He is a household name, described as the best Malaysian footballer ever.
Yet, there is no proper record and details on the number of goals the late Datuk Mokhtar Dahari scored during his illustrious career in the 70s and 80s.
That is the tragic reality of Malaysian sports – even more heartbreaking for the nation’s number one sport with its milestones not properly documented.
Messages of Mokhtar’s supposed 86-goal feat made their rounds as Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 100th and 101st international goals against Sweden on Tuesday. Portugal won the match 2-0.
Ronaldo is placed second in the top goal scorers in history with Iran’s legendary player Ali Daei sitting at the top with 109 goals.
In a list of goal scorers, Mokhtar’s name was placed third with 86 goals.
Perhaps, the figure was taken from Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (RSSSF). Even that list does not include the exact minute of each goal.
But the 86 goals is something the FA of Malaysia (FAM) cannot confirm. In fact, the national body does not have such data of the past national players.
There are also claims the real number of goals scored by Mokhtar is 85.
Sports journalist Devinder Singh, who is known to compile football statistics, is also trying to find out the exact number of goals Mokhtar had scored.
“But I won’t be surprised if he scored more than 90 goals,” Devinder added.
Globe Soccer Awards, had some five months ago, revealed a list of highest international football goal scorers of all time.
Mokhtar’s name was not on the list but another Malaysian – Zainal Abidin Hassan – was placed seventh with 78 goals.
🇮🇶 Hussein Saeed, Iraq: 78 G
🇲🇾 Zainal Abidin Hassan, Malaysia: 78 G
🇧🇷 Pelé, Brazil: 77 Goals
🇰🇼 Bashar Abdullah, Kuwait: 75 G
🇮🇳 Sunil Chhetri, India: 72 G
— Globe Soccer Awards (@Globe_Soccer) April 6, 2020
Yet, Zainal was not on the latest list that featured Mokhtar.
According to Devinder, Zainal had only scored 55 goals.
Zainal’s tally of 78 includes goals vs clubsides/non-national teams.
In those days, Malaysia played all manner of teams, which often led to a blurring of what constitutes international matches.
— Devinder Singh (@devinder00) April 8, 2020
One would expect FAM to make such important information available on public domain. Sadly, it is not so.
To blame the current set of officials is easy but the rot started decades ago. Not only did the so-called guardians fail to collect such information, they even allowed the basics – i.e. the names of players – to be distorted.
It’s Datuk K. Rajagobal and not Rajagopal as it was once widely spelt. It’s Datuk Soh Chin Ann and not Soh Chin Aun. These are sheer basics that have been overlooked especially by the “during my time” generation.
The elders speak about a ledger documenting such information lying in Wisma FAM. Yet, no one knows where the book is or if it even exists.
This problem is not exclusive to football.
It’s a disease in every aspect of Malaysian life as little emphasis is placed on history. There is no sense of preserving; it’s all about living in the moment with no regard of the past and the future.
But it’s not too late for the stakeholders to start documenting such vital information and making it available on public domain.
FAM can start the ball rolling. The state FAs should follow suit.
It is learnt efforts are being made by the national body to document the exploits of our footballers. The Olympic Council of Malaysia is also embarking on a similar initiative to honour those who have donned national colours.
Such efforts will be time-consuming and cannot be achieved overnight. There must be continuity regardless of who comes into power next.
It is hoped the current set of FAM administrators will see it fit to give football fans a valuable gift – historical data which we could all learn from and be proud of.