One step forward but two steps back for FAM

Football bodies the world over tend to be ‘political’ organisations if as much by dint of the necessity of being voted into and keeping a role as much as by the desire of individuals to keep their snouts in what’s usually a well-stocked trough.

Those charged with running the game often end up spending as much time organizing their own election campaigns where jockeying for favour and rolling out the pork barrels counts for just as much as any kind of progress in the fields they’re supposed to ploughing.

The situation in Malaysia is a classic example of this self-preservation before ideology dilemma as a series of blows have rocked the organisation yet still they remain, defiantly waving their fingers at scandal after scandal.

Monday’s press conference at Wisma FAM was just the latest example of this organisation’s slipshod approach to improving Malaysia football, both literally and metaphorically.

The three FAM members led by Deputy President Datuk Seri Afandi Hamzah spent much of the half hour long affair slumped back in their chairs, gaudy ties wildly assembled over ill-fitting suits, as if they were in the business class lounge ready to zip off on their latest junket.

They used impressive language – a lot of ‘mandates,’ ‘affiliates, ‘secretariats’ and ‘regulations’ but spent scant time discussing actually why they deserved to stay and what their track records had been rather than why they should stay because, well, just because.

They waved papers about haughtily denying a story broken by a retired blogger on kidney dialysis that they’d withdrawn from hosting the 2017 FIFA Congress – as glitzy a gravy train as there is – on the orders of some spurious government advice over ‘security concerns.’

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Most right-minded folks have tended to side with the original piece from Satwant Singh where he revealed that it was ‘diplomatic’ concerns that nations, particularly Israel, may not be able to enter Malaysia on ‘political’ rather than ‘security’ grounds.

That came at the same time as the Exco announced, in an Orwellian move, that FAM President Tengku Abdullah Ahmad Shah, will stay in his post for another year despite the man himself repeatedly agitating to stand down.

With roles at the AFC and as a member of the newly named FIFA Council to also contend with the renowned political demagogue, often seen working hotel floors and bars with the best of them, may just decide it’s best to wash his hands of all this trouble.

Yet how an organisation can mandate someone who quite clearly – and he’s yet to issue any statements to the contrary – doesn’t want to maintain the role is beyond common logic.

That’s all on top of the simmering feud between influential JDT boss Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim and the game’s governing body where to add to the dark twists of the plot he claims he has a flash drive reportedly containing evidence of corruption within the FAM ranks.

If it all sounds like a spy thriller gone wrong – who stores such key information on a flash drive? – the tale deepens further when you factor in the raft of players from his own club who unilaterally announced their retirements from the national team last month with a lengthy and by-and-large justified list of complaints over the treatment when with the international side.

All this at a time when the national team is battling to see off a collection of oddly-assembled opponents in preparation for the Suzuki Cup and with the never ending whispers of ‘match manipulation’ whirring away in the background.

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The ill-fitting suits at Wisma FAM decided their response is to bring forward the elections from 2018 to some undetermined date next year.

That’s not what the leading clubs want, it’s not what many of the players want and it’s certainly not what the vast majority of fans – the game’s key stakeholders – want.

What they want is transparency, honesty, integrity and a commitment to running the game with the best interests of the sport at heart.

They want cohesion between the governing body and all the other elements edging into the running of the game in Malaysia, better pitches, better recovery facilities and a sustained roadmap to technical development and success.

The sooner a new, modern-thinking, executive committee is installed the better for all who care about the development of Malaysian football.

Scott McIntyre

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