LAST week, I went back to Ipoh to fulfill my vows for Thaipusam and spend some quality time with my family and friends.
Thaipusam went well for me and it was a festival like no-other - colourful kavadis, delicious annathanam (free food) and good music during the procession.
Oops, I digress ...
Anyway, while I was in Ipoh, I went for supper to this mamak restaurant in Caning Garden, Ipoh and saw a Perak footballer hanging out with his friends.
He was supposed to go to Larkin, Johor with his teammates to face JDT FC in their first Super League game of the season but he was left behind because of injury.
I don’t want to mention his name but I was a shocked to see this individual smoking.
What made it worse was that this player, who has been with Perak for five seasons, was having mee goreng at 11pm!
I always thought professional players would maintain their physique by sticking to a strict diet and would avoid smoking and booze during the season.
Of course, this wasn’t the case for this player.
Germany born midfielder Hendrik Helmke who once played for Sabah in 2012 said that he was surprised to see our players eating rice so often and not maintaining a balanced diet.
Foreign players in Malaysia are known to keep to strict diets throughout the season.
When I Interviewed ATM forward Marlon Alex James last year, he told me it is essential for a football player to maintain a good diet. He also lamented the fact that certain Malaysian players do not keep to said rule.
When Dennis Bergkamp first came to Arsenal in 1995, he was surprised to see English players like Tony Adams and Paul Merson guzzling pints of beer before and after matches.
Thankfully, all that changed when Arsene Wenger took over at the club. Tony Adams became sober and he went on to become one of the club’s talismans.
If players like Adams and Merson could change, why not Malaysian players? I believe it all starts with the management and they should insist on players keeping to strict regimes and diets.
Club sides should start by setting up their own cafeterias and planning meals for their players. I don’t know if any of our clubs have cafeterias but I can’t stress enough the importance of having one.
Coaches should also be stern. Managers in Malaysia shouldn’t just concentrate on finding sponsors and paying the bills but should also look at the footballing side of the game.
That aside, certain players can be amateurish when it comes to signing contracts. National players Amirulhadi Zainal, Norfarhan Mohamad and Nazri Ahmad were the culprits this season when they signed with two separate teams at the same time.
Amirulhadi first signed for Pahang but somehow opted to join cash-rich Johor. Nazri signed a contract with Selangor but when Kelantan upped the wage offer, the young defender decided to join the Red Warriors instead.
Former Perak FA manager Khairul Azwan Harun has lamented the fact that many players do not respect their contracts and will do as they wish when the season ends.
He said: “During my time as manager, some players were under contract but they decided to leave and sign with other sides. Sometimes, we don’t get any compensation.
“I can be hard on them but I’m being nice because I don’t want to spoil their periuk nasi (livelihood).
“The sad thing is, we play in a professional league but some of our players act like amateurs. This has to change.”
He suggested that players should have an agent when negotiating contracts. With agents, players would be able to concentrate on their football and not have to worry about the tiniest details.
Football is a business and agents can make sure that their clients get the best.
Mino Raiola is a classic example of a tough negotiator who has helped players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Filippo Inzanghi and Mario Balotelli in their careers.
My personal hope is to see our players become more professional in the near future.Once that happens, we should see a marked difference in their games.