Terima kasih kepada kecanggihan teknologi terkini, aku dapat berhubung kembali dengan ramai rakan-rakan lamaku, daripada seluruh pelusuk rantau dan dunia. Ramai yang kembali dapat saling berkomunikasi, saling mengirim berita dan memaklumkan perkembangan terkini.
Antaranya ialah rakan sepersekolahan aku selama lima tahun di Sekolah Menengah Sains Teluk Intan (SEMESTI), Azmi Abdul Rahim (gambar).
Apa yang mahu aku kongsikan di sini ialah bukti betapa, biar di mana sekalipun kita berada, semangat cintakan Malaysia sebagai tanahair - dan perkembangan sukannya, terutama bola sepak - tidak pernah terhakis dalam sanubari.
Azmi jelas antara 'generasi terpilih masa depan' dalam Angkatan Tentera Malaysia. Jika tidak, masakan ketika ini dia sedang mengikuti pengajian di universiti ketenteraan Amerika Syarikat di Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Namun apa yang mahu aku kongsikan ialah semangat 'Jalur Gemilang' yang dijelmakankannya biarpun beribu-ribu batu jauhnya daripada tanahair.
Ketika skuad bola sepak negara berjuang di Laos, semangat mereka dikongsi Azmi. Ketika anak buah K Rajagobal mencipta kejutan dengan menewaskan Thailand untuk mara ke separuh akhir, dia memaklumkan kepada aku betapa akhirnya dia dapat mentertawakan rakan sepengajian daripada Thailand.
Ketika Malaysia turun menentang Laos di separuh akhir dan Vietnam pada final, di depan pintu biliknya tergantung megah Jalur Gemilang. Malah sebaik Malaysia meraih pingat emas, Azmi berdiri di dalam kelasnya dan dengan bangga berkongsi berita kejayaan itu dengan rakan-rakan lain yang hadirnya daripada seluruh pelusuk dunia.
Beberapa hari lalu, skuad bola sepak negara 'kalah melawan' kepada Emiriyah Arab Bersatu (UAE) 0-1 pada kelayakan Piala Asia, angkara gol lewat lawan pada masa kecederaan.....Ini yang dikongsinya menerusi emel kepada aku, pagi ini, yang bertajuk 'Kebanggaan Seorang Anak Malaysia'
'Salam bro, Pagi tadi, setelah a few days tak berjumpa rakan officer di negara lain disebabkan kesibukan masing-masing, saya terserempak dengan officer dari UAE. Dia memang kurnag hendak menegur saya sebelum ini...almaklumlah orang kaya... Jadi bila dia menahan saya yang sedang berjalan, ia amat mengejutkan saya. Rupa-rupanya dia nak mengucapkan tahniah kerana peningkatan mendadak skuad bola sepak Malaysia...dan dia kata amat susah untuk mengalahkan Malaysia walaupun bermain di tempat mereka sendiri... Dia juga dengar bahawa skuad Malaysia itu merupakan muka baru...dan saya confirmkan berita itu betul kepada dia... Dia kata, kalau sekarang pemain muda Malaysia sudah bermain begitu, satu hari nanti Malaysia akan muncul salah satu kuasa bola sepak Asia... Alhamdulillah...saya tersenyum...dan dalam hati saya, usaha sudah menampakkan hasil...cuma kita perlu terus ke hadapan, tidak perlu menoleh ke belakang lagi... Kilang sudah meneruskan produk pemain berkualiti...dan satu perkara selain dari skil..pemain muda kita mempunyai kecergasan dan semangat juang yang luar biasa...yang tiada atau jarang ada pada pemain kebangsaan sebelum ini..."
Buat pemain-pemain negara, harus ini jadi sebagai sesuatu yang wajar kekal dalam ingatan!
Not long after his arrival, his voice could be heard complaining, "Only RM10 million? I thought Government will give RM50 million. I was there when the Sports Minister announced it."
Further check, however, revealed that he was not even in the SAME COUNTRY when the Sports Minister announced the setting up of the fund. He was in Laos when the minister made the announcement in Malaysia.
What to say? Dunno la. Better don't say too much. I am not trained in the art of 'tomoi'.
That's the best explanation that I could come up with when, out of a sudden, my so-called 'soft stand' on the suggestion to send national under-23 football players was being highlighted and questioned by few of my fellow bloggers.
Take this one from blogger Level-Field, Tony Mariadass...
"Khawari's posting simply stumped me because he was taking a different stand from Rizal and he was actually pleading to give the Sports Minister, Ahmad Shabery Cheek, a chance to go ahead with the idea.
"Khawari has been known to be critical writer especially when it comes to soccer and the powers that be.
"But his soft stand really took me by surprise. Does he know something the rest do not know. And Rizal's comment to Khawari, where the former virtually apologised for his earlier stand and said that he should have checked with the Minister, again suggested that something is classified information for the 'chosen ones' only."
To my friend Tony, thank you. I am, honestly, flattered. But rest assured, sir, I am not 'the chosen ones.'
Let me try to explain why I choose this stand.
When I first heard the idea, my initial reaction was to oppose it. I have been in this line for more than 15 years, and believe me when I say that 'I have heard and seen it all.'
I am sceptical, sure. But at the same time, I would like to believe that out of what many people called this 'ridiculous idea', something good might emerge from it. Maybe not all that players will be able to utilise their chances with clubs in Europe, but a few maybe.
I chose to be different not to be popular, neither because I like to be the subject of ridicule by my fellow bloggers.
The sole reason? I was there in Vientiane. I was a witness to something that many people thought was not possible. I agree with Tony that we should not gone overboard with it. But I also saw something which I have not seen in the many national teams that I covered since the early 1990s.
I would like to believe, again. Call me a romantic, a fool, or whatever that you like. As mentioned in my earlier posting, all that I would ask is for us to give the idea 'a benefit of doubt.'
Please also note that I reserved my rights to condemn it if it's failed. But at this moment, let they try to make it work. It's not that difficult, right?
I have high regard for my close friend, blogger Loose Cannon. My respect for him are enormous and huge. He knows that. As friends, we are close. But we quarrel a lot too. Professionally, that is.
Today, my friend Loose Cannon feels that Sports Minister, Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek has erred when he announced the move to send our National Under 23 players to England for attachment stint.
I would, however, like to give this Minister a benefit of doubt.
Yes, the same thing had been done before, in fact, countless times by different Sports Ministers who happen to need some publicity or to justify their 'shopping trip' to England.
This time around, as mentioned by the Minister, the emphasis will be on the effort to secure trial period with clubs in Europe. If the players are good enough, then clubs are free to sign them. No worries about contractual obligations or compensation payment, because FAM and Ministry own this players after 'buying out' their contracts from state or club teams.
For a start, a group of 30 players will be identified.
A friend of mine used to say 'you can't expect different results by doing the same thing.' True. But don't you think its too early for us to criticise when we dont really know what will they be doing?
We are pessimistic when it comes to our football. Remember the lesson from Vientiane? How many actually dare to predict confidently that we will win the gold medal in Laos? My esteemed colleague himself predict their challenge will end at the group stage. But we, pleasantly, were proven wrong.
I would like togive this idea a chance. Let's see what difference can this Minister bring to these approach. If he later proves to be just another 'shopping trip' minister, then we will know what to do.
* I am, however, opposed to the idea of putting the under-23 football team under the 'Road to London 2012' program. That is going too far in term of ridiculous idea, Mr Minister!
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