One year from the SEA Games, FAM still don’t know what they’re doing

With the SEA Games just under 12 months away, Malaysia might as well forget their gold medal aspirations after the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) admitted they are still unsure how Frank Bernhardt’s squad will prepare, writes Vijhay Vick.

Eight months after hiring Frank Bernhardt as Malaysian under-22 coach to mastermind a SEA Games gold medal assault, FAM are still deliberating how the German will prepare a squad for the home Games.

FAM deputy-president Datuk Seri Afandi Hamzah, who last week told press that Monday’s executive committee meeting will finalise Bernhardt’s plan, said there were still outstanding details to discuss before anything is confirmed.

Among the proposals are to have a centralised camp on a long-term basis, have shorter camps or just rely on the international calendar as preparation

- Datuk Seri Afandi Hamzah

“We just appointed Datuk Rozabil Abdul Rahman as team manager and he is to discuss further with Bernhardt on the direction of the team,” Afandi said.

“We have three options but there are contractual aspects that need to be sorted before we confirm plans. Among the proposals are to have a centralised camp on a long-term basis, have shorter camps or just rely on the international calendar as preparation.”

The three options presented on Monday were the same options on the table at the start of the year, but FAM could not form a Project 2017 squad then as most of the potential players were already snapped up by Malaysian teams after FAM ended the Harimau Muda project last November.

Fast-forward eight months since Bernhardt first knew his original plans had been dashed and FAM have still to draft a plan for 2017.

The SEA Games take place from August 19-31 in Kuala Lumpur and the football event usually commences a week earlier, leaving FAM with less than 12 months to devise and execute a plan to add to the gold medals won in 2009 and 2011.

During those successful years, the Harimau Muda squad – which was competing in domestic competitions – provided the bulk of the Malaysian team.

FAM also left it late for the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore, finalising plans just six months before the Games, unsurprising resulting in a failure to progress past the group stage.

With no resolution for 2017 in sight, Bernhardt may suffer the same fate as Ong Kim Swee and enter the SEA Games unprepared, something the Malaysians simply can’t afford, especially on home soil.

A full-time squad was not feasible at the start of this year for contractual reasons and the same is likely to apply again for next season. Any attempt to prize the players away from their current teams will be costly as the players eligible are already earning comfortably.

Whichever of the three options available that FAM pick, their decision to disband Harimau Muda without sorting out a place for the 2017 SEA Games may come back to haunt their gold medal aspirations.