Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Geylang United Trivia

Which two Singaporean international keepers started their careers in the Geylang United youth team?
Which two players have spent the longest with one team in Singapore and what was that team?
Which SLeague team had never won at Bedok Stadium since the competition began?

This kind of trivia is commonplace in England where fans are quick to absorb all sorts of nonsense about the game and their favourite team.

Less common in south east Asia where it seems a person's support for a team is judged by the number of replica shirts he has. Knowledge against materialism?!

The above questions come from Geylang United's excellent matchday programme. After years of whining about SLeague teams doing nothing to ocnnect with fans it is good to see the Eagles doing their bit. As well as the programme they have a small merchandising booth at home games offering a small selection of souveniers to fans. Interestingly foreign visitors, brought up on a culture of collecting, are picking up a few things as a momento of their time in Singapore.

Hopefully a few more locals may take the time to do the same.


Malaysia's London Dream Ends

Despite taking a 2-0 lead against Bahrain in their qualifier on Sunday Malaysia's Under 23s still went down 3-2 with three goals conceded in five late minutes.

These boys are knackered. They have worked hard all year, they need a rest ahead of the new season that begins in January. They do not need a tour of Australia as was mooted a few days back.


Results 28/11

Indonesia Premier League

PSMS v Persebaya 1-2
Persiraja v Persija (!) 3-3

Other games were scheduled but never happened. Arema flew all the way to Papua to play Persipura...but last year's champions had already withdrawn from the league and were playing n the Inter Island Cup. Who the hell allowed them to fly when they had no opponent? Change the game my arse. Persib were due to play Mitra Kukar but both teams have withdrawn. And Persija aren't Persija at all, they're Jakarta FC. What a joke...

Thai Premier League

Army v TTM Phichit 2-0 (Leanardo, Jakrapong) 3,125
Chiang Rai United v Bangkok Glass 2-2 (Wasan 2; Saruta, Souza) 8,300
Raj Navy v Buriram PEA 0-1 (Franck Ohandza) 4,376
Khon Kaen v Chonburi 0-2 (Adul, Pipob) 5,100

Buriram PEA go 13 points clear at the top of the TPL after a narrow victory against the Navy while Chonburi's victory in the north east just allows the myth that the TPL is a competition and not just run for the benefit of one team to continue that little longer.

1 - Buriram PEA 26 20 5 1 51-11 65
2 - Chonburi 26 15 7 4 49-23 52
3 - Muang Thong United 25 15 7 3 44-19 52


Tampines Rovers v Balestier Khalsa 5-0 (Mustafic Fahruddin 2, Aleksander Duric, Ahmad Latiff, Ahmad Fahmie) 2,106
Home United v Geylang United 5-0 (Masrezwan Masturi 3, Qiu Li, ShiJiayi) 786

Tampines Rovers champions of the SLeague for the first time since 2005. And in a comment as to how seriously the local media take football their one journo was asking how many times the Stags had won the trophy...never heard of research fella? Asian Football Pictures has some images from the game.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Turning Lebanese

Kelantan are building for an exciting season including AFC Cup action, will they be able to play their home games in Kota Bahru, and are taking advantage of new rules that allow them to sign foreigners.

In has come Lebanese striker Mohamed Ghaddar for example. He has proved a regular scorer for his national team, 26 goals in 46 games according to Wiki.

Other new signings for the North East club are Emmanuel Okine, a midfielder in the Patrick Vieria mould according to his new coach Peter Butler, and Danny Antwi, a striker.


Singapore Fan Club Of The Year

Intrigued by the nominations for Supporters of the Year in the SLeague. Normally SAFFC win it with their neo super hero style outfits and dangerously young cheerleaders and of course they are in the running again this year.

Looking at contenders this year, SAFFC, Gombak, Albirex Niigata and Young Lions, you get the feeling that for all the rhetoric that comes out of the FAS about rebranding the game it's all just same old, same old.

Why weren't the Hougang United fans shortlisted? Could it be because they are not part of the 'establishment'? Could it because they are run by themselves, not by the club?

It's almost as if the powers that be are scared of anything that lies out of their control. And that is no way to take football on the island forward be it SLeague 2.0, SLeague 3.0 or SLeague 875.0


Results 26/11

Indonesia Premier League

Persiba Bantul v Bontang 1-0 (Wahyu Wijiyanto)

The second game of a season that began six weeks ago saw Persiba, newly promoted, go to the top of the IPL


Tanjong Pagar v Hougang United 1-3 (Hafiz Nor; Diego Oliveria 3) 449 Asian Football Pictures

Thai Premier League

Sri Racha v Osotspa 1-1 (Cristiano Lopes; Pipat Thonkanya) 850
Police v Army 0-0 2,158
Si Sa Ket v Thai Port 0-1 (Mongkol) 5,614
BEC Tero v Muang Thong United 2-2 (Christian Kouakou Yao, Dagna; Koomson, Jakkrit?) 4,573

Muang Thong now 10 points off the pace but Buriram PEA had it tied up yonks ago.


Cheetahs Win The Big Cat Derby

I guess with the SLeague title to be decided tonight, probably at Tampines Stadium, many people decided not to bother about a meaningless game between Tanjong Pagar and Hougang United. Which was a bad move when you consider Hougang are never involved in dull games.

The Big Cat Derby! Jaguars and Cheetahs at a field in Clementi that looked like the Serengeti after a herd of gnus had tried fording a river. In such atrocious conditions the two teams served up a game that was mildly interesting for the neutral and would have had coaches pulling their hair out in frustration.

Tanjong Pagar started the brighter of the two teams and had enough clear cut chances before half time to have won two games. They converted none and at the break would have gone in very frustrated with the 0-0 scoreline.

However they did, finally, take the lead early in the second half, moments after I had packed my camera away, with the MC, and his deafening speaker system, kindly informing the sparse crowd that the score was indeed 1-0. Thanks for that, we would never have known of he hadn’t told us.

Then came a rapid fire hat trick from Hougang striker Diego Oliveria and it was game over. It was the kind of hat trick that would have people reaching for the record books but the Singapore Football Association don’t believe in such nonsense (they needed to be told when Aleksander Duric had reached 300 goals in the league!).

Typical Hougang. They tease their fans, and they do have some, by going down then putting their foot on the gas and seemingly scoring for fun. Life is never dull at Hougang despite their daft nickname, The Cheetahs…Singapore’s finest football export these days are match fixers so go figure!

For the statto - if you have followed Hougang every game this season you will have seen 118 goals in 33 games (55-63). For Tanjong Pagar fans not so many. Just 98 goals in their 33!

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Navibank Cup 2011

Vietnam is having another one of its little tournaments. The Navibank Cup 2011 is due to be held in Ho Chi Minh City 2-10 December and, according to Viet Football, will feature Geylang United and Chonburi as well as T&T Hanoi, Navibank Saigon and Binh Duong.

Which is all well and good. But according to the Thai Premier League fixture list, admittedly as reliable as an English red top, Chonburi are playing Army United on 3 December.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Vietnam & SEA Games Match Fixing

Hanoi. Vietnamese police are investigating whether the national under-23 side fixed a match at the recent Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia, Vietnam’s football authorities said Friday.

It comes after state-controlled press questioned the team’s 3-1 victory over Laos on November 17 at the Games in Indonesia.

“We are working with the police who accompanied the footballers to the Games and we will study their report,” Vietnam Football Federation vice-president Pham Ngoc Vien said.

The VFF had not formally requested the probe, he added.

Police officers accompany footballers and other athletes to the Games as a matter of routine, he said.

“We don’t have clear information on this question [of match-fixing]. If there were problems, we will settle them soon,” the official added.

Vietnamese match-fixing in the past has involved criminals ordering a particular scoreline.

In 2007, two former footballers were given jail terms for fixing an under-23 match against Burma at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games in return for cash payments.

Tuoi Tre newspaper reported on its Web site of the latest allegations: “Some actions during the game indicate that the team may have been manipulating the match to limit the win for Vietnam.”

It cited Trong Hoang’s penalty kick going wide and striker Van Quyet “praying” after Vietnam extended their lead to 3-1. Midfielder Hoang told the Tien Phong newspaper that “me and my team-mates are completely clean.”

The victory over Laos ensured Vietnam finished top of Group B. They went on to lose 2-0 to Indonesia in the semi-finals.

Corruption is widespread throughout Vietnamese society and has hit professional football particularly hard.

Vietnam’s pro league has been dogged by allegation of graft for much of the past decade.

In October, wealthy club owners mounted a coup against the state-controlled VFF, essentially agreeing to privatize the sport from next year amid concerns over corruption that threatened to fatally undermine the popularity of the local league.


Learning The Lessons

Will the lessons of the deaths at the SEA Games Final be learnt? Check out my Jakarta Globe Column


Indonesia Lose Automatic ACL Spot

As I intimated Persipura will not be entering the 2012 AFC Champions League. At least automatically. The AFC are obviously so unimpressed by the internal dicking around in Indonesian football that the automatic spot has been given to Buriram PEA from the Thai Premier League. Assuming of course they win the TPL!

In fact Buriram PEA probably won't be called Buriram PEA when they come up against the power of Japan and South Korea. Loko's Thai Fussball is reporting they will merge with Buriram FC to form the originally named Buriram United. The PEA 'franchise' who won the league while in Ayuthya a few years back, will be on the move but destination unknown.

Indonesia do get a play off spot as do Thailand, Australia, South Korea and China. Meanwhile the football crazy Qatar get four places. You can do that when you have a favoured son head the federation I guess.


This Is The Age Of The Train

The glamour of modern football eh?

Thai Port player Steve Robb tweeted earlier that he was at Hualampong Railway Station preparing to board an overnight train to Si Sa Ket ahead of their Thai Premier League game at the weekend!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


A Tour Too Much

The Malaysian football league may not have many teams. Just 14 in the top flight Super League and 12 in the Super League. But when you add the FA Cup and the Malaysia Cup what you have is a domestic season that begins in January and finishes at the end of October. Then the best players get to prepare for the SEA Games or the AFF Cup depending which year we are in.

That little lot does not take into account other international competitions like Asian Cup, Asian Games, World Cup of those annoying little four team competitions the Vietnamese insist on hosting each and every year.

Last Monday, in the SEA Games Final against Indonesia the Malaysian players were visibly wilting. If a football illiterate like me noticed I'm sure plenty others did. The Syrian coach for example. The Syrians won 2-0 last night at the Bukit Jalil in an Olympic Qualifier just 36 hours after the Malaysian had returned home from their Jakarta success.

Sunday sees them play Bahrain in another qualifier.

The new season begins early January. I'm sure the players would appreciate some down time with their families before beginning pre season training with their clubs. But even that looks like a distant dream with news the Malaysian Football Association is planning to take the Under 23s to Australia during December to play some friendlies there as well as some training.

I love the way the Malaysians have gone from being laughing stock to champions of South East Asia over the last four years and one of the reasons they have made such great strides is there willingness to have their best players compete on a regular basis against better players and for sure Australia fits into this developmental plan.

But so does down time. December, the hottest time of the year in Australia. This most certainly ain't the right place nor the right time. Give the players a well earned breather, Australia can wait till the middle of next year. It ain't going anywhere...


Another First For Indonesia?

Indonesia is forever pushing the frontiers of the possible in football and now they have come up with something that will take some surpassing in the global community.

Persib Bandung played Semen Padang in the opening game of the Indonesia Premier League season back in the middle of October. It was the first game of the new season and, to date, the only game of the new season.

Much has happened since then including Persib deciding to leave the IPL and join the Indonesia Super League. Next Saturday they are scheduled to host Persiram in what will be their second home game of the season but their first in ISL.

Two games. Two leagues...

Now come on, you tell me another country in the world where football can reach such farcical levels…


Jakarta FC, Persija & The AFC Cup

In the normal scheme of things there would be three Indonesian teams preparing for intercontinental competition; Persipura as ISL champions, Semen Padang as runners up and Persija for finishing third in the absence of any Indonesia Cup last season.

The AFC will only recognise the PSSI as the body qualified to run football in the country. They did last year and they will again this year. The fact that last year's PSSI are now rebels and last year's rebels are now PSSI counts for nothing.

Teams that enter the ISL this season can only enter AFC competitions with the say so from their host FA. If Persipura, for example, refuse to join a PSSI sanctioned league then if the PSSI refuse to nominate them, they can't compete.

With me so far?

Is it then a coincidence that the team formerly known as Jakarta FC in last years's rebel league are keen to call themselves Persija in this year's official league. Does that then mean, in theory, if my cynicism is correct, and of course it may not be, a team a club that was in a rebel league last year can just change their name and be accepted into AFC competitions with the region's governing body saying nothing?


Malaysia Back To Earth

BUKIT JALIL: Barely four days after the country celebrated a scintillating victory in the final of the Sea Games football final in Jakarta, the Tigers suffered a reality check.

Last night at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, the message was chilling, and yet loud and clear — that though the Sea Games gold signaled a triumph, Malaysian are still minnows when they step out of the boundaries of Southeast Asia.

Ong Kim Swee’s boys suffered a 2-0 defeat to Syria in the Olympics qualifier which virtually puts them out of the running. Japan and Syria are favourites to move on to the next round from this group.

While Malaysia seemed o have held their own in the first-half which ended in a stalemate, they were visibly tired when play resumed. Solaiman Solaiman scored the first goal for the visitors in the 52nd minute followed by Nassouh Nakkdahil two minutes before the end.

Well, if one wanted to look for a silver lining from yesterday’s game, it was this — if there was a Malaysian player Syrian coach Imad Khankan was impressed with, it was Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor.

The KL-born lad had missed the flight to Jakarta because of an injury but was a pleasant surprise with his performance last night.

Wan Zack, however, suffered cramps towards the end of the match and was substituted by Izuan Solahuddin.

“Your number 16 (Wan Zack) was very good. He played well,” said Khankan.

“The win was very important for us… important points. We studied the Malaysian team well before the game.”

Khankan and his team picked up pointers while watching the Indonesia-Malaysia Sea Games final match on Monday.

“We know Malaysia played a tough game on Monday and the players would be tired, especially in the second-half. We took advantage and pressured the Malaysian players and we got the goals,” added Khankan.

Malaysia will take on Bahrain next at Bukit Jalil Stadium on Sunday. Syria, meanwhile, will play Japan on the same day.

Team list

Ahmad Fakri Saarani, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor (Izuan Solahuddin), Thamil Arasu Ambumamee, Zubir Azmi, Nazmi Faiz Mansor, Amer Saidin, Muslim Ahmad, Fandi Othman (Nazirul Naim Che Hashim), Mahali Jasuli, Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (GK, C), K. Gurusamy (D. Saarvindran)


Singapore Lions Taking Shape. Slowly.

Next year sees a Singapore team competing in the Malaysia Super League, a throwback to the times when they competed in the prestigious Malaysia Cup fondly remembered by fans of that generation.

The Singapore Lions is a team being specially built to compete north of the causeway, the season starts in January, and is being slowly, almost painfully, put together piece by piece.

The latest link is Shahril Ishak who had a pretty torrid spell in Indonesia last season Persib and Medan Chiefs. He joins the likes of Khairul Amri (pictured left) who has had a pretty torrid career so far with injuries putting him on a par with Abou Diaby for time spent in treatment rooms.

While the idea of having a Singapore team playing in Malaysia is a meritous one, and one I have been calling for for some time, the Singapore FA are walking a tightrope. The best option I would have thought would have been to send the Young Lions. Malaysia after all are sending their Harimau Muda to return the favour.

By creating this new team Singapore effectively are taking, or trying to take, some of their best players out of their own league and playing them up north but does this mean they are belittling their own domestic competitions? Certainly they need to make sure they don't give that impression.

A Singapore team is going to Malaysia to compete against some very strong teams. It is incumbent on those behind the team to make sure they are not humiliated, too often, playing in hostile atmospheres. But at the same time SLeague fans need to see the best players as well in their own competition.

Let's be honest here. There are three teams in the SLeague who are all about young players. Young Lions, Woodlands Wellington and Tanjong Pagar (and they occupy three of the four bottom places in the table). That's more than enough experimentation for one league I would imagine. Sending Young Lions north would not dilute the domestic league, Harimau Muda would strengthen it and the Cubs would learn invaluable experience about pressure and inconvenience.


It's Down To Sunday

Ahmad Latif's goal just after the hour mark means that the SLeague won't be decided until Sunday when both Home United and Tampines Rovers play their final game of the season.

You could say it's advantage Tampines as they have a narrow one point lead going into Crunch Sunday (hey, ESPN do it all the time) but Home United have the superior goal difference...not that that is likely to come in to play.

Home United host Geylang United at Bishan Stadium while Tampines Rovers play Balestier Khalsa at their Tampines Stadium. The Stags need three points then it doesn't matter what Home do.

Tampines v Balestier Khalsa 2011

30/4 5-0
06/8 1-0

Balestier Khalsa last 5 games DWLWL

Tampines last 5 games WWWWW

Home United v Geylang United 2011

26/4 2-1
08/8 3-1

Balestier Khalsa last 5 games LLWWL

Home United last 5 games LWWWW

1 - Tampines Rovers 32 24 3 5 66-25 75
2 - Home United 32 24 2 6 76-29 74

The question is, which game will I go to? I think it will be...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Malaysia Winners - Last 5 Years


Safiq Trials With Bluebirds

KUALA LUMPUR: National skipper Safiq Rahim will get his long overdue chance to impress at Malaysian-owned English Second Division side Cardiff City.

The 24-year-old Selangor midfielder leaves for Cardiff today with high hopes of achieving a first for Malaysian football and take his football career to new heights.

National striker Safee Sali, who now plies his trade with Pelita Jaya in the Indonesian Super League, did enough to impress Cardiff manager Malky Mackay during the two weeks he was on trial in September. Safee was even dubbed the “Malaysian Beckham” by a Welsh newspaper and is likely to be a given a second trial by Cardiff.

Safiq, known for scoring with his trademark free-kicks, was earlier scheduled to leave for Cardiff in August but it was postponed because of his commitments with Selangor in the Malaysia Cup.

He scored from a free-kick against English Premier League giants Liverpool in Malaysia’s 3-6 defeat in a friendly at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil in July.

“It is a chance that I have been waiting for. This is the best opportunity for me to show my football skills. I know it is tough but nothing is impossible. It is time for us to show that there are skilful footballers in Malaysia too,” said an excited Safiq, who captained Malaysia against Arsenal and Liverpool.

“Whatever the outcome, I hope to learn the finer points of the game during my trial at Cardiff and take my game to a higher level. Of course my dream is to become the first Malaysian to play in England.”

Cardiff is owned by Malaysian tycoon Datuk Chan Tien Ghee. He is eager to see a Malaysian playing professional football in England.

“We are glad to have Safiq in Cardiff for three weeks. He will be given the chance to train with the first team,” said Tien Ghee.

FA of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said Safiq’s trials with Cardiff “is another step in the right direction” for Malaysian footballers.

“England have the best professional football league in the world. Our players must do more to impress the coaches and managers. They must also be highly disciplined,” added Tengku Abdullah.

COMMENT - I would love to see a South East Asian player make it in England or Europe but it's gotta be because they are good enough. Not because the owner is trying to impress people back home. It ain't easy for a player from this region to get a work permit. Period. If the guys who have bought QPR and Cardiff are so keen to help local football then get involved in local football. Don't use it for cheap headlines.


Thugs Threaten SLeague Decider

On the day Home United travel to Tampines Stadium to battle it out for the SLeague title I can reveal plans for widespread football hooliganism that could bring chaos to public transport and even see houses prices fall. A Singaporean double whammy.

While thousands of Home United fans are expected to make the journey east by bus and MRT hard core Tampines hooligans are planning to give them a hot reception at various points in their journey.

I understand an advance guard of thugs will be milling round Payar Lebar Interchange, possibly disguised as students and nuns, hoping to intercept Home fans changing trains from Bishan Interchange while another firm will be at Bedok Station, provocatively close to butter rivals Geylang United’s Bedok Stadium, waiting for any Home fans that travel via an alternative route.

Yet more Tampines hooligans, sinisterly disguised as commuters and shop workers to fool any attempts to round them up, will be hanging round the Tampines Interchange in case any Home fans travel by bus.

The hooligans hope their extensive plans will prevent any Home fans from actually entering the stadium while quick to point out that they are only planning for travelling fans using public transport. “In Away days they travelled by train, they do the same here lah,’ said one hooligan who didn’t want to be named.

Commuters and home owners in the area have expressed outrage at the possible carnage and have called on the government to do more. Wendy, 24, has an appointment at a salon in Tampines at 7pm, just before kick off but, thanks to Jakarta Casual, she has been able to reschedule. ‘It’s my friend’s wedding so it’s important I look my best,’ she explained before adding that if ‘hooligans wanted to fight the government and the MRT should lay on extra buses and trains so the rest of us ‘won’t be inconvenienced.’

Meanwhile Eugene, a 17 year old student, says the government should give football hooligans jobs ‘so they won’t cause problems in society. A big thumbs up to Jakarta Casual for making us aware of this story.’

Not all of Tampines hooligans agree with the planned trouble. A well known face, who I shall call X in case his teacher is reading this, is worried about the large number of National Servicemen who follow Home United. ‘What if I meet my captain in a fight? Could be embarrassing lah’, while another lad well known in football circles has already said he won’t be coming. He has a cold.

B though is not concerned. B, not his real name, is one of Tampines top boys, a real hard case who once submitted his homework a day late. He says the aim is to make Singapore a hub for football hooligans throughout Asia pointing to the excellent public transportation, large open spaces and world class medical facilities. He then went on to add that he won’t actually be taking part in any disturbances because he needs to prep for an important exam tomorrow at school.

In the meantime, Singapore holds its breath.


Persib Interested In Fahmie

Reports in Indonesia today suggest that Kelantan and Malaysia goalkeeper Khairul Fahmie is a target for Persib Bandung. Fahmie, who has impressed many with his performances for the national team on the way to winning the AFF Cup last year and the SEA Games earlier this week.

However his coach at Kelantan, Englishman Peter Butler, has said that Fahmie is going nowhere. Talking exclusively to Jakarta Casual he said ‘He (Fahmie) has a contract with us for this season. Kelantan is a bigger club than Persib so why would he wish to join a club which is not competing in AFC Cup’.

Butler is in his second spell in the north east of Malaysia and has previously worked in Indonesia where he coached Persiba Balikpapan. While in the oil city he helped develop I Made Wirwawn into one of the finest keepers in the country and Butler feels Fahmie would be better off staying with Kelantan ‘where he will learn more and improve.’

UPDATE - Persib coach Mamic denies he is interested in Fahmie.


Kelantan Planning For New Season

With former West Ham player Peter Butler back in the hot seat Kelantan are lining up a busy pre season ahead of the new season that begins in January.

Last Friday they defeated the Maldives national team in a friendly in KL with an estimated 7,000 fans cheering them on. New Ghanaian striker Dennis Antwi scored both goals.

Tonight, in keeping with the international flavour, they will play Balestier Khalsa.

Then it's back to Malaysia for games with ATM on 26th, Negeri Sembilan on 29th and Perak on 1st December.


The Incredible Shrinking LPI

The LPI that was once going to feature 24 teams is losing clubs on a regular basis. The latest to jump ship to the ISL are Persib. They were scheduled to play Mitra Kukar in the LPI on 26 November but first Mitra Kukar left, and the game was called off. Now Persib have followed suit and their first game in the ISL will be one week later against Persiram.

Not sure where that leaves the LPI apart from with egg on their face. The AFC and FIFA will be rolling their eyes saying not again as Indonesian football continues to wrestle with itself.

Would the last team(s) in the LPI please turn out the lights...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Bangladesh Lose Friendly In Malaysia

Dhaka November 21: Bangladesh national team lost Negeri Sembilan by 3-2 goals in the practice match played at the Tuanku Abdur Rahman Stadium, Malaysia on Monday.

The Malaysian premier league side went up in the 25th minute after Emmanuel scored the opener but Bangladesh midfielder Shahed scored the equalizer in the 44th minute with a placing shot off a cross of Anik.

Negeri Sembilan skipper Md. Shukur bin Adan destroyed Bangladesh scoring two goals within three minutes. Adan put his team ahead in the 63rd minute and followed with another in the 65th.

Malek, the U-19 forward reduced the margin in the 87th minute after Anik curved another neat cross from the right flank and Malek unleashed a powerful shot to score the goal.

Nikola Ilievski, the head coach of Bangladesh vowed to work hard in the defence after the match. “Negeri Sembilan is a strong side and put pressure on the defence, the defence made some mistakes and they took the advantage, however at the end of the day the result is not a bad one” said the Macedonian.

Azraai Khor Abdullah, the Negeri Sembilan coach praised Bangladesh’s effort. “Bangladesh played well but took time to settle, they grew in the confidence with the time” said Azraai.

BFF President Kazi Salahuddin was present in the ground and watched the match.

Bangladesh team will return to Dhaka on Tuesday.


No Rest For SEA Games Champs

The 2011 Malaysian season kicked off back in January and for the members of the victorious Under 23 team that won the SEA Games on penalties in Jakarta last night they must wait a bit longer for their season to end.

They flew back to KL today after their 120 minute and penalty slog against Indonesia and tomorrow night they play Syria at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in KL in the Olympics Qualifiers. Their second game is against Bahrain on Sunday at the same venue.

Tickets cost 40RM, 20RM and 5RM.

Malaysia are currently bottom of their group after losing their opening game against Japan 2-0.

21/09 v Japan 0-2
23/11 v Syria (H)
27/11 v Bahrain (H)
05/02 v Bahrain (A)
22/02 v Japan (H)
14/03 v Syria (A)

More about Malaysia's Olympic Games campaign on Malaysia Football.


No Guts, No Glory

Not many of us will have experienced anything like it. There are 100,000 people in the stadium urging you on while tens of millions round the country will have their fists clenched on the edge of their seats in homes and warungs. Despite everyone being behind you it must be the loneliest walks ever.

Ahead lies the penalty box and a small white spot. Beyond that the goal with Khairul Fahmie, one of the best young keepers in the region, jumping up and down, trying to distract you. Perhaps even engaging in a bit of sledging.

The goal seems so small. Tiny white sticks, pencil thin, are dwarved by the double tier stand behind full to overflowing with fans in red and white cheering, praying, hoping.

All you have to do is put the ball past the keeper and everyone will be happy. Your team mates, disappearing behind you in the all too familiar huddle in the centre circle, will rush to pat you on the back while the supporters in and out the stadium will release enormous amounts of pent up energy. At least until the next taker.

It’s impossible to replicate that long, lonely walk in training. For Gunawan Dwi Cahyo, nothing could have prepared him for this moment. Indeed the look on his face as the camera recorded his own personal long march for You Tube and the watching millions in the region told its own story. His lips moved incessantly in silent prayer but the rest of his body seemed frozen in time. He was moving but he was giving off the distinct impression he would rather be anywhere than a football field in Jakarta about to kick a ball 12 yards.

It was Gunawan of course who had given Indonesia the lead in the first half but that was a long time ago. It had been cancelled out when sloppy defending had allowed Malaysia to equalize.

After the game Indonesian coach Rahmad Darmawan was reported to have said some of his players went missing when he called for volunteers to take penalties to decide the destiny of the SEA Games gold. If this is true then it is a shocking admission that Indonesia is still far from being a major football power in their own region.

In a nut shell, Indonesian footballers have it too easy. They are cocooned from the world; they play in a domestic league where they are big fish, on big salaries, lording it, playing Billy Big Bollocks in a small pond.

Contrast that with Malaysia. I never tire of repeating this. This Malaysia team, and the ones coming up behind them, have learnt about intimidation and pressure the hard way. They have played in Slovakia, far from their comfort zone; they have won trophies in Vientiane and Jakarta. In short they have become winners the hard way and they are stronger for it. Both physically and mentally.

And next year they will enter a team in Singapore’s SLeague. There will be no love lost there, believe me.

Meanwhile Singapore will enter a team in Malaysia’s league next season and again, taken from their comfort zone of travelling short distances on the bus after a game they will have to endure hostile crowds and unfamiliar conditions. A 12 hour trek back from Kelantan after losing in the last minute in front of a partisan crowd with the ref giving everything to your hosts does wonders for building team spirit.

Playing endless friendlies against local teams in familiar surroundings does nothing. Not when the pressure is on.


To Recap The SEA Games Final

To recap a game that will probably be ignored by the rest of the world.

  • 120 minutes of pulsating football.
  • a good referring performance
  • a game played in good spirit by both teams
  • an estimated 100,000 + fans in the stadium
  • thousands more outside watching on big screen TVs
  • 2 fans killed in crushes outside
  • ticket boxes set on fire
  • chaotic organisation
  • Malaysia arrive and depart in armoured personnel carriers
  • last penalty slips through Indonesia keeper's fingers
  • heartbreak for Indonesia
  • euphoria for Malaysia winning back to back SEA Games
  • and all this for an Under 23 competition
Like I said, all that excitement will probably be ignored by the outside world, except perhaps the deaths, because South East Asia doesn't have its own football in their eyes. In their eyes people here are just fodder for EPL clubs to set up academies, come on remote tours and sell replica shirts to.

Monday, November 21, 2011


SEA Games Final - Malaysia Penalties Success Is Meiga's Heartbreak

Where to begin?

There are times when perhaps we should just hold our hands up and say well done to both teams, neither deserve to lose. Go on, share the bloody thing. Won't happen though. We demand winners and where there is a winner there must be a loser. The crying shame of sport.

On 18' with Indonesia leading 1-0 through Dwi Cahyo Gunawan I turned to the wife and said Malaysia would win. She turned to me and told me the spare room has no air conditioning. Hey ho!

A game of heroes, it's a shame it will be remembered for the villains. Goalscorer Gunawan was shitting bricks approaching the penalty spot. Why the hell was he chosen ahead of the likes of Diego is a mystery all Monday morning quarterbacks will debate for a long time to come. And Meiga Kurnia. The potential to become a truly great keeper, the last pen by Baddrol Bahthiar was driven with such power it squirmed through his fingers and bobbled oh so slowly over the line.

Malaysia won this because that's what they do. The win things. They were down and out towards the end of the second half, they had resorted to long passes and the possession football they had enjoyed earlier in the game had gone, replaced by Indonesia's exuberance and passion.

At crucial moments in the game the hosts were naive. Strikers were slow to retreat back on side after attacks had broken down, defenders went for spectacular high kicks like they were auditioning for the can-can. Exuberance and passion may get fans on the edge of their seats but the team needs Egi, their captain, to slow things down once in a while and play cute. Like baddrol did for Malaysia. Players with promise yes, Diego, Abdurahman, Egi, Meiga will soon be knocking on the national team's door, but too many lapses of concentration.

SEA Games winners in 2009, ASEN Cup winners in 2010. Now this, a memorable hat trick for the Malaysians. They may celebrate tonight, quietly, in their hotel but when they return to KL they will start thinking about the Olympic Qualifiers against Syria and Bahrain next week. And then the SLeague which they will enter next season. And then the ASEAN Cup one more time next December.

Because that is what this Malaysia team is. It's on a journey and looking at the production line back in KL they are looking at dominating the game in the region for the next five years unless someone like Indonesia can finally put the off the field bullshit behind them and start concentrating on what happens on the grass.

For Indonesia the SEA Games final was the destination, such is the band aid approach to the game in the country. I have mentioned what Malaysia will now be looking at. Indonesia? Their players have no idea what league they will be playing in or when their next game is, forget what the Under 23s will do next. Chronic mismanagement has destined Bambang Pamungkas' generation to failure, they must not be allowed to do the same to this exciting crop of players.

UPDATE - whoops, forgot the score!

Malaysia v Indonesia 1-1
Malaysia won 5-4 on penalties


The Gobshite

So you;re at a football match somewhere in Indonesia. You buy your ticket and you kind a place in the stand or on the terraces and you mind your own business. You don't bother reading a programme cos there ain't one. You don't bother going to the toilets 'cos they're disgusting. You don't do much in fact 'cos there ain't much to do. Except wait for the game to start.

Which is kind of dull the world over. I remember getting into see Arsenal play Aston Villa back in 1981, the year alone will explain the significance of the game to many, and with a large crowd expected fans were advised to get in early. Which I did. Like three hours early. Toilets were shit and there wasn't much to eat, even the roasted peanuts had difficulty moving round the packed terraces selling his stuff.

But I, as ever, digress.

Every once in a while a fan will look round the terraces and see a bule. This, in his mind, is absolutely fucking hilarious and he will make some absolutely fucking hilarious comment like 'look, a bule (white skinned foreigner in the local vernacular), and then other bored souls will look around and they to will point and say 'look a bule'. This learning by rotation comes from schooldays, no one ever learns how to paparphrase 'look, a bule!'

So you spend a few uncomfortable moments having dozens of people turning round, looking at you, pointing and parrotting what the other folks have said. You reach for your hand phone desperate for some tosser to spam you, asking for some credit just so you can look busy and ignore being the centre of attention.

What is funny is the voices. Across the country they are high pitched barks heavy with nicotene and puberty. The laughter as raucous as the voice.

Luckily it never happens for long. Soon even the sight of a buile at a football match becomes common place and they switch their attention to something, or someone else. You breath a sigh of relief and carry on sitting on the cold hard terrace in the humidity doing nothing.

I'm sure they do get other foreigners at football matches here. In fact I know they do. You would think that they would become used to the fact there are white skinned people who go to the football and are not actually professional footballers pr look like professional footballers.

I often get asked if I'm a coach. OK, so perhaps my shape is similar to Benny Dollo, former Persija and Indonesia coach, but do they think I would have queued up to buy a ticket if I was involved in the game professionally when I could probably get my hands on some freebies?

I remember at one game there was one particularly annoying indidvidual who wouldn't leave it alone. Once the first echos of mirth had died down he carried, 'bule, look, bule,' ad infinitum. White man, Indonesian footbal stadium, yeah, it's fucking hilarious fella. It was funny actually. 'Cos this particular this particular timewas wearing a very poor Liverpool replica shirt.

Picture the scene. Some provincial Indonesian town hundreds of kilometres from Jakarta. A local fan wearing a football shirt from a team thousands of miles away who he couldn't find on a map, who wouldn't know the words to 'You'll Never Walk Alone' looking at me as if I'm the odd one. Eh?

The best gobshite of al though actually ignored me totally. It was during the ASEAN Under 16s a few years back in Jakarta. This lad turned up to every game which I thought at the time was very dedicated of him. But then I noticed everytime Bahrain played he would hurl abuse at them in Arabic. Which wasn't very smart of him. Because the non playing members of the squad were sat very close to him and he didn't have any mates.

Of course one game it happened. In the empty stadium his voice carried along way. The Bahrainis jumped up and confronted the gobshite who puffed his chest out from behind a couple of more sensible fans. A few slaps were thrown, less landed, before the players on the field saw what was going on. One of the players charged down the tunnel and up the steps into the grandstand to have a pop while the gobshiite was escorted meekly from the stadium.


SEA Games Final Preview

It’s the dream final for the SEA Games. A repeat of last year’s ASEAN Cup, albeit at Under 23, today’s final between Indonesia and Malaysia will keep the organizers happy as fans queue to see the two foes go head to head for local pride.

At least 88,000 are expected to fill the Bung Karno with the vast majority hoping to see the local side win and the Malaysians humiliated. The two sides though will go into the game with different agendas.

Indonesia need a trophy. Any trophy. The football daft country has gone decades without a sniff of success and with the domestic game in disarray the sight of captain Egi Melgiansyah lifting the trophy tonight will be a massive shot in the arm for the people and the country.

Malaysia though may have their eyes, at least subconsciously, on a bigger prize. They have the SEA Games already, and the ASEAN Cup. But their eyes are fixed firmly on bigger things and once the houhah surrounding the SEA Games has faded they will be focusing on their Olympics Qualifiers against Syria and Bahrain.

With some players missing from their final line up Malaysia won’t of course allow themselves to be rolled over by their Indonesian cousins. Local pride, and football, won’t allow that. But defeat for Malaysia won’t necessarily be a disaster, not if they can move one step closer to their ultimate prize of London next year.

These boys are unlikely to be fazed by the Bung Karno full house. After all some of them played in the stadium when they won the AFF Cup last year. And having won in the group stage and played in Slovakia they are used to hostility and have overcome it in the past.

Rahmad Darmawan has no such consolation. Indeed the chances are high he will be given the reigns of the national team, a poisoned chalice if ever there was one, after the SEA Games has finished. He has been without doubt the most successful Indonesian coach of recent years winning the title with Persipura (2005) and Sriwijaya (2007) as well as a number of Cup triumphs.

But anything less than winning tonight won’t be accepted by the myopic home support who see home advantage and the power of the young Papuan players as their surest guarantee of success.

Like Malaysia RD is used to winning trophies. His players are not. At times it seems like sheer exuberance has helped them get this far and it remains to be seen whether the 1-0 defeat against Malaysia in the group stage hangs heavy in the players’ minds.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Mitra Kukar To Withdraw?

With just one week before the Indonesia Premier League is due to restart after a lengthy break for the SEA Games comes news that Mitra Kukar, who won promotion from the Divisi Utama last season, may withdraw and join the Indonesia Super League.

Mitra Kukar are due to play Persib next Saturday but a Persib fan site, Persibholic, is suggesting the team from East Kalimantan won't play the game as there is a big chance they will withdraw from the competition.

If they do pull out it will be another kick in the teeth for the #changethegame who started last season's LPI with plenty of bluster about how they would do things better but then couldn't finish their own debut season. They then announced 24 clubs would join their newly reconstituted IPL only for seven to pull out. Mitra Kukar could be the eighth!

Everybody has teething problems with a new project, for sure, but to lose 33% of your strength after just 90 minutes of football is downright careless!


It's A Repeat Of AFF Cup 2010

Malaysia limped past Myanmar 1-0, Indonesia huffed and puffed before defeating Vietnam 2-0 (Patrick Wanggai, Titus Bonai) so the SEA Games Final in Jakarta tomorrow night is a rerun of last year's AFF Cup Final between Indonesia and Malaysia.

Expect another sell out crowd at the Bung Karno as the ticket prices and rain are doing nothing to dampen Indonesian's enthusiasm for, finally, following a winning team.

But Malaysia? They have grown used to winning. They won the AFF Cup last year at the same venue. Many of their players will have been playing in Slovakia on a regular basis over the last few years. These guys eat hostility for breakfast along with their Frosties.


Home Secure First Half Of Double

It's every schoolboy's dream. You're in the Cup Final, it's heading for stalemate. Then, right at the death, you pop up and score the winner. Arsenal are past masters of this; think Alan Sunderland in 1979 and Andy Linighan in 1993.

In yesterday's Singapore Cup Final it was the turn of Frederic Mendy to live the dream. His goal, two minutes from the end, won the Cup for Home United for a record fifth time and ensured the Protectors half of a domestic double.

It was a hard fought victory with Home picking up five yellows, four of them going to their foreign players, in front of a pretty decent crowd of 3,322.

Next up for Home is the small matter of an SLeague game against Tampines Rovers on 23 November. The maths are simple. Win it and Home United are champions.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Thai Coach Apologises


The Thai football team yesterday offered apologises to fans for their early exit at the SEA Games.

The squad returned home yesterday after three defeats and only one win in Group A at the biennial event.

"I apologise to our fans for our failure," said coach Prapol Pongpanich.

"I and some other officials will take a break from football for a while."

He said several players had to play for the full national side in their World Cup qualifying campaign while others got injured.

And Prapol believes there must be better management and planning before a tournament.

"I think the president of the Thai FA [Worawi Makudi] knows this problem because he watched every game at the stadium," he said.

Striker Ronnachai Rangsiyo said: "I know how the fans feel but I can assure you that everybody gave their all. We had only a short preparation period while other countries trained for a long time before the tournament."

Thailand lost to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia and beat Cambodia at the SEA Games. It was the first time in Games history that Thailand suffered two consecutive first-round exits.

Thailand had won the football gold eight times in a row before going out in the opening round in the previous tournament in Laos in 2009.

COMMENT - sorry, I have done nothing with the structure of this story. It is just the writing style of a professional journalist where one sentence equals one paragraph.


Now Singapore Blame Preparation (Or Lack)

JAKARTA - His Singapore under-23 side crashed out of the SEA Games football tournament on Thursday night, but Slobodan Pavkovic (picture) was game enough to meet the media over breakfast yesterday.

A year ago the Lions team were booted out in the group stages of the AFF Suzuki Cup and, along with coach Radojko Avramovic, faced a torrent of criticism back home.

Pavkovic's demeanour suggested he believed they would not get the same treatment. "We didn't qualify for the semis, so I can't say that this was a success. We did our best, but it wasn't enough, it's as simple as that," he said.

"I don't think I would've done anything differently. All my decisions were made because of the preparation that we had before we came here, if we had different preparation I would've done things differently."

Eyebrows were raised when Pavkovic, the technical director of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), was pulled from his Jalan Besar office and appointed head coach of the squad.

But Pavkovic said: "I have 25 years of coaching experience in five countries, including being the head coach of the (then) Yugoslavia under-19 team, and Kuwait. Because of my international experience, we thought I could help the team.

"But you can't just look at what happened here these two weeks, you have to look at what happened the entire season.

"Here, finishing was our biggest problem, and we only had one other issue: the game against Indonesia, but I can say that all of us did our best (given the conditions) at this moment."

Ten days before the team arrived here, the squad was still not finalised, and eventually, six players were forced to miss out on the tournament.

Out of the 20-man squad, seven had consistently missed training sessions.

National Service commitments affected many of the players.

Said Pavkovic: "Our preparations were not good enough for our target to qualify for the final."

The team also faced a constantly changing schedule, players suffered from a stomach bug and then were forced to play a rampant Indonesia team in the searing 2pm Jakarta heat less than 48 hours after their clash against Cambodia.

Under such a strain, the team displayed a unity and fighting spirit that impressed Pavkovic.

"We've seem improvements in the four elements - taking responsibility (on the pitch), having a winning mentality, fighting spirit and teamwork.

We've been working on this the entire season and everything seemed to connect here, especially in the last game against Thailand (Singapore won 2-0).

"It is this kind of centralised training that improves players the most ... we need to keep this team together and give them international exposure."

Friday, November 18, 2011


EXCLUSIVE! The Latest On Indonesia

In answer to many requests about the latest here in Indonesia, hold on to your hats,

Umm, you see, there maybe, these, umm, but then again, you know, but also, err, then, but on the other hand, yeah, you see, umm, yeah, no, clearly, you know, umm, you see, there maybe, these, umm, but then again, you know, but also, err, then, but on the other hand, yeah, you see, umm, yeah, no, clearly, you know, there maybe, these, umm, but then again, you know, but also, err, then, but on the other hand, yeah, so there, you see, there maybe, these, umm, but then again, you know, but also, err, then, but on the other hand, yeah, you see, umm, yeah, no, clearly, you know, umm, you see, there maybe, these, umm, but then again, you know, but also, err, then, but on the other hand, yeah, you see, umm, yeah, no, clearly, you know, there maybe, these, umm, but then again, you know, but also, err, then, but on the other hand, yeah.

Hope that clears everything!


Singapore Cup Final

Tomorrow sees the Singapore Cup Final taking place at the Jalan Besar Stadium. Home United will look to complete the first leg of a domestic double when they take on League Cup winners Albirex Niigata.

Last year's affair saw Bangkok Glass defeat Tampines Rovers 1-0 (programme cover left) while I got shitfaced in an infamous bar district with persons unknown and returned home with just a toy bus for my son.

In fact if you want trivia here's some. My first ever football game in Asia was a cup semi final between Geylang International and another team in 1991 at the Jalan Besar Stadium. I have never been able to find out who they played that night though they did go on to win the cup that year.

The ingapore Cup began in it's current format in 1997 and it won't surprise anyone with a passing interest in the game there to know that SAFFC have been the dominant team in the competition, winning it four times while Home United can overtake that record if they win tomorrow against the Japanese side.

The bus, by the way, went the way of most things I buy my little Gooner. He broke the bloody thing.


Tough Tests In India For Malaysia

While their South East Asian neighbours were either being thrashed in the latest World Cup Qualifiers or were focused on the SEA Games in Indonesia, Malaysia were hard at work looking to sustain their recent run of success.

They played a couple of friendlies in India against the national team and drew their first game 1-1 (Safiq Rahim) before losing the second 3-2 when Pelita Jaya striker Safee Sali scored twice.

The Squad

Goalkeeper : Gunasekaran Jeevanathan (Selangor), Mohd Farizal Marlias (Negeri Sembilan), Mohd Sharbinee Allawee Ramli (Terengganu)

Defence : Mohd Nasriq Baharom (Selangor), Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, Norhafiz Zamani Misbah, Mohd Faizal Muhammad (Negeri Sembilan), Mazlizam Mohamad (Terengganu), Abdul Aziz Ismail, Mohd Rizal Fahmi Abdul Rosid (Kelantan), Mohd Azmi Muslim (Kedah), Amirizwan Taj Tajudin (UiTM)

Midfield : Mohd Bunyamin Umar, Mohd Shafiq Rahim (Selangor), Kunalan Subramaniam, Shahurain Abu Samah (Negeri Sembilan), Mohd Ashaari Shamsuddin, Joseph Kalang Tie (Terengganu), Suppiah Chanturu (Kelantan), Amar Rohidan (Kedah)

Strikers : Abdul Hadi Yahya, Abdul Manaf Mamat (Terengganu), Khyril Muhymeen Zambri, Mohd Faizal Abu Bakar (Kedah), Shahrizal Mohd Saad (Johor FC), Mohd Safee Mohd Sali (Pelita Jaya, Indonesia)


Bangladesh Prepare For SAFF In Malaysia

After Arsenal, Liverpool and that other club, forget their name, toured Malaysia earlier this year, chances are the visit of Bangladesh won't excite too many people beyond the migrant workers that build the country.

On Sunday though the Bangladesh national team will play a friendly against Malaysia Cup winners Negeri Sembilan.

The one off game is part of Bangladesh's preparations for the South Asian Football Federation Cup next month being held in India.

Please note one of the Bangladesh players is called Emily.

Goalkeeper: Mamun Khan, Biplob Bhattyacharjee, Md. Shahidul Alam.

Defence: Nasirul Islam Nasir, , Md. Sujan, Mamun Mia, Ariful Islam, Rezaul Karim,

Midfield: Pranotosh Kumar Das, Abdul Baten Mazumdar Komol, Mezbaul Haque Manik, Emon Mahmud, Shahedur Alam Shahed, Shakil Ahmed. Alamgir Kabir Rana

Strikers: Towhidul Alam Towhid, Md. Shah Alamgir Anik, Zahid Hasan Emily, Md. Abdul Malek,


SEA Games Semi Final Tickets

VVIP - 1,000,000 IDR (approx $110)
VIP West - 700,000 IDR
VIP East - 500,000 IDR
Category 1 - 300,000 IDR
Category 2 - 200,000 IDR
Category 3 - 100,000 IDR

Nope, these prices aren't to go and see Brazil play Spain. It's for the SEA Games UNDER 23s in Jakarta. The first game is Malaysia v Myanmar followed by Indonesia v Vietnam tomorrow night at the Bung Karno and the Final, expect similar prices, is on Monday.

Oh and for the football fan with deep pockets in Indonesia, next Wednesday sees LA Galaxy playing at the same stadium.


Results 19/11

SEA Games

Singapore v Thailand 2-0
Indonesia v Malaysia 0-1

Laos v Vietnam 1-3

Malaysia meet Myanmar in the first semi final on Saturday while Indonesia have to play Vietnam. We're in for a repeat of the 2009 SEA Games final or the 2010 AFF Cup final!


Vanity Of The Few Impedes Thai Football

Once upon a time Thailand stood imperious at the biennial SEA Games. They won the trophy eight years straight, they deemed it their own personal cup and winning was a right.

Not anymore. For the second successive competition the Thais failed to proceed beyond the group stage. Two years ago in Vientiane the vitriolic Thai media had Steve Darby to blame. The English coach had been charged with bringing the Thais their customary gold, it didn't happen and the media turned on the man who has won trophies everywhere he had worked up till then.

Forget the fact that the Thais had had no real preparation. Darby was the white man in the job, he took the flack while the powerbrokers behind the scenes who had arranged nothing, who had endlessly dicked around with the domestic league schedule, sat back smugly and pointed fingers of their own while manipulating the headlines.

Fast forward 2011 in Jakarta. Thailand ended up with just one victory from their SEA Games group, against regional minnows Cambodia. They were beaten by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. But the performances were shocking. The lustre was so lacking it's had to believe they had any to lose in the first place. It was as poor a Thai team as I have ever seen.

The coach, Prapol Pongpanich, sang a familiar tune after the embarrassing performance and defeat against Singapore. He cited lack of preparation ahead of the games, a few friendlies against lower division league teams, was about the extent of the preparation.

The reaction, at least in the Bangkok Post, is telling. Back in 2009 they were quick to blame Darby, no doubt reacting to the chain yankers. Today, yes there is disappointment but no finger pointing as such. And there can't be, not when the man to blame is the man who calls the tune.

The Thais are big on personal vanity. They bring in Bryan Robson, former Manchester United legend (not former Sheffield United manager), they rush to play English Premier League teams in pointless friendlies at the expense of the domestic league. They are quick to point out how important they are in the world game and how they must travel so much but they are also quick to deny any responsibility for failings under their remit at home.

Increasingly Thai football s becoming a political football as interest in the game has soared. The puu yai, people with power and influence, have raced to become involved with the game, having their faces featured prominently alongside the team in advertising posters and billboards till the difference between the two becomes a blur and the football club is little more than a personal vehicle for one man and his political ambitions.

Thai society is feudal in nature so it is of course naive to expect football to be any different. A puu yai gathers people around him to do his bidding These cronies are the archetypal yes man, rushing to carry out their lord and master's instructions. The actual football people are mere chattals. They are to be hired and fired when the lord and master sees fit and all the while the puu yai acquires face because of what he is able to do. Whether something needs doing or not is irrelevant, the whole point of the puu yai system is they use the power because they can. It brings them extra respect, more followers and more status.

The last couple of years have seen a football club owned by a media company win the Thai Premier League. There have been mumblings of bias in coverage, officiating and scheduling, the beauty of Thai media is not what they write but how they write it or what they don't write!

Now it is the turn of a shrewd political manipulator to have his moment in the spotlight with his football club. They are the ones who get the lenient treatment while the destination of the TPL was pretty much decided before the season began.

Thai football has great potential. They consistently produce players of great quality like Suchao Nutnum, Teerasil Dangda and Datsakorn but despite their long dominance in South East Asian football they have been unable to translate their success and ability on to a wider stage and much of that failure is down to the behind the scenes interferences from individuals with their lust for power and vanity.

Thailand, along with other countries in the region, need to realise that they will never make a serious impact on the world game until the people in key positions tasked with taking the key decisions are consigned to the history books where they belong.

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