Are We The Fans, The Problem Of Harimau Malaysia?

The Malaysian Football Team has entered a downward period and now is time to reflect: Are we the problem?

This opinion piece is written by Aidan Paul and Miguel Mak, as part of their project to change the perspective of the Malaysian society concerning the national football team.

Are the glory days of the Harimau Malaysia truly gone?

There are no longer the likes of Arumugam, Mokhtar Dahari and James Wong in the Malaysian squad, these were household names once. What changed – is it the quality of players or is it that we the fans are not interested anymore?

Nowadays, most of us can barely name a Malaysian footballer! The Malaysian Football Team has entered a downward period and now is time to reflect: Are we the problem?

There are a growing number of problems that arise in the Malaysian Football Team.

The first problem is the continuous criticism thrown at the team

With every loss the team makes, there are more and more insults thrown at them.

The majority of the Malaysian society shows little backing towards the team whatsoever and this lack of support needs to improve if we want to progress from this slump that we are currently in. In recent years, Malaysia lost 10-0 to UAE in 2015.

Second is the status quo

Regardless of whether we win or not, we always find a way to insult the national team.

Whilst some criticism should be allowed to be made, there is rarely a constructive feedback that is made. Instead, upset supporters have chosen to do little to back the Malaysian football team.

Compared to other national football teams such as Indonesia and India, our fan base is nowhere near as supportive yet alone active. Indonesia, who is one of our biggest rivals, is ranked number 14 in terms of fanbase according to thetoptens.com.

Even though they aren't a World Cup qualifying team, the fans still show a massive amount of support to the team. Couldn't we do the same for our team?

Scene after flare-throwing fans forced the abandonment of a World Cup qualifier in KL in 2015.

Image via AFP

Thirdly, we are picky when it comes to showing our support

The most renowned quote displayed in the movie ‘Ola Bola’ was “We win together, we lose together”. This is another problem that we have, we choose when to support our team.

We are so picky when supporting the national team that we don’t unite when we lose.

In the 1970s to 1980s, Malaysia had a huge fanbase that would cry when we lose and celebrate when we win. This hasn’t happened recently excluding the SEA games because we reached the final.

However, we see this type of support within Malaysians towards foreign European teams. This type of support, such as to wake up late at night to watch Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City or Manchester United matches is rarely displayed to our own national team.

The influence from foreign teams has indirectly affected the support towards our national team.

The final problem, which probably affects the most, is the Asian mentality

Most of us view football more as a hobby and this influence have been passed down to younger generations. This discourages talented youngsters to develop their football skills and talent which directly affects the success of the Malaysian Football Team.

Football or any other sport for this matter is considered a hobby or something one can put on their CV which is not a valid reason you can have to play a sport as you express no actual love or even liking to the sport.

And while football may not be considered as important as academic performance, the idea of even pursuing football is considered a ridiculous one.

Asian parents firmly believe in their children pursuing stable jobs with fixed incomes. Although most are gradually progressing to a more open-minded type of parenting, the idea of a footballing career, in Malaysia especially, makes them feel much more insecure about their child's future.

The solution to all of this is straight-forward

Although the Sports Ministry and the Malaysian F.A. have been implementing policies to embark on youth development, it starts from us.

We Malaysians, need to watch more local football. Understand it. Support our team.

With this support, the Malaysian FAM will start to see the increasing support shown to our team and will take appropriate actions. The change starts with us.

When we watch more matches in the stadium instead of abusing our team on the Internet, it shows that we truly care. We show the team we care about them just by coming to matches.

This is the most important factor: Showing our support.

Visiting stadiums to watch more matches will also result in high revenue and spending on facilities and youth development. This will, in turn, improve the quality of the Malaysian Football team. Just from our support, dreams of qualifying for the World Cup can become a reality. But it can only happen if we show our support.

Malaysian fans chanting songs during the SEA Games football match between Singapore and Malaysia in 2017.

Image via MARK CHEONG/STRAITS TIMES

Speaking of which, on 11 December, the Bukit Jalil National Stadium was packed to the brim with hundreds - if not thousands - of fans resorting to sitting on the floor or staircase to watch the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 final between Malaysia and Vietnam:

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