Published in The Malay Mail, July 20, 2007. Shortly after the disastrous Asian Cup outing.
Dear Tuanku, Tan Sri, Datuk, and office bearers and salaried staff of FAM,
RE: Future of FAM and football in Malaysia
I HOPE this letter reaches the most esteemed gentlemen at Wisma FAM safely.
I'm writing to you because I'm convinced, like the rest of this football-crazy nation, that there is an urgent need to address pertinent issues with regard to the future of Malaysian football.
It is my wish that this time, the content of this letter is not ignored or thrown into the waste paper basket, which has happened all too often in the past.
I must salute FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah for his decision to quit a body that he was closely associated with for the past two decades.
In no way Tengku Abdullah would be branded a coward.
Together with his father and FAM president Sultan Ahmad Shah, Tengku Abdullah initiated the move to introduce semi-professional football in the country 18 years ago, but it has borne little fruit.
We have to acknowledge that although the pro-league has become an industry in its own right, it has resulted in the State FAs going all out to find means to break the wage structures for sub-standard footballers as a shortcut to success.
Therefore, it's time that we chart a clear and determined course and chart/formulate a new strategy to rejuvenate the game at all levels.
The media stand ready to offer our full support in this difficult, but necessary endeavour.
As recent events have demonstrated, we can no longer depend on FAM to deliver.
Our embarrassing defeats to China, Uzbekistan and Iran were disastrous, and this should serve as the catalyst for change.
In my humble opinion, change must come from the top.
Although FAM cannot be faulted entirely for the present mess we are in, the national body must shoulder a major portion of the blame.
I would not want to cling on days of yore, when Abdul Ghani Minhat, Syed Ahmad Abu Bakar, Mokhtar Dahari, Soh Chin Aun and R. Arumugam endeared themselves to the Malaysian public.
They came from working-class families, having grown up playing in the kampung or padi fields and rubber plantations.
In sharp contrast, today's youngsters spend only a fraction of their time at playgrounds or parks.
The ever-increasing demands of school and academic life, the competitiveness of the job market and the incredible technological advances - notably the Internet - make them prisoners of the indoors.
To ensure football stays relevant to today's generation, it requires a different strategy. To this end, FAM needs new faces who are receptive to fresh ideas.
# FAM has little choice but be independent of the State FAs if we want to break free from this mediocrity.
Suggestion: Amend the FAM constitution to enable the national body to shift its focus towards developing the sport.
FAM must be run by technical people and corporate figures with the principal office-bearers as figureheads. Identify a young general secretary with no political affiliation, whose main task is to implement policies and head the secretariat.
# A new league structure run by a separate entity.
Suggestion: The time is ripe for a separate professional and profit-driven entity to run the M-League, similar to the J-League in Japan.
A board of directors should be the M-League's highest authority in deciding the aims and policies of the league, while the executive committee puts those aims and policies into effect.
# Players' education
FAM, with the help of the Ministries of Education and Youth and Sports, can draw up a complete coaching system designed to produce creative players.
Of utmost importance is football education for players from the age of eight - the dos and don'ts as well as the motivational, technical and tactical aspects of the beautiful game.
Suggestion: Do it!
# Coaches' education
Youth coaches tend to emphasise on results rather than education. Most coaches want results even at school level which in turn puts fear and pressure on the young players.
Suggestion: Enjoy the game, before we teach the players the basic tactical movements when they reach 15.
Given the magnitude of the problem, admittedly FAM needs help from all parties, especially the Government machinery, public and parental understanding as well as media support.
However, there is a need for FAM to prove to the public and the stakeholders that they are willing to change. In this regard, Sultan Ahmad Shah as president, can advise the delegates to be receptive of reforms. Or else, please make way for new blood.
A nation's fate depends on the bounce of a little ball.
Well-honed and experienced natural talents on the pitch, produced as a result of good governance off it, can always change its course.