WHAT an amazing 10 days it’s going to be for all English Premier League fans.
It’s definitely going to be a thrilling ride for die-hard supporters of Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Never before have Malaysian fans been treated to such a triple treat. Kudos to ProEvents for arranging this highly-anticipated Tour of Asia treble extravaganza.
Starting with Arsenal today, Liverpool on Saturday and Chelsea on July 21, football fever is definitely rising.
In fact, the excitement has slowly built up to a crescendo!
Yes, ProEvents have brought in some of these teams and a few others like Manchester United, Birmingham, Newcastle, just to name a few.
Surely all the Gunners, Reds and Blues fans will be decked out in their favourite teams’ colours come match day.
Heck, I’d probably be wearing my Liverpool jersey with pride too on Saturday.
But duty calls and I won’t be able to watch my beloved team in action against our national team.
There’s nothing wrong with supporting a club that you’ve grown up with, like in my case since the early 70s.
But, in all that excitement, let’s spare a thought for our national team.
It will be interesting to see how many fans actually will be wearing the national jersey to all the three matches.
And how much support our national team will get in these matches.
Frankly speaking, our boys do deserve better support.
They have, after all, done quite well of late.
They won the Suzuki Cup Asean Football Federation (AFF) championship last December.
Before that, they bagged the SEA Games gold medal in 2009.
And now the Under-23 boys are in the final round of the Asian Zone pre-Olympic qualifiers.
The senior team too are through to the second round of the Asian Zone pre-World Cup qualifiers.
Well, the odds may be stacked against both squads going any further but at least our teams are showing signs of a revival.
The Under-23 boys have been drawn against Asian No. 1 Japan and Middle-Eastern giants Bahrain and Syria for the final round of the Asian Zone pre-Olympic qualifiers.
The seniors are down to play against Singapore, who have quite a number of “import” players in their ranks, in the pre-World Cup qualifiers.
It’s a tough call indeed for our lads.
We were once giants of Asia as well, striking fear in teams like Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia etc.
It seems even the sponsors can see that our football team is slowly but surely waking up from its decades-long slumber.
Telekom Malaysia have agreed to pump in RM24mil just for the national football team in a bid to help the boys reach the kind of standards we are used to.
Earlier this year, the FAM received a huge dose of boost when Astro signed a RM120mil four-year deal to become the Malaysian Super League’s (MSL) official broadcast media partner.
Astro even agreed to allocate an additional RM100mil for the MSL promotional campaign.
All these efforts can only augur well for the health of the sport as it bids to regain its place among the Asian elites.
But one thing is for sure, we still have a long, long way to go to reach those lofty heights. Let’s not kid ourselves.
But let’s give credit where it is due. And most of the plaudits should go to senior team coach Datuk K. Rajagopal and Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee.
And I am sure these two coaches are thrilled to bits to have Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea as “sparring partners” as they prepare to do battle in the pre-Olympic and pre-World Cup qualifiers.
Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea – these teams must be like heaven-sent to them.
But let’s hope FAM can continue to bring top teams - be it club sides or national squads - to help raise the profile of the Malaysian Tigers and for our boys to continue to raise their standards.
With three high-quality sparring partners - in Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea - let’s hope our boys can spring an upset (or two).
Now that will be even more amazing.
So, go get ‘em boys!
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