From lavish weddings to fancy cars – Malaysian footballers must tackle cultural, peer pressure

Steve Darby is no stranger to the football community in Southeast Asia. Having spent years coaching various teams, including Johor, Perak and Kelantan in Malaysia, the Thailand Under-23 team and the Laos national team, Darby is fully aware of the challenges faced by footballers in the region.

And the Liverpool-born said most Malaysian players lack financial literacy, resulting in them suffering financial woes after leaving the sport.

“I had lads in the teams who had a better grounding in spending their money … but a lot of the lads didn’t plan very well. They spent money celebrating festivals,” he said.

Darby added he knew of footballers who had to fork out massive amounts of money on weddings too.

“So there’s peer pressure and cultural pressure to spend money.”

Darby said footballers were paid their monthly wages on time but were often out of cash by the end of the third week and needed advance money.

“It boiled down to bad planning,” said Darby on the weekly talk show The RSS with HD over the weekend.

“I used to tell players, don’t buy a car but buy a house instead. Buying fancy souped up cars seemed to be a Singapore and Malaysia thing.”

He added that at the end of the day, it was the individual’s choice.

“There will be daft footballers as there will be crazy journalists.”

Darby, who is back in Liverpool to care for his mother, believes footballers in the region have what it takes to play in Europe.

“It’s not too bad for Malaysians as many of the lads speak English. The Vietnamese struggle badly with that.

“There is no doubt players in this region have technical talent. The first step is to go somewhere like Japan or South Korea where it’s less of a culture shock.

“The Thai boys show that they can make it and some of them have made it to the J-League.”

Darby said athletes must be mentally tough and get rid of homesickness. Playing in a foreign country meant the footballers had to be better than the locals, added Darby.

“When I first played in Australia, I was battered every week by Aussies who said ‘Let’s show this Pommy what it’s like’.

“Get quality agents who will provide a quality support system around the player … to make it comfortable for him outside football.”

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