Patriotism takes a backseat in the business of football


COMMENT BY ERIC SAMUEL

PETALING JAYA: The FA of Malaysia (FAM) will announce today their new version of the modified M-League aimed at achieving three main goals - improving the quality of the domestic competition, attracting back the fans and ultimately contributing to a better national football team. 

The competitions committee have promised to take drastic measures in their bid to upgrade the quality of the domestic competition, which began with the humble Malaya Cup days (Burnley Cup) since 1921, to the Semi-Pro era (1989-94) before going full gear into a full professional league in 1995. 

The committee spent several months of research and study to come up with this new format in their bid to raise the dwindling standards of Malaysian football.  

The FAM top brass led by their president Sultan Ahmad Shah and deputy Tengku Abdullah would announce the new formula aimed at putting Malaysian football back on the international map. 

Sadly, their efforts seems to be all in vain.  

Three days ago, a talented youngster was sent back home from the national pre-Olympic training squad after he chose not play for his country. 

Last year, Khalid Jamlus, Perak’s Golden Boot winner, pulled a similar stunt and was booted out from the national team. There was also another who faked an injury to avoid getting a national call-up sometime ago. 

Does it pay to be in the national team anymore? Why have these players chosen not to play? Where is their patriotism and national pride? 

Or is it just a matter of ringgit and sen now? 

There is no doubt football has turned into a lucrative industry in some parts of the world but Malaysia are still way behind although we have gone into the professional era since 1995. 

There is no question that it was the amateurs who took Malaysia to the Olympics twice, in 1972 and 1980, but the professionals are struggling to even make an impact in the SEA Games. 

It was not an easy task to get a place into the national team in the past. There was so much competition and only the cream of the crop used to hang on to their places with pride and passion.  

The late Mokhtar Dahari, R. Arumugam, Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh and M. Chandran were the greats who graced our football history of yesteryears. 

There were times when some of the seniors who failed to make the final squad were reduced to tears.  

It goes to show just how much they pride themselves on donning the national jersey. 

Sadly, in the professional era things have changed. The players seem to be contented playing for the state or club teams. They are paid well and hence do not want to jeopardise their careers by picking up injuries while on national duty. 

National team manager Datuk Ibrahim Saad said the current batch of national players was compensated and well rewarded for playing in the national team. He said they had no reason to complain about money or their welfare.  

“We have the records. They are paid every time they go out for an international outing,'' said Ibrahim, who did not want to reveal the amount spent. 

Another FAM official, who declined to be identified, said the national players were a special breed and needed to be given the right kind of benefits befitting their status. 

“Yes, I feel they must be paid well. There is no such thing as playing for pride anymore. There are only a few who would do that. 

“Look around us in the world. All the national team players are highly paid. If we want our national team to improve it is high time we paid them big bucks. 

“Then, we can see the players fighting for places. The FAM should keep a portion of their subsidy from the sponsors towards the national team. We will see results.”  

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