Warpath not the right path

NOV 26 — The FA of Malaysia (FAM) met over the weekend while Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin yesterday chaired the National Football Development Programme, with several fresh faces in its line-up.

Both meetings could have been conducted tactfully.

First let’s look at the decisions made by FAM.

The national body decided to increase the foreign quota in the M-League to four players despite knowing teams have only 11 days left before the Dec 4 Fifa deadline. Do FAM believe Fifa’s Transfer Matching System would allow an extension beyond the date?

The press were informed that Datuk K. Rajagobal’s contract as national coach would not be extended. A source told Mailsport Rajagobal’s future was discussed as it was the “hot topic at present”. 

Perhaps they forgot the other “hot topic” that has been lingering for years — demands to changes within FAM. 

At press time #PresidenFAMSilaLetakJawatan was trending at the second spot on Twitter in Malaysia.

Rajagobal claimed he was not officially informed about the decision by the exco. If so, that is the least FAM could have done.

To be fair, the former international coached the team that won gold medal at the 2009 Laos Sea Games followed by the Asean Football Federation Cup the following year. 

The Sea Games victory saw the government channel RM10 million to the National Football Development Plan (NFDP) initiated in 2010. It remains unclear how and what the money has been spent on since.

Speaking about the NFDP, some observers have taken the new committee to task. 

They questioned the inclusion of several individuals, especially suspended FAM deputy president Tan Sri Annuar Musa. The Kelantan FA president and Ketereh MP was suspended by the national body over comments made against the national team under FAM’s infamous Article 88 which bars officials and players from making statements to the press.

Others defended the committee, consisting of individuals from various fields, saying the critics were “sour grapes”.

It is clear Annuar was roped in not just because Kelantan FA is one of the most successful teams in the country but to aid Khairy fight their cause 

in Parliament.

Those within were well aware that Annuar’s inclusion could court trouble. The committee’s secretariat — the National Sports Council (NSC) — could have checked with the Asian Football Confederation, which is also housed in Bukit Jalil, and FAM.

Instead, NSC had in a statement on Saturday said they referred to the Sports Commissioner’s Office and Annuar was free to sit in the committee as it did not contradict any regulations.

Yesterday, Annuar said he would not hesitate to opt out from the committee if it was a problem. 

Annuar now intends to hold discussions with Perlis FA president Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim and Johor FA president Tunku Ismail Ibrahim to initiate a joint appeal against Article 88 to FAM. Both Shahidan and Tunku Ismail were also penalised by FAM for comments made in the past.

It is often said Annuar, Shahidan, Tunku Ismail and Khairy seem to be on the same page when it comes to grouses over FAM. Some claim their push for reforms were being fuelled by the overwhelming support from football fans. With the exception of Tunku Ismail, some say the trio wanted to score political mileage as youths will make up a bigger composition in the next general election.

However, doubts raised by the skeptics could have been erased if those who continuously surround Khairy provide the right advice. Khairy must not be making popular decisions but the right decisions. This is not another MyTeam project.

Khairy must realise he is not just another fan. He is a minister. He should sit, or be seen to sit, above the equation and facilitate the cause.

Creating a war with the stakeholders will not help. Football is larger than individuals. Personal sentiments, emotions and agendas must be swept aside.

Khairy may not be able to take credit for the formation of NFDP but he has the ability to leave a legacy, something his predecessors struggled to do. He can ensure Malaysian football reach greater heights — an effort many speak about but failed to do — through NFDP.

And it starts with the 50-odd page skeleton plan tabled yesterday.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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