AN excellent column written by my former boss Datuk Syed Nadzri, Group Editor of NST. A former sports writer, a man with humility and wisdom, he has given his side of the story of what is wrong with Malaysian Football. Read it here
REMEMBER the name: Elizabeth Lambert. The American girl has epitomised, through dirty play in a football match earlier this month, the reality of the world -- about how things are sometimes not what they appear to be.
She has shown, in split seconds of utterly bad sporting behaviour, everything about the dangers lurking around us and the deceptive, stealthy moments in life. We can connect that to Malaysian politics even.Lambert, a 21-year-old central defender for New Mexico in a local women's tournament in the United States, created quite a sensation all over the world when she was captured on video blatantly flooring her opponents in the match against BYU (Brigham Young University).
The footage of Lambert punching an opponent from behind, robustly tripping another and brazenly yanking an opposing striker's pony-tail till that player fell flat to the ground first made it to the news channels and was then viewed more than six million times on YouTube.This one has to be seen to be believed. The way she committed the fouls would make Malaysian football's notorious hotheads of yesteryear like Hassan Deraman, Manja Man and Wan Hassan Ibrahim appear like ballet dancers in comparison.The episode turned Lambert, who has since been suspended from playing, into a national villain. But in an interview with the New York Times last week, she said she was no monster.
"I think the way the video came out, it did make me look like a monster. That's not the type of player I am. I'm not just out there trying to hurt other players. That's taking away from the beauty of the game. And I would never want to do that."Well, that's life. Sometimes you get sucked into a moment of madness without even realising it and sometimes you get hit by a person or a situation you least expect.
It is the vulnerability of man. Apply that to Malaysian politics and it hits home. Look at what's happening in MCA where friends have become foes and where intrigues, backstabbing as well as unexpected turns rule the day. The similarity extends to the undercurrents in Parti Keadilan Rakyat, Pas and Umno.Relate that to a bigger football stage -- something wicked just came the way of Ireland and two North African nations.
It struck Ireland in a crucial World Cup qualifying match against France last Wednesday, that sucker punch coming through a highly dispu-ted French equaliser very late in the game that knocked out the Irish from the finals in South Africa next year.The French victory has created a firestorm around the world. Millions of viewers watched French captain Thierry Henry illegally guide the ball with his hand before kicking it to another player, who headed it in for the crucial goal.
The referee missed the infraction and since then, Ireland has exploded in anger, while France is roiled in an uncomfortable national debate over the nobility of accepting a tainted win.In a similar vein, this tale of the unexpected extended to yet another explosive pre-World Cup clash last week, where Egypt was bundled out after losing to Algeria. It even led to a diplomatic row as Egypt recalled its ambassador to Algeria following mob attacks on Egyptian fans after the match.It's a shocker because North African countries have never been known to be that volatile about their footballing fortunes, and demon-strations in whatever form or for whatever reason are rare in both countries.
So that's it again. Things are sometimes not what they appear to be.
And while on the subject of football, another stunner for most people was to find out that New Zealand has also qualified for the World Cup. Yes, that country where there are more sheep than humans and whose sporting fortunes have always centred on rugby and cricket. It will represent the Oceania zone after beating Bahrain from Asia in a playoff last week.
Now, if New Zealand can qualify, perhaps Malaysia needs to rethink its strategies in football. Maybe it should apply to leave Asia (Asian Football Confederation) where the competition is a lot tougher and join Oceania instead. Perhaps only then could the country join the ranks of World Cup qualifiers.But wait a minute.
The way football is being run in this country, even to be grouped with Antarctica would be a tough bet for Malaysia. In Oceania, there is also Fiji which is ranked higher in the Fifa listing (133rd as against Malaysia's 152nd).
And are we sure Malaysia, in its present standard, can beat Vanuatu?Despite a long tradition of football, Malaysia is far short of its potential as a football-loving nation and things are not what they appear to be, as there is a disconnect between the frenzy over foreign leagues and the national team.The solution is plain and simple -- the Football Association of Malaysia must change its leadership.
The president must go and the excuse that he has an unfinished agenda is unacceptable. For the glory of the country, Malaysians must demand a key performance indicator (KPI) accountability from FAM.Enough is enough. And so what if that's the monster in me speaking out.