Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Malaysian football interview

In part 12 of my global interview series we visit Malaysia and Moses Francis. Moses hosts the Footy Blog which is dedicated to Premiership football. You don't often hear anything about Malaysian football so here is your chance. My thanks for joining in.

FC: Please describe the youth football system in Malaysia at the moment:

MF: The youth system in Malaysia is growing, football being the favorite sports of Malaysians has helped spur the growth of the youth system. They have even created a "reality TV" about football, in which the winner will get a chance to showcase his skills at Fulham FC (UK).

FC: Who coaches the Malaysian national team and when do you think Malaysia will reach the World Cup?

MF:Malaysia are currently looking for a coach, I believe they will get one soon. As for the world cup, it has always been the dream of Malaysians to have their national team in the World Cup, although I personally don't see it happening in the near future, because the team still lacks a little in experience, skills, etc..... But with the youths coming up, we might have a good shot at maybe the 2010 World Cup.

FC:How popular and how well attended are the Malaysian football leagues?

MF: The Malaysian league is quite popular, although it must be said, only the teams that are doing well (on top) receives the best crowds. I guess some fans are not as dedicated as their counterparts all over the globe, whereby they will support their teams through thick and thin.... Malaysians however tend to be fickle and support the teams that's doing well at the moment.

FC: What countries do Malaysian players typically play in? What countries do players come from that play in the Malaysian leagues?

MF: This is a good question, so far Malaysian footballers have not done well outside of Malaysia, and this however is slowly changing as new players like Titus James Palani, Akmal Rizal are making their mark overseas. Titus is now in France, while Akmal returned from a stint in Germany.

On what kind of players that play in Malaysian league, here's a list of countries: Hungary, Australia, Africa, Brazil & Argentina.

FC: What would a top footballer in Malaysia earn? Who are some of them?

MF: Malaysian footballers don't earn as much as thier counterparts over the globe I reckon. Their earnings vary from RM 2000 to RM 20,000 (300 to 3,000 pounds). Some of the top players in Malaysia are:

Ahmad Sharul Azhar, Akmal Rizal, Keita Mandjou, Juan Arostegui, K. Sanbagamaran.

The Malaysian football association can be found at http://www.fam.org.my/

*Please email if you'd like to conduct an interview (over email) or if you know the name of a weblog in your country.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The missing red carpet

Chelsea saw red, Arsenal’s foot is in the door, someone at Madrid is missing his love, there was an ‘I told you so’ for Liverpool and I felt tiny as Inter Milan drew with Ajax in Amsterdam.

Last night I went to the Amsterdam Arena to see Inter Milan take on Ajax and that same feeling came back, and it happens no matter where I see a match: that feeling of how tiny and meaningless I am in all of it. There I was, sitting in the nosebleed seats, one man among a sea of others just like me; a bunch of onlookers, all doling out our hard earned cash to watch a bunch of rich boys get all the attention.

It happens to me every time. I ask myself ‘why the hell am I here’? I’m the frigg’n Football Commentator!; 'ay, where the hell is my red carpet? Photographers? Microphones in my face so I can say something sort of interesting like “Ajax need to score early so we have a chance at a good football match”. Doesn't anyone know I'm here? But there was none of that; I got pushed around at half time when I needed to take a piss just like the rest of 'em. My wondrous insights during the match were only heard by the guy I went with.

Yet, for some reason, I still go.

Ronaldo is a real piece of work. While guys like me feel small and insignificant he goes to the media and tells everyone how unloved he feels by the Real Madrid fans. Poor thing. Lose some weight and bitch a bit less because you get no sympathy from me you wealthy prat. Don’t you get enough love from your agent?

Arsenal looked really good against Madrid on Tuesday. Minus some careless passing and a few flubs at the back they outclassed Madrid for the whole 90 minutes. Thierry Henry’s goal was dripping class and Fabregas made a few passed that had Zidane looking twice. I was also really impressed with Emmanuel Eboue. On one end he completely shut Robinho down and on the other end of the pitch he made some respectable runs. He’s played better every time I have seen him and the back 4’s injury worries at Highbury is doing his stock no harm at all.

I predicted Liverpool would falter against Benfica over the 2 legs, I’m half way there (in fact my predictions are looking almost spot on except for Bremen). Benfica play ugly, Italian even, but give them credit for scoring a goal against a Liverpool defense that looked quite stubborn. Indeed Liverpool played the better football, Benfica though, with fresher legs might have just done enough. Spare a thought for Mohammed Sissoko who might have a career ending injury, losing sight from a boot to the face. When the hell will they outlaw the foot above the shoulders and overhead kicks?

Chelsea saw Del Horno get a red card in the first half which cost them a draw. What the ballerinas is Mourinho on about claiming Messi was play acting when Chelsea have the ultimate dying swan in Arjan Robben? Mourinho, for all his great traits, should shut up about this one and look at the Oscar winners on his own team.

As for the game I attended, Ajax should have won. They lost composure, up 2 goals in 20 minutes only to give up a pair after the break. Coach Danny Blind failed miserably to substitute someone on that could hold the ball up in midfield and take pressure of the young defenders. Inter kept building momentum all through out the middle third of the match and eventually were rewarded. It’s what veterans like Figo and Zanetti bring you. Look what Greek Giorgios Karagounis did for Benfica when he came on against Liverpool. Ajax, always fielding a team of teenagers, needed a more mature coach.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Smith injury should give pause

Against Liverpool yesterday Manchester United midfielder Alan Smith suffered the kind of injury which should give every footballer pause.

When a player breaks a leg and dislocates an ankle in the same movement, past the sympathy for Smith, I get this feeling of bubbling up fury at players which use their health as a ploy to get others in trouble.

Remember in World Cup 2002 when Turkish player Hakan Unsal kicked a ball at Rivaldo which hit him on the knee and Rivaldo collapsed to the floor clutching his head? The referee, fooled by the stunt, promptly dismissed the Turlish player and Rivaldo continued with a miraculous recovery. Rivaldo got a 6k fine while earning 4 million pounds that year.

At the same World Cup, England’s very own serial spitter El-Haji Diouf caught a gust of wind on his lower leg as the Uruguayan keeper Fabian Carini came close to him in the box. Diouf looked like he was going to die in pain.

More recently Arjen Robben got Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina sent off after reeling on the pitch in pain after being patted on the cheek by the keeper. Reina raised his hand, true, but Robben lowered the bar yet again.

While the British press loves to pretend this is a problem born of imported players don’t be fooled. In the 40's and 50's Francis Lee was a pioneer. In the 1991 Cup Winners Cup, Mark Hughes showed his antics against Montpellier. TV evidence was not allowed back then but the replays clearly showed no contact. Hughes acted like he was thrown from a train.

Alan Smith might spend an entire year recovering from this injury. Give pause to his plight and then consider diving fools like Jurgen Klinsmann, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robbie Savage, Cristiano Ronaldo, Maradona, Hakan Suker, Diego Simeone, and the worst ever: Chile’s keeper Roberto Rojas who, in 1989, actually cut himself with a razorblade after a firecracker exploded near him on the pitch. Rojas, thankfully, was banned for life.

None of this will make Alan Smith heal any faster, but consider the trauma a real injury causes a player and just why play acting is so wrong.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

The brat

Tottenham Hotspur have not yet seen Egyptian striker Mido’s ugly side in person but his behavior in the semi-final at the African Cup of Nations the other night should serve notice: your Hotspur player, who calls himself ‘big man’, is one substitution from becoming a hot head inside your ground.

Mido has developed a well earned reputation as a troublemaker and when Tottenham signed him on loan from Roma, if you haven’t heard the international had a furious argument with Egyptian coach Hassan Shehata on the touchline in front of an entire stadium full of loyal fans the other night because the poor baby was substituted against Senegal. How apropos that his replacement scored with his first touch.

The exchange went something like “Why are you taking me off?” -coach shrugs, while fans were shouting “Mido Out!”Mido, sensing his self styled fame in flames said “You are nothing but a donkey!”. Shehata, no wiser despite his years, replied that Mido was in fact the donkey. Donkey’s allover the world wondered why me.

Note that it was only a year ago this very week that he made a nationally televised apology for past indiscretions. He wanted another chance then, which he got, and this is the end result: a spoiled brat showing his colors to the nation.

Mido has had problems everywhere he has played. He once threw a pair of scissors at Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they were teammates at Ajax. He has had fights with every coach he has played for and his departure has been a welcome sight at every turn.

He walked out on Marseille and Alain Perrin, was a disaster to deal with at Roma, and has refused to share a room with a teammate at the African Cup of Nations.

How cute he has apologized and will be able to sit on the bench with his pacifier, because this ‘big man’ is nothing but a big baby. Tottenham better think hard whether a loan deal for such an egotistical player should be the end, goals or no goals, gimme Defoe any day.