HARESH SAYS: No winner in JDT v FAM-Ong

As published in Malay Mail today

Malay Mail's July 19, 2006 front page. Nothing has changed since.

By Haresh Deol

STILL reeling from the 10-0 drubbing suffered by the national team in a World Cup qualifying match against United Arab Emirates 10 months ago, football fans fear their hearts will be broken — yet again — when Harimau Malaysia play in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup in November.

After all, the national team’s goals have always been to win the SEA Games or AFF Cup and nothing beyond. Why so, one may ask? That is the standard of the team despite the millions spent over decades.
Plans of making an impact in the coming AFF Cup have been impaired after four Johor Darul Ta’zim players — Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, Safiq Rahim, S. Kunalan and Amirulhadi Zainal — decided to walk out from Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s squad.

There are talks of “disagreements” between the national coach and his players. Ong refuted such claims on Monday.

How did this come about? It is an open secret JDT owner Tunku Ismail Ibrahim is not a big fan of Ong. He was critical of Ong’s appointment as national coach and took issue with the former international’s coaching methods.
Let’s retrace the episode.

Aidil Zafuan was the first to announce his resignation through the Southern Johor Tigers Facebook page followed by Safiq Rahim on July 12. Two days later Kunalan and Amirulhadi quit in similar fashion.

Question: Didn’t the professional footballers see the need to inform Ong or FAM about their decision? Would they do the same to their JDT bosses if they quit tomorrow? Would the sponsors now ditch the players?‎

Safiq is referred to as the captain of the national football team in this advertisement at Jalan Kuching. Will the sponsors ditch those who left Harimau Malaysia?

On July 14, Tunku Ismail issued a statement on the same Facebook page. Signing off as the Crown Prince of Johor, he said: “… They (the national footballers) have to play for an organisation that never stands up for their well-being and they don’t even do anything when their compatriots don’t receive salaries from their respective clubs. They are playing for a president who never attends trainings or meetings. Playing for a leader who doesn’t even know their name and existence. Playing for an organisation that couldn’t care less when they get injured. I stand with the players. There are more players that want to take the same action as the JDT players have taken but are too scared of their superiors.”

Question: FAM president Tengku Abdullah Shah expressed his intention of quitting last November but his loyalists begged him to stay. How is FAM, the guardian of Malaysian football, supposed to function when its president is absent from meetings?‎

On Monday, Tunku Ismail issued another statement.

He said: “Here is a pen drive containing the information and activities within FAM, media personnel that FAM always uses including former footballers in Malaysia, the amount of money taken by the Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) and given to FAM, as well as a rubbish auditor’s report given to me by my high-ranking friends in Kuala Lumpur.”

Question: What are the “activities’’ within FAM? Who are the media personnel Tunku Ismail is referring to? What is the amount of money received by FMLLP and what does the auditor’s report say? Will Tunku Ismail lodge a report to the authorities?

Having written numerous articles regarding corruption in football and mismanagement of funds in sports, I am intrigued to find out the contents of the pen drive.

I have been critical over FAM’s task force — comprising the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and police — as we have not seen a single bookie brought to justice since its establishment in 2012 despite repeated allegations of match-fixing in the M-League.

I am all for FAM adopting an open and transparent policy by making public its dealings, funds and how money is distributed to the affiliates. It’s not a Sdn Bhd and as such has no reason to hide such matters from the fans.
With evidence, ‎action can and must be taken.

Tunku Ismail also said: “I would like to remind you all that the rakyat’s money should be used for the rakyat only. Not for football and politics.”

No questions here. In this professional era, football teams must no longer rely on handouts from the state government. As for the people’s money used for politics, let’s save that for another day.

Some say Tunku Ismail should be the next FAM president, given his passion for the game. That can only happen if he obtains the support from the affiliates. If he helms FAM, he should sign off as FAM president and not as a member of the royal family. This would be in the spirit of sportsmanship and fair play. 

Where do we go from here?

The verbal spat will not end soon. Even if Ong decides to quit, FAM will continue to receive flak.

We know FAM is still stuck in the past with no direction. We know no manager is capable of turning the current national team into regional champions. We know some officials are “very, very, very disappointing”. We demand to know those who abuse and corrupt the sport‎.

Instead of stating the obvious, let’s find a solution to this decades-long woe. The end game is to see the sport shine. FAM has plenty to learn and they could start by working with JDT.

FAM and its affiliates, must pay attention to the grassroots and work with schools. Let’s ensure there is no interference when it comes to selection of players. Read old reports, blueprints and articles as many recommendations made by professionals and veterans in the scene over the years, but never followed through.

If there is a need to weed out bad hats, get the authorities in and clean up the sport once and for all.
One thing for sure, this JDT v FAM-Ong match will have no winner.

HARESH is executive editor of Malay Mail. He can be reached at haresh@mmail.com.my or on Twitter @HareshDeol


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