On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

FAM, stop kicking us around

We want to soar to greater heights in the game that is loved by the people, but the FAM must learn how to accept criticism from those who dare to speak out because they truly love football.

THE Football Association of Malaysia truly deserves the black eye from the Tunku Mahkota of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, as he has expressed the feelings of most ordinary Malaysians over the FAM’s pathetic state of affair.

In the eyes of Malaysians, the FAM has turned into an association of powerful personalities who simply refuse to take responsibility for their failures. It has become a club where the word “responsibility” does not seem to exist and, worse, the leadership seems incapable of taking criticism.

The FAM leadership has increasingly become more dictatorial, and is quick to act against those who have voiced their dissatisfaction over the pathetic performance, or rather, non-performance, of the members of the association. If the ordinary Malaysian can vote and have a direct say in its affairs, they would have been booted out of the FAM long ago.

Last week, the outspoken Tunku Ismail told the FAM to accept criticism for the betterment and development of football in the country. In a strongly worded statement, he said he was “doing this (criticising the FAM) only because I love football. Those holding office in the FAM must be sincere and fair to all teams playing in the local league.”

He said “their priority must be to improve the quality of football in the country”, adding that the Johor FA had received a letter from the FAM to warn the Johor FA against criticising the FAM through the media.

The FAM, it appears, has also reportedly warned the media to be cautious over how it reported the statement from Tunku Ismail. Well, why should the media be cautioned?

This is not the first time that Tunku Ismail has taken on the FAM but the action of the FAM has not stopped him from speaking up. His Highness can be assured that football fans all over, not just in Johor, are cheering him on.

In March, Tunku Ismail was slapped with a six-month ban from all football activities and fined RM18,000 by the FAM for two alleged offences, namely breaching Article 88 of the Statute 2010-2014 and criticising the quality of referees in the M-League.

The infamous Article 88 states that only the FAM president and secretary-general can issue statements to the media while other individuals must get prior approval from the FAM before issuing any statements.

FAM disciplinary committee chairman Datuk Taufik Abdul Razak had said the punishment was meted out after Tunku Ismail pleaded guilty to both the charges.

Tunku Ismail was reported to have allegedly questioned the quality of refereeing during a Super League match between Johor Darul Takzim and Lions XII on Feb 19 at Larkin Stadium. The match ended 2-2.

The FAM surely must have bigger problems to worry about. If they have been criticised, in any form, then they must take it sportingly. No one is beyond criticism. You just have to be in the stands to hear the things fans say about players and referees to understand that this is all part of the game.

The latest FIFA ranking has placed Malaysia on 159th spot, a two-spot improvement from 161 in May and 163 in April. Big deal.

Flood-prone Bangladesh is placed at 152 while the island republic of Maldives, which is more worried about being submerged under water soon than football, is at 157, with Myanmar at 155.

And who would have imagined these countries are outranking us – the Philippines (144), India (147), Tahiti (138), St Kitts and Nevis (137) and Antiqua (121).

Anyone who has ever visited the Philip­pines and India would tell you that the people in these two countries are hardly as passionate about football as we are. Not many from this generation will remember, but Malaysia’s 15-1 victory over the Philippines in 1962 is currently the record for the highest win for the national team and the record has never been broken since then.

Let’s be blunt here. The fellas at the FAM have no clue how they can lift the Malaysian football team out of the doldrums.

From the era of our Merdeka champions, when we had giants like Soh Chee Aun, Mokhtar Dahari, R. Arumugam and Santokh Singh, we have become minnows.

We call ourselves the Malaysian Tigers when we can neither roar not bite, and it is no surprise that even teams ranked below us know that we can be beaten. There is a lack of consistency and while the nation does get excited when we win even one small tournament or grab a medal at the SEA games, the big-time success is simply beyond us.

Yet, all over the world, we continue to see how young talents are unearthed and are so good that they not only play for the country but are quickly snapped up by the big-time clubs in all the major leagues in the world.

Frankly, I am not even sure if those at the FAM care two hoots about how ordinary Malaysians feel about our level of football.

Yet, they seem super-sensitive when any of their officials or their policies are criticised. And, seriously, why are they even clinging on to their positions, year in and year out?

Those who have bravely spoken up, for the love of football, have been punished, and that includes the Tunku Mahkota of Johor. We should all speak up, so stop kicking us around!