At the end of 2010 the Malaysian football team that went by the name of “Tiger Malaya” at last gave great satisfaction to Malaysian football fans who were craving for victory by coming out winner of the AFF Cup at the regional tournament for Southeast Asian countries (ASEAN).
The whole country was gripped by their exploit reaching the two legged Finals against Indonesia, many considered as arch rival in sports, which turn into some sort of political and cultural ranting echoed well after the event was over.
The country was rewarded a public holiday on the last day of the year 2011 by the Prime Minister. The detractors jumped on this as a populist political stun of the governing party. Anyway it was a most welcome holiday for majority of Malaysian who incorporating it into a long weekend of preparation for the school going children.
At last football is getting the long awaited attention. As usual there were immediate talks of rewards for the team either in monetary form or in kind. Even the conservative Menteri Besar of Kelantan jumped on the bandwagon by announcing that the goalkeeper, a member of the state team, will be rewarded a house for his exploit in the national team.
There were questions on the virtue of rewards for winning a minor tournament. I feel the team and its members deserve them as an incentive to perform better in future. It is an impossible dream to win the FIFA World Cup as Malaysia has never qualified to be in the final tournament since it participated about half a century ago. We have never even qualified for the Asian continental qualifying round. The national body FAM should concentrate towards this.
Malaysia finds it so difficult to qualify for the final tournament of the Asian Cup limited to 16 teams of the continent. Success at qualifying for the Olympics at Munich and Moscow was a distant proud memory. We did play at Munich with mix success but never went further than the group matches. We can forget Moscow as the country was among those that boycotted the Games there.
Malaysia did well at time in the Asian Games but never good enough to be in the Final. It was up and down at the SEA Games and we won the last one a year back at Phnom Penh. It was almost the same team that won the AFF trophy.
The two victories at the regional level is a coup of sort for the “Tiger” to claim the no 1 spot in Southeast Asia. Still that is not good enough to be so at the FIFA ranking list (15 December 2010) which placed Malaysia in 5th spot among the Southeast Asian countries. Thailand leads at the 121 spot, followed by Indonesia 127, Vietnam 137, Singapore 140, Malaysia 144, Myanmar 149, and the Philippines 150.
FAM has to work a plan to move the Malaysia football team ahead of the pack and break the psychological barrier to be among the top 100 countries in the world before talking of grandiose scheme.