Malaysian football coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee is receiving plenty of flak following the a 1-3 defeat to Cambodia. The loss, coupled with their 0-1 defeat at the hands of the hosts saw Malaysia failing to advance to the semi-final stages of the football competition at the Manila SEA Games.
Malaysians have been showing their displeasure on social media over the defeat by putting the blame on Kim Swee, although many are also pointing the fingers at the captain as well as players.
Considering the amount of money and time invested on Malaysian football, the anger among fans is understandable.
Losing to a country that has never won a football medal at the SEA Games is not something many would forgive and forget easily. Worse still, losing to Philippines where football ranks nowhere close to basketball.
From a public relations point of view, the Malaysian football team had gone to Manila giving the impression that they deserve to be medal contenders, if not the gold medal itself. After all they were supposed to be in a much easier group, avoiding the likes of Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, who were bunched together in group of death.
Ending the tournament with a solitary win over whipping boys Timor Leste turned out to be a public relation disaster for Malaysia that has won the SEA Games gold six times and finished runners-up two years ago.
But, who should shoulder the blame when a team loses? The coach, the players or the system?
Datuk Ong Kim Swee has announced the Malaysian squad for the men's football event at the SEA Games which kicks off next week pic.twitter.com/dkX7iTgm2g— ASEAN Football (@AFFPresse) November 22, 2019
Kim Swee was hailed as a hero when he coached the winning side at the 2011 Games as well as the silver in Kuala Lumpur two years ago. So should he be the scapegoat for the team’s disastrous outing this time around?
Coaches are almost always the first to be on the chopping block when a team fails to deliver.
The United Arab Emirates just sacked Bert van Marwijk as their head coach following their exit from the Gulf Cup. Van Marwijk had led the Netherlands to the final of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. The Dutchman took over as head coach of the UAE earlier this year having previously qualified neighbouring Saudi Arabia for the finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Past records does not matter. Ask English club managers Mauricio Pochetinno or Jose Mourinho or even former Brazilian player turned coach, Dunga. They all suffered the same fate when the team they were managing failed to deliver.
A coaches job is not just about making the right technical and tactical decision. The coach must also be able to motivate the players, get them to play at optimum level,understand their psyche, mould them into a single unit and get his supporting staff to provide the right assistance. He has to understand the idiosyncrasies of each of his players as well as how the opponents think and act.
The coach is the glue that bids everything together and if the team fails, he has to also shoulder much of the blame.
However, it should not be the final word.
When the team wins, congratulate the players, when the team loses, blame the coach, should not be the mantra for the critics.
Blaming the coach is a fair place to start, but what if the players themselves were not up to the mark? What if the players were not capable of executing the plans made by the coach?
In the case of Kim Swee, he had delivered the gold before, surely he cannot be incompetent suddenly.
Were the Malaysian player were simply not good enough, or did we underestimate how much progress our rivals have made in recent times? A coach can only prepare you with the tools and plans needed to win, it is ultimately the players’ responsibility to get it done.
The leader, in this instance the coach, takes the brunt of criticism for the team’s failure. But it does not absolve the players and the rest of the support team from failure.
In the end the everyone in the team set-up is to be blamed. While the coach bears the responsibility, everyone else is equally guilty. Even the fans for assuming the team was better than what they were actually capable of.
The variables to achieve success in sports is not an exact science. Every game is different but consistently failing reveals something needs to be changed. It could be coach that needs to be replaced. It could be the players, who need to be dropped, It could be the selection process that needs to be tweaked.
For the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), it should not be the time to join the blame game. It is time to take responsibility for the failure and take the necessary and rightful steps to arrest the problems.
For the development and future the sport, never, ever, play the blame game.
Winning the SEA Games is right at the bottom, in terms of international success. You cannot do much worse. The failure in Manila should be the stepping stone to rejuvenate Malaysian football and not to pass the blame and continue with status quo.