KUCHING: Former national football stars Dato Soh Chin Ann and Santokh Singh believe that Malaysian football could recapture its past glory.
However, the national football association must do its bit to improve the overall situation and start from scratch.
Given time, the national squad could do better.
Soh said, “We have to start from scratch and maybe in ten years time we can see the improvement.”
He added that it should begin with the youth section and work upwards.
The association must come out with a specific and effective programme that is tailored at improving the skills, implement it and supervise its operations nationwide.
Admitting that the current situation is far from being satisfactory, the former national captain pointed out that there was an urgent need for a full revamp on football development if the national football team is to move to a higher level.
Nonetheless he remained positive despite the dismal performance of the national squad saying nothing is impossible.
Slightly reserved was Santokh when he voiced his opinions on the current state of the country’s football team.
“The present team seems to be lacking in experience and confidence,” he said adding that the supporters could help by allowing them room and time to gain more experience which he believes would improve the game greatly.
Short of putting the blame on the football association, the Ironman (as he was fondly known back then) said he hoped the association would do a better job in football development.
The two football legends were rather modest about the national team’s performance back then.
“I don’t think we were that good a team but I must admit we had a team that was committed to football as well as going all out to make the country proud,” Santokh said.
Whereas the former captain said, “The only difference between football now and back then is that we won numerous championships while this time around, they seem to have difficulty in winning.”
Soh and Santokh were defenders of the national squad in the 70s and 80s when Malaysian football was at its peak. The duo formed the most solid defence in the much-feared Malaysian team back then.
The 70s was considered the Malaysian football golden era as the national squad was a force to be reckoned with.
They qualified for the 1972 Olympics in Munich, after conquering the mighty national teams of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines.
The squad also managed to defeat the United States by 3-0 but they lost 0-3 to West Germany and 0-6 to Morocco.
The Malaysian national team even defeated English giants Arsenal FC with an incredible 2-0 win.
Both goals were scored by Moktar Dahari, another legendary player of the time.
Moktar also scored the solitary goal for Malaysia in their 1-1 draw against England while Paul Mariner replied for the opposite team.
They qualified to play in the 1980 Summer Olympics, but Malaysia boycotted the event. Domestically, the national team won the Merdeka Tournament three times, became runner-up four times and occupied the third place two times during the 1970s.
Continuing its path of glory, the Malaysian team qualified twice for the AFC Asian Cup in 1976 and 1980. They picked up two bronze medals in the Asian Games campaign.
Malaysian football was never the same after the retirement of star players like Hassan Sani, James Wong, Soh, Santokh and with the demise of Mokhtar, but the 70s and to some extend the 80s, will always be remembered as Malaysia’s golden era of football.