KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 25 — In short, 2013 was the year M-League became a mega-bucks industry. But on the international front, there was little to shout about.
The national team started the year with criticism after failing to defend the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup in December 2012, what followed was the desecration of the team from all angles as Harimau Malaya did not achieve “satisfactory” results.
Then, FA of Malaysia (FAM) general secretary Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad, while still in office, raised questions of a plot to remove national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal, only to deny saying it in a comical press release several days later.
Azzuddin, who was later appointed to the AFF, was replaced by Selangor general secretary Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin who took an approach of avoiding all confrontation as possible, sometimes to the detriment as matters are let go with a closed eye.
Rajagobal’s fate as national coach was sealed after Malaysia were not able to qualify for 2015 Asian Cup qualifiers by finishing top two in the group. The team can still qualify via the best third-placed team, but it will be a new head coach that will guide the team for the last group match against Yemen in March.
Rajagobal’s downfall was his underperforming blue-eyed boys he vehemently defended and continued selecting.
Hopes were placed on Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s national Under-23 side to save some pride at the just-concluded SEA Games in Myanmar, but that didn’t turn out well either as the team not only failed to defend their title, but finished empty-handed.
While Malaysia suffered little success on the international front, causeway neighbours Singapore showed FAM why it was not necessary to send their team to lengthy stint overseas.
FA of Singapore (FAS) made the most of their participation in the M-League as it gave them valuable experience, one that saw their Under-23 side pick up the bronze medal at the SEA Games. Lets not forget that Singapore also won the 2012 AFF Cup. Both team featured largely players from the M-League!
That said, M-League was nothing short of excitement, some for the wrong reasons of course.
Big-spenders Johor Darul Takzim were the talk of the season, but finished the season empty-handed. The club-side contributed to the growth of football with its big spending on big name players. The rise in the players’ salary followed suit as M-League teams had to up the ante for 2014.
Singaporean development side LionsXII embarrassed local sides by winning the Super League. Some called for their expulsion from the league, but those were merely sore losers unable to accept reality.
Local sides only had themselves to blame with lacklustre and inconsistent displays as LionsXII played a disciplined game throughout.
There were also serious match-fixing allegations that lead to investigations being carried out by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
Perak were investigated but cleared while KL had “bookie” written all over them. Three coaches and five players were suspended for life and fined RM20,000 last week and another seven sit in the dock on Friday.
FAM also suspended a player for not playing to a satisfactory mark. This was unprecedented.
The FA Cup saw Kelantan retain their title, but there was not much joy for the 2012 treble winners as they finished fourth in the Super League and were defeated by an inspired Pahang side in the Malaysia Cup final.
The antics of FAM is a different story altogether.
The national body continued to make baffling decisions as fans called for those in office to step aside, is specifically president Sultan Ahmah Shah.
Speaking of fans, they refused to abide to the laws of the game as they defiantly lit flares, fireworks and smoke bombs at stadiums. Surprisingly, one state affiliate president even encouraged their act.
What about safety?
Meanwhile, national body decided that all state FAs should have proper development programmes but added it was “encouraged but not compulsory”.
Speaking of state FAs, they must not be let off the hook easily over late payment of salaries and almost none existent state leagues.
Leaving for late could be FAM’s tagline at the end of the year.
FAM decided to overturn their absurd 2012 decision and allowed clubs to participate in the President’s Cup once again, but interested clubs had to write it. This was made with less than a month to the team registration deadline on Nov 30.
Only T-Team and Felda United entered participation as Sime Darby and PKNS were disappointed as they had sorted their finances for 2014 as early as June.
FAM also decided to increase the number of foreign players in each team to four just weeks before the player registration deadline.
However, FAM also open their doors to criticism with Hamidin in office. The draconian Article 88, which only allows the president and general secretary to question or criticise decisions in the press, were reworded to allow more members to speak.
A plan to move the FAM headquarters to Putrajaya were also put in place. So, was the privatisation of the M-League, which is expected to begin in 2015.