It has been a long time that I sat in front of the TV set to watch the Malaysian team played both their full matches at the Nasional Stadium, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur and Gelora Senayan Bung Karno, Jakarta against regional rival Indonesia. For that matter I have never set foot at the Nasional Stadium since it was constructed but have been a regular at Gelora Senayan when I was a commentator and RTM’s Chef de Mission whenever there were Games or matches held there when I was with RTM prior to retirement.
The last time I went to watch a local match was when the Sarawak team played their matches in their heyday winning the FA Cup. Those were the days when the late Dato Taha Ariffin, a good friend lead the State FA. I never missed any of their matches at the State Stadium, Kuching when I was serving there 1992-3. They had a good team in the mould of the present “Malaysian Tiger” and I believed in them.
It was great to see the “Harimau” thumping the “Garuda” 3-0 at the Stadium Nasional on Sunday 26 December 2010 after a humiliating defeat at Senayan 1-5 in the preliminary round. I saw good football sense among the players, smart passing especially the long ones, and great stamina. They lacked the art of ball possession, losing to the clever and wily Indonesian. I am sure coach Rajagobal will work on that department. 3-0 lead to the second leg of the Finals was unexpected but all the goals were gems.
I didn’t expect the Malaysian to win the second leg but knew they would put up good resistance to deny the Indonesian the AFF Cup. Win the Cup the Harimau did with 4-2 aggregate. I expected them to defend solidly and use the long balls as counter attack which did produce the precious lead goal. Although the Garuda managed to score 2 goals to be winners at 2-1, the turning point was definitely the penalty that Malaysia custodian denied the Garuda skipper early in the first half. That must have disheartened the Garudas and their full house supporters.
That was a good ending to the year for the country’s football. Last year the same team took home the football gold at the Vientiane SEA Games. I hope the officials at FAM house are not gloating at these minor winnings and start sitting on their laurel again. They have to work hard to continue with the winning formula and revive Malaysia’s lost glory in football. They should make full use of the planned football academy. The biggest job at hand is talent spotting and revolutionising the league in the country.
A new dual league should be introduced base on the old method at district level for Clubs and Schools, the champions ending up at the national level competition. Let not it be politicised; make the District chiefs be in charge. The Majlis Sukan Negara should start a foundation towards this with the corporations of the FAM and the Multinational and GLC.
Now after the good win against Indonesia the Malaysia should jump up the ladder of FIFA ranking now at no 144 just ahead of Myanmar (149) and Philippines (150). Up the ladder are Singapore (140), Vietnam (137), Indonesia (127) and Thailand (121). So we are the best of the bottom half of ASEAN team. May be in January 2011 we should be in the top half after winning the AFF Cup.
Happy New Year.