Friday, December 30, 2016

Thirteen years ago, when the Super League was launched...

I wrote this for the Malay Mail shortly after the Malaysian Super League (MSL) was launched. Thirteen LONG years have passed since then...and most of the questions I posed in 2004 remain unanswered due to a variety of factors.

The logo changes whenever there is a new title sponsor enters the scene...but nothing much has changed in terms of managing the stakeholders. With little effort to make football a sustainable industry, the issue of Kelantan wanting to withdraw and Selangor's internal bickering will be symptomatic of our woes, with no real solution in sight.


THE launch of the Malaysian Super League (MSL) has opened a new chapter in the history of football in the country, 15 years after the semi-pro league was launched and nine years after the league turned fully pro in 1995.

In reality though, Malaysian football was professional only in name. That is typically Malaysian, given that style is always preferred over substance.

On the global front, the great game appeals to Kings and Queens down to the simple man in the street.

For the average Malaysian fan, it lost its luster long ago.

The MSL, nonetheless, deserves a chance.

It could be the league's first step towards taking a truly professional character.

Although cynics may claim that FAM have only conjured up a new name under the same old regime and administration, the fact remains the national body were bold enough to restrict the top league to a deserving few. 

Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor Public Bank, Penang, Sarawak, Kedah and Sabah have earned the privilege of becoming the interpreter of FAM's league ambitions, which ultimately is to produce a quality national side.

This formula was first introduced by the Korean FA who kicked off their pro league in 1983. They began with only two professional clubs - Yukong Elephants and Hallelujah FC - and three amateur teams, POSCO Atoms, Daewoo Royals and Citizens National Bank.

Still K-League was an example of quality rather than quantity. From such a small number of clubs, the league succeeded in producing the players to help the Koreans qualify for five successive World Cups, the last one in 2002 by virtue of being co-hosts with Japan.

But then again they have a large pool of talent to choose from. Furthermore they have laid a strong foundation, in terms of finance, technical support and fan-base.

They confined the top league to eight teams, whereas we have the Super League as well as the Premier League which has been divided into two groups.

In our case, is the MSL the answer to our woes?

Part of FAM's renaming of the league is to plan ahead in three phases in the evolution of the MSL - Phase 1 (2004-2007), Phase 2 (2008-2011) and Phase 3 (2012-2015).

By the year 2015, FAM hope to have 10 teams for MSL, all helmed by coaches who hold a UEFA Professional Diploma, supported by a panel of qualified personnels comprising two assistant coaches, fitness trainer, goalkeeper coach, a doctor, physiotherapist, trained masseur and a football development centre to call home.

Not to mention a complete youth programme incorporating the First Touch programme. These are all noble intentions but have FAM rectified the weaknesses at various levels?

The large presence of foreign players will surely create a negative impact on the emergence of young local players. The likes of Hairuddin Omar, Akmal Rizal Ahmad Rakhli and Indra Putra Mahayuddin came to the fore in the absence of foreign signings.

And are FAM's vetting committee scrutinising the credentials of every foreign applicant?

K-League and the J-League, when launched in 1993, attracted a host of ex-internationals and ex-World Cuppers.

Can we do the same? FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah however, defended the idea of having the MSL.

"Something had to be done about the sinking fortunes of the national team. Our aim is to provide a platform for every team to improve in all aspects," said Tengku Abdullah.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Returning the game to the masses

Usually I send my column to Lee Seng Foo, the managing editor of Four-Four-Two Malaysia, way beyond deadline! For the latest issue (December), it was written in early November. It has been overtaken by events, so here goes...

A day after the heart-breaking defeat on penalties to Kedah in the Malaysia Cup final in October, it was revealed that FA of Selangor (FAS) – rocked by internal dispute and allegations of mismanagement – would no longer enjoy State funding.

Unlike previous years, there was no mention of football in Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s budget proposal for his State for the year 2017 at the Selangor State Legislative Assembly. Azmin, to the uninitiated, happens to also be the president of FAS.

This was possibly Azmin’s way of retaliating to what was a real acid test of his leadership in August.

The majority of FAS exco members staged a walk out when Azmin, chairing the meeting, was planning to announce the new head coach to replace Zainal Abidn Hassan and privatisation plans for the Super League next season.

The walk out was designed to undermine Azmin’s position after he had earlier forced the resignation of two of FAS’ senior officials, namely treasurer Datuk S. Sivasundaram and secretary general Rosman Ibrahim, who were perceived as being the stumbling blocks to FAS’ privatisation efforts.

A newbie in football, by now Azmin must have realised the cut-throat world of football management and running the State can be equally demanding.

Selangor is a case in point where calls for reforms in football governance that have been made for many years have fallen on deaf ears.

But largely due to today’s borderless world, the move has gathered momentum in recent times. With a new generation of fans who are enlightened enough on the happenings around the world, their desire to effect changes knows no bounds.

In the present eco-system, though, effecting changes may mean a head-on collision with the powers-that-be.

A cursory glance on the 12 teams in the Super League, three teams are State-based who enjoy the patronage of the chief executive of the State. The two Malaysia Cup finalists – Kedah and Selangor – are helmed by Menteris Besar while Terengganu FA has the Menteri Besar as acting president.

In juggling between political and State official duties, the norm is to leave footballing matters into the trusted hands of a proxy.

While everyone understands football no longer holds amateurish or part-time status, in reality our game remains amateur. Professionals and salaried staff are required to run the game at all levels in every State FA yet how many associations can name a chief executive, a marketing manager, a technical director, a media officer and a medical doctor on their payroll? 

This is the point being made by observers and fans alike. Without fulfilling these criteria, Malaysian football cannot meet the demands of the modern game. It is indeed unfortunate that despite the Super League being launched amidst fanfare in January 2004, there is nothing super about the standard being dished out, both in terms of governance and performance.

When Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, the then deputy president of FAM, launched the Super League in January 2004, he delivered a 15-page speech touching on the future of Malaysian football.

He had envisaged for a Super League team to have a complete set-up, with an academy, a team bus, a pool of administrators and a training facility by 2016.

When Khairy Jamaluddin was elected as the deputy president of FAM-cum-chairman of MSL Sdn Bhd, FAM’s investment arm, he pushed for a commercial agenda involving the private sector, which included stadia as marketing tools, State micro-leagues sponsored by selected corporate giants and a reality TV show.

Clearly the top down approach does not work. We need to change, and change now.

As a football aficionado, I am desperate to see the fruition of the JDT Foundation which offers the fans to co-own the team, much like the way Barcelona and Real Madrid are registered as member-owned non-profit sports organisations.

Not only will it ensure a high level of fan involvement and engagement, the fans will be able to elect the team chief.

There will be no issue of a leader overstaying his welcome. The fans will get to control the fate of the team and maybe pay an average of RM600 to enjoy member privileges and those who aspire to be the president must provide a bank guarantee.

This means the candidates are successful businessmen who do not need football to earn a living nor garner political mileage.

It’s time to return football back to its real owners - the masses.

Friday, December 9, 2016

FAM, the league and community-based clubs

The idea of a league independent of the FA of Malaysia, on top of community-based clubs, was first discussed in 1999.

This article appeared on The Malay Mail February 20, 2005, following FAM's decision to appoint PwC in proposing a restructure. The outcome?

SIX years ago, a group of officials from the FA of Malaysia (FAM) descended on the land of the Rising Sun to conduct a study on the progress made by Japan.

The six-man group were led by the then FAM assistant secretary, Datuk Yap Nyim Keong. Forming the team were the then head of academies, Datuk Paduka Ahmad Basri Mohd Akil, the ex-director-general of education, Datuk Shukor Abdullah, former FAM director of coaching Ronald Smith, the then FAM council member Datuk Dell Akbar Khan and former national Under-19 coach B. Sathianathan.

This writer was among the privileged few to be given an insight into how the Japanese had made the quantum leap, when in fact they had kicked off their development programme based on the Malaysian model following a visit to Kuala Lumpur in 1980.

Today, none of the individuals who formed the study group remain in FAM.

Unfortunately, the report they submitted to the FAM top brass was never put into practice. The conclusion from the tour was a change in the FAM set-up and how things were conducted were imperative if we were to move with the times.

One of them was that FAM must be independent of the State FAs. But it requires the FAM constitution to be amended to enable the body to shift their focus towards developing the sport.

This will also allow FAM to be run by technical people and corporate figures with the principal office-bearers as figureheads.

The idea of a new league structure run by a separate entity was also mooted along the lines of the J-League which is the body that administers the league in Japan.

The J-League, introduced in 1993, requires each club to set down deep roots throughout their home community, with corporate sponsors providing crucial back-up with their administrative skills.

The J-League's board of directors and auditors are elected by the general meeting. The executive committee consists of the chairman, directors with specific responsibilities and one representative selected from each club. The board of directors are the J-League's highest authority in deciding the aims and policies of the league. The executive committee puts those aims and policies into effect as well as deliberating and deciding on matters entrusted to it by the board of directors.

This is where good corporate governance comes in. It provides a system of checks and balances, so that directors are always looking over the shoulders of management.

The national body, which is the Japanese FA (JFA), are thus solely responsible for developing the game at grassroots level through a pyramid structure without being bogged down by affairs of the league.

The idea was not to adopt the Japanese model in totality but some of the proposals put forward were worth a try. Unfortunately, what concerns FAM at this moment is the administrative set-up, when in fact it should be last of the agenda.

Granted there are some weaknesses in the daily administration and maybe a revamp is timely.

So let us see what globally-renowned consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) may have in store for FAM.

According to their website, PwC serve their clients primarily in four areas corporate accountability, risk management, structuring and mergers and acquisitions and performance and process improvement.

Also, their extensive studies into the future of the workplace are designed to help their clients create value for their business through people.

So basically, they will look into the human resource aspects of the body, with health, welfare and retirement benefits for the staff, and the possible addition of a few departments to help FAM establish a more professional outlook.

It's no rocket science really because what FAM need are a team of professionals, who will be held accountable with a set of objectives to be fulfilled within the stipulated period.

For instance if a marketing man were to be employed to market the Super League, he would be given a target to strive for, let us say RM1 million in two years. If he fails, he will be given the boot.

Because of the occupational hazard, he or she will enjoy a lucrative salary.

An association like FAM, who continue to rely on council members to decide on the policies will struggle to meet the demands of today's game. Can PwC help FAM on that score?

We hope Shah Alam Antlers and Petaling Jaya Rangers be the agents of change in an environment which, unfortunately, encourages mediocrity and protects self-serving decision-makers.

Saturday, December 3, 2016



In March last year, I wrote about the M-League being operated by an entity independent of FA of Malaysia (FAM).

Like many others, the patriot in me was seduced by the idea of a hybrid model league structure designed to elevate both the commercial appeal of the league and the standard of the national team.

"We studied various models in coming up with a structure. Eventually it was decided that FMLLP remain under the auspices of FAM because of national interests. Everything is done with the interests of the national team in mind.

"A totally independent body running the league will drive through its plans without taking into consideration the requirements of the national team," so said Kevin Ramalingam, CEO of FMLLP, or Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership.

Kevin and Co oversee five properties owned by FAM – the Super League, the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Sultan Ahmad Shah Cup or Charity Shield and the Malaysia Cup – in terms of enforcing the rules and regulations of the league, match fixtures, as well as the commercial and broadcasting rights for the M-League, with FAM affiliates having a stake in the structure.

That would be a boost for FAM, who has been running the game with a budget deficit for the past few years. FMLLP was to handle a guaranteed minimum amount of RM70 million a year in a deal with leading international media rights company, MP & Silva, beginning 2016, with a total revenue of RM1.26 billion spread over 15 years.

FMLLP’s baby steps thus far elicit a mixed review.

On the plus side, some of the properties have been given a fresh commercial brand – the Premier League is now known as the 100 Plus Premier League, Malaysia Cup is TM Malaysia Cup and the Superbest Power is the title sponsors of the FA Cup.

MP & Silva and FMLLP have managed to source an estimated RM40 million in sponsorship value, short however of RM30 million as promised. On the downside, there have been murmurs of discontent.

The FA Cup and Malaysia Cup draws were shown live on TV, breaking convention and good for sponsors but offer little for other stakeholders, including the print media. It could be a case of pleasing the sponsors and paying scant regard for the true supporters.

As the face of Malaysian football, the homepage offers a mixture of English and Bahasa Malaysia, similar to that of the FAM, while news, articles and profile features on the landing page are not accompanied with the latest statistics.

Kevin’s threat of issuing action against salary defaulters like the Kelantan FA has fallen on deaf ears. In fact FAM affiliates are gung-ho enough to ignore, question and undermine FMLLP’s authority.

The sad truth is that FAM has its noose on FMLLP’s neck. Kevin is not exactly a new kid on the block, having run the commercial arm of Kelantan FA previously but intelligent enough to hire two veterans of the game – former FIFA referees Nik Ahmad Yakub and Amir Sharifuddin Wong to put FMLLP on an even keel.

Nik Ahmad who previously served in FAM, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Indonesia is the technical audit and training manager, while Amir Sharifuddin is special projects manager.

But Kevin and Co understand the scenario. They remain subservient to the FMLLP Exective Board, currently comprising FAM representatives – president, Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, two deputy presidents – Afandi and Datuk Mokhtar Ahmad, general secretary Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin and treasurer, Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria.

Under the pretext of protecting national interests, disciplinary matters relating to the league fall under FAM’s auspices, rendering FMLLP toothless in taking action against affiliates laden with unpaid salaries.

FMLLP has no financial department that is independent of FAM.

The red tape is not helping FMLLP’s reputation. The dynamics is such that local football is run by warlords linked to the ruling government.

And imagine the conflicting interests when a member of the FMLLP executive board and the No 2 of the national governing body happens to the deputy president of an affiliate in debt and yet to settle unpaid wages.

The idea is for FMLLP to hasten Malaysian football into the professional world.

The league congress which will consist representatives of the 24 teams in the top two-tier competitions – 12 from the Super League and another 12 from the Premier League – plus five from FAM, FMLLP will then be navigated by the decisions made by the teams themselves.

Before that to happen, Kevin and Co must learn not to promise the stars. Given the present scenario, we are not ready for it a fully professional and privatised football league. Unfortunately.



I WAS in my teens when Italian Soccer was shown in the mid-80s over TV3, Malaysia’s first private television station.

On the heels of Italy’s World Cup victory in 1982, Serie A enjoyed a new lease of life as it made a turnaround of fortunes after suffering the ignominy of a match-fixing scandal in 1980.

The league attracted football’s crème de la crème.

Michel Platini’s telepathic understanding with Zbigniew Boniek symbolised Juventus’ attacking prowess, while Diego Maradona’s mazy dribbling skills illuminated Napoli.

Fans danced to the samba beat as Socrates, Falcao, Zico, Cerezo and Junior brought the Brazilian flavour to Italy.

The Italians were no slouch either – Paolo Rossi, Giancarlo Antognoni, Gaetano Scirea and Marco Tardelli were classy footballers in their own right.

Sampdoria rose to prominence with the able assistance of Brits like Trevor Francis and Graeme Souness, who provided guidance to youngsters Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini.

Italy was the place to be, even for the technically-challenged Englishman like Luther Blissett. And due to the weekly exposure to Serie A, I vividly remember Bari featured two Englishmen - Paul Rideout and Gordon Cowans during that timeframe.

Cowans who was a vital cog behind Aston Villa’s European Cup victory in 1982, was a cultured left-footed playmaker, not exactly in the mould of the typical English hard-running and hard-tackling midfield terrier.

By the time Bari announced David Platt’s transfer from Aston Villa in 1995, Serie A no longer attracted the greatest talents.

They prefer La Liga or the English top-flight, rebranded as the Premiership in 1992. Serie A does not have the audience share in terms of TV, as the bulk goes to England and the fans no longer fill the stadia.

It is therefore a surprise when Serie B side, Bari, announced that 50 percent of the club’s share are now owned by a Malaysian, Datuk Noordin Ahmad.

Although he has been in business for more than two decades, Noordin is an unknown entity as opposed to AirAsia tycoon and branding guru, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes.

It was not hard to understand the rationale behind Fernandes’ takeover of Queens Park Rangers (QPR).

He realises the Premiership offered a huge audience from Asia, estimated by a research by the Premier League to be 470 million followers, more than any other region in the world.

It was the best platform to promote his brand all at one go across all market segments in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and India.

AirAsia did their part for the national federation too. The FA of Malaysia (FAM) was a beneficiary of a paltry sum of RM1 million per annum from AirAsia when Khairy Jamaluddin was the deputy president of the body.

About the same time, Mohamed bin Hammam who presided over the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) from 2002 to 2011, claimed 61 percent of all football revenue generated in Asia went to the Premier League!

For the 2013-2016 time frame, the Premiership broadcasting deal in Asia was worth an estimated US$1,270 million, with Astro Holdings Berhad paying a reportedly US$200 million to bring the matches to the comforts of our homes.

From the purist’s point of view, Hammam was probably right in saying Europe was taking vast sums of money out of Asia without leaving a lasting legacy.

But football being a huge global broadcasting product that is subject to market forces, investors, marketeers and the moneymen think otherwise.

This begs the question – why not invest big-time in the local game? Ideally a consortium of companies owned by Fernandes, Tan Sri Vincent Tan who owns Cardiff City, Belgian outfit KV Kotrijk and Bosnian club FK Sarajevo and Noordin could have given something back to Malaysian football and its audience.

TV statistics suggest it has a huge following as well.

But one of the biggest stumbling blocks for Malaysian football is the lack of professionalism at all levels.

The only individual who owns a team is Tengku Mahkota Johor, who has done wonders in marketing JDT as a brand and a winning outfit.

Despite promising to invest much as RM16 million for two season into the Kelantan side, Datuk Seri Dr Hasmiza Othman, known as Dr Vida, will testify that she has little authority in determining the course of the elite team, the back-up squad or the academy unless she owns the team, very much like the way JDT is run by Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.

In short, Malaysian football is not business friendly enough to create a sustainable industry for potential investors. The group of individuals and politicians running Malaysian football are not professionals.

That is why Europe is cashing in!


Heading: Forget about becoming world-beaters, focus on the regional goals first 

Sub head: When Malaysia’s hope of boarding the plane to Brazil went up in smokes, the public made a mockery of the FAM’s 1999 aspirations

Personally I do not blame the public for throwing brickbats at the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) for an announcement they made way back in 1999 that, unfortunately for the fat cats at the Wisma FAM, has come back to haunt them.

There were several key decisions made by the FAM technical committee on July 29 that year to be exact.

As a representative of the Malay Mail in charge of covering the FAM beat, I was there along with my colleagues from the mainstream media, rubbing our hands with glee about the prospect of the governing body hitting the headlines – either for the right or wrong reasons – yet again.

Just to jog your memory, among the key decisions made were:

# two referees were to officiate in that year’s Malaysia Cup
# Ronald Smith, the Australian coach who made his name at Sabah, was to handle the national back-up team for the Bangabandhu Independence Cup in Bangladesh the following year
# a fitness licence was to be introduced in 2001 to ensure only players certified fit after a battery of tests were allowed to play in the league;
# and, of course, the most outlandish one had to be the announcement of Malaysia wanting to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 2014.

Oh yes, I was there when that dream was shared with the media. Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, deputy president of FAM in 1999, told the media a blueprint was in the process of being drafted and that the national body would be focusing on the cream of the 12-15 years old to develop them as world-beaters.

I recall that it took the media by surprise. Some of us were bemused, others chuckled and scoffed at the idea.

The announcement would have gone viral, to borrow today’s tech-lingo, followed by memes mocking the FAM.

It naturally elicited a negative response. Various quarters argued on mainstream media that a nation that had – and still has – the perennial issue of questionable high-performance track record at all levels should not be suddenly entertaining the idea of participating in the World Cup.

The idea was laughable they said, and they were proven right. Since that fateful day, Malaysia made five attempts at qualifying, to no avail.

It crossed my mind that the FAM were perhaps under pressure to seduce the public with an ambitious project similar to that of the Football Association of Singapore, which made their statement of intent with the Goal 2010 project, a year earlier.

It spawned the Foreign Talent Scheme, which led to the Singapore government granting citizenship to non-Singaporeans.

When Malaysia’s hope of boarding the plane to Brazil in 2014 went up in smokes as early as 2011 with a defeat to, ironically, fierce rivals Singapore, the public made a mockery of the FAM’s 1999 aspirations, with the paper cuttings of the report making their rounds in the Internet.

Two foreign coaches, Allan Harris and Bertalan Bicskei, preceded four local tacticians – B. Sathianathan, Datuk K. Rajagobal, Dollah Salleh and Datuk Ong Kim Swee (to be fair, he was in charge of Malaysia’s solitary win in the latest campaign) – in overseeing Malaysia’s fruitless efforts from 2001 to 2016.

And the players between 12 and 15 years old mooted by Tengku Abdullah in 1999 only had as many as 11 players who eventually lifted the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2010 – Safee Sali, Razman Roslan, Ashaari Shamsuddin, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Amirulhadi Zainal, Sharbinee Alawee, Sabre Mat Abu, Amar Rohidan, Khyril Muhymeen Zambri, Safiq Rahim and S. Kunanlan.

Seventeen years down the road, we have gladly shifted the goal posts. Now we are hyping up the potential of hosting the event, with the powers-that-be floating the idea of co-hosting with Southeast Asian neighbours for the 2034 World Cup.

It suits us to a tee simply because we have become so accustomed to cutting corners, so why not the painless but perhaps expensive of way of hosting the World Cup?

However, instead of doing that, the country should focus on qualifying for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

We stand a chance of qualifying through a process involving minnows in the play-offs and current head coach Ong will have a chance to stamp his own mark with a younger generation. If we cannot qualify for the 2019 showcase on merit, we can forget about becoming world-beaters!



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.



IGNORANCE is bliss, so they say. But in footballing terms, ignorance is no excuse.

It has been more than 20 years after the M-League turned fully professional (in name) but a structured transfer system has yet to be established.

Transfer refers essentially to the contractual relationship and rules that oblige a player and a club.

So a transfer is whenever a player moves from one club to another and implies the transferring of a player’s registration from one club to another.

A transfer fee is involved when a player moves to another club whilst he is still under contract with his present employers.

In other words it calls for an early termination of his present contract.

There are two types of financial indemnities related to transfers, transfer fee and training compensation.

Transfer for early termination of contract can be described as an agreement between a professional player, the club he is leaving and the club he is joining subject to all parties being agreeable to the terms and conditions.

So a transfer is a tripartite agreement between the player, the transferor club and the transferee club.

Training compensation or development fee can be defined as an amount agreed by all parties to indicate expenses incurred in developing the player during his formative years.

In a sport that has a large number of commercial interests - advertising, media industry and sportswear, a transfer can create a media circus.

In recent times we have been exposed to numerous cases. FAM handed Gary Steven Robbat a three-month suspension and a fine of RM50,000 for signing with Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) without prior approval in 2014, with the suspension bringing an end to a three-way tussle for the then 22-year-old player, namely his home state Kedah, Johor and Pahang.

The biggest issue then was that he was tied to FAM by virtue of being a Harimau Muda player. Now that the Harimau Muda program has been abolished, the issue of players having to return to their original State or birthplace upon reaching a certain age is no longer relevant.

Selangor right-back Azrif Nasrulhaq Badrul Hisham was still contracted to FA of Selangor when JDT lured him recently with an interesting proposition.

If there was a transfer system in place, Azrif could have brought his case to FAM and seek an early termination of contract from Selangor and for JDT to pay not only the remaining of his contract but a certain fee agreeable to both parties.

Pahang meanwhile will need to negotiate with Frenz United to release R. Kogileswaren and R. Dinesh, two of nine players down with a five-year scholarship deal with the private club since 2014.

Amidst this chaos, the Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia (PFAM) can justify its existence. Having been dormant for a long time, PFAM was revived by a group of players led by Hairuddin Omar, Shukor Adan and Rezal Zambery Yahya.

A young chap called Izham Ismail was handpicked to head a group of young individuals with legal background to run the office.

In a forum co-organised by a loose coalition of fans, ex-players and coaches calling themselves Real Friends with the assistance of the National Football Development Plan (NFDP) support unit, Izham revealed the staggering number of unpaid salaries.

Despite being a new kid on the block, Izham is sceptical for a transfer system to work given the current scenario.

"The players need to realise being professional is not only about earning a certain sum of money and salary negotiation.

"In professional football it has become an industry and therefore it has to be managed like a business. The players are the team’s assets and under such circumstances, the players have to see themselves as commodities.

"A player of a certain stature can be a source of revenue and income for the teams and himself. He is in a position to bargain for the highest bidder and the value is reflected in the amount of the transfer fees.

"Over here the idea of an established transfer system is still vague. Very seldom we hear Team A paying Team B a sum as a transfer fee. Often we have teams paying compensation fees for buying out the remaining contract.

In order for a transfer system to be put in place, Izham says the issue of unpaid salaries needs to be addressed.

"The basic principle of a transfer must be fully understood by everyone connected to the game. We are deeply saddened by the fact many teams are taking the players for a ride.

"Until today five teams owe their players an accumulative sum of RM4.47 million in unpaid salaries. The FAM Status Committee meanwhile takes a long time to convene and provide a solution to this."

The ball is in FAM’s court. The merry-go-round circus will surely stop one day.

Four-Four-Two column - February 2016


Malaysian football was perceived to be in a healthy state in the 50s.

On the global front, it had a showpiece event to be proud of in the form of the Merdeka Tournament, an event that was known beyond its shores.

In the domestic game, the HMS Malaya Cup, the precursor to the Malaysia Cup, was the ultimate aim for every footballer worth his salt.

For up and coming youth, there was the Burnley Cup, introduced in 1962 and which was later rebranded as the Razak Cup for players under the age of 20, to look forward to.

Life was much simpler then. And believe it or not, despite not having fully embraced commercialism, the competitions were fully sponsored by tobacco money! The widespread reality in Malaysia then was the strong links between the Malayan Tobacco Company with the no 1 sport in the country.

Players Gold Leaf for example financed the coaching sojourns of German master coach Dettmar Cramer and Scotsman Dave McLaren, who won the Malaya Cup as a goalkeeper with Penang in 1954 before becoming coach of the 1971 pre-Olympics team.

The trip to Europe made by the late Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Minhat and Robert Choe in the 1960s was also financed by tobacco money.

The Burnley Cup – a ready-made platform for talent scouts to scour for unpolished gems – too was brought to the public by cigarette companies.

The Merdeka Tournament would not have been a great success without the support of various sponsors and partners to FAM, which until 1984, had only three properties to their name – the Merdeka Tournament, the Malaysia Cup and the FAM Cup.

Then came the semi-pro league in 1989.

In terms of drawing power, there was nothing wrong with the Malaysia Cup. But apart from the annual ritual to see who would emerge as the winner, it was not helping FAM keep pace with the global game.

It yearned for a league that offered the competitive edge over a certain period.

Competitions mushroomed. On top of the existing tournaments, the two-tier Semi-Pro league and the FA Cup as well as the revamped inter-club FAM Cup created a multi-million ringgit industry.

When Sultan Ahmad Shah took over FAM in 1984, the sponsorship income was RM500,000, inclusive of the Merdeka Tournament, while the bank balance was RM500,000.

FAM too generated token income from rental of the old Wisma FAM at Jalan Maharajalela. The figures shot up within seven years, with an income of RM11.5 million annually with an excess cash of RM10 million.

How did FAM cultivate a relationship with the various stakeholders – the sponsors, the media and the fans especially?

It was unavoidable for FAM to create a stronger link with commercial enterprise. The conventional means of keeping sponsors happy was to have their logos on jerseys and the naming rights to various competitions and all marketing collaterals, including outdoor advertising such as billboards.

Before the advent of satellite television, broadcasting rights of local competitions were distributed to either government-run RTM or private stations such as TV3 and ntv7.

There was no other media rights involved.

For key events like a Malaysia Cup draw, for instance, was held in a lavish manner as the media mixed business with pleasure on land and sea.

Fast forward to 2015, football in Malaysia has become a far greater profit-maximising industry.

Astro’s RM30 million a year sponsorship which ran from 2011 to 2015 raised the profile of the domestic game.

The commercial aspects of the game grew, with capital accumulation by offering opportunities for enterprises to provide essentials and accessories, retail, sponsorship and advertising.

Repucom, a leading market research audit company, calculated the total media value of the league amounted to almost RM500 million.

And when Astro’s sponsorship term ended in early 2015, it created a bidding war that ultimately led to the appointment of MP & Silva as a global adviser for FAM.

Tasked to bring in at least RM80 million a year for FMLLP, the entity formed to run the M-League, MP & Silva have managed to draw sponsors with naming rights for the FA Cup and the Malaysia Cup.

In return the sponsors demand for greater brand exposure!

While the action that takes place outside the pitch sometimes overshadow the ongoings on it, football continues to evoke passion of the most extreme.

Since it is one of the most marketable and influential products, one’s passionate allegiance to the sport is manipulated by marketing gurus and individuals seeking personal gain, whether you are in Malaysia or elsewhere.

Football is certainly no ordinary business. Traditionally football teams aim to win matches, not to make profit. The ultimate challenge is to strike while the iron is hot. Then only can one mix business with pleasure.

Four-Four-Two column - January 2016


A sumptuous through ball to Luciano Figueroa ended up with the ball in the back of the Lions XII net.

Shortly after he sent a trademark free-kick beyond the despairing dive of Izwan Mahbud.

Those two moments of brilliance, registered into the annals of Malaysian football on January 28, 2014, did not really epitomise Pablo Aimar’s brief fling with Johor Darul Ta’zim.

Undoubtedly his sheer presence in the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsular was a coup. It was also a marketing strategy to enhance JDT’s growing reputation as a force to be reckoned with in South East Asia.

A player of Aimar’s reputation quickly raised the league profile.

Search engines on Aimar and internet hits on JDT grew by leaps and bounds.

On the pitch however, his eight months in Johor yielded only two goals in eight matches. Still his moments of brilliance, however fleeting, remain unforgettable.

That match against Lions XII at Tan Sri Hassan Yunos Stadium, widely acknowledged as having the best pitch in the country, was one of them.

Shakir Shaari set up Aimar who split the Lions XII defence open with a sublime pass using the outside of his foot, paving the way for Figueroa to slot home inside Izwan’s near post.

Three minutes before the break, another magic was produced by the former Valencia and Benfica maestro.

Defender Afiq Yunos upended JDT attacker Amri Yahyah and Aimar stepped up to send an exquisite 20-metre free-kick over the wall, again leaving Izwan clutching at thin air.

For Malaysian fans fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of Aimar’s entry into the world as he helped Argentina to the 1997 FIFA World Youth Cup title, months shy before he turned 18, it was the majestic touch that they had been waiting for.

Unfortunately it was shortlived. Aimar was axed in April 2014, less than a year into his sojourn in Malaysia.

His compatriot Figueroa, who was signed together with Aimar, however, remained. Fondly known as Lucho, Figueroa’s goalscoring instincts and work ethics endeared him to JDT faithful. With 11 goals to his name in 2014 Super League, he was second only to Golden Boot winner Paulo Rangel’s 16 goals.

With Aimar’s replacement Jorge Pereyra Diaz firing on all cylinders, the Argentine duo helped JDT to the league title in June and eventually to the Malaysia Cup final before losing to Pahang in a heartbreaking penalty shootout.

Lucho’s cameo role also led JDT to a historic win over Istiklol in the AFC Cup final.

Another matchwinner from Argentina is Matias Conti, who nodded the ball home for Pahang to win the Malaysia Cup in 2013.

Long before Aimar, Lucho and Diaz performed the tango on our shores, Malaysia had grown accustomed to Latin flair.

In 2003, Juan Manuel Arostegui took the Malaysia Cup by storm.

In Division Two of the old format, Arostegui was in such a free scoring mood that he totalled 50 goals, including a hattrick in the Malaysia Cup final as Selangor MPPJ became the first club side to lift the Cup.

Arostegui was ably abetted by again another Argentine, Bruno Martelotto, a midfield dynamo known for his tireless running.

Blazing the trail before them were a long list of Argentines that featured Jose Iriarte, Brian Fuentes, Luis Pablo Pozzuto and Gustavo Fuentes among them.

For Kedah fans who covet Sandro da Silva’s dead-ball expertise, they appreciate the fact the Northern giants had been dancing to the samba in the 90s, with Andre Luis Nascimento pulling the strings in midfield.

The tradition was continued by attacker Marcos Tavares and his left foot before Chilean Nelson San Martin became the vital cog in Kedah’s machinery with his silky skills and curling free-kicks as the Canaries (Kedah’s previous nickname) won the Double Treble in 2007 and 2008.

Most of these Latin maestros were natural crowd-pullers with their technical and tactical abilities surpassing that of their local counterparts. The flair for finding their team mates with pin-point passes, the final through ball piercing the opponents’ defence, the ability to keep possession with solid shielding skills, the sheer mastery of the ball in slaloming past defenders and above all the knack of scoring goals from dead-ball situations made them cult figures with their respective fans.

Rangel for example was a goal machine who found the net for Perak, Selangor and Terengganu with consummate ease, putting aside his off-the-pitch antics.

The overall standard aside, the Latin maestros could not help but fall in love with the Malaysian weather and hospitality. The fans in return showered them with affection and admiration. The feeling was clearly mutual.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bitah, baju kurung, abah-abah dan K-Pop

Tahun lalu majalah digital Arena menemu ramah Nur Dhabitah Sabri, dengan membawa kelainan. Kami meminta pelajar Sekolah Sukan Bukit Jalil itu mengenakan baju kurung untuk segmen Sepetang Bersama...

Tentunya temu bual ini diadakan lama sebelum Bitah mencuri perhatian di Rio de Janeiro...

Lakaran Jason, foto Johanif.

Tarikh lahir: 12 Julai, 1999
Asal: Kuala Lumpur Keluarga: Anak bongsu daripada empat beradik
Tinggi: 152sm Berat: 45kg
Pencapaian: Pingat emas 3m papan anjal seirama dan gangsa 10m platform seirama Kejohanan Grand Prix Dunia FINA di Kuala Lumpur 2014, gangsa 10m platform seirama Sukan Komanwel Glasgow 2014, ketujuh 3m papan anjal seirama Piala Dunia Shanghai 2014, pingat emas 10m platform seirama Sukan SEA Myanmar 2013, dua pingat emas Piala Terjun Asia Singapura 2013, pingat emas 1m dan 3m papan anjal Kejohanan Akuatik Asia Tenggara 2012, pingat emas 3m papan anjal individu dan seirama Sukan Malaysia (Sukma) Kuantan 2012, pingat emas 1m papan anjal individu Kejohanan MSSM 2009, pingat gangsa 3m papan anjal seirama Sukma Terengganu 2008

Oleh Rizal Hashim

SENARAI pencapaian Nur Dhabitah Sabri cukup panjang sejak kali pertama menerjunkan dirinya ke dalam bidang yang kini melonjakkan namanya sebagai puteri terjun.

Pada usia 10 tahun gadis cilik yang lebih mesra dengan gelaran Bitah ini sudah merasa nikmat kemenangan. Pusat Akuatik Darul Ehsan di Shah Alam menjadi saksi Nur Dhabitah menjulang nama Putrajaya pada 2009.

Namanya tercatat selaku pemenang pingat emas pertama untuk Putrajaya di peringkat kejohanan akuatik Majlis Sukan Sekolah-sekolah Malaysia (MSSM) dengan kejayaan merangkul kemenangan acara 1m papan anjal individu.

Terbukti benar naluri bapanya, Sabri Hashim, seorang guru di Putrajaya, untuk mengalih perhatian anaknya daripada renang kepada acara terjun pada usia lapan tahun selepas mengambil kira susuk tubuhnya.

Kini dengan reputasi sebagai juara Sukma, pemenang pingat emas di peringkat Asia Tenggara dan penyumbang pingat untuk kontinjen negara di Sukan Komanwel, Nur Dhabitah adalah ratu dalam pembikinan.

Anugerah Puteri MSSM Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia yang diraih baru-baru ini sekadar mengesahkan kedudukan Nur Dhabitah selaku pewaris mutlak posisi Pandelela Rinong dan Leong Mun Yee sebagai simbol kebanggaan acara terjun negara.

Namun di luar zon kehebatannya, Nur Dhabitah sama seperti gadis remaja lain yang menggemari muzik K-Pop dan sesekali menari mengikut rentaknya.

"Banyak masa saya tertumpu kepada latihan. Pelbagai rutin yang dilalui setiap hari sama ada di kolam atau di gimnasium. Untuk meredakan ketegangan, saya suka mendengar lagu,” kata Nur Dhabitah, pelajar Tingkatan Empat Asia di Sekolah Sukan Bukit Jalil (SSBJ).

Anak bongsu daripada empat beradik ini mempunyai aura positif dan bersifat periang, sesuai dalam menangani status selaku atlet elit.

Didedahkan dengan corak latihan keras di bawah pemantauan Qi Xianhua di Kompleks Akuatik di Cheras sejak usia lapan tahun, Nur Dhabitah muncul kali pertama di khalayak kebangsaan pada usia sembilan tahun di Sukma Terengganu pada 2008.

Hasilnya, pingat gangsa diraih dalam 3m papan anjal seirama di sisi Loh Zhiayi (gadis muka depan Arena edisi ini).

“Dalam terjun pesertanya kena menguasai kemahiran asas seperti berdiri, melompat dan pendaratan seawal boleh. Jika di gim, kami menghabiskan banyak masa bergantung di abah-abah keselamatan, lompat trampolin dan terjun.

“Kami berlatih dua kali sehari, pada pagi dan awal petang,” kata Nur Dhabitah.

Beruntung kerana ditemani abangnya Muhammad Danial yang mewakili negara sebelum mengundur diri gara-gara jangkitan di telinga, Nur Dhabitah menyifatkan keluarganya sebagai pendorong.

Nur Dhabitah sedar tanpa pengorbanan bapanya Sabri dan ibunya, Fazidah Jaafar, penolong pengarah Bahagian Pendidikan Swasta, Kementerian Pendidikan, yang sentiasa berada di sisinya di saat susah dan senang, tidak mungkin dia mengecap kejayaan sejauh ini.

Ini ditambah kata-kata perangsang kakaknya, Nur Safura dan abangnya, Muhammad Safuan, kedua-duanya bertugas di sebuah institusi pengajian swasta.

“Mak dan Ayah tidak putus-putus beri galakan. Adanya abang dalam disiplin yang sama memudahkan saya memberi tumpuan,” katanya.

Di kala Danial melupakan terus kerjaya sukan, Nur Dhabitah meneruskan perjuangan memburu impian ke Sukan Olimpik.

“Selain buru tempat ke Rio de Janeiro, saya menghadapi Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) tahun depan. Saya kena fokus,” katanya yang mendapat 2A pada Sistem Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3) tahun lalu.

Tidak kisah sama ada platform atau papan anjal, Nur Dhabitah menyerap segala teknik dan tunjuk ajar Zhang Yukun dan Yang Zhuliang dalam memajukan dirinya.

“Selain pelbagai rutin yang dipelajari, kami didedahkan dengan darjah kesukaran untuk meraih mata.”

Sejauh ini Nur Dhabitah sudah melakar nama selaku peserta paling muda menjuarai acara di peringkat antarabangsa dengan kejayaan di Kejohanan Akuatik Asia Tenggara di Singapura pada 2012 selain mengutip pengalaman bersaing di Grand Prix Dunia FINA, Piala Dunia, Sukan Asia dan Sukan Komanwel.

Laluan sudah terbentang untuk Nur Dhabitah menyusuri jejak Pandelela, pemenang pingat gangsa Sukan Olimpik 2012. Semoga sukses, Bitah.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Post-Rio analysis

A year before we celebrate the 60th anniversary of Merdeka, and on the 60th anniversary of our first foray into the Olympic Games in Melbourne 1956, the contingent returned home from the Rio Olympics with their finest haul, four silver and one bronze to finish 60th in the medal tally.

While we finished behind Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore, we did beat India - the world's fastest growing economy.

The elusive gold will be won in Tokyo, no two ways about it. In order to dissect the contingent's performance objectively, loose cannon offers an analysis on where we stand statistically against the best in Asia and the region.


AGE: 25 years, 10 months
EVENT: 69kg
PERFORMANCE: Snatch 140kg, Clean and jerk 176kg, total 316kg, national record, 12th of 20 participants
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Shi Ziyong (China) 352kg
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Shi Ziyong (China) 352kg
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Triyatno (Indonesia) 317kg


AGE: 33 years, 10 months
EVENT: Men’s singles
PERFORMANCE: Silver medal
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia)
PREVIOUS BEST: Lee Chong Wei (silver) London 2012

AGE: 27 years, 3 months/27 years, 3 months
EVENT: Men’s doubles
PERFORMANCE: Silver medal
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Zhang Nan-Fu Haifeng (China)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Zhang Nan-Fu Haifeng (China)
PREVIOUS BEST: Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock (silver) Atlanta 1996

AGE: 25 years, 6 months
EVENT: Women’s singles
PERFORMANCE: Group stage
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Pusarla V Sindhu (India)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (Thailand) quarterfinals
PREVIOUS BEST: Tee Jing Yi (group stage) London 2012

AGE: 26 years, 5 months/27 years, 5 months
EVENT: Women’s doubles
PERFORMANCE: Quarterfinals, losing to eventual gold medallists
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Misaki Matsutomo-Ayashi Takahashi (Japan)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Misaki Matsutomo-Ayashi Takahashi (Japan)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Hoo-Khe Wei/Greysia Polii-Nitya Krishinda Maheshwari (Indonesia)
PREVIOUS BEST: Chin Ee Hui-Wong Pei Tty (second round) Athens 2004

AGE: 28 years, 4 months/27 years, 3 months
EVENT: Mixed doubles
PERFORMANCE: Silver medal
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir (Indonesia)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir (Indonesia)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir (Indonesia)
PREVIOUS BEST: Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (group stage) London 2012

(Back after 112 years)

AGE: 43 years, 9 months
EVENT: Men’s Individual Stroke Play
PERFORMANCE: 48th of 60 golfers, 73, 70, 76, 69 (288)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand)

AGE: 22 years, 8 months
EVENT: Men’s Individual Stroke Play
PERFORMANCE: 47th of 60 golfers, 74, 75, 72, 68 (287)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand)

AGE: 22 years, 10 months
EVENT: Women’s Individual Stroke Play
PERFORMANCE: 51st of 59 golfers, 78, 70, 76, 73 (297)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Pornanong Phatlum (Thailand)

AGE: 25 years, 11 months
EVENT: Women’s Individual Stroke Play
PERFORMANCE: 58th from 59 golfers, 79, 71, 76, 82 (308)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Pornanong Phatlum (Thailand)


AGE: 28 years, 1 month
EVENT: Men’s keirin
PERFORMANCE: Bronze medal
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Azizulhasni Awang (Malaysia)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Azizulhasni Awang (Malaysia)
PREVIOUS BEST: Josiah Ng (6th) Athens 2004, Azizulhasni Awang (6th) London 2012

AGE: 27 years, 5 months
EVENT: Women’s sprint
PERFORMANCE: 21st of 27 cyclists, 11.207s, top 18 qualified for heats
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Kristina Vogel (Germany)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Zhong Tianshi (China) in final standings, Lee Wai Sze (Hong Kong) fastest qualifier
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Fatehah Mustapa (Malaysia)


AGE: 24 years, 11 months
EVENT: Men’s individual and team
PERFORMANCE: 22nd in ranking round, lost to Florian Floto (Germany) in second round/lost to France in last 16
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Ku Bonchan (Korea)/South Korea (team)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Ku Bonchan (Korea)/South Korea (team)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Khairul Anuar Mohamad (Malaysia)/Indonesia (quarterfinals)
PREVIOUS BEST: Cheng Chu Sian (quarterfinals) Beijing 2008 and Khairul Anuar Mohamad (quarterfinals) London 2012/team (quarterfinals) Beijing 2008

AGE: 23 years, 1 month
EVENT: Men’s individual/team event
PERFORMANCE: First round defeat to Zach Garrett (US)/first round defeat to France
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Ku Bonchan (Korea)/South Korea (team)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Ku Bonchan (Korea)/South Korea (team)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Khairul Anuar Mohamad (Malaysia)/Indonesia (quarterfinals)
PREVIOUS BEST: Cheng Chu Sian (quarterfinals) Beijing 2008 and Khairul Anuar Mohamad (quarterfinals) London 2012/team (quarterfinals) Beijing 2008

AGE: 21 years, 1 month
EVENT: Men’s individual/team event
PERFORMANCE: First round defeat to Juan Ignacio Rodriguez (Spain)/first round defeat to France RANKING AMONG ASIANS: 19th
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Ku Bonchan (Korea)/South Korea (team)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Ku Bonchan (Korea)/South Korea (team)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Khairul Anuar Mohamad (Malaysia)/Indonesia (quarterfinals)
PREVIOUS BEST: Cheng Chu Sian (quarterfinals) Beijing 2008 and Khairul Anuar Mohamad (quarterfinals) London 2012/team (quarterfinals) Beijing 2008


AGE: 24 years
EVENT: Men’s 10m air pistol, 50m pistol
PERFORMANCE: 28th of 46 shooters in 10m air pistol, 37th of 41 shooters in 50m pistol EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Hoang Xuan Vinh (Vietnam)/Jin Jongoh (Korea)
RANKING AMONG ASIANS: 13th in 10m, 15th in 50m
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Hoang Xuan Vinh (Vietnam)/Jin Jongoh (Korea)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Hoang Xuan Vinh (Vietnam)/Hoang Xuan Vinh (Vietnam) silver
PREVIOUS BEST: None/Sabiamad Abdul Ahad (537) Los Angeles 1984


AGE: 24 years, 7 months
EVENT: Men’s high jump
PERFORMANCE: 2.26m from Group B, did not make the cut to final on countback
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Derek Drouin (Canada) 2.38m
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Mutaz Essa Barshim (Qatar) 2.36m
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Nauraj Singh (Malaysia)
PREVIOUS BEST: Lee Hup Wei (2.20m) Beijing 2008

AGE: 23 years
EVENT: Women’s 100m
PERFORMANCE: 12.12 sec in qualifying, 12.62s in preliminary
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Elaine Thompson (Jamaica) 10.71s
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Wei Yongli (Chn) 11.48s, Round 1, Heat 1
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli (Malaysia)
PREVIOUS BEST: Annie Choong (Heats) 12.5s Melbourne 1956


AGE: 23 years, 3 months
EVENT: Laser Men
PERFORMANCE: 35th of 46 sailors
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Ha Jeemin (Korea) 12th
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Khairulnizam Affendy (Malaysia)
PREVIOUS BEST: Kevin Lim (22nd) Sydney 2000

AGE: 18 years, 6 months
EVENT: Radial female
PERFORMANCE: 33rd from 37 sailors
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Marit Bouwmeester (Netherlands)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Xu Lijia (China) 18th
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Elizabeth Yin (Singapore) 26th


AGE: 19 years, 5 months
EVENT: Men’s 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle
PERFORMANCE: 1.47.67m (26th of 37 swimmers), 3.51.57 (34th of 50), 15.32.63 (39th of 45) RANKING AMONG ASIANS: 3rd, 5th and 3rd
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Sun Yang (China)/Mack Horton (Australia)/Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Sun Yang (China)/Sun Yang (China) silver/Sun Yang (China)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Welson Sim (Malaysia)
PREVIOUS BEST: Allen Ong/Jeffrey Ong/Jeffrey Ong

AGE: 18 years, 9 months
EVENT: Women’s 100m breastroke
PERFORMANCE: 1.10.22, 33rd of 44 swimmers
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Shi Jinglin (China) 4th final, 1.06.37
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Phee Jinq Ee (Malaysia)

AGE: 27 years, 10 months
EVENT: Women’s 10km marathon
PERFORMANCE: 21st of 25 swimmers, 1.59.07
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Sharon van Rouwendaal (Netherlands)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Xin Xin (China) 4th, 1.57.14
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Heidi Gan (Malaysia)


AGE: 22 years, 9 months
EVENT: Men’s 10m platform
PERFORMANCE: 22nd in preliminary, out of 26 participants
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Ooi Tze Liang (Malaysia)

AGE: 24 years
EVENT: Men’s 3m springboard
PERFORMANCE: 29th out of 29 participants
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Ahmad Amsyar Azman (Malaysia)

AGE: 23 years, 5 months
EVENT: 10m platform, 10m platform synchro
PERFORMANCE: 11th, silver medal
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Ren Qian (China)/Chen Ruolin-Liu Xuixia (China)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Ren Qian (China)/Chen Ruolin-Liu Xuixia (China)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Nur Dhabitah Sabri (Malaysia)/Jun Hoong-Pandelela (Malaysia)

AGE: 26 years, 4 months
EVENT: 10m platform synchro, 3m springboard synchro, 3m springboard individual PERFORMANCE: silver medal with Pandelela, 5th with Nur Dhabitah, 21st out of 29 divers EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Chen Ruolin-Liu Xuixia (China)/Wu Minxia-Shi Tingmao (China)/Shi Tingmao (China)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Chen Ruolin-Liu Xuixia (China)/Wu Minxia-Shi Tingmao (China)/Shi Tingmao (China)
BEST ASEAN PERFORMER: Jun Hoong-Pandelela (Malaysia)/Nur Dhabitah Sabri-Cheng Jun Hoong (Malaysia)/Ng Yan Yee (Malaysia)

AGE: 23 years, 1 month
EVENT: Women’s 3m springboard
PERFORMANCE: 10th in final

AGE: 17 years, 1 month
EVENT: 10m platform individual, 3m springboard synchro
EVENTUAL GOLD MEDALLIST: Ren Qian (China)/Wu Minxia-Shi Tingmao (China)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Ren Qian (China)/Wu Minxia-Shi Tingmao (China)
BEST ASIAN PERFORMER: Nur Dhabitah Sabri (Malaysia)/NurDhabitah-Jun Hoong (Malaysia)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

For the record - how our athletes fared in Athens 2004

For future reference. From the media centre in Athens, loose cannon scoured for details in order to share these information with The Malay Mail readers those days.

FROM the following comparative study involving the Malaysian representatives against the best, internationally, continentally and regionally, only Josiah Ng emerged with some credit from the 28th Olympic Games in Athens.

Individual analysis

Mon Redee Sut Txi (Archery)
Age: 22
Event: Individual
Performance: First round, lost to Russia's Natalia Bolotova
44th out of 51 archers
Eventual gold medallist: Park Sung-hyun (Korea)
Best Asian performer: Park Sung-hyun (Korea)
Best Asean performer: Jasmin Figueora (Philippines) second round, ranked 27th

Nazmizan Muhammad (athletics)
Age: 23
Event: Men's 200m
Performance: 7th in Heat 6, 45th out of 53 sprinters
Eventual gold medallist: Shawn Crawford (US), 19.79s
Best Asian performer: Yang Yaozu (Chn) 20.59s, 13th
Best Asean performer: Nazmizan Muhammad (Mas)

Yuan Yufang (athletics)
Age: 28
Event: Women's 20km race walk
Performance: 35th out of 52 walkers
Eventual gold medallist: Athanasia Tsoumeleka (Gre) 1:29.12
Best Asian performer: Wang Liping (Chn) 1:30.16
Best Asean performer: Yuan Yufang (Mas) 1:36.34


Wong Choong Hann
Age: 27
Event: Men's singles
Performance: Second round, lost to Indonesia's Taufik Hidayat
Eventual gold medallist: Taufik Hidayat (Ina)
Best Asian performer: Taufik Hidayat (Ina)
Best Asean performer: Taufik Hidayat (Ina)

Muhammad Roslin Hashim
Age: 29
Event: Men's singles
Performance: First round, lost to Sony Dwi Kuncoro
Eventual gold medallist: Taufik Hidayat (Ina)
Best Asian performer: Taufik Hidayat (Ina)
Best Asean performer: Taufik Hidayat (Ina)

Lee Chong Wei
Age: 22
Event: Men's singles
Performance: Second round, lost to Chen Hong (Chn)
Eventual gold medallist: Taufik Hidayat (Ina)
Best Asian performer: Taufik Hidayat (Ina)
Best Asean performer: Taufik Hidayat (Ina)

Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah
Age: 28/29
Event: Men's doubles
Performance: Quarter-finals, lost to Korean pair Lee Dong Soo-Yoo Yong Sung
Eventual gold medallist: Kim Dong Moon-Ha Tae Kwon (Kor)
Best Asian performer: Kim Dong Moon-Ha Tae Kwon (Kor)
Best Asean performer: Eng Hian-Flandy Limpele (Ina), bronze medallist

Chan Chong Ming-Chew Choon Eng
Age: 24/28
Event: Men's doubles
Performance: Second round, lost to Zheng Bo-Sang Yang (Chn)
Eventual gold medallist: Kim Dong Moon-Ha Tae Kwon (Kor)
Best Asian performer: Kim Dong Moon-Ha Tae Kwon (Kor)
Best Asean performer: Eng Hian-Flandy Limpele (Ina) bronze medallist

Wong Pei Tty-Chin Ee Hui
Age: 23/22
Event: Women's doubles
Performance: Second round, lost to Huang Sui-Gao Ling (Chn)
Eventual gold medallist: Yang Wei-Zhang Jiewen (Chn)
Best Asian performer: Yang Wei-Zhang Jiewen (Chn)
Best Asean performer: Saralee T-Satanee C (Tha) quarterfinals

Josiah Ng (cycling)
Age: 24
Event: Sprint, keirin
Performance: 11th in sprint, 6th and finalist in keirin
Eventual gold medallist: Ryan Bayley (Aus) sprint, keirin
Best Asian performer: Josiah Ng (Mas)
Best Asean performer: Josiah Ng (Mas)

Leong Mun Yee (diving)
Age: 20
Event: 10m platform, 3m springboard
Performance: 26th out of 33 divers (3m), 21st out of 34 divers (10m)
Eventual gold medallist: Chantelle Newby (Aus) 10m, Guo Jingjing (Chn) 3m
Best Asian performer: Lao Lishi (Chn) 2nd in 10m, Guo Jingjing (Chn) 1st in 3m
Best Asean performer: Leong Mun Yee (Mas)

Gracie Junita Terry Pega
Age: 14
Event: 3m springboard
Performance: 27th out of 33 divers (3m)
Eventual gold medallist: Guo Jingjing (Chn)
Best Asian performer: Guo Jingjing (Chn)
Best Asean performer: Leong Mun Yee (Mas)

Bryan Nickson Lomas
Age: 14
Event: 10m platform
Performance: 19th out of 33 divers
Eventual gold medallist:
Best Asian performer:
Best Asean performer: Bryan Nickson Lomas (Mas)

Ng Shu Wai (gymnastics)
Age: 19
Event: Individual
Performance: 38th overall
Eventual gold medallist: Paul Hamm (US)
Best Asian performer: Kim Dae-un (Kor)
Best Asean performer: Ng Shu Wai (Mas)

Kevin Lim (sailing)
Age: 29
Event: Laser class
Performance: Best Asean performer
Eventual gold medallist: Robert Scheidt (Bra)
Best Asian performer: Kim Ho Kon (Kor)

Ricky Teh (shooting)
Age: 41
Event: Skeet
Performance: Ranked 40th overall of 41 participants, score of 113
Eventual gold medallist: Andrea Benelli (Ita)
Best Asian performer: Nasser Al-Attiya (Qatar) 4th
Best Asean performer: Ricky Teh (Malaysia)

Bernard Yeoh (shooting)
Age: 35
Event: Trap
Performance: 34th out of 35 shooters, score of 107
Eventual gold medallist: Alexei Alipov (Rus)
Best Asian performer: Ahmad Al-Maktoum (UAE) 4th
Best Asean performer: Lee Wung Yew (Sin) 21st, 115

Alex Lim Keng Liat (swimming)
Age: 23
Event: 100m, 200m backstroke
Performance: Semi-finalist in 100m back, 56.08s, first round 200m
Eventual gold medallist: Aaron Peirsol (US)
Best Asian performer: Tomomi Morita (Jpn)
Best Asean performer: Alex Lim Keng Liat (Mas)

Allen Ong
Age: 25
Event: 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle
Performance: 46th out of 83 swimmers (50m), 50th out of 69 swimmers (100m)
Eventual gold medallist: Gary Hall (US) (50m), Pieter  van den Hoogenband (Netherlands) (100m)
Best Asian performer: Lee Chung Hee, 35th (50m), Yoshihiro Okumura (27th)
Best Asean performer: Allen Ong (both events)

Siow Yi Ting
Age: 22
Event: 200m breaststroke
Performance: 21st out of 31 (200m)
Eventual gold medallist: Amanda Beard (US)
Best Asian performer: Masami Tanaka (Jpn) 4th
Best Asean performer: Jaclyn Pangilinan (Phil) 20th in heats

Saw Yi Khy
Age: 22
Event: 1,500m
Performance: 3rd in heat 1, 32nd out of 34 swimmers
Eventual gold medallist: Grant Hackett (Aus)
Best Asian performer: Takeshi Matsuda (Jpn) 13th
Best Asean performer: Charnvudth Saengsri (Thailand) 27th

Elaine Teo (taekwondo)
Age: 23
Event: 49kg
Performance: First round, lost to Guatemala's Euda Carias
Eventual gold medallist: Park Sung-hyun (Korea)
Best Asian performer: Chen Shih Hsin (Taiwan)
Best Asean performer: Yaowapa Boorapachul (Tha) bronze medallist

Muhammad Faizal Baharom (weightlifting)
Age: 22
Event: 56kg
Performance: Did not finish, 110kg (snatch)
Eventual gold medallist: Halil Mutlu (Turkey) 295kg
Best Asian performer: Wu Meijin (Chn) 287.5kg
Best Asean performer: Jadi Setiadi (Ina) 8th, 262.5kg

Monday, August 22, 2016

Covering the Olympics

The Olympics is the pinnacle of a sports journalist's career. Some of us are very fortunate indeed to be part of the extravaganza. Since I spent most of my adult years hitting the keyboard under the warm roof of the New Straits Times Press (NSTP) Berhad, the loose cannon shall take you down memory lane and highlight the elite group of sportswriters on NSTP's payroll who had been handed the privilege to cover THE Games.

Norman Siebel was perhaps the only print journalist to have enjoyed covering four successive Olympics - Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964 and Mesico 1968. Following Siebel's passing in 1969, taking turns to cover the Games were Conrad Ng in Munich 1972 and Mansoor Rahman in 1976 and 1984.

Siebel, a legend, an opinion-shaper who called a spade, a spade. I wonder how today's keyboard warriors would react to his comment pieces

Conrad Ng (seated, second from right) and Mansoor (seated, left) covered the Olympics for the New Straits Times

Rosmanizam Abdullah was dispatched to Los Angeles to cover the Olympics in 1984, thus earning the distinction of being Berita Harian's first ever representative to the Games. The previous practice was for BH to translate New Straits Times' best pieces into Bahasa. Rosmanizam earned another feather to his cap decades later. As an office-bearer of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), he became the media attache to the Malaysian contingent to the Olympics on two occasions - in Beijing 2008 and London 2012. 

Due to the distance, two journalists from BH - Amat Mat Top and Khairul Anuar Mokhtar - were picked to cover the 1988 Olympics. And...

Khairul (left) and Hj Amat, 28 years on...

The print journos in 1988 - from left Khoo Kay Soon (The Malay Mail), Amat Mat Top (BH), Nasir Ahmad (Utusan Malaysia), Khairul Anuar (BH), Fauzi Omar (Datuk) (New Straits Times), A. Subramaniam (The Star) and Mustakim Aminuddin (Datuk) (Utusan Malaysia). Fauzi was the Malay Mail Editor when I made the move from BH to the tabloid paper in September 1996. Subramaniam served as the media officer of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) when it was still located at the OCM

The BH sports editor Zian Johari covered the Barcelona Games in 1992. One of my duties was to pick up the call from Barcelona and check whether or not his stories were in the system. I translated several pieces on track and field for Jaguh. Zian was fortunate enough with the rest of the media corp for Razif-Jalani Sidek created history with the bronze in the men's doubles. A historic moment indeed.

Zian's successor, Hishamuddin Aun (Datuk) went to Atlanta to cover the centennial Games in 1996. The Kampar-born Hishamuddin, now a consultant at Astro Arena, was one of 5,695 accredited print journalists who covered the Games which was best remembered for Michael Johnson's pair of golden shoes as he cruised to the 200m and 400m gold. I enjoyed the Games from afar, as I was coping with the pressure of being a journo at the news desk, covering political and national news. The contingent performed one better this time, with Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock picking up the silver, having lost narrowly to Ricky Subagja-Rexy Mainaky, while Rashid Sidek won the bronze in men's singles.

Radzi Wahab, fondly known as Ron, went to Sydney. By then, I was already into my fourth year at the Malay Mail. To help fill up the pages, we surfed the Net for stories written by Australian newspapers online without relying entirely on news agencies The contingent, unfortunately, returned home empty-handed. For Ron, he would go on to cover the 2008 and 2012 Games for Harian Metro! Sydney was the last time the hockey team qualified for the Olympics!

Badrulhisham Othman, fondly known as Buddy, now Datuk. The whole NSTP media corp were housed under one roof, in an apartment rented out by the Morous. First one to leave the apartment and usually the last to come back, due to the five-hour difference. Imagine waking up at 6am in Athens with KL, at 11am, already expecting a few stories to be in the system by then.

Norbakti Alias as the BH sports editor, witnessed the one-sided final between Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan. We exchanged messages over the phone to discuss many issues as I was no longer in the mainstream media. One silver was the only medal the contingent had to show.

V Ashok was the BH sports editor when he covered the Games in London. Ashok and I joined the BH sports desk on the same day, in December 1991. He was transferred from the Berita Minggu desk, while I was then attached to the news desk. Lucky him that he was able to report on Chong Wei's silver medal and diver Pandelela Rinong's bronze in the 10m platform individual

Azahar Md Taib moved from Utusan Malaysia to Harian Metro and became only the second representative from the latter to cover the Games, after Abdul Rahim Md Zain's Sydney adventure in 2000

NST sports editor Tony Francis and seasoned photographer Khalid Redza formed the quartet from NSTP in 1992, alongside Zian and Khoo Kay Soon of the Malay Mail. Loose cannon was truly inspired by the reports carried by the Malay Mail in the 80s, when Tony Francis was the sports editor. Loose cannon did not get to work under him, but was on the receiving end of his anger instead when I picked on Malaysia Today in 2005...Khalid and I were together in Jakarta for the Thomas Cup in 1994, the Jakarta SEA Games in 1997, the Thomas Cup in 1998, the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 and Athens 2004.

Dan Guen Chin, the ghost-writer for the widely-read Mokhtar Dahari column in the NST in the 80s, covered the Sydney Games for the New Straits Times. Loose cannon had the good fortune of covering the 1995 SEA Games in Chiangmai and the 2003 Asian Track and Field championship in Manila with Dan, who is now undergoing treatment for stomach cancer in Johor

Athens 2004 was the second time Lazarus Rokk covered the Games, having been to the Atlanta Games eight years earlier.

Rokk, as a reporter, in 1996. He claims that he looked better in 2004.

Vijesh Rai, who boarded the plane to Beijing 2008, London 2012 and the ongoing Rio de Janeiro 2016, could be eyeing the chance of emulating Siebel in Tokyo 2020. Vijesh was a silver medallist in taekwondo in the 1987 SEA Games in Jakarta.

Khoo Kay Soon covered the 1988 and 1992 Olympics as the Malay Mail sports editor. When I made the move to the Malay Mail in 1996, Kay Soon was helming the Football magazine. I was humbled when he invited to write for the Euro edition of the magazine while I was still with Berita Harian

Tony was not yet the sports editor when he covered the Sydney Games, a precedent set by Johnson Fernandez in Atlanta. Sixteen years on, Tony was made the media attache of the contingent to Rio.

Had I stayed at BH, I might not have the opportunity to go to the Olympics, as tradition dictates the sports editor gets to cover the Games. Into my eighth year at the Malay Mail, the then sports editor, Rajan Etickan, nominated me for the Games in mid-2003, insisting that I was versatile enough to go for having been covering football, track and field, shooting, weightlifting, badminton and the National Sports Council (NSC) and Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) beat over the years. It was a natural progression for I had gone to the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. Since I was the most junior among the NSTP group, I was tasked to arrange for accommodation with the designated and official travel agency Read Azahar Taib's column here. Two-time Olympic champion, Lin Dan, three-time silver medallist Lee Chong Wei and 9-time gold medallist Usain Bolt have one thing in common - they made their Olympic debut in Athens. Like the Malaysian contingent, the trio returned home empty-handed. Read my memoirs in Athens here

For the Rio Games, BH was represented by Hussain Said, while Metro sent Hamdan Saaid, who went as a Bernama reporter to Athens in 2004. Graig Nunis is the first writer to cover for the Malay Mail (under the new management) after an eight-year absence (loose cannon was the fifth and last under the NSTP management).

Another Olympics has come to an end. The gold, sadly, has remained elusive. Till Tokyo 2020!