FOURTY-four years ago, we were a footballing force to be reckoned with. The Malaysian football team qualified for its first ever Olympics in 1972.
In the qualifying round, we beat the likes of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Players like Hassan Sani, N. Thanabalan, Zulkifli Norbit, Wong Fook Chuan and Shaharuddin Abdullah went to West Germany with the nation’s expectations on their shoulders.
In the opening match, they lost 3-0 to Germany but bounced back in the second match when they beat the physically stronger USA 3-0 but in the last match, Morocco’s Ahmad Farras showed why he was the best in Africa at the time when he scored a hat trick to thrash a hapless Malaysia 6-0.
Eight years later, we qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics but we didn’t participate as the Government made the decision to boycott the Games in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
These stories have united the nation and it was a time many fans would not forget.
These days though, I wish I had a time machine so I can revel in the past and not be despondent about the present.
For Malaysian football fans, this is not a time to live in. There is a point where your optimism ends. And it’s now.
We’re in the deepest trenches of the ocean and there appears no way out.
We played against three lowly-ranked Oceania teams and the results were just abysmal.
Papua New Guinea, ranked 193 in the world, beat us 2-0, 186-ranked Fiji held us to 1-1 draw and we struggled to beat New Caledonia, ranked 183 in the world.
These countries, part of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), don’t have the infrastructure, resources or even talent pool to make an impression in world football, what more Oceania.
It was a tour to increase our ranking points but it didn’t work well. To make matters worse, the New Caledonia match was not sanctioned as an ‘A’ international friendly by FIFA as the assistant referees were not under the purview of the football body.
This particular statement from FAM secretary-general Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin on the New Caledonia match particularly irked me.
He said New Caledonia was at fault for the technical mistake and FAM had nothing to do with it.
My question though is – being an experienced body, wasn’t FAM supposed to check on the officials before the match? Wasn’t there a briefing a day before the friendly?
Some people have said that the players were fasting, so they couldn’t perform at their best.
Again, my question is, why hold a tour during the month of Ramadan especially in nations where stadiums don’t have floodlights?
FAM could have arranged a few international ‘A’ friendly matches in our country as we have the means to hold night matches.
For an association that is now 60 years old, we seem to have only gone backwards and I don’t see any improvements.
The only success stories in our country seem to be Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) and the growth of National Football Development Programme (NFDP).
JDT is only getting better and its owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim is focused on the development of his team.
All stakeholders should meet and discuss the next step for our national team.
Or is FAM only going to do something when the national team is ranked below 200? Do we want to see empty stadiums?
How many times do we have to learn from our mistakes?
The fans have been craving for success. After the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup victory, the national team has regressed and FAM has to accept that fact.