When news of FAS sending a team to participate in the Malaysia Cup broke, everybody out in the streets rejoiced. The initial agreement was for FAS and FAM to each send a development team to each other’s league to develop the team. FAS initially said that this team will be made up of mostly U23 players, developing them for the future for playing in the National team. After months of anticipation, the team was announced and it looked a pretty strong team with player from Courts Young Lions and National players. FAS and the coaching team of Lions XII said that they will be targeting a top 5 finish, which actually sounded realistic then.
But to look at it on the other side, this team with many players who had represented the country in SEA Games, ASEAN Cup and other international matches, are only looking at finishing in top 5? The rest of the teams in this Malaysian Super League are only state representatives or lower. Where is the winning mentality?
Watching the first match against Kelantan, the team that stated actually was very good. They were playing fast paced game and pegging the defending champions in their own half during the 1st half. But they just could not put the ball into the net. With all due respect to Agu and Sharil’s experiences playing overseas, they could not get the job done. Though the team lost 2-1 in the end, it seems like this team might just be a work in progress, as ‘the team was just formed weeks ago’.
2nd match against Kedah caught me by surprise. In a match that they could win easily, they resorted to high ball tactics which were easily neutralized by the Kedah side. And when Agu had to limp off injured, out came a defender for substitution. It was goalless for the match and we were not protecting any lead or whatever. Why so defensive? Are there no more strikers in the team that could be used? I thought Coach Sundram wanted to play attractive football, but why are the tactics so defensive and naïve?
Though pride is one of the major factor in participating, FAS should be looking at development also. That was why they initial idea was to send the Young Lions over. Instead the team starting eleven always contain the likes of Agu, Sharil, Isa Halim, Juma’at Jantan. These players can provide the experience but they are not playing that well at the moment, why don’t Sundram take the chance to try out the youngsters and blood them in? It is only through playing that these players will grow and develop, not sitting on the bench. This team has effectively taken 29 of the best players available from the S League, yet the results are left to be desired. It may still be early to evaluate, but has FAS achieved the objectives?
If calling up the young players are to give them a chance to develop, why are they not playing at all? I believe the Harimau Muda team that FAM is sending to play in the S League, will definitely be the young Malaysian team aimed at development for future. Pride might be at stake, but they sure know what their objectives are, and that’s why they had been successful in the region over the past few years.
The season may be long, which might justify the need of 29 players, but if players don’t get to play and the results are not produced, the S League might be an even entertaining competition when these ‘talented’ players go back to their clubs. At least they still get enough playing time.