Encik K. Rajagobal,
47301 Petaling Jaya.
c/o Malaysian secretariat,
Laos SEA Games.
Dec 16, 2009
RE: Letter of apology
Warm greetings from Kuala Lumpur, coach. I hope this letter reaches you in the finest of health.
In the wake of your team's successful march to the SEA Games final, I think this letter of apology is timely and warranted.
Allow me to congratulate you for a job well done. To bounce back after the defeat to Vietnam and then beat perennial favourites Thailand followed by the emphatic 3-1 win over the host team Laos en route to the final tomorrow, is indeed a credible achievement.
As you are fully aware, I'm one of your biggest detractors. I have voiced my concerns and questioned some of your ideas and decisions on a number of occasions, just as I had done the same to your predecessors.
To be honest, coach, I am tired of seeing the glass half full. Really. Throughout my career as a journalist specialising in football, I was always trying to provide a positive spin or angle despite the results on the pitch, much to the chagrin of my bosses who accused me of waffling.
Results on the pitch certainly did not help. Even if you claim you have helped produce two generations of future flagbearers of the country ever since you took over from Jorvan Vieira in 2004, I kept on insisting there was no tangible results to speak of.
Your Harimau Muda team's emergence too did not capture my imagination. I was under no illusions that these bunch of players could emulate their better known predecessors.
The facts too do not favour you, coach. Since Trevor Hartley guided the class of 1989 to the gold at Merdeka Stadium, a number of coaches - local and foreign - failed miserably.
In 1991, Rahim Abdullah's team were best remembered for suffering a 1-0 defeat to the Philippines.
Two years later, Ken Worden's side flattered to deceive. Shortly after leading Malaysia to the Chiangmai edition in 1995, Claude Le Roy walked out of FAM.
In 1997, Wan Jamak Wan Hassan could not bear the embarrassment of losing 1-0 to Laos, hence his decision to quit.
In 1999, a 6-0 whitewash by the Indonesians left a black mark in Abdul Rahman Ibrahim's coaching career.
Kamarulzaman Hassan's freak own goal in the 2001 final was hard to forget. It left Allan Harris red-faced. The bronze medal in 2003 in Hanoi did little to compensate for the 2001 heartbreak.
Norizan Bakar's class of 2005 at least defended the bronze medal, whereas B. Sathianathan and his trusted youngsters failed to go beyond the group stages.
This has led to my being a cynic, a pessimist, whenever I was asked to comment on our prospects.
But your team's march to the final in Vientiane has become the talk of the town. Friends and foes who knew of my sentiments were quick to remind how wrong I was.
The ultras at harimaumalaya.com are behind you 100 percent. A huge number of my friends on facebook are happy to throw their support, so much so a friend, Rizal Rosli, initiated this group
Remember coach, you are on the verge of history. While most of us remember the 1989 team as being the last bunch of Malaysian footballers to climb the highest podium in the biennial Games, the Jakarta edition in 1979 was the last time Malaysia won the gold outside our own backyard, thanks to the solitary goal from Mokhtar Dahari in the final.
Winning the final tomorrow is therefore not impossible.
I would like to wish you the best of luck. And I am prepared to eat humble pie and swallow my pride.
Please send my warmest regards to the players. May the force of 1Malaysia be with you.