Sunday, March 09, 2014


Malaysia Upset At Asian Cup Failure

With the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers done and dusted and no representatives from South East Asia planning flights and hotels to Australia for next January, the recriminations have begun and nowhere, it seems, more virulently than Malaysia.

Critics there have been quick to point out to the money spent on sending Harimau Muda to play in Slovakia, Singapore and this year to compete in the Queensland Premier League in Australia.

Apparently, the critics opine, it is all a waste of money...because Malaysia failed to qualify for the Asian Cup and failed to earn a medal at the SEA Games last year.

Now, far be it for me to speak out in support of the Football Association of Malaysia. They have been the butt of much mirth over recent years and for good reason.

But this time I feel no blame can be sent their way.

Everybody needs to invest in youth but that investment comes with no guarantees. Stick your KPIs. Kids need to be given a chance to develop and given the crappy set ups in most countries in this region, the best way to do that is overseas.

The FA is right to give the kids the chance. In fact, if there is one criticism, they should be working with younger players.

But the young players change like they do all around the world. The promise shown as a 16 year old doesn't always translate into a medal fuelled career. Just google Wayne Harrison, John Bostock and Peter Coyne for examples.

Kids change. Their bodies change. They discover girls, beer, even, whisper it, drugs. They lose their focus, their interest, their desire.

Youth policies rarely produce a never ending conveyor belt of talent. Fergie will tell you the batch that included the Nevilles, Scholes and Beckham was exceptional. Since that era? Tom Cleverley, a 24 year old midfielder with less than 50 league games and more than a dozen caps for England!

Arsenal have long had great success with youth players. Take a deep breath; Brady, O'Leary, Stapleton, Rix, Thomas, Adams, Parlour, Keown, Davis, Rocastle, Cole. It's only under Wenger has it rusted.

West Ham? Cole, Lampard, Ferdinand? The current batch at Southampton.

But these are like me buying a round in the bar. They're pretty bloody rare.

There is no reason to think Malaysia should have found the holy grail of youth policies just because they have spent a heap of money on it. If it was that easy....

No nation has a divine right to success. Except England and their media. And, it appears, Malaysia.

Strange as it may seem, other countries are not standing still and a nationalist sports media does its self and its readers no favours by ignoring what is going on elsewhere.

Indonesia is placing great hope on the current Under 19 set up. The Thais are never far away from a good national team; much depends there on who is wagging the FA and for the last few years it has been the Premier League.

Then we have Singapore where a number of players in recent years tried their luck in Indonesia while LionsXII lifted the Malaysia Super League in 2013. And, of course, they won the ASEAN Cup in 2012.

But Asean is a tiny pond, more a puddle really, in the game of football. It's a place players and clubs come to for extracting cash.

To better compete with the Japan's and Iran's much needs to change. Playing abroad is one. So is diet. Is any player going to be a world beater growing up on a diet of bakso and bottled tea?

Back to Malaysia. When it comes to the Asian Cup qualifying stage, they were by far the best Asean representative. And until things change at a structural level, are they measured by Key Performance Indicators, that is the best they can hope for.

But turkey's rarely vote for Christmas.

Malaysia 6 2 1 3 5-7 7
Singapore 6 1  0 5 4-17 3
Indonesia 6 0 1 5 2-8 1
Thailand 6 0 0 6 7-21 0

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