Monday, November 17, 2008

Football is Politics

Over the past years, the state of Malaysian football has been
increasingly under scrutiny. With local league attendances dipping at an alarming rate and the quality on the pitch following suit, such fears appear justified.

The popular consensus is that in Malaysia, sports, and football in particular, should be free of politics. On the surface of it, this notion seems reasonable enough. Upon closer inspection however, the
notion appears to not hold water.

First things first, State FAs' financial constraints and their lack of fund-raising knowhow mean that 'grassroots' football have not been cultivated to its full potential. For example, we have yet to find an answer to the UK's Sunday (amateur) League football for children to develop their skills and further make the sport a part of their upbringing.

The impact of such limitations is not hard to figure out. Most immediately apparent is the small pool of young players from which to work on. The lack of a junior league means that schoolchildren play on average only three to five competitive matches in a season – a Dutch Football Association study concluded that as many as 35 matches are
needed for players aged 12-16 to best develop their talents and learn the subtleties of teamwork and match discipline.

The state of Malaysian football is not only under threat from within with weak institutions but also unwittingly from TV sets has made a good outing on a Saturday night in the stands of Shah Alam Stadium replaced by sitting on a stool in a mamak stall watching the EPL. It astounded me when I asked my younger brother recently to come see the national team play in the AFC recently and he replied that he would
rather watch the Merseyside derby. And get this: he is a Chelsea fan.

And herein lies an indication that despite the failings of our local scene, Malaysia is, without doubt, a footballing nation. Malaysian football fans would know the likes of Zbigniew Boniek (of Juve fame)
on top of the universal household names like that boy Cristiano.

So how do we ensure that a footballing nation like ours can go local too, ushering a return to the glory days of the 80s and early 90s when
stands were filled week in week out? As foreshadowed, it would be too easy to blame politics and politicking for the state that local
football is in. As it is, let's briefly examine the relationship between football and politics.

Football and state patriotism is relative, and much of state building hinges on football. It was state patriotism or state-ism, if you like,
that drove the passion in the 80s. It remains the same today, although manifested slightly differently. For example Kedah won 2 triple titles back to back under an UMNO govt and they packed down a crowd of 20,000 every weekend. However, the top footballing states are now governed by opposition, Selangor, Perak and Kedah. It was mad to see PKR flags and
PAS regalia at Kedah away matches till FAM had to ban political paraphenelia to the stadiums.

Thus it seems that politics and football will be difficult to separate. In any case, politics is what moves the sport and to get into those positions a lot of politics becomes necessary. One only has to recall Sepp Blatter usurping Havalange for the post of FIFA President or the Platini UEFA campaign that leagues must give prominence to local players then imports to see this. In our context
then, there needs to be a readiness to allow politics and politicians to be involved in the institutions of the sport, so long as they do so
to the benefit of the shared agenda: the advancement of Malaysian football.

And to be sure, this phenomenon in Malaysian football is not unique.The Glasgow derby has always and will continue to be laced in
sectarian undertones. I recall vividly Gascoigne's Protestant"s Orange
Order's flute taunting the Catholic Celtic fans in 1998.

Further examples include,

1)Red Star Belgrade in the old Yugoslavia who have Serbian
Paramilitary connections.

2)Boca Juniors as the "people's Club", based in the slums of Buones Aires; contrasted with River Plate known as the Los Millionares or the rich man's club

3)The history of Lazio v Roma:
Lazio Ultras- Neo Nazi il facisti fans that reside in the Curva Nord (Nothern Curve) and Mussolini's football club – contrasted with Roma,
a communist working class club. Roma has slowly gathered a more affluent social following with more glamorous players, whilst Lazio is
on the outskirts of Rome and are now synonymous as the right wing working class club.

Football is politics.


Anonymous said...

Spot on... a agree with you bro.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Football is a relevant proxy of everything, from rivalry of competiting interest, to organised effort to win, team-building and team-working, strategies etc...

It also tells you that to win, you don't need to win everything or every corner of the battle. To win, you just need to score more than the others.

In essence, winning is all about margin. Creating and enlarging the margin but increasing one's position and/or weakening the other side. And that, to me, beautifies and defines the character and dynamic of a winning strategy.

One can also expand this to economic concepts like the law of diminishing marginal return, supply curve etc. As for the former, we can relate this to a concept, we understand as synergy - a phenomen explained when the total exceed the sum of its parts. And this is best related to team building, a rich team like Chelsea might have all the funds, all other teams dream of having, and with that managed to assemble the best team comprising of many stars. Logically, additional star player will increase the star performance of the team, but this does not necesaarily so as negative team dynamics, ego building etc might devalue the edifice of what an ideal team should be.

So, coming back to the notion and idea posed by you that football is soo relevant to politics, I could not agree more as it is a statement of fact that one could never deny or dispute. If politics is a function of power building for ability to gain and control resources. Then, that is what football is, Cup Titles will earn the winning team lucrative sponsorhips, rise of fan pool and significant say when negotiating for players and in setting ticket prices.

OKU said...

So, what happen to My team???
Just to enter FAM or make my malaysia tiger stronger???

Ok, politik enter FAM, but we do see any changing for malaysia pride??
Hmm...If you so close with so buddy in My team or FAM, tell him. " what are they doing" ??

-Do be like "Pokok pisang" or burung kakak tua lah..sory coz i say so.

Anonymous said...

More need to be done.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your comments, so far at least half the MyTeam Senior Squad and the President's Cup side boast MyTeam Players from the reality TV series. However, it wasnt easy in the second season finishing in the bottom half of the table but did manage to get to the Quarter Finals of the Malaysia Cup.

Also, yes, MyTeam FC do have players like Syed Adney and a few others in the National team and we look to improve their performances for the National Team. We will see in the Suzuki Cup next month if FAM can turn the team to a competitive side.

Thank you again for your comment.

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