I may be am not the person to carry a Malaysian flag to the stadium, paint my face with the colors of the flag, wear colorful and funny wig on my head and screaming and shouting from the top of my lungs, feverishly timing up my stand for a Mexican wave showing support for the national football team. But, by default as a citizen, I am a supporter.
I share the sentiment with the nation. We are less than amused with the performance of our national football team in the recent AFC Asian Cup 2007. I can feel the frustration and anger of the football fans. I can almost feel the heat on the players and the management team facing the catastrophic outcome of it.
By the way, Americans prefer to call it soccer for football.
When playing football becomes a job, it is not an easy task for players neither is easy on the management and coach. Winning is the utmost aim. But, it is imperative to note that, by nature, the game of football is very liquid.
Why do I say it is very liquid?
Comparatively, we look at the games that require a team to make it happen like American football, hockey, ice hockey, basketball, rugby and baseball, just to name a few. Let me single out American football since it is related in the basic nature of it being played in a large field albeit the rules of the game are totally different, and is the most popular game in North America as it is football for the rest of the world.
The game of American football does have distinctive roles in the team that breaks up into offensive, defensive and even kicking team is in the different line-up too. If the offensive line-up is in the field playing, the defensive team would be resting on the bench drinking Gatorade and having a field day saying “Hi Mom” to the camera, and vice versa. Likewise, only the kicking team is in the field when their turn comes. It is to the point that, the line-ups are never together in the field playing. It lies heavily on the coach to call a play and it is players’ job to execute at their best. In mitigation, quarterback may have some limited autonomy to call a play based upon his judgement reading the opponent’s move in the last minute. And that’s it. As a whole, it is a planned and organized move that put sketches by the coaching team from on paper into actions by players in the field. It’s a chess game if you like.
Whilst for football, it does have distinctive roles for players too but less obvious positions when the game kicks off. When the opponent possesses the ball, the whole team would be on defense and it changes direction when the opponent is defending. Players will be up and down tolerating the changes of ball possession with at times the ball possession may only lasts for a few seconds. Sometimes a player from different position will have to fill up the vacuum created while the responsible player is pursuing towards the ball to capitalize the moment or simply due to less competent. The whole process of positioning, running, tackling, blocking, dribbling, heading, kicking and split-second decisions in filling up spaces makes it very liquid. We know too well midfielders, halfbacks, wingers, strikers and other positions do have specific tasks to do but it is not a strange thing for a fullback to score goals too. In a rare case, it may happen for a goal-keeper to leave the posts and score goals as well.
Football is interesting but tough on the coaching part of it as much as fun but demanding for players to actually play. If we were to figure out conceptually and put it in a mathematical formula to understand how it works, a game of football requires heavier mathematics than its counterpart, American football. Perhaps, if football is Stephen Hawkings and American football is Albert Einstein, so then Stephen Hawking is a cut above when he perfected Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and comes forward to explain about the Black Hole Theory. Awhhh… Pardon me! I shouldn’t speak this kind of language here. But, that’s just to elucidate how complex the thing is.
The bottom line is, in any type of sports for that matter, it’s not easy. And it’s not even easier when it is in a liquid state.
Is it the right question to ask, how to have a winning football team? Well, better off we try not to jump the gun here, as winning is only the end result after going through sheer perseverance.
Before we talk about winning that dealing with the liquid of the game nature in applying the techniques to fill up spaces in the field once the whistle for kick off is blown that the coach and players are then hard at work to push ahead with goal scoring, let us think towards making the whole system right first.
Yes, the issue is too big for dudes like us to debate over. And without doubt, it takes time and money too.
I believe we do have tens of Beckhams in Malaysia and we also have hundreds of Ronaldinhos in all corners of the country. We do have plenty of Ronaldos who turn Mat Rempits on Saturday nights while keeping their day job as dispatch somewhere in the Golden Triangle. It’s a shame to have those Rooneys to mess around with their brooms and mops as janitors in the shopping malls while they are supposed to be busy perfecting their kicking and scoring skills on the field. What a waste when those Van Nistelrooys are busy with their hands in the electronic factories when they are designed to be at their best using their feet. And who said Mokhtar Dahari is dead?
That leads to a question of how to surface those talents. If my theory is right, players with exceptional skills like the stars in Copa America, La Liga or English Premiere League is only by-product of the system. When the whole organization is soundly established with proper and proven way of managing it apart from effective programs in line to cater for the short, medium as well as long term goals, then getting good players is not a big deal anymore. Let the rule of the thumb of quantity makes easy on quality manifests by itself, in a big way. Perhaps by then, players in English Premiere League will be humbled to their knees upon hearing the names of our players. May be Beckham and the likes will be trembling if not weeping in the locker rooms when our team is on the exhibition games tour in Europe. Even when the world talks about World Cup, they talk about us.
My Alma Mater, the old school is one of thirty schools in the country selected by the Ministry of Education to be a Cluster School recently. Students there are not only meant to excel in academic alone. Sports are also given as much emphasis besides other co-curriculum activities. I am attracted to the program suggested to be handled by the Old Students Association in the efforts to make the school shine in the area of football. It is suggested that every year, to organize football tournament for primary schools from all over districts in the state and the excellent players will be marked. So then those preferred kids will go through a program to guide them to do well in their UPSR and the ones with flying colors will be absorbed in for their secondary years. The ones with lesser academic qualification but talented will be open for daily schools that known to have good sports programs to seize. I think the idea is excellent in our own small way.
But in the bigger picture, we are anxious to see the holistic approach by the higher authority. Why not formulate programs for kids to start as early as 6 years old? And have good coordination from one age group to another until they mature at the age of 18. They will then be up for grab by the state or may be the professional setup. It is also advisable to keep politics at bay for once. Let football stays in its true form as what football and sports is. Give room to grow. Let it flourish. Let it prosper. We are not too optimistic to see results in 5 years. We are looking at 10 to 15 years to come to produce world-class players playing for the country. And, nothing is impossible.
Winning or losing is only part of the game. If we win, we want to win with style. If we were to loose, we still don’t want to be out of style.
Our people would say…
“Apa nak buat, bola itu bulat…”
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