Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Footballing greats lament the state of national game

National footballing icons Santokh Singh (back row left) with Shukor Salleh (back row second from left) and Soh Chin Aun (back row right) were at the launch of the Milo Hidup Bola futsal tournament in KL on Tuesday. - BERNAMA
National footballing icons Santokh Singh (back row left) with Shukor Salleh (back row second from left) and Soh Chin Aun (back row right) were at the launch of the Milo Hidup Bola futsal tournament in KL on Tuesday. - BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA: Play for the pride of the country – and not the money!
That’s the view of former great Datuk Santokh Singh when asked about the declining standard of Malaysian football.

His scathing remarks certainly hold water as the national team continue to flounder on the international arena, with their world ranking now at a lowly 142 from a one-time high of No. 73 in the 1993.

This, he said, is shambolic considering that Malaysia used to be a powerhouse in Asia back in the 70s and 80s.
Malaysia’s latest debacle came on Sunday when they could only draw 0-0 with the Philippines in a friendly in Cebu.

For a nation who used to beat the likes of the mighty Japan, South Korea and Kuwait, to name a few, the draw with the Philippines, once the minnows in the region and where football is not even their No. 1 sport, is indeed a big blow.

And this has led the hugely disappointed Santokh questioning the players’ motivation.
The highly-decorated centreback was a member of the Malaysian squad who qualified for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

He also played for the national team who bagged a bronze medal in the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran and captured the SEA Games gold medal in 1977 and 1979.

The Harimau Malaya last achieved glory in 2010 – winning the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first under coach Datuk K. Rajagopal.

“I hope that the national team’s standard will return to the level of the 70s and 80s – when the team was a powerhouse,” Santokh said after the launching of the Milo Hidup Bola futsal tournament on Tuesday.

“I think more players are in it for the money and not for the pride of playing for the country.”
The 61-year-old certainly got it spot-on considering the obscene amount of money being paid to mediocre players.

Another former great Datuk Shukor Salleh echoed Santokh’s sentiments and added that “the current crop of players are lacking in quality”.

“It will be hard for any coach to train a team if the players do not have quality. In our days, everyone knew what needed to be done on the pitch,” said the midfielder.

The duo, together with former national skipper Datuk Soh Chin Aun were present to show their support at the launch of the Milo Hidup Bola campaign, an initiative aimed at developing the game at grassroots level and producing the next wave of footballing talent.

Milo sports marketing manager Ng Ping Long reaffirmed its commitment to develop the sport at the grassroots level.

Milo plan to select eight players from the futsal tournament to be sent for international training.
The 14-leg tournament (in every state) will culminate with the grand finals on June 22, with a total of RM18,000 worth of prizes and merchandise up for grabs.



 by K. Rajan - The Star

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