Friday, July 29, 2011
Changed Expectations Fuel Malaysian Woes
Back in 2008 Malaysia were drawn against Thailand, Vietnam and Laos in the ASEAN Football Federation Cup. After defeating Laos 3-0 hopes were high in the homeland that finally the Hariamau would make an impression in the region's leading competition. But successive defeats against Vietnam and Malaysia soon ended those hopes.
Then in January 2009 Malaysia hosted United Arab Emirates in an AFC Asian Cup Qualifier played at the KL Stadium in Cheras. The UAE won 5-0 in front of a sparse crowd and nobody could think of anything positive to say about Malaysian football.
The national team had become a farce alongside the governing body. The whole country seemed more interested in Manchester United and Liverpool than their own teams. One of the teams that made up the Malaysian Super League was founded from an American Idol type show...things had got that desperate.
Then, in a what was a surprise to many, Malaysia won the SEA Games in 2009. It shouldn't have been. They had been working very hard behind the scenes to put together a programme that would allow the very best local talent to bloom and prosper. The SEA Gams tiumph was just an early vindication.
A year later the full team won the AFF Cup with a young squad featuring many of the players who had SEA Games gold at home. Suddenly the laughing stock of the region had become the Double Kings of ASEAN and with a squad mostly aged about 24 and with a conveyor belt of talent behind them Malaysia seemed set fair to rule ASEAN for a long time to come.
Defeat in the World Cup Qualifier hasn't ended that dream. With the SEA Games later this year and Malaysia still in with a chance of reaching the Olympic Games in London next year there is still plenty for the fan of Malaysian football to crow about.
Losing to your bitterest foes is never easy. It's not meant to be. But this could be a pivotal moment for the young players in the yellow and black. The 4-6 reverse against Singapore is their first defeat in competitive football since those AFC Asian up Qualifiers in 2009 when they lost all four games.
How they respond will be crucial and coach Rajagobal will no doubt be keen to get his boys out playing as soon as possible.