Sunday, July 26, 2015

Natural to naturalise?

This story written by yours truly was published by The Weekend Mail on July 29, 2006. 

In the intervening years, Bekamenga went on to represent Cameroon in the 2008 Olympics and played for Nantes in France while Malaysia continue to struggle to create an impression on the global stage. Now Dollah Salleh has reignited the debate to naturalise foreign players.

If you ask me what would be my stand, kindly read let's open our doors written in 2009.

Bekamenga in action in the Olympics. Picture by Getty Images

PICTURE this in your mental cinema - Negri Sembilan hotshot Christian Bekamenga Bekamengo scoring goals not for his country of birth Cameroon, but in the yellow and black jersey of Malaysia.

All he has to do is complete his two-year stay in Seremban, apply for a citizenship with the Government, seek the world's governing body FIFA's endorsement on his naturalised status and the possibility of Bekamengo partnering Safee Sali as Malaysia's two frontmen on the international stage is as clear as Zinedine Zidane's head-butt on Marco Materazzi.

The sight of Bekamengo sporting Malaysian colours might seem comical but it is no stranger than Ghanaian-born Gerald Asamoah playing for Germany, or Nigerian-born Emmanuel Olisadebe wearing the red and white of Poland.

After all, our neighbours Singapore have ventured outside the island to bolster their footballing fortunes - without much success, one might add. Egmar Goncalves, Itimi Dickson, Agu Casmir and Daniel Bennett were members of the Singapore team that were thrashed 4-0 by Akmal Rizal Ahmad Rakhli and Co four years ago.

But the trend of the borderless world is hard to ignore.

According to FIFA rules, players must have a "clear connection to that country" if they wished to wear the colours of a nation other than the one of their birth.

The rules now state a player must either have lived in a country for at least two years, or have a parent or grandparent, who was born there.

Although traditionalists scoff at this idea, describing the move as violating the spirit of international competition and wiping the Malaysian identity out of the national team, FA of Malaysia (FAM) vice-president Datuk Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar appeared resigned to the fact that the trend was too hard to ignore.

Among those who remain open to the idea is former National Sports Council (NSC) director-general, Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad, who initiated the move to grant citizenships to race walker, Yuan Yufang, shooter Irina Maharani and weightlifter Hidayat Hamidon ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 1998.

He, however, stressed that it must be done only as a short-term measure to help the present national set-up plug the gaps. 

If FAM initiate the move, Bekamengo who has not represented Cameroon at international level, will be eligible for Malaysia come the Asian Cup in June-July next year.

As the striking sensation who helped Negri earn promotion to the Super League and then the league title in two seasons, Bekamengo, 20, fits the bill as Malaysia's first hired gun on the football pitch.

FAM general secretary Datuk Seri Dr Ibrahim Saad, however, remained skeptical about the whole issue.

"We might consider the possibility," said Ibrahim, without elaborating.

 The truth is, Malaysia must do justice as one of the four host nations for next year's prestigious Asian Cup, our third appearance in the tournament after 1976 and 1980.

 An injection of foreign blood may not hurt our prospects.

 MM says: Will Malaysians support a national team filled with foreigners?

The story on Heshmat Mohajerani appeared in the Malay Mail in February 2007.

Heshmat Mohajerani

Yours truly with the former Iran tactician, picture taken in Doha 2006

IRAN'S 1978 World Cup coach Heshmat Mohajerani  - acknowledged as the most successful tactician to emerge from the Persian nation - has offered his services to the FA of Malaysia (FAM), 
on one condition.

 "Give me the job and I'll raise the standard of the Malaysian team. But there's one request, that three African players will follow me and be granted Malaysian citizenship."

 In an interview recently, Mohajerani, a free agent after leaving Austrian club Admira Wacker, believed the only way forward for Malaysia was to import foreign players to complement the local talent.

 The bespectacled coach claimed to have been keeping tabs on Malaysian football and was surprised with the below par performance of Norizan Bakar's team at the Doha Asian Games recently.

 "The team have shape but some players did not understand the tactical requirements and lacked the physical presence to stamp their mark in the Asian scene.

 "Having three African players donning Malaysian jersey will raise their game by a few notches. Otherwise I honestly believe Malaysia may not be able to challenge for supremacy even at the Asean level.

 "Opening the doors to foreigners is the trend. Qatar have done it, and so have Singapore," said Mohajerani.

 Mohajerani's CV makes impressive reading, having guided Iran to the Asian Games gold medal in 1974, the Olympics in Montreal in 1976 apart from lifting the Asian Cup the same year. His generation of disciples capped a fine period under Mohajerani with an appearance in the World Cup in Argentina two years later.

 Renowned for his motivational skills and a great believer in the youth, Mohajerani, 71, said he would love to have the chance to impart his knowledge to the Malaysian football circles.

 "I'm just a phone call away. You tell your football administrators I'm the most successful Asian coach, having enjoyed stints in United Arab Emirates and Oman, as well as being the first Iranian coach to take Iran to the World Cup.

 "My Iranian team of second stringers beat Kuwait under Carlos Alberto Parreira and Mario Zagalo in Kuwait in the last match of the World Cup qualifiers. Although we had already qualified, it was a matter of honour to maintain our unbeaten record. We managed to beat their senior team 2-1 even with our youth side.

 "At UAE, we became the West Asian Youth Champions and subsequently the same team, with the addition of a few players, went on to qualify for the Italy World Cup in 1990." 

 Elaborating on his ideas, Mohajerani said there were two aspects in making or breaking a team.

 "First is the physical readiness, followed by the psychological factor. It's a question of harmonising their mind and body. It is an art to use psychology to promote and encourage a team," he said.

 He might have the chance to make good his promise soon.


Anonymous said...

Setuju dengan tuan kita perlukan satu kaedah baru dalam memtranfomasi bolasepak negara. Belum dicuba di negara kita tetapi kita mesti mecuba. Orang berbicara soal maruah bila berkata soal naturalisasi tetapi kedudukkan bolasepak negara sudah lama hilang maruahnya malah tiada maruah sebagai sebuah pasukan bolasepak yang pernah digeruni dan disegani di peringkat asia. Oleh itu buang sikap ego yang tidak bertempat demi menaikan semula kedudukan bolasepak negara.

Apa yang penting pendekadtan jangka pendek yang diambil ini akan dapat menyediakan landasan yang lebih baik maju ke depan dan lebih sempurna dalam arah pembangunan pemain muda dan akar umbi. Dalam menyediakan pemain yang lebih berkualiti untuk pasukan kebangsaan.

Kerana kedudukan negara sekarang berada di ranking Fifa pada tangga 167. Itu tidak akan dapat membuka peluang perdedahan yang terbaik kepada bakat muda2. Perlu diingat syarat merit di Liga utama eropah hanya membolehkan pemain diambil dari negara ranking Fifa 50 keatas. Jika dilihat kepada syarat ini kita sudah boleh meramalkan apakah kesudahannya bakat2 muda emas yang ada pada pasukan NFDP negara yang sudah menggunakan perlaburan yang besar. Teringat kalau tak silap ada pasukan eropah berminat mendapatkan khidmat Safee Sali tertapi tak boleh kemana kerana syarat2 ketat Liga2 eropah terbabit. Sebab itu pemain kita hanya layak bermain dengan pasukan Liga bawahan eropah sahaja wadhal saya rasa pasukan kebangsaan negara pun boleh mengalahkan pasukan divisyen 4 liga eropah. Jadi apa faedah yang dapat pemain2 berbakat kita pelajari jika hanya bermain dengan pasukan bawahan eropah?

Kemungkinan besar pemain2 yg lahir dari bakat2 muda yg lahir dari NFDP akhirnya hanya layak berada dalam liga super Malaysia yang kemudiannya nasib mereka mungkin hanya berada di bangku simpanan sepertimana yang berlaku kepada pemain tempatan sekarang. Bukankah ia satu pembaziran bakat dan ceritanya tetap sama seperti sekarang. Jadi dimana pengakhiran isu ini?

Shahreen Hakim said...

The fact is currently there is no foreign players eligible to represent Harimau Muda. A few of them will be eligible in 2 years time. Any discussion and decision made right now is pointless. In 2 years time, when Conte and Bikina are available, and they want to represent Harimau Muda, and the national coach at that time believe they will provide value to the national team.. only then this discussion is valid.