Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Brief attachment is not the answer
Although I'm pleased Bunyamin Umar and Baddrol Bakhtiar were given the chance to pitch their small tent at Cobham, where the multi-millionaires of Chelsea train, short-term attachments are not really the answer to our footballing woes.
What our boys need is a competitive environment on a long-term basis. They must learn how to survive the cut-throat business of football in Europe or at least outside this region. And they should do it before they turn 21.
I was personally involved in getting Akmal Rizal Ahmad Rakhli (above) and Juzaili Samion the stint with Racing Strasbourg in 1999-2000 and they will tell you how ruthless it can be in the real world.
They used to train with FR Haguenau, an amateur outfit in the French fourth division at night and Strasbourg in the morning. This was arranged by Claude Le Roy, who was Strasbourg general manager then.
Due to his clinical finishing, Akmal was featured in France Football in August 2000. The magazine is widely acknowledged as the best in Europe. The prestigious European Footballer of the Year award was their brainchild.
It is also a sister publication of L'Equipe which came up with the European Cup, now known as the UEFA Champions League.
In its August 22, 2000 edition, a page was dedicated to FR Haguenau's aspirations in the CFA.
The writer Michel Kapfer described Akmal as an essential piece in Haguenau's ambitions of promotion to the National league, the third division in the French league hierarchy.
Haguenau then were in Group A of CFA, the French Amateur Championship contested by amateur clubs and the second team from the top-flight sides.
Also placed in Haguenau's group, among others, were the French Cup runners-up, Calais plus the second stringers from Metz, Mulhouse, Strasbourg, Nancy, Lens, Lille, Rouen and Troyes.
Three months later Akmal made his international debut in the forgettable 5-1 defeat to Qatar in the World Cup qualifiers in Hong Kong.
Two days later he bounced back with two goals - which the then FA of Malaysia deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah described as being made in France - against Hong Kong.
It was a pity Akmal suffered a hamstring injury on the eve of a trial with Sedan Ardennes. He returned to Kedah, plagued by injuries and never quite recovered the form that made him one of the most feared strikers in this region.
Back to the issue of short-term attachments, I think they served little purpose apart from giving our boys opportunities to train, train and train without performing under match conditions.
Study what the late George Armstrong had to say about four Malaysian players attached to Arsenal way back in 1998.
I WISH to place on record these four players - Hairuddin Omar, Nanthakumar
Ramachandran, Das Gregory Kolopis and Tengku Hazman Raja Hassan - have
been a credit to the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) by conducting
themselves in an excellent manner both on and off the training field.
In general terms, the players are very fit and I was very impressed by
their standard of fitness and keenness to do well in training. On running
shuttles and other exercises, the four are as sharp as all the other
players at the club and it should be taken into account the four weeks
they were in training, we had a record rainfall and cold winds almost
everyday in England. However, training continued uninterrupted.
The Malaysian players are very quiet and reserved in character in
comparison to their English counterparts and they should be encouraged to
talk to teammates more and demand the ball when in better positions.
But after a period of training, only Das and Nanthakumar were heard
shouting for the ball - but not as much as I would have wished.
I was impressed by the Malaysians' toughness and courage as they were
subjected to some very heavy but fair tackles. Their technical skills are
It would be wrong of me to single out any player for praise or criticism
without seeing them in action in a competitive match. All four are very
brave and did not shrink from tackling their taller and heavier opponents.
Their ball-passing was also a joy to watch.
If I may be permitted to give a couple of constructive points, the
players could improve on:
l ball watching, not always aware of opponents' movements off the ball;
l learning to mark from the side as doing so behind a player leads to
shielding the ball by an opponent and a free kick if tackled from behind
All the players showed good attitude and I only wish I could have
fielded them in competitive matches to see them perform under match
conditions. I hope the four players enjoyed their stay at The Sopwell
House Hotel and the hospitality of Arsenal Football Club.
If ever they do return to England, a warm welcome awaits them at
Arsenal. We wish them a long successful career as international players.
All four players were first class ambassadors for Malaysia.
(Arsenal reserve team coach)