A BATTLE BETWEEN THE TECHNOCRAT AND THE BUREAUCRAT
FOR most expatriates who hail from traditionally strong football nations, they will notice that the chief coach in Malaysia does not necessarily enjoy autonomy in charting his team’s fortunes.
Often he has to co-exist with another individual, who is given the title manager.
Quickly neutral observers will realise managers here play a different role as oppose to their counterparts in Europe.
A manager in Malaysia means he manages non-football issues. He could be the money man, logistics administrator, father figure and contact point for the employers all rolled into one.
The coach, meanwhile, is left to train the team and focus on the football related matters.
But a manager here can also interfere with the running of the team. The separation of powers between a technocrat and the bureaucrat is, on most occasions, blurred.
The presence of a manager in the team is entrenched the system. In a society that glorifies officials, it serves the interest of the coach if he can co-exist peacefully with the manager.
A team manager is much appreciated if he can add value to the way the team is managed.
Examples of great leaders of men who were managers in their own right are many.
But no one quite comes close to Datuk Harun Idris.
Held In high esteem by his players, Harun served as president of the Selangor FA president from 1961 to 1982.
Being the Menteri Besar of course was a big help.
Throughout the period, Harun arguably oversaw Selangor’s greatest era. On top of churning out a steady supply of players who went on to don national colours, Selangor under Harun enjoyed unprecedented success at all levels.
Under his tenure, Selangor lifted the Malaysia Cup on 15 occasions and qualified for the Asian Club Championship in 1967.
A master motivator, thanks to his political standing, Harun was manager of the national team on numerous occasions as well, counting the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich as the highlight of his career.
Harun set a new benchmark.
In the succeeding years, his son Mazlan took over the reins at Selangor with aplomb. Coaches come and go but the team manager, as the supremo, seemed to be the focal point of the team.
The model seemed suited to the times. So in the 1980s and 90s, Tan Sri Elyas Omar, Datuk Paduka Ahmad Basri Mohd Akil, Datuk Suleiman Mohd Noor, Datuk Seri Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar and Datuk Taha Ariffin garnered a lion’s share of the limelight. Datuk Abu Bakar Daud meanwhile was synonymous with the national team in the 80s.
Not that Malaysian football had not attempted to go against the current before.
Alan Vest was given the authority to hire and fire for Sarawak, as he was given full powers by the Sarawak FA in the early 90s, Datuk M. Karathu for Negeri Sembilan, Yunus Aliff for Pahang, Mat Zan Mat Aris for Kuala Lumpur Karl Weigang for Johor and in recent years K. Devan for Selangor,
B. Sathianathan and Bojan Hodak for Kelantan were tasked to carry the coach-cum-manager duties.
But as we seek to become more professional, a new culture needs to be cultivated.
FA of Malaysia technical director Fritz Schmid for one has proposed the appointment of the national team director, or the supremo.
"I believe there needs to be a professional structure for the management of the national team, with a national team director as a full-time employed member of the Harimau Malaysia environment.
"His task is to tackle all the stakeholders so that the chief coach is not burdened with additional pressures. The team director is not only in charge of the various teams but also deals with the various committees, namely technical, national team, international affairs, media and marketing, competitions, medical and sports science and the departments of coaching education and elite performance.
"He works together with the chief coach, players, performance analysis, assistant coaches, and the support team comprising the physiotherapist, psychologist, team doctor, masseurs and nutritionists in planning for the national team."
This is the model relevant for the teams in the domestic game as well.
One has to acknowledge the role of a manager like Harun is no longer relevant in today’s game.
A sporting director or general manager who possesses a technical background will be able to plan for his team on all aspects, provided he has an excellent team behind the actual team, where everyone is an expert in their respective fields. But one thing remains the same, he has to enjoy the coach’s implicit trust.