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Football: Ain't no sunshine

Going Nuts by Graig Nunis as published in Mailsport

JOHN ROBERT COCKER or better known as Joe Cocker passed away on Monday after a long battle with lung cancer.

Probably the only singer who could make a Beatles song better – as blasphemous as that sounds – his rendition of With a little help from my friends did receive the thumbs-up from the Fab Four.

For those growing up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the song was synonymous with the wonderful television series The Wonder Years.

Who could forget the bittersweet moments from the series as Kevin Arnold chased after Winnie Cooper but sadly, after coming so close, never got her in the end – a bit like Malaysia’s quest to win the AFF Cup on Saturday.

Three goals up with nine minutes left, Harimau Malaya’s world collapsed when two Thai goals handed the War Elephants the trophy 4-3 on aggregate.

You could just imagine Cocker’s other megahit You are so beautiful playing in the background as the Malaysian players collapsed in tears at the final whistle and kissed goodbye to the trophy.

You are so beautiful
To me
You are so beautiful
To me
Can't you see
You're everything I hoped for
You're everything I need
You are so beautiful
To me.

Cocker the Sheffield-born crooner or “croaker” – depending on your description of his raspy voice – wasn’t the most talented singer but you could feel hurt, doubt, disappointment and pain in his voice.

All those emotions were written on the faces of the Malaysian players after they had come so close but failed to get their hands on the “beautiful” trophy – which admittedly ranks nowhere on the international scale – but means so much to so many.

On the balance of it, losing the final could be a blessing in disguise as it may perhaps help open the eyes of the “wise men” in the FA of Malaysia (FAM) and make them realise we still have a long way to go. (Stranger things have happened).

Yes, it was good reaching the final but it was only an Asean event. Failure to reach next month’s Asian Cup cost Datuk K. Rajagobal his job last December and by the looks of things, we are unlikely to qualify for that tournament the next time round as well.

Yet, there were some within FAM who celebrated the final as if Malaysia had reached the World Cup with promises of reward$ galore.

Sad isn’t it.

Speaking of FAM, could you guys please not fiddle with the M-League fixtures and postpone matches at your whim and fancy?

This year’s M-League was a joke (as usual, some would add) while even the date of the Malaysia Cup final was changed a couple of times.

This being the Christmas season, there is no guessing why many see FAM as the biggest turkey around.

Football is the No. 1 sport in the country by far (in terms of popularity, sadly not results – that belongs to squash and Nicol David) but it is being run in an amateurish way.

The players too have to strive to be better and work harder and even think about earning contracts with foreign clubs – Thailand’s Chanathip Songkrasin and Charyl Chappuis are eyeing moves to the J-League – instead of being satisfied being a jaguh kampung.

Hopefully the AFF Cup final will have also opened the eyes of Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin that something must be done and someone be held accountable for the pathetic state of the National Stadium’s pitch.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record or a scratched CD (have to keep up with technology), RM1.5 million was spent to upgrade the pitch and RM600,000 was promised after it failed its first test during the Malaysia Cup final.

Sadly, the pitch failed once again on Saturday. Heads must roll.

Up where we belong

The above title is another Cocker hit that best describes eight-time world champion Nicol and 10-time Mr Universe Sazali Samad.

While love may have lifted Cocker up, it is passion, dedication and single bloody-mindedness which have made Nicol and Sazali the world beaters they are today.

Sazali’s 10th Mr Universe title is a world record and looks likely to stand for a very long time.

Nicol, meanwhile, defied the odds and four match balls before defeating Egypt’s Raneem El Weleily in an exhilarating and heart-stopping final.

Her scream of ecstasy after winning the final point showed just how much the title meant to her – especially after failing to win the crown in front of her home fans in March (the 2013 tournament was delayed as there was no host venue).

Nicol may be 31 but with her drive to succeed still so evident, eight certainly won’t be enough.

As Cocker sang:

The road is long, there are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day …

Nicol and Sazali have certainly conquered every mountain in their way and they deserve to be among the sporting greats – where they truly belong.

Merry Christmas folks.

Graig Nunis is Sports Editor, Malay Mail. He can be reached at:
Twitter: @gnunis1892


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