The Johor government declares public holiday after the state wins the Malaysia Cup. The Malaysian government allocates RM45 million to the National Football Development Programme (NFDP).
Football is the most popular sports in the world with an estimated four billion fans and is also the most followed sports in Malaysia.
Top players in the Malaysian League earn more than sportsmen from any other sport in Malaysia, with the players from JDT leading the way.
But does that mean that football must be given special treatment over the better performing sports in Malaysia?
Sports like hockey, badminton, squash and cycling have reaped better results than football in recent years. Malaysia are even the world champions in dodgeball.
And what are the achievements of Malaysian football, except for the occasional success at the South East Asian level?
The Malaysian football team is currently 158 out of 209 countries in the latest FIFA World Rankings list. Malaysia were ranked as high as 73 but that was way back in 1993.
Teams like Tahiti, New Caledonia, Afghanistan, Faroe Islands and Eswatini (Swaziland) are among the teams ranked higher than Malaysia.
No Malaysian team have ever qualified for the World Cup. Only once before, back in 1980 that we qualified for the Olympics. Unfortunately the team did not get to play at the Games after Malaysia joined the USA led boycott of the Games.
Malaysia’s best in the Asian Games was more than forty years ago. The Malaysian team clinched the gold in 1974, a feat they achieved earlier in 1962.
The team has not qualified on merit for the Asian Cup since 1980. Malaysia did play at the 2007 event as co-hosts but finished miserably at the bottom of the pile.
The special status accorded to football when the sport has failed to deliver at the international level is baffling.
Players not being paid salary, dispute with the former TV rights holders and constant power struggles are just some of the problems plaguing the sports.
Local clubs like Kuantan FA and Felcra FC have also gone bust due to their inability to cope with the increasing financial burden while MIFA found a way out by signing off the club to the Qi Group and it was rebranded as Petaling Jaya City FC.
Surely, it should not be just because the sport is popular that it should overshadow the better performing sports.
The Malaysian hockey team may find it difficult to qualify for the Olympics after losing 1-4 in their first leg qualification playoff earlier today against Britain. The two teams clash again early tomorrow morning (Malaysian time) to decide their Olympic fate.
Have a look back at our men's stunning goals as they beat ?? 4-1 earlier today ?— Great Britain Hockey (@GBHockey) November 2, 2019
Watch their second @FIH_Hockey Olympic Qualifier at 3pm tomorrow on @btsport or be in the stadium ? https://t.co/5HwYoSMzAO pic.twitter.com/Em759N3UaM
But the hockey team, despite recent setbacks have done consistently well at the international level. The national men’s hockey team are currently ranked 11 while the women 20th in the world. The Malaysian women football team are ranked 89th in the world.
The Malaysian badminton team, despite some poor results after the retirement of Datuk Lee Chong Wei, still have top international players in their fold including world number six ranked mixed doubles pair of Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying.
Ten pin bowling is another sport that has consistently delivered at both the international as well as continental level, including their recent success as at the Asian Tenpin Bowling Championships.
Chances are that Malaysia would reap better success at the international event in these sports together with sports like diving, squash and cycling.
Yes the government does pump in money to help these sports but nothing comes close to the sums that football receives.
The government has also approved an allocation of RM20 million for the development of e-sports in Malaysia for basically the same reason why football was receiving their RM45 million.
On one hand the government tells sports associations that they need to be more professional in looking for sponsorship. But on the other hand they dole out millions to support sports like football that already attracts more sponsors than other less popular sports.
Was there a detailed study done to back up the decision that football was the better bet to deliver the goods in the future as compared to the other sports?
Or is this as in the words of English rugby legend Brian Moore “they’re using it as an election photo- op”.
Moore had ticked off both British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for allegedly using England’s qualification for the Rugby World Cup for their political mileage.
There is no doubt that football being the most followed sports in Malaysia, is also a PR haven for those involved.
Fan popularity should not be the only gauge on deciding which sports needed the boost forward.
But for now, it looks like the Malaysian government prefer the populist path when it comes to sports development.