SINGAPORE: We screwed up big time in football at the SEA Games due to poor management and planning!
This is not the first time for us.
The FA of Malaysia (FAM) should know better about the fans’ high expectations.
It’s not the World Cup, Olympics, Asian Championships or even the Asian Games.
It’s only the SEA Games ... a biennial Under-23 competition played among the Asean Football Federation (AFF) family.
If they can’t get this right ... how are they to organise and plan their teams for bigger assignments?
As usual, the blame game has begun following the Malaysian team’s failure in the ongoing SEA Games.
Their football campaign ended after three matches. A 1-0 win against Timor Leste was followed by a 5-1 thrashing by Vietnam and a 1-0 loss to Thailand.
The two defeats have virtually closed the door on Malaysia qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time in eight years.
The writings have been on the wall long before the Games began.
Some claimed that this SEA Games squad is one of the worst prepared team – no thanks to FAM.
It all started when the national body created a mess with their poor decision to reshuffle the Harimau Muda Project set-up last December.
The decision called for the abolishment of the Harimau Muda A team under coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee, who has been in charge of the A team since 2011.
This opened the door for some of the boys to return to their respective state teams in the M-League.
Then, some of the players eligible for the SEA Games from the Harimau Muda B squad, under coach Razip Ismail, were involved in the AFC Under-23 qualifiers in March.
There was a split – some boys back to the home state and some with Razip.
This obviously affected Kim Swee’s preparations. He had his full squad only for a month and could only play three friendlies – and this proved to be the team’s undoing in Singapore.
Of the 20 players in the SEA Games squad, nearly 11 are not regulars with their teams playing in the M-League. And it was evident when these players struggled for fitness during the gruelling fixtures.
Defending champions Thailand played eight friendlies before the SEA Games and used most of their players from the AFC Under-22 qualifiers.
It was the same with hot favourites Vietnam, who also played eight friendlies.
Poor preparations aside, the Harimau Muda programme, which was launched in 2007, seems to have stagnated.
Add to that is FAM being contented with regional success.
The Harimau Muda project has been the backbone of the Malaysian team’s success in the region, which saw them win the SEA Games gold medal in 2009 and 2011 and the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2010.
But it’s all been downhill after that.
The state FAs have grown complacent and shirked their responsibility to produce and nurture new talents. To make it worse, they even lure the Harimau Muda players with lucrative salaries.
With Malaysia set to host the SEA Games in 2017, a lot of soul searching is needed by FAM if they are to rectify the situation. Otherwise, Malaysian football will be stuck in the abyss.