Wednesday, July 28, 2010

FAM Congress: Redux

As we count the days to the FAM elections that bear much significance to the short and medium term futures of Malaysian football, campaigning has taken an ugly turn. Dato’ Che Mat Jusoh, the current VP for FAM has launched a verbal tirade against his fellow candidates for the Deputy President posts in Utusan last week.

With incumbent YB Khairy Jamaluddin not defending his post, the howitzer has been rolled toward no other than current KAFA President Tan Sri Annuar Musa. But whilst criticism against opponents are what they are, it is especially sickening to see Che Mat taking credit for programs he had little to do with in his desperate attempt to win votes. Specifically, he went as far as claiming responsibility for the successes of Harimau Muda, which had nothing to do with him, as his portfolio was the Competitions Committee. The Committee is known to be in shambles over the past decade. State and Club teams are consistently infuriated with constant changes for games schedules to the point that some do not even know when the actual new local league season actually starts until far too close to the date.

Che Mat Jusoh will be contesting with long time friend and incumbent Dato' Sheikh Redzuan for the 2 Deputy posts. Both running mates are no new faces to local football and offer no real block busting changes or ideas. To add to the already volatile mix, YM Tengku Mahkota Abdullah has offered himself again for the DP post. Technically, the Crown Prince is a very astute and knowledgeable football administrator. His greatest feat was to professionalise the Malaysian game, and did so in the hardest of times when the big tobacco money was forced to pullout. For that, some credit must go to YM Tengku.

Other than onfield football results and development, one of the main KPIs of FAM football administrators have been sponsors. If you had to boil down the malaise of Malaysian football over the past decade or so to just one factor, it has to be the lack of money. For this, FAM needs marketable faces and those who can foster good relations with current and potential sponsors. Che Mat and Redzuan are clearly not capable to fulfil any of the KPIs listed.

Stories of FAM 'suits' sauntering football matches and related programmes adding no value whatsoever can be well described by the diabolical duo. With Dato’ Mokhtar Ahmad (Selangor FA), Tan Sri Annuar Musa (KAFA) offering themselves, it is unclear who YM Tengku Adullah would favour as his running mate. Nonetheless, recent developments show that Tan Sri Annuar Musa's Kelantan FA's rebuilding programme is quite hard to ignore. From the throes of defeat in FAM league playing semi pro and amateur teams, Kelantan are now 5 points behind leaders Selangor in the Super League.

Many speculated outgoing the Deputy President would not get any nominations, but this turned out to not be the case at all. Notable advances from Kelantan, Selangor, Melaka and Perlis were amongst the states that called on YB Khairy remain for another term. Khairy, however, was adamant that he wanted to focus on politics.

The determination to turn around the fortunes of Malaysian football undoubtedly is on all the candidates main agenda. However, noone can fully foretell the mood much less what is on the minds of the 38 delegates that will be casting their votes. What I’m pretty certain of is that the likes of Redzuan and Che Mat Jusoh should be riding into the sunset. Let’s see if the delegates agree.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hishamuddin: Don't blame Umno Youth for Perkasa's popularity

By Muzliza Mustafa, The Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR: The rising popularity of Malay rights group Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Malaysia (Perkasa) should not be blamed on Umno Youth's incapability in championing the cause of the race.
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein said the void can be created in many ways.

He was responding to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's comment in online news portal Malaysian Insider that Perkasa's popularity among Malays was due to the failure of Umno Youth's leadership in championing Malay rights.

“Do not blame Umno Youth, Umno, Puteri Umno or MCA on the void,” said Hishamuddin after officiating the 13th FBI National Academy Associates (FBINAA) Conference at a hotel near Mid Valley today.

He said at this time when many issues are being raised, the public should focus on filling up the void or counter it, and not blame any group for the growing popularity of Perkasa.

Tengku Razaleigh had, last Saturday, also said that current Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin’s ostensibly staunch support for party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was just a ploy to get a Cabinet position.

“There is a vacuum in Umno Youth, when it should be the spokesman for the Malays. But the present Umno Youth leadership does not articulate the Malay plight."

The Kelantan prince, popularly known as Ku Li, claimed that Umno Youth had lost its tenacity and vigour in championing the community, with the leaders engrossed in eyeing positions for themselves.

“This sounds very pathetic but they say he (Khairy) wants to become minister, so that’s why he has to support the prime minister, at least that’s what people say.

“The fact remains that Umno Youth used to question a lot of issues concerning the plight of Malays. That has always been the role of Umno Youth,” said Tengku Razaleigh.

The Gua Musang MP noted that the current mood in the party made it timely for Perkasa to recruit more disgruntled Umno members.

Outspoken Pasir Mas MP Ibrahim Ali started Perkasa as a one-man pressure group for Malay rights. It now has branches and divisions in every state in Malaysia.

There was also claim that Perkasa has 200,000 members. Out of these numbers, 80 per cent are from Umno.

Tengku Razaleigh also claimed that Umno branch meetings were not attended by their Youth and Puteri wings, to the point where meetings could not make quorum.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Argentina vs Mexico

by Dax Muhamad

The stage was set, the con was on. Two tickets to the promised land. It was my honeymoon, we were going to Argentina, and my mind was (partly), on football. We had seats for the Libertadores Cup match between River Plate and Petrolero FC Bolivia. A far cry from the dirty war of the Falklands, greasy Argies, Gotcha and all that jazz; this was Buenos Aires.

As the Chorizo sausages were chucked into the air, the infamous Los Borrachos del Tabl√≥n, River Plate barra bravas had landed into the pit of El Monumental. I asked a Peruvian by name of Pedro, who had traveled to watch Ariel Ortega play out his last years, who are the Los Borrachos. “This is sons Argentinas” (‘The sons of Argentina’), “the resident hooligans of River Plei”. In the shock and awe – they coordinated the drums and sang a song which I made out to be, “La Boca, Puto Madres” (‘Boca, your mom’s a whore’ – Boca weren’t even the opponents!) – the Los Borrachos were getting the boys on the bottom tier to pull a flag of a white skull with red smoke coming from its eyes, the size of the El Monumental carpark.

Pedro insisted the Los Borrachos are the meanest, baddest, most politically organized barra bravas in South America. I was skeptical of Pedro’s fearsome adjectives, until:

– they started lobbing rocks and bottles to the bottom tier to force those down there to straighten up the ‘skull flag’;

– they told the River Plate players (who did a lap of victory after winning 6-1) to not come close until they brought back the Copa Libertadores;

– raided the Budweiser sponsorship tent and made a barbecue on top of some Boca fan’s car.

The closest I ever came to such bravado (read: legitimised madness) was on a train going from Reading to Waterloo to watch Arsenal play Alan Shearer’s Southampton. It was filled with the fans of Millwall, Leyton Orient, West Ham, Spurs, Chelsea (the real Chelsea that is, not the Russian oil-funded Chelski of today) – and the ensuing staring match had everyone describing how they would do each other favours with a friend called Stanley (a pocket knife).

The Gunners’ – whose fans usually are kids or old age pensioners – were naturally silent; we couldn’t ‘compete’ on the train but we knew Alan Smith, Paul Merson, Tony Adams et al wouldn’t let us down on the pitch. This edgy, tribalistic phenomenon taught me a lot about passion and confrontation – the replication of which I would later be aware of in everyday Malaysian experience, especially in our politics.

Raw and uncouth as these instances of football fandom were, they remain an authentic expression of how people can rally around something seemingly as inanely subjective as a football team, with such fanaticism and belief as to produce a force far greater than the sum of the individuals. The fervour, the default propensity towards vandalism, the ancillary mob-culture – it was all quite undoubtedly communal, as it was fiercely personal. This was at once the creation and sustenance of the “Us” and conversely the demonizing of the “Them”. Beneath all the fireworks, physical or not, literal or not, this was 21st century tribal romantics in action.

Roll on Malaysia Cup Final 2009, Kelantan vs Negri Sembilan, where fans of my home team Kelantan – which has a similar reputation of going crackers – were bouncing off the walls even three hours before kickoff. Instead of Chorizo sausage and special brew, they started off with Asar prayers. These boys were ready to march into battle. Even the Green Street elite of West Ham or the Bushwackas of Millwall would have stood aside – for these were the Kelantan Gedebes. These were Kelantan’s ‘finest’ – and I say that of course with a healthy dose of irony – all the way from Pasir Puteh, Kuala Krai and Pangkalan Chepa. Proceedings started off with our own barbecue of seats in the Bukit Jalil stadium. My gaffer, Khairy Jamaluddin, who was sitting with the Negeri Sembilan fans branded this behaviour as disgusting and philistine. Maybe so, but I wonder if he would’ve said the same had Negeri Sembilan been on the receiving end of a 3-1 scoreline.

My eyes teared not from the loss but rather from the choke of smoke. We wanted more. The cars draped with Negeri Sembilan flags were fair game. Though I was never part of this, I never stopped my kinsmen. I couldn’t, even if I wanted to!

On the flipside, there are the ‘fanboys’. And they don’t come anymore shameless than two of my best friends – the Man Utd-loving Zuhri Aziz and Aqliff Shane (Sabah descent). When they visited Old Trafford, not only did they steal blades of grass from the pitch and shove it down their size 42-inch pants, they also squandered their children’s trust fund on superstore purchases. Their idols were Eric Le King, Posh n Becks and Ruud Van Destroyer. Ask them about Kevin Moran, Norman Whiteside and Martin Buchan, they thought these were clothing brands sold in BHS (British Home Stores – equivalent to our Globe Silk Store).

Yet sat in the crowd in a Champions League match versus Roma, they broke into tears and hollered along to supporter songs like “Country road, take me home, to the place I belong”. If there is any lesson from this, it is that we may not have a great national team. But shoulder-to-shoulder, Malaysian fans are just as noisy, fanatical, hardcore, knowledgeable (sans Zuhri and Shane) as any football fan or barra brava in the world.

With these thoughts I sat with them and watched Mexico’s miserable display against Argentina. We nervously bit our nails every time Messi ran with possession. For every goal they put past Mexico, we knew the Germans were frothing with anticipation in the next round too.

We were every bit the England, Argentina, Brazil fan, although we don’t look like any Cockney, Scouser, Brummie or Geordie and won’t ever sing God Save the Queen. This may appear flimsy to some, but our support for The Three Lions is as genuine as any white man in a Middle England pub with a pack of Bensons. And anybody who knows me or my colleagues would testify that it wasn’t some misguided postcolonial melancholia by any measure.

Later after the matches, we comforted ourselves on social media – on that night Twitter became our diary. It wasn’t about sharing thoughts as much as it was our need to articulate a narrative that made Argentina’s progress felt genuinely ours. Perhaps this essay is part of that need too. Certainly our local fans and fanboys should be given a shot at the big time. For I too, am a world class fanboy. We (Malaysia) clearly don’t have a national side to be proud of at the moment, but I sincerely believe we are a footballing nation.

Taken from

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

PAS Passed It?

The deafening silence of PAS leaders over the last weeks and months point to a simmering discontent underneath the calm sur-face (pun intended) portrayed by its ulama leaders.

With the threat of a change of government in Kedah ever-present, PAS seems to busy scrambling to keep its house in order, ensuring its elected representatives remain loyal to the party – bai’ah and all. All this while its partners in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition carry on with loftier goals, commenting on anything and everything national.

It is no secret that PAS is for all intents and purposes the smallest partner in Pakatan, due in no small part to the fact that much of its rank and file are most uncomfortable with the unholy alliance with Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR and DAP.

So it should come as no surprise that as the straws pile up on the camel’s back, PAS is struggling to decide what its next course of action is, nevermind the cracks between the Pakatan partners. Hence the silence. Conspiracy theorists would say something’s cooking, but I think more likely than not nothing is because they simply cannot deal with the ingredients they’ve been served with.

Only months ago Selangor PAS Commissioner Datuk Dr Hasan Ali was making the headlines daily with his attacks on the Selangor state government. We hear not a whimper from him these days, presumably being given more than a slap on the wrist to toe the increasingly impossible line of Pakatan unity.

Deputy President Ustaz Nasharuddin Mat Isa seems to have never recovered from the bashing he received from spiritual head Tuan Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat for his overtures with UMNO. Again, not a whimper. We’ve had plenty of issues to discuss in this country for the past year and the Deputy President of a major party – the second largest in Malaysia in terms of membership – has not figured in any of them.

Not that the President, Tuan Guru Haji Haji Awang has fared much better. Anwar Ibrahim, in a recent interview, promised that he would appoint a DAP leader to the post of Deputy Prime Minister II if he ever became premiere. No mention of the PAS President being ‘given’ any Cabinet position. And of course, silence on the part of the latter.

PAS, if it knows what’s good for itself, must seriously examine its position in Pakatan urgently. The party has a core base of voters but even they cannot continue to stand by a party that is lethargic, silent and almost anonymous on all the major issues facing Malaysia. The people need leaders, and for the past year, PAS has not been even in the mainframe, nevermind leading.

A great case in point is the dwindling support of the youth vote for PAS. It once had the Malay youth vote on virtual lockdown, but since the Manek Urai by election it has lost them slowly. PAS was almost non-present during the subsequent by elections of Bagan Pinang and Hulu Selangor, resulting in the not surprising consequence of loss of support.

PAS has always been closer to UMNO both in terms of its ideology and modus operandi. Whilst PAS is slipping away into relative obscurity, UMNO has taken a leaf from the old PAS book – going from strength to strength with non stop community programs and outreach, from the Pentas Pemuda UMNO ceramah sessions around the country to sports programs like the year long local football leagues, to Pemuda Prihatin programs focusing on welfare of the grassroots, as well as more refreshing ventures such as the BN Youth Lab.

And ultimately that is what Malaysian and especially Malay politics boils down to. Engagement and touch with the community. PAS was once famous for that. Not anymore.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New UMNO and New Media

The Malaysian political cyberspace used to be dominated, in presence, by pro-opposition writers and commenters. It is hardly the case anymore, but BN – consisting mostly of UMNO – bloggers are still not making the right waves to win the battle.

It is quite likely that there are far more pro-UMNO blogs than there are pro-Pakatan. Mushrooming after the 12th General Elections where Internet media proved to be a crucial factor in the poor showing by Barisan Nasional, these blogs become mouthpieces of the party and provide a platform for otherwise localized and low-level members of the party to step up to the national stage. But theirs is a story akin to a large mob going into a war with the wrong weapons, wrong strategy, wrong trickery and an appalling understanding of what the terrain demands.

We all know how important blogs and Internet chatter are, especially in Malaysia where mainstream media is viewed with as much credibility and independence from Authority as a Roman Town Crier. Whilst broadband penetration still leaves much to be desired, many middle class, young professionals, students - many of whom have Internet access – also influence their family members when they return to their hometowns to vote. Hence, the importance of winning the cyber war.

Specifically, pro-UMNO blogs – and perhaps most forms of communications media from UMNO, the Prime Minister’s proclamations excluded – send out the wrong message and go about it in such a way that drive voters away, rather than attract them.

What makes this most frustrating is the fact that the Prime Minister who is also UMNO President has set about a very good and bankable message. Actions notwithstanding, the PM is saying all the right things and appearing calm, steady and winning over Malaysians with his style and demeanor that suggest he knows what he is doing. The truth is that many Malaysians, indeed many humans, vote very much based on perception and what appears to be the case – not necessarily what actually is. But UMNO is failing to replicate this message in cyberspace; in fact in many cases they appear to be completely ignoring it. Herein lies a major failing.

The principal UMNO message today is 1Malaysia, and an inclusive UMNO as outlined by the Prime Minister during the last UMNO General Assembly. All party mouthpieces should make an effort to appropriate this national(ist) agenda and move away from the obsession with cheap,
sensationalist putdowns coupled with unbridled chest-thumping general remarks about the Malay agenda. These may put give a perverted sense of satisfaction as you go to bed – no better feeling than after baking a case on why Anwar is undoubtedly a Jew-agent – but do nothing to win over the undecideds. And not for nothing, polls show that most undecided voters are Malays.

Instead, they must fall in line and repeat the message of unity and acceptance endowed within the spirit of 1Malaysia, as well as embrace the challenge for Malay achievement and success so apparent in the New Economic Model. The party rank and file can no longer play this devilish part of vowing support to the PM’s reform agenda whilst acting the precise opposite. After all, isn’t this new approach of moderation, acceptance, respect, co-existence and humility not so new after all? Aren’t these the very values that Malays often pride themselves with when they say “Melayu bangsa yang bersopan-santun dan beradab” despite often showcasing little of the above? When the people cried for UMNO to change, it was more than simply a change in leadership or image; it was also a change in the party message itself. The most affable salesman of defected goods is still a salesman of defected goods.

Party message aside, UMNO bloggers need to understand that cyberspace is not a place where you simply spew out your message without tact, taste or facts. With politics, the target audience should never be the political players on either side of the fence. Whilst the topics and engagements will often be with the opposition, the judge is always the people whose yardstick is always outside the partisan bubble in which these skirmishes occur. Thus, it is not about putdowns or embarrassing the opponent; much less is it about persuading him that he is wrong because that would be most futile. Instead, it is about convincing the neutral audience with facts, persuasion and keeping them interested with witty intelligence. The most accomplished performer – because politics is everywhere an art – will tell you to respect your audience in order to gain theirs.

Sadly, few of the appointed mouthpieces in UMNO are doing a good enough job engaging the fence-sitters with the right message (although we already have it!) and right approach. The party’s information chiefs and point-men, both in cyber space and in traditional media, do not appear to understand what this new political climate asks of them. And they better overcome that first obstacle of denial quickly, if we are to stand a chance at winning the young votes come next GE. Win the GE we still might, but are we paradoxically about to do it by setting a pattern that will guarantee future losses as newer, post-Merdeka generations rapidly replace older ones? Ponder. And weep.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Of Rockets and Brylcreem Guan Eng

The attacks against The Chief Minister of Pulau Pinang, Lim Guan Eng roll in. The most recent and damaging of all is Nibong Tebal MP (PKR) Tan Tee Beng's lashing out at Guan Eng and DAP's 'vengeful politics' of no class. What initially seemed as an act of throwing support behind a party colleague, Bayan Baru MP Datuk Zahrain Mohamed Hashim who had some choice words of his own for Guan Eng - 'chauvinist', 'communist' and 'dictator' - Tee Beng's offensive against Guan Eng has taken a life of its own.

Indeed, this is only the latest of a string of incidents where Pakatan Rakyat appears to be faltering in Selangor and Pulau Pinang. But what makes these latest attacks all the more shocking is the details which were shared by two Pakatan Rakyat MPs - Tee Beng and Datuk Zahrain - of how dirty DAP's politics is and how far the PKR leadership is willing to bend over backwards to accommodate DAP's ways. If previously, actual content of criticisms were scarce, in this latest round we the rakyat receive some clear insight into understanding why Guan Eng is so unpopular not only with the Malays, but also with non-DAP Chinese.

The theme has always been the same, whether in the Ngah Ngeh duo in Perak or the Guan Eng Jeff Ooi partnership in Pulau Penang - the complaint is that DAP bullies its partners in Pakatan Rakyat. It is interesting that we never hear of this complaint when it comes to PAS or PKR; whatever their failings are they do not seem to act in a way that suggests mistrust or selfishness in this fledgling Opposition coalition.

Tee Beng, a PKR member who is not at all a fan of BN, tells us that PKR MPs in Pulau Pinang get no allocation whatsoever from the DAP leadership! He goes on to expose that all the allocations given out by the state is being portrayed as being given by the DAP, and that PKR has to beg for positions in Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA), Penang Development Corporation (PDA) and investPenang. Does Tee Beng have an axe to grind? Sure he does. Guan Eng rejected Tee Beng nomination by PKR to become a PBA director simply because of the latter's history of criticising the former. What's that again? Meritocracy? Freedom of expression without persecution? Accountability? Pssh.

But most instructive is the revelation of DAP's grand strategy - to further racialise Malaysian politics by trying its best to make PKR into a Malay-based party at all levels. DAP knows the danger of having a genuinely multiracial PKR, one which will be a far bigger threat to DAP than to PAS. After all, in many ways, PKR and DAP occupy the same space with their rhetoric of reforms, accountability, and anti-corruption - all of which are of course, noble ideals, but the point is that if PKR can attract the younger generation of all races who subscribe to those ideals, and also the Chinese voters against BN, then DAP ceases to be relevant. PAS can always rely on its quite sizeable base - the conservative, pseudo-Islamists in both urban and rural areas, but DAP cannot. And worse, DAP knows it can never be more than a Chinese-based party, nor is it interested in becoming one. So what do they do? They go after PKR Chinese, marginalising and disarming them so that PKR will be seen as an Anwar-Azmin gig - UMNO rejects who will not struggle for say, Chinese education in a way that someone like Tee Beng or Tian Chua would.

Tee Beng has said he would quit PKR if need be, but that's also not the point. BN doesn't really a need defections in Parliament - 2/3 majority is only useful as a psychological weapon when it is won during elections. The point is that Tee Beng and Zahrain are doing Malaysians all a favour by exposing us to the true colours of DAP - as chauvinistic, racist and conniving as they claim BN to be.