Sunday, December 19, 2010
Malaysia's Bright New Future
Losing 5-1 to Indonesia in their first group match, it was easy to see how people were quick to right Malaysia’s chances off in this competition but, as regular readers may recall, I have been touting them as a dark horse for many weeks now.
For many years now football in Malaysia has been a laughing stock both domestically and internationally. So much so it’s difficult to decide when the nadir was reached. Was it when they wanted to ignore the Asian Cup they were hosting because they wanted to play Manchester United in a pointless friendly? Was it when relegation was canceled at the end of a season because a certain team’s owner didn’t fancy the drop? Was it those friendlies last year against a club side masquerading as Zimbabwe? Or was it when UAE came to KL and thumped the local heroes 5-0 meaning their Asian Cup 2011 qualifying campaign was over even before the players had rheir first half time Bovril?
But there has been a quiet revolution going on in Malaysia behind the scenes, away from the usual talking heads and publicity seekers. I first sussed something was going on three years ago when Indonesia hosted an Under 16 tournament featuring the hosts, Singapore, Australia, Bahrain and Malaysia. The Aussies of course won, beating Bahrain in the final.
That though, for me anyway, wasn’t the story. I had come to the games not to praise Malaysia but to bury them in yet more opprobrium. But I couldn’t. The Malaysians were by far the best ASEAN team on show, both in terms of performances on the pitch and professionalism off it.
They were doing things I hadn’t seen since I started covering football in the region. There was nonstop communication between the players on the field and especially from the keeper to his back four. And off it, when they weren’t playing, they were often in the stand not just watching the other games but making notes, listening to their coaches, asking questions.
Their Indonesian and Singaporean counterparts meanwhile were as quiet as a desert landscape on the field and in the stands they were cocooned their own private i-Pod or Nokia world.
And those lads are still three or four years away from the national team. But if those habits that were being instilled in spotty teenagers in Jakarta being replicated through all the national team levels then surely this would start to bear fruit.
And there’s more. The generation between the heroes of Ha Noi and the zit faced youth of Jakarta have spent much of this year playing together in Slovakia against professional European opposition on a regular basis. The SEA Games triumph last year was just the beginning; potentially Malaysia has enough talent coming through to keep them at the forefront of South East Asian football at least for the next 10 to 12 years.
And that’s without turning to players based overseas but with a claim on citizenship through a parent, a path taken by Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, or by naturalizing players, like Singapore, after they meet certain criteria.
as stated by primadi and Imam arif from BTN, this whole naturalization is only temporary, until those in Uruguay are ready to play in the SEA games then National team.
the thais have?