This time around, we have not been able to defend our AFF Suzuki Cup title which we have won in 2010. That honour now belongs to Si***p**e. The question on most, if not all Harimau Malaya fans' lips is, "What now?"
True, in recent years we have seen some improvement in the way the team plays, but obviously this has not been enough. We have failed to progress in the World Cup qualifying rounds and, as stated above, failed to defend our title. To be truly successful, we must look beyond the Southeast Asia region. We must be challenging at a higher level
But are the players up for it?
In the series of friendlies just before the Suzuki Cup, I've noticed the team lacked cohesion in the overall gameplay, and this problem persisted into the tournament. The most obvious examples are the games against our southern neighbours and Thailand. We offered next to nothing in attack. The midfield wasn't exactly doing its job properly, thus resulted in the lack of killer balls in the attacking third and also exposing the back four to the opposition's threats. For me, Safiq has failed as a captain and a playmaker. While he was influential in the 2010 win, he was invisible during the tournament. His only noticeable contribution was that freekick against Laos (which was brilliant, by the way). However, you cannot expect to keep living on one good moment throughout the whole campaign
One of the bright sparks in the team was Wan Zack Haikal. Recently awarded S-League's Young Player of the Year award, he showed us that it is not all doom and gloom for our national team. In fact, I believe that he is in for a bright future if he is managed properly. Together with Mahalli Jasuli, our right flank can be deadly in attack, sort of like the Neville-Beckham combination at Manchester United
However, I believe if they keep plying their trade in Malaysia, they may not be able to fulfill their true potential
Let's be honest, do you really believe Malaysia-based players can go far? Certainly it would be better for our football if our players started playing in foreign countries. I am not talking about countries in Southeast Asia, as they are of similar level to us, but countries such as Japan, South Korea and Portugal. Sure I may sound like I'm talking out of my arse, but really these countries are superior to us not just in footballing performance, but training, facilities and youth development as well. Look at Nazmi Faiz. While he was playing in Malaysia, he can barely play a full match. Now reports are emerging from Portugal that he is now able to complete a full match thanks to advances in medical science and sports science facilities over there. Which teams in Malaysia have those kinds of facilities? Not many I suppose. Training sessions in those countries are also more intense, in the sense that the sessions are engineered around improving stamina and technique. Take a look at Manchester United. Why have they been able to snatch a win in injury time, time and time again (and no, it's not because of Fergie time). It's because even after playing for 90 minutes, they still have that bit energy to carry them over the finish line. I doubt many of our players can do that, save for a few such as Kunanlan, who just can't stop running
Now this is where I believe agents should come in (even though some are parasites, even more so on the Football Manager games). The players should have agents representing them so that they can be recommended to teams around the world. While securing a dream move to the EPL or La Liga may just be wishful thinking, there might be other clubs in top footballing countries who might be interested in the players. That's how Nazmi secured his move to Beira-Mar. As much as I don't like to admit it, agents can make or break a footballer's career. It is absolutely vital to have good connections so that multiple clubs might have an interest in the players
Earlier today, the Malaysian U-15 team beat their Slavia Praha counterparts 5-0 in the . Our playing style has been the same, there's been no improvements or adaptations to combat the oppositions' playing style. We can't keep hoofing the ball forward for the striker to chase, that's kampung-level football. The players need to work on their technique so we can play short passes and keep possession for a longer period of time. If the youngsters play in Malaysia, they will never improve since our training facilities and tactical mindset are not that great. They should emulate Nazmi and train hard to earn a move to a foreign club and hopefully improve leaps and bounds
Another reason why the youngsters fail at a higher level is purely academic pressure. Some parents believe that professional football will not benefit them in the long run. Others are simply the non-sporty types and do not want their kids to have anything to do with football. While studying is indeed important, this mindset must be changed. Their kids may be the quality players that Malaysia needs to step up to the next level and may even secure lucrative contracts. Let these kids play and develop their talents, for there may be a superstar in the making, but their futures are scuppered because of their parents
The future of our national team is bright, but only if it's managed properly. With the clowns at FAM running the show, and the usage of obsolete tactics at international level, I am highly skeptical of this. But I do hope to see our players playing in top leagues in Europe and Asia powerhouse countries
UPDATE : Nazmi, you suck