THE new M-League season is upon us once again. The competition will kick off on Friday with the Charity Shield match between Pahang (Malaysia Cup champions) and Singapore Lions (Super League champions).
So, what’s new, right? What’s the big deal?
Well, it may not be a big deal to most of us, but it sure is going to be big business for the bookies.
You see, the match-fixing menace never went away despite the 1994 police swoop, which saw more than 100 players being rounded up, banned for life and banished.
Just last month, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) fined and suspended five players and three officials from Kuala Lumpur for fixing matches. Then last week, another seven players from the same team were hauled up but no decision has been taken yet.
These are the players who took the money and, just like in the 1994 swoop, they were punished.
But what about the big fish? Surely one of the hundreds of players must have blown the whistle on the big fish then.
Have we heard or seen any big fish reeled in by the authorities?
Again, this is nothing new. This malaise has been around for a long time and will continue to be around for a long time. So, let’s not kid ourselves.
The bookie scourge aside, I have another bone to pick with the powers-that-be when it comes to Malaysian football.
Last Saturday, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced that his ministry will partly fund the Harimau Muda A’s Australian adventure.
Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s boys will be heading Down Under to compete in the Queensland State League (Second Division) as preparation for the Asian Games, which will be held in Incheon, South Korea, from Sept 19-Oct 4.
Now wait a minute. Isn’t this the same team who spent a good eight months playing in the Corgon Liga (Slovakia) and ended up finishing only fourth in the recent Myanmar SEA Games?
God only knows how much was spent for the team to stay, travel and play in Slovakia.
Khairy estimated that it would cost the ministry about RM4mil to fund the team’s Australian stint. Since the ministry is only footing part of the bill, it’s likely that the whole exercise could cost RM8mil, at least.
Is it necessary?
Why can’t they just compete in the Super League? Are they afraid that the bookies will get to the players?
Come on, Singapore (Lions XII) played in the Super League as preparation for the SEA Games and guess how they fared? They beat us 2-1 in the the bronze medal playoff!
Doesn’t that mean the Super League is better than the stint in Slovakia? Lions XII played with five seniors and had no foreign players. They played about 30 competitive matches in the M-League while the Harimau Muda A boys were contented playing friendlies in Slovakia.
See the difference?
This time around, the same Singapore team are playing in the Super League again to prepare for the Asian Games.
The people of Malaysia are already feeling the pinch with the rising cost of living. The RM4mil can be used for far better things than sending a bunch of mediocre footballers for a holiday Down Under. Yes, that’s exactly what I think it is – just a vacation, courtesy of the taxpayers’ money.
Wouldn’t it be better to channel all that money into the development at the grassroots level? Or even on the national under-16 team, who will be competing in the 16-team AFC final rounds in Bangkok in September?
The top four will qualify for the Under-17 World Cup in Chile next year.
Coach S. Balachandran’s boys won the ticket to the AFC final rounds last September, beating South Korea (2-0) en route to topping the qualifiers. Four months have passed and FAM have yet to come out with a comprehensive plan for them.
The boys have a good chance to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup Finals in Chile but they desperately need matches to stay sharp. It would be better to invest in these young boys – they are the future.
Here is a chance for a Malaysian football team to qualify for a World Cup Finals – albeit an Under-17 tournament. Shouldn’t FAM and the Sports Ministry be doing all they can to get them ready for the AFC final rounds?
I also find it absurd that Khairy would approve the funding for Harimau Muda A’s trip to Australia. He had, after all, given a damning indictment of the standard of local footballers when he commented on the FAM’s plan to hire Frenchman Philippe Troussier to replace Datuk K. Rajagopal as the national coach.
“If we are competing at the world level, then maybe we can have a world-class coach for the national team. We are limited by the talent we have in the national squad ...,” Khairy said on Saturday.
If the national team have very limited talent, why send them to play in the Queensland League? How much better is the Queensland League compared to our own Super League?
Why can’t they just play in our own Super League, like the Singapore Lions?
Millions has been wasted on the squad. Let’s not pour millions more down the drain!
Sports Editor R. Manogaran is delighted that world No. 1 Nicol David will finally get a chance to win a world title on home soil when Penang host the 2013 World Squash Championship in March.