Not good enough. Both the Malaysia men's and women's sepaktakraw teams lost to arch-rivals Thailand in the recent ISTAF SuperSeries Finals in KL. - FAIHAN GHANI/ The Star
PETALING JAYA: Sepaktakraw may have originated from Malaysia and Thailand but while our northern neighbours have been improving by leaps and bounds over the years, Malaysia continue on the road of mediocrity.
Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Thais in the final of the ISTAF SuperSeries Finals 2013/2014 is just another unsavoury mark on Malaysia’s record against Thailand.
Malaysia’s last major success was a gold medal at the 2005 SEA Games in Manila. Since then, they have lost the gold to Thailand in both the men’s regu and team events at the 2006 and 2010 Asian Games, and the 2011 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur.
Thailand also won the gold at last year’s Myanmar SEA Games, where Malaysia only managed to win a bronze.
Others have also gotten in on the act. Myanmar caused an uproar with a surprise 2-1 upset over Malaysia in the final of the Four Nations Invitational in July last year. While South Korea scored a big 3-0 win against Malaysia in the final of the opening leg of the SuperSeries in New Delhi last September.
What is the Sepaktakraw Association of Malaysia (STAM) prepared to do to bring about change?
If nothing is done to stem this decline, Malaysia will end up being the new whipping boys of sepaktakraw.
Thai team manager Tanawat Prasongcharoen didn’t mince his words when he said that Malaysia need to re-evaluate their plans or face being left further behind. He feels a professional league is the way forward.
“The fact is, Thailand and South Korea will keep improving. They have seen progress and will continue to do so. Malaysia have to play catch up whether they like it or not,” said Tanawat.
“People always like to ask what is the difference between Thailand and Malaysia. It’s a simple answer - we have a professional league. That’s the big difference,” he added.
When the Thai Pro-League began in 2002, there were about 100 players. Now, after 12 years, the league boasts approximately 1,000 players.
Malaysia, unfortunately, cannot begin to compete with that. There are only 29 players in the national squad.
“The league worked in our favour. Now, we have a huge pool of high quality talent. Some Malaysian players have come to play in Thailand, but the effect is small. A league of your own would be more beneficial,” said Tanawat.
“You could say it is the recipe for our success. It is the best way for us to keep progressing, discover new talents, groom our players and help them develop their skills. Plus, we get to stay competitive throughout the year,” he added.
STAM is currently on a rebuilding mission but with the ISTAF World Cup in Thailand just a couple of months away, it may be too soon to see any results.