TUNKU Ismail Sultan Ibrahim is set to be the next president of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).
The Crown Prince of Johor was originally supposed to face-off against former Kelantan FA president and Umno information chief Tan Sri Annuar Musa at the FAM election tomorrow for the top post, but the latter had since pulled out of the race and made his announcement at Parliament yesterday.
While the race for the president’s post has now been settled, there still remains the small matter of electing two deputy presidents and four vice-presidents. We shall come to that in a while.
Malaysian football fans are only too aware of the situation our football is in at present. For the uninitiated, Malaysia are presently ranked World No 164 and that is the pits. It’s sad but that’s the truth. FIFA rankings do not lie.
This being the case, Tunku Ismail must realise that he will soon be sitting on a keg of dynamite, and will have his hands full trying to get Malaysian football back on solid ground and regain the respect it once enjoyed in Asia.
This is by no means an easy task but Tunku Ismail has been in the game for more years than he cares to remember as football is his first love.
No one can deny that Tunku Ismail has achieved something close to a miracle when he managed to turn the Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) football team into a powerhouse, not only in Malaysia but also in Asia.
Today the JDT team also has one of the best football facilities in Asean and Asia, and Tunku Ismail’s hands-on approach has contributed largely to what the team has become today.
He prides himself in knowing every player’s needs and what is required to get good results, and as any good team manager will attest, money alone is not enough. While money is essential, it does not guarantee the trophies that come with winning tournaments.
You need to have a proper structure and organisation, but more importantly, you need the right people in the right places to get it running like a well-oiled engine. Many feel that the prince’s hands- on approach has been the key to JDT’s success.
And we an be assured that he will apply the same principles to get FAM back on solid ground.
The crown prince is a firm believer in integrity and professionalism and has often slammed those (and there are many of them) who have abused their power when in top positions.
He is more than capable of pulling Malaysian football out of the gutter but he will not be able to do it alone, and will need reliable people around him.
During his early days with JDT, he laid down the foundation for the team before wisely delegating the job of heading his beloved football team to his sister, Tunku Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, who is always there when needed.
On the pitch, he has complete trust in his coaching staff — previously it was Mario Gomez and now Benjamin Mora — to guide the team to glory. And that is vital in coming up with a winning mentality. He will need a tough structural backbone that he can trust and work with.
Tunku Ismail is like a well-respected commander whose soldiers will go the extra mile for him. That’s what it’s all about — team work. Expect drastic changes, some of which might hurt certain people, now that he is the head honcho of FAM.
Now we turn to the business of electing two capable deputy presidents and four vice-presidents.
Datuk Seri Afandi Hamzah will also be attending tomorrow’s election but will do so with trepidation as he looks to defend his position as FAM deputy president.
Afandi, who is also FAM competitions committee chairman for two terms, is up against two respected candidates – recently appointed Selangor FA president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal and Melaka United FC deputy president Datuk Mohd Yusoff Mahadi.
Afandi has been heading the association and always maintains a cordial relationship with the state FAs. It will be an interesting race as he competes with two formidable foes.
Subahan has a good track record as a leader and is currently Malaysian Hockey Confederation president.
Under his leadership, the national men’s and women’s hockey teams have improved by leaps and bounds, and are close to qualifying for the Hockey World Cup in 2018.
Mohd Yusoff has turned Melaka United FC into a formidable outfit which now play in the Malaysia Super League after years of being in the wilderness. He has single-handedly changed the landscape of football in Malacca.
Both have declared their willingness to work under Tunku Ismail.
Undoubtedly, it will be a tight race for the FAM deputy president position too, and whoever prevails will bring experience to the table.
Come Saturday, the nation’s true blue football fans will be closely following the FAM election.
Thirty-nine delegates will vote to select the FAM Executive Commit-tee, which will serve from 2017 to 2021.
Many, if not all, will be demanding that the new team not waste any time in getting down to the serious business of reversing Malaysia’s football fortunes.
I truly hope that all delegates think hard before casting their votes as the future of Malaysian football is in their hands.
Christopher Raj is chief executive officer of ShekhinahPR, a sports public relations agency. Chris’ Twitter account is @chrisraj23