The national football team had a very good spell from 2009 to 2011 when they went on to win back-to-back gold medals at the SEA Games and winning the AFF Suzuki Cup for the very first time under the guidance of Datuk K.Rajagobal.
However, since that success we have only gone from bad to worse.
The fundamental problem, that of continually producing quality bunch of youngsters good enough to play at international level, was easy to pick out but not easy to execute.
Finding the next Datuk Lee Chong Wei or Datuk Nicol David is not easy, but in that period of rebuilding we have not lost our pride in badminton and squash.
But it is different with football. We are at our lowest point. Fullstop.
The same core players who won the 2009 SEA Games and 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup are still the best crop of players we have. What has happened to the youngsters who are supposed to be replacing them? The reality is we have failed to move with the times.
The Harimau Muda project was good for a start but it passed its expiry date a while back and we paid a heavy price for it. A very very heavy price.
September 3, 2015, is a date that will live in infamy for any local football fan. The national squad suffered their most humiliating defeat in their history.
A 10-0 whipping at the hands of UAE and national coach Dollah Salleh resigned. The lesser said the better.
A special task force was set up, spearheaded by Datuk Mohktar Ahmad to pick the right man to head our bleeding national football team and after four months they reached a verdict on Monday.
Datuk Ong Kim Swee was given the nod with a two-year contract.
Having been the former Under-23 head coach for Harimau Muda, Kim Swee is no stranger to the national setup in various age groups. but at the senior level? It has only been on an interim basis.
FAM has hired five different local coaches to lead the Harimau Malaya side since the Hungarian Bertalan Bicksei’s contract was terminated in 2005. 29 wins, 28 draws and 50 losses and dropping a whopping 49 spots in the FIFA rankings since 2005.
Hence, the KPI set by FAM for Datuk Ong Kim Swee would be to improve the country’s ranking in the FIFA list from 171 to 140, Kim Swee would also be required to prepare the national squad for the 2016 Asean Football Federation (AFF Suzuki Cup) and prepare the team for a number of playoff matches in the 2019 Asia Cup Qualifiers on June 2, June 7 and Oct 11.
On top of that Kim Swee will also assist National Under-23 coach Frank Bernhardt to prepare the SEA Games squad for the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
I can only imagine that one of the biggest factors why he was chosen over Bojan Hodak, who was one of the three shortlisted candidates, was because of Kim Swee’s experience with the youngsters coming through the ranks, having worked with them before.
Kim Swee’s success as head coach will depend on his ability to develop those talents coming through into established internationals.
Having fallen 49 places in the FIFA rankings in the past 10 years and handing Kim Swee a KPI to move the team 30 ranks higher from 171 to 140 over the next two years does sound like a tall order.
A better question is what happens if Harimau Malaya is ranked five rungs below a year from now?
The reality is that we have to be smart to measure and to accept the current crop of talent coming through for the next five years, who are at best, only average.
I personally believe at this point in time, it is crucial to stop the rot of our national football team by considering damage limitations, with some decent performances and respectable results on the pitch.
We must work tremendously hard at all levels and to blood quality youngsters for a promising future seven to 10 years from now.