SEEING teams like Bhutan, Guam, Wales and Scotland improving in the recent published FIFA world rankings is inspirational.
Wales, of course, were the biggest movers, bagging 153 points to climb to 22 in the world rankings. The team led by Chris Coleman has only lost once in 10 games and is currently having a very good Euro qualifying campaign.
However, it is not Wales that I am going to mumble about in this week’s column but Malaysia, who have plummeted to 164 – their worst ever placing – just one rung below Bhutan, who used to be at the bottom.
Many people have voiced their frustration and concern with a few urging the stakeholders in Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to do something before the national team tumbles further down the rankings.
But should we hit the panic button because of our world rankings or go crazy because our football has yet to develop to the heights that we wished for?
Johor Football Association president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim for one has said FAM should be more responsible in charting the course of where the Harimau Malaya is headed. He further added he was perplexed that the association and Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin were not pressing the panic button over it.
Khairy did, however, give his take on the situation when he said Malaysia’s position in the FIFA rankings defies logic because the team are ranked lower than some Asean countries although the squad under Dollah Salleh were able to reach the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup.
He added that rankings do not matter but rather achievement of the team in tournaments like the SEA Games, Asian Cup and the World Cup qualifiers that counts.
As a football fan, I personally believe that a good standing in the rankings will boost the confidence of the national team and the association too.
Instead of playing against clubs and looking for top international sides, we should play against lower ranked teams and increase the points.
Once we build on that, the team will grow and when entering tournaments, opponents will take notice of us.
Playing against Barclays Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga sides will not help our players and FAM should let our club sides or fa Malaysian League XI comprising of local and foreign players play against those teams.
The club sides that visit Malaysia do not always gives their best as the matches are usually played in the off-season. For most of visiting teams, these ties are just fan events … nothing more than that! How can playing against them then improve our national football team?
Tournaments, on the other hand, give us points but international friendly matches help solidify our rankings. So maybe, we should start off playing against lower ranked teams and then progress from there?
Certain scouts out there have also talked about half Malaysian players featuring for the national team. Players like Sam Somerville and Daniel Ting, who play for English non-league clubs, are among those who have expressed their interest to represent the country and play for clubs in Malaysia.
Players who are based overseas are physically and mentally strong and just like Brendan Gan and Junior Eldstal, these players can be assets if they prove themselves.
Pahang, for example, has just signed Australian-Malaysian Matthew Davies and Datuk Ong Kim Swee has immediately selected him for his SEA Games squad.
There is also the prospect of exposure and getting our players to play in overseas leagues.
With all that in mind, the question then is: which is more important? Ranking or development? I, for one, think that both things must be looked at it if we want the national team to progress.> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.