The actors – B. Sathianathan and Shebby Singh.
The director – Harian Metro.
The war of words between national team supremo Sathianathan and ex-international and football pundit Shebby is not doing the game any good.
In my humble opinion, Sathianathan should not waste his energy retaliating.
After all every Tom, Dick and Harry, or in our case, Ahmad, Ah Chong, Mutu and Shebby Singh has an opinion as to how we should play the game!
Shebby and I come from the same kampung, Kluang. We used to be close until one fine day in February 2007 I wrote an Open Letter to him in the Malay Mail. It's reproduced here
TO Serbegeth Singh Dher Singh AKA Shebby,
My friend, I hope this letter finds you in great health. Allow me to congratulate you on TMFC's 2-1 victory over bottom-placed Sarawak in the Super League clash on Wednesday.
It was great to see you, a respected football pundit, putting your money where your mouth is, even for a fleeting moment as a caretaker coach.
There is no doubt that you have innovative ideas on how the beautiful game should be played. I was even intrigued by your decision to field Nazzab Hidzan, the erstwhile playmaker of TMFC, as a sweeper during the encounter at Petaling Jaya Stadium.
However, the reason I'm compelled to share with you my thoughts stems from your outburst during the post-match comments shortly after TMFC's 2-0 defeat to Perlis in the opening group match of the Malaysia Cup last Saturday.
Your thinly-veiled broadside directed at former TMFC coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim came as a surprise to many.
You mentioned that his training methods were outdated and that you have had to start from scratch during the two sessions ahead of the clash in Kangar.
I tend to agree with most of the coaches interviewed on national TV, especially RTM1, who believed that your outburst was unethical. You simply do not run down your contemporaries.
I'm sure you would agree with me if I say becoming a full-fledged coach is akin to an undergraduate pursuing his first degree. It could even be a life-long learning process.
Furthermore, as a respected pundit, I'm certain you also hold to the basic coaching principle that one coach's views may differ from another. One man's meat is another man's poison.
Remember how Frank Lord converted right-back Zainal Abidin Hassan into a much-vaunted striker in 1983?
There could have been backroom differences between you and Irfan but you chose the wrong platform to undermine his coaching credentials. Irfan, after all, has broken a barrier of sorts by becoming the first Malaysian football coach to ply his trade in Indonesia, helming Persipura Jayapura in West Papua, which happens to be nearer to Darwin than Jakarta.
True, Malaysian football coaches are far from world-class. But a majority of them possess the class not to undermine their fellow professionals in public.
I'm happy that a professional set-up like TMFC trust you implicitly to find the right successor to Irfan. I heard it's going to be our fellow Johorean, Wan Jamak Wan Hassan.
Irfan, if you may recall, happened to be Wan Jamak's assistant in the inaugural Tiger Cup in 1996. It is my sincere wish that whoever happens to replace Irfan has been keeping himself updated on the evolution of the game.
Whatever, Shebby, I hope you take the content of this letter in the right spirit. After all we come from the same town.
I look forward to discussing this further at the Kluang Railway Station over a plate of roti kahwin and a cup of freshly brewed home-made coffee.
Till next time.
Jalan Dahlia, Kampung Melayu, Kluang.
TV3 interviewed Shebby’s team mate in the 1980s, Razip Ismail, last night, and he supported the former’s suggestion for Sathianathan to do away with senior players for the AFF Cup in December.
I beg to differ. I think Malaysia must always be represented by the best players, regardless of age. I have always been consistent in this, having debated countless times with Claude Le Roy, Ron Smith, Allan Harris, Bertalan Bicskei and Sathianathan too on this issue because I believe we do not have a large talent pool at our disposal. Players should be picked based on talent and current form, regardless whether he's an 18-year old chap or a 32-year old workhorse.
If we were to field a young squad for the regional tournament, chances are we would not go far. And this would be a ready-made excuse for the coaches because they would be singing this tune "we have a young team, it was a good experience for them".
Harris, a former coach of Espanyol and long-time assistant to Terry Venables, was fond of utilising under-age players for senior tournaments, citing it as building blocks for the future. He had a good team in 2002 when we beat Singapore 4-0 and Thailand 3-1 in the Tiger Cup but faltered in the semi-finals to the Indonesians.
Bicskei by contrast picked his players on current form. In the end we got mixed results. We have never reached the AFF Cup final since our runners-up finish in the inaugural tourney in 1996.
If Sathianathan takes a battle-hardened bunch for AFF Cup, then he will have to deliver. His KPI ultimately is the AFF Cup. Let him decide what’s best for the team and himself. Shebby can do his stuff from the studio! Or he can always coach MyTeam 3!