The 'Great Depression' of Malaysian football

SPORTS and politics should not mix. However, in some instances, they have influenced one another, either directly or indirectly.

We read and heard about the "Ping-Pong diplomacy" of the 1970s during the Cold War, which saw American and Chinese players squaring off – this arguably paved the way to a dialogue between the two countries that did not have diplomatic relations.

Now, you may be wondering why I'm going down this train of thought.

Well, taking the example of the football associations of Selangor and Kelantan – I'm beginning to wonder if football is being used as a political tool.

Look at the Selangor Football Association (FAS). They are an indomitable force in Malaysian football and with 33 Malaysia Cup titles, you'd expect them to go out with guns blazing every season.

Next season though, they may not even participate in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) due to lack of funds. The current FAS exco – with the exception of its president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali – have blamed the state government for not providing any funding for the association in its budget.

FAS' deputy president Datuk Abdul Mokhtar Ahmad said the team might not even feature in the MSL if there is no funding from the state government.

The point is, the sport has changed. Football is now a business, and if a team is not doing well, there will be no investors for a failed project.

If the state isn't giving any money, FAS exco members should be looking for sponsorship and not wait to be spoon-fed by the government. Do you see clubs in England backed by the government or royalty? Heck, even Thailand and Vietnam clubs are not backed by any political organisation.

Recently, the Selangor Raja Muda Tengku Amir Shah called for a revamp of the entire FAS structure.

A few hours later Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, who is also Selangor Mentri Besar, said he was "on the same page as Tengku Amir" on the issue.

He added that football was not about politics but instead is about "sports, team building and striving to succeed for the fans, for the state and even for the nation".

My question is – why only react when the royalty is worried about the situation? You're the president for a reason and it's you who is ultimately responsible for the direction of the FAS.

It doesn't make sense at all. When you have teams like Shah Alam Antlers and Petaling Jaya Rangers making waves with their marketing tactics and sponsorships, we have team bearing the state's name which is still relying on state funds to run the team.

And then there is Kelantan, the Red Warriors.

When Tan Sri Annuar Musa left the Kelantan Football Association (Kafa) the remaining exco members did not know what to do. Now, with only RM800,000 to start the season, the team might not feature in the MSL too.

The 60-year-old had been Kafa president since 2007 and helmed the Red Warriors' revival, which saw them amassing six trophies – including the 2012 treble (Malaysia Cup, Super League and FA Cup).

He has a pretty decent CV as a president but his legacy is the mess Kafa is in now. It is unknown if he knew this was going to happen, but he should have saved the team before passing the torch on to the exco members.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has since weighed in and conveyed his thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, hoping that Kafa and other state associations will ways to solve their financial troubles.

Najib also assured Kelantan fans that he had spoken to Annuar over his resignation as Kafa president.

It may seem noble but after this statement, I wouldn't be surprised if teams ask for help from our Prime Minister. Creating sympathy is never the way forward for our football.

Why do we always need royalty and big leaders to shake things up? Just what were the state football association excos doing all this while?

Johor's crown prince and Johor Darul Takzim owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has also stated his disdain for politicians involved in football clubs, with what he says are ulterior motives.

He said he is "amazed" at the level of hypocrisy in the country, be it in sports or other areas.

Yes, it is amazing to see the level of hypocrisy in this country. They promise the world, yet deliver nothing. But when it comes to finger pointing, we seem to be the best at it.

If there is such a sport in the Olympics – we are in the reckoning for gold.

It's disappointing to see the state of football in our country, but this should come as no surprise. We have seen many promises time and time again left unfulfilled by associations.

Former and current coaches have lamented the state of football in this country.

One coach told me stories about one football association and why Malaysian football will never go forward. Like any other reporter, I wanted to do a story but he told me not do so because he might lose his job.

I'm sure many out there feel the same. If you speak out, it may be good for our football. If one speaks out, I'm sure others would follow suit.

Some have years of experience and their pointers make sense – but they are simply not heard. It's sad that they're keeping their feelings and thoughts inside of them.

If we want to change our fortunes, it's time to be bold. You don't need to be a royal or a politician to do so. If you feel something isn't right, just say it.

I truly believe that football in this country is slowly losing its lustre and it's sad to see Malaysian football in such state.

Right now, we are in "The Great Depression" of Malaysian football.

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