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NST Online: Sports


Reducing the teams can improve quality

Posted: 01 May 2011 10:13 PM PDT

MALAYSIAN football never ceases to surprise.

The Sea Games gold in 2009 was a surprise, as was the Asean Cup triumph last December and now, there is another surprise in the shape of a proposal to make changes to the Malaysian Super League yet again.

Deputy president Tan Sri Annuar Musa feels 12 teams will be better from the current 14 while foreign players should also be invited back to Malaysian shores.


This is an argument that has been raging for years as the FA of Malaysia has twice shut the door on foreign players — the first following the loss to Laos in the 1997 Sea Games and the most recent when some teams couldn't afford to pay wages.

All teams were then told to kick foreigners out to ensure a level playing field and does this now mean that it is financially viable to reopen the door? The MSL needs foreign players and there can be no arguments there but it must be for the right reason — to raise the standard of play the most obvious.

It musn't be based on the Sea Games and Asean Cup triumphs for Malaysian football is not out of the woods yet — at the grassroots, national and international levels.


The grassroots are not running at an optimum yet while the M-League still has far too many mediocre players to convince fans to return in droves while the national Under-23 and senior teams have to win the next Sea Games and Asean Cup to convince the many doubters out there that football is heading upwards.

The joy that erupted following the Asean Cup win was genuine but the first question the hardcore fans asked was could this be sustained and whether Malaysia could dominate Southeast Asia the way Thailand have over the last two decades.

Everybody wants football to succeed but success will only be achieved with proper planning and FAM knows that most of its affiliates are simply not doing enough to develop the game in their backyard.


Bringing foreigners back will create a buzz but one fears that it will be temporary at best as the Malaysian fan, thanks to the unlimited football that is available on television, can easily determine the quality of the players and we know what we can expect.

What would make the situation worse is reopening the door to foreigners could result in a race to sign players that teams can't afford and it will only be a matter of time before Fifa will come a calling with complaints that wages were not paid.

The question, however, is just how long more should teams who can afford foreign players be forced to wait for those who can't to catch up?

This is where FAM must be brave. Annuar is suggesting that the number be cut to 12 from 14 but why doesn't FAM reduce the number even more?

It is not a new proposal but with the national teams on a high, FAM should cut down the MSL teams to just six or eight financially strong sides. They will be able to afford the best local players and foreign stars with reasonable talent and this will help increase the quality of the league.

Currently, the local talent is spread as teams hire a couple of players and hope they will galvanise the others but this is a system that has failed.

The new-look MSL can pay top wages — always a powerful motivational tool — and players from the other leagues will strive to improve themselves in the hope of earning contracts with the big sides.

Coaches, too, won't have to worry about the management setting unreasonable targets based on the so-called stars they sign in pre-season and we won't see coaches being asked to go on "gardening leave" when their sides lose a couple of matches on the trot.

FAM has tinkered with the MSL or the other titles it had many times over the years but none have worked simply because they led to nothing on the international stage.

The situation now, however, has been reversed as the national teams have shown improvement and FAM must now change the structure of the MSL to complement this.

That will be a pleasant surprise indeed.

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Rajagobal: Don't expect too much

Posted: 01 May 2011 09:41 AM PDT


National coach K. Rajagobal (right) is hoping to have the services of Pelita Jaya striker Safee Sali for a friendly match against Hong Kong on June 3.

National coach K. Rajagobal (right) is hoping to have the services of Pelita Jaya striker Safee Sali for a friendly match against Hong Kong on June 3.

THE high expectations for Malaysia to advance to the group stage of the World Cup Asian qualification must not detract from the rebuilding process of the national team.

After being handed a kind draw for the knockout stage, many are already looking past Taiwan and Singapore to the group stage but national coach K. Rajagobal has warned not to take Malaysia's preliminary round rivals lightly.

While admitting the start of the 2014 World Cup qualification is the easiest on paper compared to past campaigns, Rajagobal will treat first-round opponents Taiwan no differently.


"Yes, you can say that it is easier than previously. But we cannot take these teams lightly. First we must beat Taiwan and only then can we think of Singapore.

"Some say we should win both ties but in football so many things have happened. Our rivalry with Singapore is so strong we cannot take it for granted.

"No matter what happens, I have always said I am building a team to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup. That is our priority," said Rajagobal on the sidelines of a nine-a-side football tournament in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.


AFF Cup champions Malaysia meet Taiwan at home on June 29 before the return in Taipeh on July 3 with the winners facing Singapore in late July for a place in the third round.

In preparing for Taiwan, the national team travel to Hong Kong for an international friendly match on June 3 where Rajagobal is hoping to have the services of Pelita Jaya striker Safee Sali.

"We have sent a letter to his club requesting his release. As the match falls on a Fifa international date, we are within our rights to have Safee.


"We have not seen Safee (play) since he went to Indonesia so this will be a good time to have him back and integrate him into the team again.

"I'm also considering calling a few new faces but I have one more month to monitor their progress in the Super League before deciding," said Rajagobal who declined to name the players he has in mind.

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