 11th spot in the 12-team standings with four points. 

Sathianathan, who is also the Football Coaches Association of Malaysia (FCAM) president, is relieved to be vindicated and hopes that FAM’s decision will serve as a lesson to others teams.

“The important thing is that teams cannot simply ‘rest’ coaches without a valid reason,” he said.

“I’m happy because morally the right decision has been made. If they (Armed Forces) are not happy with my performance, they should have just terminated my services. They (Armed Forces) said they have yet to receive a letter from FAM. I can’t do anything now. It’s now up to them.”

Whether this decision will act as a precedent remains to be seen. Sathianathan at least can return to work, not that ATM have received a letter yet (what is it with clubs in this region who refuse to take any action that may affect them negatively until they receive a letter. A letter? Don't these people have email?).

As one coach can at least pick up his little magnetic board and return to the training field once more, an interesting experience that will be, what about the garden I hear you cry?

Sod it!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

 

Who Really Needs An ASEAN Super League?

So the old ASEAN Super League has raised it head again, with organisers suggesting a start date of August 2016...plenty of time for local fans to watch the Euro 2016 and of course which ever big European sides deign to visit the region.

Apparently FIFA have agreed to the ASL even though no one, least of all the organisers, seems to have a scooby what the league will look like. I imagine this would be a rather important detail what with sponsors needed and of course fans to whip into shape ahead of the season.

So what will the league look like and what teams will be involved. Is it me or are the only stories I ever see about this ASL are in Singapore papers? It's almost as if they are the only ones interested! And why not as word seeps out they are considering taking the ever decreasing SLeague semi professional, in effect holding their hands up and saying they have no idea how to market or run a full time, professional league in an affluent country of 5 million football fans.

Indonesia? From this distance there is no guarantee they will be back in FIFA's good books by then and anyway, they can't even organise their own competitions, let alone pay salaries or stick to a fixture list; surely pre requisites in a pan ASEAN league...one would hope.

But even if the Indonesian domestic football scene was running as normal what would they gain by joining an ASL? They already boast, on a good day, the most vibrant league in the region with clubs that have identity and history as well as a football culture other nations can only look at with great jealousy.

Persija in an ASL? Do me a favour! They are serial non payers of salaries and in any one season up to half their home games are played outside of Jakarta due to various reasons like political rallies or crowd trouble or some airhead had previously booked the stadium for a concert of airheads to be witnessed by 50,000 screaming airheads waving camera phones in the air and swooning on demand.

Other contenders would be Persib and Arema perhaps while as for Persebaya...well, which one?

Franchising could be an option but then who would be the franchise holder? Indonesia isn't India where famous celebrities bid for teams in their Indian Super League last year. Indonesian money tends to be congregated in the hands of a few political/commercial dynasties who, shall we say, don't usually do PR. A football club backed by a company that makes its billions chopping down trees? Or would it just be a football club backed by the ruling family of Indonesian football in which case we had all better hope the FIFA suspension stays in place.

Wouldn't Singapore look funny in an ASL if they force the SLeague to go semi pro? LionsXII seem to do fine in Malaysia, they enter a team in the ASL but no one gives a shit about a local league beyond the pools company who look to Uncle Joo and his mates to keep blindly handing over their dosh no questions asked.

With a lack of leadership coming from the FAS beyond the usual business school spin and the string of strategic reviews you would think they should be focussing on getting their own house in order before contemplating another team playing outside the country.

Malaysia is kind of like Indonesia. A long, well established football tradition with some well known clubs. Would Selangor want to take time out to compete outside their comfort zone? As for franchises, well why not? Vincent Tan and Tony Fernandez have done such sterling work with their teams while raising the profile of Malaysia in West London and South Wales.

But given Malaysia's ideas of football club names, MyTeam (RIP), Sime Darby, ATM, PDRM, MISC-MOFA etc you hate to think what they would try and call a team. You may know my feelings about a certain team in North London but at least they have an identity. MISC-MOFA?

The Thais are an interesting one. The likes of Buriram United and Muang Thong United seem content to hoover up the competitions domestically, Buriram have been doing well in the AFC Champions League and that national team ain't too bad within ASEAN is it? Basically, have the Thais outgrown ASEAN?

There is always politics of course and would the FAT, or the boss of the FAT, known as FAT head (?), see an ASL as an opportunity to flex some muscle which they are not always able to do in the domestic league what with all them puu yai flexing their muscle and amassing lashes of face.

An ASL without Indonesia, Malaysia and or Thailand seems inconceivable. Rather like a war without the Americans involved, it would like headlines and oomph.

For now of course it is all supposition. Until more details are announced I guess the only thing we can confirm about any ASL is that face painters will have a blast and we will see Mexican waves from Myanmar to Manila...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

 

Much Maligned Young Lions Humble Champions Warriors

The SLeague returned a few days ago after a near two month break. And what  break. The premier league in Singapore was put on ice so more important matters could be attended to. Like the SEA Games for example, a competition for Under 23 sides in South East Asia. Or the League Cup, a worthless pot of interest only to the gamblers who don't even step foot in the stadium...I'm looking at you Uncle Joo! And then we had the Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City hitting town of course.

Yep, them's the reasons why the SLeague was stopped for two months. And the sad thing is I had forgotten when it was due to restart. I have spent the last two months in blissful ignorance of the game in Singapore and you know what? You soon get used to life. If I lost interest then what about the fans closer to home? With the local papers creaming themselves over Cop America or David Beckham catching tennis balls at Wimbledon or Ian Wright bigging up three unfit Premier League sides was there any news of the SLeague? Or was just a case of out of sight, out of mind? Marvellous marketing whatever.

Anyways, the SLeague is back with no doubt its horrendously loud PA, its inappropriate music and its anal security guards and has already delivered one shock or earthquake proportions with Young Lions defeating reigning champions Warriors 2-0. Yep, them same Young Lions so widely mocked after their feeble efforts at the SEA Games.

Warriors remain top of the table, a point ahead of Albirex Niigata though with a game in hand and, intriguingly, they still boast the worst defence in the league having shipped 20 goals in their 12 games!For Young Lions they remain bottom of the table despite the win, only the second of the season.

Only one Singaporean has scored more than three goals this season, Fazrul Nawaz who has netted 8, but even he failed to spark the Warriors in their shock loss to the cellar dwellers.

For Warriors it looks to be their last game at Woodlands Stadium. The fixture list has them hosting Home United, the one time Uniform Derby, back at their Choa Chu Kang Stadium. As for Young Lions, they have the opportunity to secure another top scalp when they take on Steve Kean's DPMM tomorrow.

On the same evening second place Albirex Niigata lost at home to Balestier Khalsa 0-1 while 24 hours earlier DPMM were held 0-0 by Home United. The dropped points for the top three were good news for Tampines Rovers who defeated Hougang United 3-0 to move within seven points of the leaders.

 

AS Roma Players Not Allowed Into Indonesia

First it was Pahang, now it is the turn of AS Roma.

A number of Pahang players were refused entry to Indonesia a couple of months back because someone somewhere had not realised they were not allowed to enter the country without a visa. Peeved, Pahang, who were in Indonesia to compete in an AFC Cup tie against Persipura, turned around and straight back home.

Now it is the turn of Italian side AS Roma. They are in Jakarta for some kind of flying visit and the chance to pose with some wildly excited local fans who will be guaranteed to smile and scream on cue. There is also some kind of game at Bung Karno but not sure what form this #CircusGame will be.

Anyways, five Roma players never left the airport. Former Arsenal player Gervinho, Seydou Doumbia, Victor Ibarbo, Adem Ljajic and Pablo Sarabia have passports from countries that are not on the list of those that get visa on arrival. And it seems, especially in the wake of the Pahang incident, no one checked.

 

All Quiet On The Indonesian Front

I just spent a week in Indonesia and can be seen by the total absence of any posts during that time nothing is happening football wise. Oh yes, there are stories circulating so here is a brief wrap of what sports editors are doing in a vacuum of silence.

Player X hopes football can start soon
1 Indonesia Cup/Independence Cup may go ahead
Player Z selling shirts/food
Persepam MU are being linked with everyone with the possible exception of Sergio Ramos
PSSI won a court case
Despite being entered in  1 Indonesia Cup/Independence Cup Club A/B/C et all still don't have a full team
Independence Cup has no one to organise it

Repeat ad nauseam


Thursday, July 16, 2015

 

Malaysian Clubs Say No To Liverpool 'Circus Game'

First it was the fans who were upset by Malaysia's proposed friendlies against Spurs and Liverpool. Now it seems the clubs are less than happy. When coach Dollah Salleh announced the squad that would be used against Liverpool there were no players from Johor Darul Tazim called up.

JDT are in the race for the Super League and their rivals have been perhaps a bit miffed at the perceived special treatment they have received. Selangor have since announced they may not be releasing three of their players, winger Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, striker Afiq Azmi and Australian centreback Robert Cornthwaite, claiming they are 'are tired and need to rest' following the Super League clash with, um, JDT on Monday which the Southern Tigers won 3-1.

The team from the southern tip of Malaysia are involved in a tight two horse race for title with Pahang with both sides matching points in their recent games. And now Pahang have withdrawn striker Dickson Nwakaeme from the squad while keeping mum about the fate of three other players called up; defender Razman Roslan, goalkeeper Mohd Khairul Azhan and winger Mohd Azamuddin Akil.

Pahang manager Fahrizal Hassan says Nwakaeme is carrying a knock and the club were 'we are keeping him home so that he will be fresh for the final stretch of the Super League campaign next month. We want Nwakaeme to rest. Pahang are at a crucial stage of the Super League competition and we want our best players available.'

The Malaysian Football Association, FAM, have responded by saying all players called u must attend training unless they have permission from the coach.

It is a joke that Malaysian football has to drop everything just 'cos an English teams wants to 'connect' with its fans and sell some shirts. These sorts of games are of of no benefit to anyone and just bending over backwards to accommodate them is demeaning to the local league, the local clubs and the local fans. If so called Liverpool fans love football so much they are perfectly entitled to start following their local team.

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