Naturalised athletes – do we really need them?

We are told that what’s coming in the next Asian Cup is nothing short of a full-on strike.

With remarkable performances showed by Asian teams competing at the World Cup, the Asian Cup is set to be a dog-eat-dog competition.

We were then told that the services of naturalised players are vital. If not, Harimau Malaya will be paralysed.

At this point, it is essential that I point out that there is a difference between being a naturalised footballer, and a heritage player.

Granting citizenship to heritage players is generally accepted by the fans. This is probably because they have a distant, but acknowledged root or lineage, with the country.

For a country that prides itself on patriotism, the notion of granting someone with absolutely no stock, citizenship to play football, is an unwelcomed concept, and one which certainly went down badly. This is especially so when the bunch turned into a bit of a disaster, on- and off- the pitch.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) certainly hasn’t got the science worked out. And to pacify the grousing fans, we were further fed statements that naturalisation will only be treated as a stop-gap measure, and that the actual focus would be flexed towards developing our local football talents.

But they kept on naturalising. Until to this day, we have naturalised seven players within a short span of five years.

The players were deemed ordinary. There is no clear difference between them and the talents we have locally.

Some were really bad. Some were benched and were unable to get a playing spot back at their club. Some were loaned out, and it got to an embarrassing
point where they simply became guests who had overstayed their welcome.

Since the naturalisation of Mohamadou Sumareh in 2018, the sentiment of having naturalised players within Harimau Malaya has been falling.

More fans are in disagreement with adopting such a lazy measure. And for the fans who do agree, the excitement is not as invigorating as it was back in 2018.

Now, apart from having skin so thick that it would survive re-entry from space, it’s hard to know what qualities are needed to be recognised as a good naturalised footballer.

Which makes me wonder, why on Earth would a Brazilian, Argentinian, or English footballer want to be naturalised and have themselves eligible to play for Malaysia?

What are the upsides?

None, that I can think of – except that one day, after many years of faithful service and hair loss, you’re told that, instead of going to Japan or Thailand, like what your agent would have probably promised you, you’re going to Melaka, in economy class, so that you can hopefully be the first ever player from an amateur league to ever represent the country.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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