Monday, August 10, 2020


Kortrijk's Malaysian Owner Basks In Luqman Signing

It is of course excellent news when any player from the region signs a country with a team in a European league. What Indonesian doesn't feel a sense of pride when they see Egy Maulana lining up for his Polish side Lechia Gdansk? But how many of the overseas moves are earned on merit and and how many are initiated by ASEAN club owners. A look at the Wikipedia profile of Syamsir Alam shows here is a major talent who learnt his trade in Uruguay before having spells with CS Vise in Belgium and DC United in the US. Sadly for Syamsir it wasn't his ability which earned such high profile moves, rather a connection with an Indonesian business group which had interests there. He is still only 28 but no longer plays football...

It is difficult enough for South East Asian players to earn work permits in Europe, especially young players though Belgium does seem to be a slightly easier option as we saw when the Bakries were involved with CS Vise. They ensured a steady supply of young Indonesian talent were on the books of that little known club though they weren't able to repeat that headline heavy conveyor belt with Brisbane Roar.

Club owners like to be seen. They see owning a football club as a way of raising their profile domestically. Anyone remember when White Skin Cream Lady became a 'special advisor' to Kelantan? Or the ubiquitous sight of people in suits and quasi uniforms in dug outs or pushing their way to the front when a trophy is won. Yep, a certain type of club owner is a Trumpian narcist with little interest in football. 

The same can be said of these rich businessmen when they get involved with clubs overseas. Manchester City's brief dalliance with Taksin Shinawatra gave Teerasil Dangda and a couple of his pals the chance to burnish their Wiki pages without ever seriously being in with a chance of playing in England full time. But think of the headlines Taksin earned in the Thai language media as he boasted about how he was helping Thai football with his fool's errand.

Vincent Tan is another club owner who likes to project an image of himself. His move to switch Cardiff City's colours from the traditional blue to red was a monumental blunder which saw fans protesting against his ownership of the club; imagine the outcry if an English guy bought Selangor and tried to change the colours and crest! Then magnify that a thousand fold. In 2013, at the height of his unpopularity, an article described him as the worst club owner in sport!

To be fair to Tan, he rode out the storm and seems to have learned the lessons from it. Or has he? He also owns Belgian club KVV Kortrijk and they are in the news now having signed prodigy Luqman Hakim Shamsudin and in interviews he is making it clear how important the role he played was in signing the youngster.

Putting the player's talent aside, European clubs aren't used to being told who to sign by their owner. It is accepted club chairmen put in place an infrastucture for the finding and signing of players and not rely on the boss to randomly throw a name in the hat just so he can garner some positive headlines back home.

''It was a big decision by the club, to give him a five-year contract. The management thought that he is too young, but as the owner I said 'we'll give him a chance.' When they are young they can run faster than the older players, and they have a higher value. 

"And it helps that Luqman has been listed as one of the best young footballers in the world and that he's recognised," says the tycoon, referring to The Guardian and Goal's top youth footballers lists that the 18-year old has been named on.

"I told the club that they must let him play instead of simply benching him. He needs to prove to the coaches that he's good enough to play, even only as a substitution, even just for 10, 15 minutes. Let's see if the manager agrees with me. Sometimes a club owner can't simply tell the manager what he doesn't want to do.

"As the owner, I decided to give an opportunity to another Malaysian. And the club need to train him and give him opportunities. Surely they can give him a chance when the owner is Malaysian himself? They'd better play him, or not we'll just be paying him 'gaji buta' (Bahasa Melayu for getting a salary despite not doing any work)!" explained Vincent. 

Before heading to Belgium, Luqman has been treated to a few days at Vincent Tan's island resort to help be ''single-minded about what he intends to achieve with his new team.''

Tan also talked about the profit his Belgian team could make if they sell the player, a profit Selangor could even share in. But, just to show he's all heart, Tan adds ''However, at the end of the day, he has been signed because I believe that he can succeed. I'm not doing it just for show, it's a five-year contract after all. I am serious'...What's more important is Luqman will be bringing the Malaysian brand and you are our hope, so go there, do the best you can and don't be naughty." Nice bit of patronising paternalism thrown in for good measure...

Were any other European clubs interested in signing Luqman? Were JDT in the race? Do clubs really look at websites and newspapers to see which players to go for? From reading the reports it seems the signing of Luqman is a feather in the cap for the club owner. Only time will tell if it works out so well for the player...

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