Social media has been abuzz lately with the 10-year challenge whereby people reveal how much they have changed since a decade ago.
If Malaysian football were to take a similar 10-year challenge, it would be an exercise in futility. There was nothing glamorous about Malaysian football then. And there is nothing glamorous today. Nothing has changed.
The disease of presumed glamour has even infected newsrooms where you see reporters literally fighting to cover football – rather amazing for a Malaysian sport that has not seen action in any the major events like the World Cup and Olympics for a long, long time.
In fact, football in Malaysia is so powerful and “glamorous” that many have been made to believe the Asian Football Federation (AFF) Cup – which only obtained Category A-ranking from Fifa in 2016 – is the ultimate triumph or the ‘World Cup’ in their eyes.
A cynical, sarcastic outlook of the nation’s number one sport? Indeed.
There may have been positives here and there. For starters, football remains the only sport after badminton that will get every Aishah, CK Tan and Jeevan glued to the television.
Fans brave traffic and long hours on the road just to flood the stadium, especially during major matches involving domestic or international teams in Kuala Lumpur. That’s loyalty and passion.
But such virtues are not valued, evident in the unprofessional approach by team administrators.
The relationship is weird; like a lover who continues to have faith in a cheating compulsive liar and spendthrift. Like watching a romantic film that promises unrealistic fairytale-like expectations.
It was reported on Jan 15 that 27 footballers and officials have yet to receive their wages from Perlis FA since March 2018 – forcing them to become fishermen and clerks.
Yet, Perlis will be playing in the new season and has even signed up new players!
Then we have Felda United. Felda, suffering from bad press especially after the May 9 general electios, faces financial woes. And this naturally will trickle down to the football team which will face the 2019 season with a significantly reduced budget.
But hold on. Felda will still participate in the M-League despite claims that it owes its former players and even ex-head coach B. Sathianathan salaries.
Sadly, such episodes are not new. Almost every season over the past decade or two, we have seen teams facing financial problems. And the vicious circle continues despite a new management that promises the sky and the moon.
A thick skin has developed as the so-called white knights often justify their crusade, claiming to be the saviours of Malaysian football.
Nauseating it may seem, this illness of being power crazy is not going away.
And fuelling this disease is the lack of strict enforcement by the guardians of the league.
Malaysian football will remain rotten if such teams and officials are not reprimanded for their actions.
The powers-that-be must quickly beef up regulations that will allow action to be taken against officials who fail during their time in office, only to wash their hands by handing the reins over to an equally incapable bunch.
Don’t lead fans and stakeholders into believing all is well when it is clearly not. A relationship (between teams and stakeholders, including fans) will not work if it is full of empty promises and lies.
Issues of teams owing players and officials wages should be tackled. Give the administrators the red card and boot them out of the M-League. We don’t need them.
Till then, let’s just save this piece for the next season, and the season after that for it will be as what Led Zeppelin once sang: ‘The song remains the same’.