Welcome back to FAM, Saifuddin – but rules of the game have changed

It was in June 2018 that this news website identified several individuals who could possibly be part of FAM president Datuk Hamidin Amin’s dream team.

Saifuddin Abu Bakar and Stuart Ramalingam were among them.

Stuart went on to become FAM general-secretary. However, starting tomorrow, Saifuddin will replace Stuart as the latter will be the chief executive officer of the Malaysian Super League.

Although having signed on the dotted line some time ago, Saifuddin had kept mum throughout.

He said he would only confirm his appointment once FAM made it public. During a brief conversation with Saifuddin last week, he mentioned that he needed time to settle in and understand the inner workings better.

Today, the national body confirmed that Saifuddin would start work at Wisma FAM, tomorrow.

He is no stranger to FAM – his first stint was from 1993 to 2004. In 2007, he returned to FAM as assistant general-secretary, and stayed on for two years.

Much has changed since then.

No doubt, his wealth of experience, especially in the Middle East, would be invaluable in running an organisation that is beginning to value professionalism and return on investment.

Saifuddin was the assistant head of competition of the Qatar Stars League (2009-2012), and later, served as technical consultant for the Oman FA Pro-League, until 2019.

Despite having spent years in Wisma FAM, Saifuddin would need time to get comfortable in the hot seat.

The working style has changed, especially since Hamidin took over the reins. Saifuddin’s headache would not just be confined to the day-to-day operations at Wisma FAM.

Monetising the national body’s efforts would be a challenge due to the bleak economy, no thanks to the prolonged battle against Covid-19, and a fragile government.

The performances of the national teams, although beyond his control, would also impact his work. Football fans are tired of the endless heartbreaks, especially by the national men’s team, who often struggle to make an impression among its Southeast Asian peers. If more supporters started shying away, so would the sponsors.

The other initiatives within FAM’s structure –namely those related to women – have been overlooked by the masses. This is where Saifuddin can get his colleagues to work on promoting them further.

Grassroots football and supporting the football industry are two important sectors that FAM needs to work on as well.

Every move by FAM would be scrutinised, especially on social media, and they will be imprinted in the digital world. That’s another challenge which will see Saifuddin embracing or dismissing.

Saifuddin would be serving a hands-on president and that could work to his advantage, with much of the attention and spotlight on Hamidin.

All said and done, welcome back to FAM for the third time, Saifuddin. I’m sure you’ve done your homework and realised by now that things aren’t exactly like they used to be.