Wednesday, June 09, 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010 - South Africa

When will we win the Cup?

The FIFA World Cup - the pride of every nation

The much awaited FIFA World Cup football tournament is finally here and as usual is creating a lot of excitement for football fans all over the world. There is so much write up of the game in the papers and the media that adds to the excitement. Coffee shops, restaurants and even pubs are already preparing for the month-long tournament with huge TV screens and special snacks. Whether we like it or not the World Cup fever is back and is going to get intense over coming days and weeks. It is strange that a game where 22 men chase after a ball has managed to charm the world, which virtually comes to a standstill for a month.

In fact the World Cup finals truly deserves to be called “The greatest show on earth” as it makes people all over the world forget their differences and come together to celebrate this festive month. Locally this will be evident in the huge crowds comprising all races that gather in our nasi kandar and other coffee shops at odd hours all over the country to watch the games. No other national event can ever attract such a spontaneous crowd of all races.

All decked out: A cafe in Gurney Drive, Penang latches on to the World Cup fever by displaying ball-shaped lanterns and banners.(Picture by Star)

The World Cup is just not about just winning or losing but about the expression of one’s passion for his country. We read of the eagerness of the various teams to do their best to win the prestigious cup for their country, which was originally called Victory Cup. We see the pride in the players who are so eager to represent their nation in the games to gain that victory for their fellow citizens. We also see the deep disappointment of those who could not make it because of injuries or left out because of other reasons. Many of these young men, playing for various prestigious football clubs, may be multi-millionaires but their enthusiasm and passion to play for their country puts many of us to shame. Their pride in representing their country illustrates their sense of patriotism to the nation.

Where do we stand in this race to win the FIFA World Cup for our country? What are our hopes of qualifying for a World Cup finals? Countries that were at par with us at one time like Japan and South Korea have already made to the finals long time ago. Even countries that were far behind us like North Korea have made it this time. It will not be surprising that others like Indonesia and India may make it too in the near future. When will we ever make it to the finals?

Don’t we have the same passion to bring glory for our country? We too were almost there during the golden era of Mohktar Dahari, Soh Chin Ann and Santhok Singh. Then there was Arumugam, Hassan Sani James Wong and Chandran but today we are nowhere near to qualifying for the finals. Where did we go wrong?

It is unfortunate that instead of trying hard to improve the standard to qualify for the finals we have become good spectators,businessmen and now even good punters. We have in fact started the national debate on legalizing sports betting which is the least what World Cup is all about. If we have our way we will definitely become a haven for such a game. Why bother to strive to participate in the games when we can make thousands in betting?

It may be timely for us to see why we have deteriorated so much in football. The major reason for this decline is the politicization of the sport that has adversely affected the selection of players. Selection based on criteria that produced great players like Mokhtar,Chin Ann, Santhok ,Arumugam and many others like them should be reintroduced if we want to regain past glory. Selection should be purely on merits and not favoritism of any sorts.

If we look at the nations that have qualified for the World Cup finals in South Africa we will realize some of them are war-torn and ethnically divided. We wonder how these countries can ever manage to qualify. To them the only factor that is paramount is national pride not ethnicity or other political considerations in selecting the players. Every player, regardless of his ethnicity or political affiliations, is given equal opportunity to be selected to represent the country. This is the most important lesson for our leaders in general and FAM in particular; choosing only the best to represent the nation without any prejudice whatsoever.

As we watch enviously, these young men passionately fighting it out on the fields to bring pride to their nations, deep in our hearts there is a profound sense of sadness as we wonder whether we will ever qualify to do the same for our nation. If we want to rise to the ranks of the top nations in football there is a need for all Malaysians to rid themselves of the mindset that divides them along ethnic lines. They must rise above their ethnic and political differences to come together as Malaysians equally eager to contribute to the glory for the nation in not just football but in all that they indulge.

Unless we can do that, which looks rather remote going by present day politics in the country, our dreams for participating in the World Cup will never be realized and we must be contended to being mere spectators,business enterprises and possibly punters.

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