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Sunday, September 06, 2015

breaking Strongholds

So, not too long ago Harimau Malaya got mauled 10 – 0 by the United Arab Emirates. Suddenly, interest in recent marches or political spats have dimmed slightly with the with an official scoreline to underline a form of national embarrassment. You can view the dismal performance on YouTube:


Eleven minutes of total humiliation.

As of 11:12 PM tonight, five articles related to this issue made the top 10 most viewed articles on theStar online, notably more interesting than Alvin Tan or Mukhriz Mahatir.

Malaysia Football Loss to UAE Article Trend on TheStar

Of course, there’s plenty of rambling going around on social media, sarcastic insults, memes, calling for peoples heads and so on. The frustration of fans are mostly deserved but is not something that started from the 10 – 0 defeat. It’s a culmination of so many things over a long period of time involving so many people, not just Dollah Salleh.

Firstly, I think most Harimau Malaya fans are well aware that the standard of football we play isn’t enough to win against countries outside ASEAN as of right now. Beyond the AFF Suzuki Cup and the SEA Games, Malaysia doesn’t have a chance to fight for other honours. Before K. Rajagopal was let go, it was already clear that the target was for Malaysia to qualify for the Asian Cup by 2020.

That said, Harimau Malaya hasn’t grown since its last AFF Suzuki Cup win and has been on the decline since that ‘peak’. So, it doesn’t surprise me they drew against Bangladesh although I think that also reflects the lack of quality we have. What’s more frustrating is that in recent times war torn countries such as Iraq and Palestine also beat us by large margins. How’s that possible when we supposedly have better resources and facilities in place?
Personally, I think there are five main factors that have held true over the past few years leading Malaysian football to this point:

  • inactive and ineffective FAM management
  • lack of player mental toughness
  • poor player work ethic
  • lack of grassroots development
  • lack of quality coaches

Notice, how in those five points, I mention the word ‘lack’ three times. I think that shows that in terms of the crucial resources, we certainly don’t have enough. While not world class, Malaysia does have better physical football infrastructure than Iraq and Palestine.

Quite frankly, nobody has any idea what Football Association Malaysia (FAM) actually does other than make TV deals and ink partnerships that don’t actually result in any specific benefit to Malaysian football. While I’m not a huge fan of JDTs patron, he certainly made valid points about TV revenue distribution. Apart from that, FAM’s poor development of young players led our sports minister to establish the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) led by former Bayern Munich youth coach Lim Teong Kim. Politics and involvement of royalty seem to have ruined FAM.

Players on the other hand, throughout the Super League don’t seem to reflect much of the work ethic and mental toughness of their peers (if I can even call them that) in Europe. There’s really not much to say when I hear stories of training not being taken seriously and eating absolutely anything you want (a huge no-no for any professional athlete). I mean for goodness sake, I have a friend who had an experience eating at a warung when a Super League team came by to have their meal! Mee Goreng for Lionel Messi anyone? You also know that you’re not very mentally strong when someone who is supposedly ‘composed’, i.e. Khairul Fahmi is seen throwing tantrums on the bench (regardless if it is justifiable or not). Its something that’s apparently evident in our badminton as well. You do read a few Malaysian badminton coaches highlighting this exact weakness, which is certainly present in Malaysia’s football fraternity as well.

The other thing is that we seem to have ignored the need to educate players at a young age. The development of young players became an oversight and was only addressed starting a few years back with Harimau Muda and more recently, NFDP. Programs like NFDP could produce quality players in perhaps the next decade, but it certainly came too late for any player currently in Harimau Malaya. They are the product of whatever footballing education they could get when they were younger, which probably was not a lot. Twenty years back, we forgot to think about the next generation.

Even in nurturing the next generation or the current one, you’ve got to have people of calibre to guide them. If the coaches of now (especially Malaysian ex-players) were taught by the poor football education system of the past, how can they be expected to bring todays players to a higher level? This is why the hiring of foreign coaches really do make sense for Malaysian football regardless at the state or national level.

A really great understanding of this is shown during an interview with NFDP head, Lim Teong Kim. Its a really good interview and I think every Malaysian football fan should see it:

Lim Teong Kim gets interviewed on ‘Dengan Izin’

Watching Lim Teong Kim’s explanation, you get a good feel of how much baggage Malaysian football carries with it. These are all things that have exerted its influence for decades. Any immediate short term remedies only scrape the surface, not cutting the root of the real problems. It really is a stronghold that’s prevented us from being as good as we can be. After all, history showed us we could take on Korea Republic and make them fear us even.

The current generation of Harimau Malaya may not take us as far as the Olympics or the World Cup, but they can still redeem its reputation as a force in ASEAN and not be a knock over in Asia. There’re two things that are possible for the current generation to do to make things better, (1) improve their work ethic, to seriously work hard and be disciplined about it and (2) to build that resolve, the mental toughness needed to be focused throughout games and not giving up in hopeless situations. All that will be up to the players themselves and managers together with their coaches to make it happen.

That said, there is hope for the next generation of Harimau Malaya. A few days before the UAE game, I was watching videos of the NFDP U-13 team who were unbeaten during a recent playing tour of Germany and even won the Ibercup tournament beating the likes of Bayern Munich and Sporting Lisbon!

That said, it won’t be up to NFDP to save or revive Malaysian football. It will have to be a collective effort across the board, which seems impossible. Still I do believe that people like Lim Teong Kim, Ong Kim Swee and even people like TMJ, KJ, not to mention those forgotten like K Rajagopal are able to make the difference.

It takes people with the right mentality to overcome these strongholds, which are essentially mental in nature to begin with. It won’t all be right tomorrow, maybe not even in five years time. Its hard to undo decades worth of wrong in a year. To overcome is not impossible, but we need to start doing the right things and be patient enough to allow the next generation to grow into the best Harimau Malaya they can be.

I’ll end this one with a video of what hopefully could be an indicator of a brighter future for Malaysian football:

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

power Out

I wondered why I woke up on Saturday at 4:30 in the morning. I wasn't due to travel and I hadn't planned anything special that morning. Then I realised the air conditioning wasn't on.

A walk down to the panel box didn't help. Flipping the switches on and off didn't work making me wonder if there'd been a power cut although all the street lights were still on. The funny thing was that most of the houses on my street didn't seem to have a problem, just mine and my neighbour. I guess they woke up first because I certainly didn't call the TNB guys that arrived in less than fifteen minutes of my stuffy awakening.


Unfortunately, the crew that came couldn't fix the problem. Something in the transformer box outside had been totally burnt and would require a more 'heavy duty' crew with the right tools and replacement materials. To quote, "Kita kena panggil lori bang, ni dah habis terbakar."

It was too hot in the house to wait and we didn't know how long it would take anyway, so I have God to thank that McDonalds is open 24/7 these days. After breakfast and then some, the talked about lorry hadn't come yet so I resigned myself to waiting a little more, but again, less than fifteen minutes later the red truck arrived:


I watched them work on replacing the burnt units (I don't really know what its called, an online search didn't enlighten me any further). Seeing how burnt it was, I guess it must've been quite a power overload:


Talking to one of the TNB guys, I discovered something about my house. Apparently my neighbour shares power with mine. The transformer has a direct line running to my neighbour's box which is then distributed to mine. This means if at any time my neighbour has a blackout, I'll definitely get one but if I get one, my neighbour won't be affected. It seems to be a very clever piece of cost saving by my house developer.


Anyhow, TNB was pretty quick about their work. They didn't waste any time in replacing the spoiled parts. Before leaving they did check with us to make sure our houses had power which was nice. At least they didn't just leave after completing their 'required work'.

I was quite impressed with how efficiently TNB responded, from the first respondents to the final team that fixed the problem. Its always nice to see Malaysian service providers come through, particularly public service agencies. Well done TNB.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

year Later

So, it took a conversation about food and a short mention of a friend of a friend's blog to make me turn the browser back mine. I know I haven't been at it for quite some time, but I didn't realise it's been more than a year! I guess, it'd be good to reflect on what the last 12 months have been for me.

As far as work was concerned, a change was welcome. The friendlier and a slightly more open culture made it a better place to be and I thank God that I'm able to get along with colleagues and bosses all around. While people have come and gone since then, I thank God his favour continues to be with me in my workplace.

Apart from that, I'd returned to the familiar yet unfamiliar city of KL, with me not knowing anybody. It took many months before I settled into any sort of social groove. My problem was I was real picky choosing a group to belong to with my own perceptions of how KL people are like. Yet, I had to put  myself somewhere knowing that I'd start drifting away on my own become laissez faire about things.

Choosing a cell with people I didn't know at all was what I wanted, trying unfamiliar faces in a familiar place. At first, I wondered if I'd made the right choice after realising how different everyone in cell was from me, being in a different stage of life than all of them. I stuck to it for a while, trying to share life with them, but I realised that my future friendships was best placed with peers rather than forcing myself to fit with people inherently different from me.

Still I'm grateful for the friendships that were built there and the short partnership I had with people like Daniel, Le Sze, Fai, Christine, Nic and Mel. I'd contributed in my own way, but I guess it was best for to switch and I think that was a turning point for me.

At the same time, I was happy to be back in SIB KL, and perhaps I've seen a small bit of the reason of why I've come back. Learning things that I never really focused on or understood before has helped to realise the importance of things like destiny and territory. They seem like big philosophical words that I'd leave to the more 'intelligent' minds or 'super-spiritual' people but I'm beginning to see how these are real things to care about and that it's really up to God's people and not anyone else.

In that sense, I believe that I am where I am with a certain purpose and that as I go along, He'll reveal the bits and pieces I need to know and it's up to me to learn a deeper understanding of His will. That's the part of the journey I'm on now I suppose, still struggling with myself to dig deeper.

Monday, June 30, 2014

starting Over

next phase
new season
re start
new ground

Imagine a fantasy-like world where every place is connected by only an underground railroad. Everybody starts in a different place. Each time you choose where to go with many choices, but once you leave your station, you can never go back. Its a risk with many unknowns but there's plenty of room for new adventure and infinite possibilities. Each person can stay as long as they like in one place, but once you  leave, you can't return to where you came from. You can only get on that next train for that ride through the dark without knowing what the end will be until you see that light at the end of the tunnel.

Some of us have a good idea of where we want to go and work hard to earn our ticket to those places. High achieving students get a ticket into a good college, maybe even a plane ticket to an overseas campus. The work suits among us work hard to get tickets for personal pleasures in the form of a bigger pay check. Others are dealt with budget tickets maybe, some out of a lack of ability, others just without luck. The even less fortunate may never get a ticket to a better place at all.

Then again sometimes, we're forced to take that train we don't want to take.

Like I said, sometimes we know what we want and what we don't. Yet, God seems to have a way of landing people in places they would've never thought of or felt comfortable about. It's hardly worth anything to get angry with Him about it, after all would that change anything? Yet, you naturally feel frustrated and disappointed. Why becomes a word often used as an expression of dissatisfaction.

But I'd like to hope that this new place I'm going to will be just as a good or even better than where I wanted to go in the first place. Like a young child that typically misunderstands his father's decision or instruction that differs from his own thoughts, there may be things I don't understand and have not seen but my Father knows a lot better than I do. It's usually hard to see in such circumstances and it's never immediately apparent. I guess it takes time and patience to understand and see the better picture. Hopefully I'll have what I need to make that happen.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

sing Off

I'm so tired of saying "It's been a while since I last blogged," almost every time I've written an entry this year but it really does feel that way, even now. Still, I'm glad I've come across something in the past two weeks that made me put my fingers to the keyboard for this one.

This story is actually courtesy of the fact that YouTube exists. As I (and most probably millions of others do) was searching for nice covers of popular hits, I came across a video that I'd actually stumbled on a year or two ago but totally forgot about since then.

A cappella group Dartmouth Aires were performing their rendition of R Kelly's Ignition remix. It was the first vocal-only live performance I'd seen on YouTube and I liked it quite a bit. Watching the video, I found out they were performing on this show on NBC, called The Sing-Off. As you've probably figured out by now, its a singing competition not unlike The Voice and American Idol except there's no band or background music, you have to make it yourself. That's the beauty of a capella after all.

After searching and watching more videos of  The Sing-Off, I discovered a name that's actually quite popular on YouTube right now, Pentatonix, winners of the most recent season of The Sing-Off. Pentatonix really showed how a capella music has evolved, especially with the influences of hip-hop beat box and electronic dance music. It was totally incredible to see Pentatonix, a group of just five people sing, vocalise drum beats and incredible remix-type sounds in a single performance:

Pentatonix peforming Kesha's Your Love is My Drug

Being totally hooked after that, I started watching performances of other groups on the show. That's when I discovered my favourite group, Afro-Blue (now called Traces of Blue). They didn't come first, that went to Pentatnoix, but surprisingly to me, they didn't get second or third. They had to settle for fourth place, but they're my favourite group by far.

Afro-Blue has this really jazz and soulful feel about them, yet it feels very vibrant. I just loved so many of their performances, here are some to name a few:

Corinne Bailey Rae - Put Your Records On
Estelle - American Boy
Janet Jackson Medley
Sam Cooke - A Change is Gonna' Come
Lady Antebellum - I Need You Now

Here's my favourite one from them, although it was really hard to single one out for me:

With ten members, their arrangements of songs always sounded very full, nice bass lines, and more than one person could do lead vocals. All of them were just great. I just love their sound and they seem like a nice bunch of people. I guess I just kind of gravitate to groups like that.

Then, I found the winners of the previous season, Committed. While not so modernly flamboyant, every performance I watched was just so smooth. It's so interesting because Committed is actually a group of guys who come from a traditional background of singing choir in church. Explaining their name was very simple, "We came up with the name Committed because we're committed to God, to our music and to each other"

Apparently they'd never sung Billboard hits before and had been singing only hymns and gospel music, but they never looked out of touch in any performance I saw them in. Just see this rendition of One Republic's song Apologize and you'll get what I mean:

If you watch the video, you'll notice Ben Fold's is just speechless and I haven't seen that happen for any other top performances on the show that I've seen.

After seeing all these amazing groups, I just started downloading the videos, songs where I could get them. There're at least 10 songs in Sing-Off style being put to loop in my car the last few days! I guess the last week of watching all these amazing performers gave me one of those moments where its like those memes that go 'take my money now!' and there's this picture of someone throwing money at the computer screen because he's seen something so incredible but he just can't get his hands on it.

Then, while looking for more, I found a more humbling story. I didn't know much about the history of Jerry Lawson until I did a little research. I don't want to dwell too long on his story, but just imagine a man who was in a popular a capella group back in the 70's that got onto the Billboard charts even. Having dropped out of the a capella scene because of some troubles, he fell on hard times and he said on the show that through faith and God, he pulled through, found a new group so compatible with him and was invited to participate on The Sing-Off.

In everything new I've come across through The Sing-Off in the last week or so, what I loved most was actually how people like Jerry Lawson and even Committed acknowledged God as important to them. In the second last episode of season 2 where Terry from Committed was asked what it would mean to them if the judges sent them through to the final, I think he mentioned God  twice in the same sentence and that just about sums it up for me. I just think its great when people thank the Creator for being the source of their talent and success, that's all really. =)

Sunday, September 01, 2013

keep Believing

One thing you should know about me is I’m the kind of person that likes to believe the underdog can make it, even when results and statistics don’t seem to agree. When I say the underdog, I could mean anyone. It could mean a sports team, a country, a friend, a leader, or even myself.

That said, I haven’t always got the satisfaction of seeing the little guys make it. In fact, it’s quite rare. I guess that’s only expected, they’re the little guys after all. Actually, of the underdogs I’ve supported, I only seem to remember one that made it.

One that Made It
Interestingly, this doesn’t have anything to do about winning or losing. I remember reading an article many years ago about a Chinese company on BusinessWeek’s website. It was about a sports apparel company from China that was a ‘jaguh kampung’. The article mentioned how it was doing all right within China, but had no presence abroad. It was seen as one of those companies that specialised in being copycats, a company that didn’t do much more than make knockoffs of branded sports goods. They even had a go at its logo, saying it seemed to be an adaptation of the Nike swoosh.

To be fair, the article did say it had some potential. Being Asian, I was a little sympathetic. I hoped this company would become big over the next few years despite the sentiment and prove Asia could succeed in an established industry and that the rest of the world would acknowledge it.

Today, Li-Ning endorses top athletes like Dwayne Wade and Lin Dan. Plus, with their shoes having appeared on websites like SneakerFreaker and KicksOnFire, it shows how far they’ve come. A trip to one of their stores in KL will show you they’re not competing against copycats, but are getting right up there. Honestly, the first time I saw the Li-Ning store in One Utama, I couldn’t help but smile a little knowing this was the brand I’d been quietly rooting for all these years.

The Other Little Guys I’m Hoping On
The first one’s more of a joke really, but oh well. Being a person that watches Running Man, I find myself rooting for Lee Kwang Soo a lot. Now, I know the show is scripted as a variety show but there’s not much ‘scripting’ when it comes to the games. Being the tall, skinny and somewhat dim-witted one, Kwang Soo is hardly ‘winner’ material, yet I find myself supporting this guy. I think of all the individual races in the 150+ episodes there have been, he’s only won once.

The other one that’s more serious isn’t about one person, but two. Specifically, they’re Malaysia’s number one badminton mixed doubles pair, Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying. Despite their good world ranking, they’re very much underdogs, seeing that the target is being world number one and the fact that they get eliminated from tournaments quite often.

The reason I support them more than men’s singles or doubles is because I just love the way they are on court. When you see them play, its obvious they work hard, that they are fearless and they support one another. Watching them, I personally believe they can be world beaters, but statistics and recent performances definitely beg to differ. Every now and then at the courts, I tell some of my friends I like our mixed doubles pair but there’s hardly an enthusiastic response anytime I mention it. Personally, I still believe this pair can make it big, that their quality can actually grab an Olympic medal. It’s quite a far fetched expectation for many I think, but that’s the kind of belief I have for Chan and Goh.

The Main Point
I guess the main point I’m trying to make here is I want to believe that the people we’re used to see losing can become winners, champions even. I know it doesn’t happen often, but I’ve seen enough to know that its not impossible.

I believe the same applies to me and my country too. There are situations where we’re underdogs and the odds are overwhelming. We’re not always in the best condition, but we’ve got to back ourselves to get out there, do the best we can and keep believing the best is yet to come. Its not time to give up hope, its time to dig deep, pray, believe and persevere to defeat the giants in front of us.

Monday, August 12, 2013

pushing Forward

Its been some time since I put keyboard to blog. Now that I am, once again it feels like time just flew by. Many things have happened, and its a little hard to summarise everything that I've been doing or thinking in one go.

Like a lot of people, I guess I'm in that place where we've just passed a season, when many people were passionate, emotional, even angry about a single event. Now that it's passed, its no longer about the emotions, but about what's next. Life goes on right? Time doesn't stop for anyone.

From what I've seen, some go on doing their routine, but they harbour disappointment. Some let it go and say, "Maybe next time,". Others sigh, feeling a little hopeless because they feel there's nothing they can do to make things better and that the people that should may be doing the opposite.

Moving on from that, a few things have happened, mostly knee-jerk reactions. It doesn't help that many other incidents during recent times in business, politics or even sports have left a bitter taste. Assassinations in the past week have made us fearful again, and it can be startling that the price of a life can be as little as a few thousand ringgit. All this goes on while we're back in the routine of striving hard for the better life. Its all very complicated. It creates more doubts and questions than answers.

Despite all this, I've learnt over time that its important to respond rather than react to a situation. Of course, the question is, how?

For me, what I'm learning is to focus on the right thing, which is to come back to God and just seek him. Its not the same as saying 'turning back to religion' is the answer. The whole idea of going back to religion is a retreat, hoping ancient rules and methods can get society back on track. Its about coming back to strengthen a relationship that isn't as close as it should be.

It's difficult for me to explain what I mean by 'seeking God'. The best way I can explain is to say it involves removing my focus from the situation and focusing on God. It's not a time where we suddenly become oblivious to the real world, but its a time where we stop complaining, murmuring, grumbling. Its a time where we surrender our burdens, our thoughts, our knowledge and just say, "God I need you. We need you."

Sometimes I believe we (and that includes me) think we are very smart. In a world full of information at your fingertips, its easy to be a political pundit, an armchair critic, sports analyst or that guy who just knows it all like an annoying tall scientist in that famous sitcom. We talk a lot and have plenty of opinions, yet we are where we are.

That's why I know its not nearly enough to rely on what we know, or what we think we know. I believe that God knows. He has His purpose, ways and timing. I want to trust and rely on Him more and I'm glad to know there are many others like me who are beginning to desire the same.

How we push forward instead of dwelling in the past, is by putting our confidence in Him. Ask any professional athlete and they'll tell you confidence is important, its powerful. That kind of confidence is believing in your self ability. If that's the case, then how powerful is it to place confidence in God who's more powerful than anything else? We don't just keep calm and carry on. We keep praying and pushing on.