Sunday, December 25, 2011

Safee Sali, Malaysia's goalscoring hero


It seems south-east Asia has a plethora of goalscoring royalty, each eulogised for their ability to hit the net. Thailand has Teerasil Dangda, Vietnam boasts Le Cong Vinh, while in Indonesia there is Bambang Pamungkas. In Malaysia, the pin-up goal king is Safee Sali. And the prolific 27-year-old has the track record to prove it.

Already popular in the massive football fan base that is Malaysia, Sali last year took his profile to another level. A five-goal haul lifted the previously underachieving Malaysia to the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Championship for the first time in their history. Celebrity status was immediate, along with a high-profile apparel deal.

And, but for red tape, Sali might now be plying his trade with Cardiff City in the English Championship. Such a deal would be new ground for a Malaysian footballer, but for now Sali must content himself with starring in the highly competitive and popular Indonesian national league.

European dreams
Sali spent September in Cardiff trialling with the Welsh club, impressing manager Malky Mackay, but the Bluebirds boss stated that while the Malaysian impressed, UK work permits are an inevitable issue to overcome. It may well be that Sali, to avoid that hurdle, seeks a move to continental Europe at some stage down the track. Indeed three of his national team colleagues are currently enjoying regular game time in Slovakia.

Sali says it would be a dream come true to secure a contract in Europe. “I really want to play in Europe so I hope, after my trial at Cardiff, to have more chances,” he told “I would be proud and happy if I can play there [in Europe], and I hope that many Malaysian players can go there. It would help development in Malaysia a lot.”
I would be proud and happy if I can play there [in Europe], and I hope that many Malaysian players can go there. It would help development in Malaysia a lot.
Safee Sali, Malaysia striker

For now, though, Sali is happy to develop his poaching instincts with Pelita Jaya, having previously enjoyed prolific stints with Sarawak and, more recently, Selangor in his homeland. His achievements for both club and country have led to Sali being mentioned alongside iconic Malaysian striker of the 1970s and '80s, the late Mokhtar Dahari.

“Indonesia is a step forward for me,” said Sali. “It is different level and experience in Indonesia. The club environment is very good with big crowds. There is a lot of passion for football there.”

Tigers hungry for success
Despite the modest achievements of the national team, football in Malaysia has a massive fan base that is desperate for success. Some 90,000 spectators - the biggest global crowd in the current FIFA World Cup™ cycle - turned out at Kuala Lumpur’s cavernous Bukit Jalil stadium in July as the Malayan Tigers hosted arch-rivals Singapore. The match ended 1-1, with Sali, almost inevitably, bagging the home team’s goal. However, a 5-3 scoreline in the return ended Malaysia’s Brazil 2014 hopes before they had begun.

That disappointment came barely six months after what was arguably the biggest moment in Malaysia’s football history as they claimed the regional title for the first time. It was a genuine moment of national euphoria and the softly-spoken Sali was front and centre of the action on and off the field. Sali’s five goals effectively proved the difference for the Malayan Tigers in lifting the crown, with the athletic frontman collecting the tournament’s top goalscorer award.

“It [Suzuki Cup] was a big achievement for me,” said Sali. “It was something that I dreamed of before and I never thought I could get the goalscorer award.” It was, he says, the turning point in his career. “It was a very sweet year for me.”

Now the challenge is to maintain the impetus - “We have some momentum now,” as Sali puts it. Malaysia are building for success and if achieved, Sali, one feels, will be key. “For the next year we want to win the Suzuki Cup again, and then our goal is to qualify for the [2015] Asian Cup,” he says. “We can achieve it if we work hard for our target and have the right preparation.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Joseph S. Blatter confirms ISL file will be published despite objection of involved party

( Tuesday 6 December 2011

On 21 October 2011, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter announced his commitment to publish the ISL-ISMM file after receiving the full backing to do so from the members of the FIFA Executive Committee. Today, the FIFA Presiden confirms his determination to publish the file on the ISL-ISMM case despite the fact that legal measures have been taken by one of the parties involved.
These measures request another thorough legal analysis which will postpone the envisaged publication of the ISL file.
Joseph S. Blatter stated today: “FIFA has been working intensively over the past few weeks with its lawyers and legal team to be able to publish the ISL file at the next meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee in Japan on 17 December 2011. It was my strong will to make the ISL file fully transparent at this meeting. I have now been advised that as a result of the objection of a third party to such transparency it will take more time to overcome the respective legal hurdles. This does not change my stance at all. I remain fully committed to publishing the files as soon as possible as an important part of my many reform plans for FIFA, which include handling the past as well as preparing the future structure of the organisation.”
The reform process has in any case already started and will continue with a view to presenting concrete measures at the 2012 FIFA Congress.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Auckland's Barça connection dare to dream

(AFP) Wednesday 7 December 2011

FIFA Club World Cup favourites Barcelona might be on a different footballing planet from minnows Auckland City, but the Kiwis can at least boast of some unlikely connections with the Spanish giants. Prolific Auckland striker Manel Exposito made his debut for Barcelona on the same day superstar Lionel Messi made his first appearance for Barça, while the Oceania champions have another former Barcelona man in Andreu Guerao.

And the association between part-timers Auckland and their more illustrious counterparts does not end there - Ramon Tribulietx, Auckland's coach, is from Barcelona and has adopted the Spaniards' attractive pass-and-move approach. "When I scored the goal in the (Oceania) final and I knew we would be champions, I actually started to think about it then during the game," Exposito said recently of a possible reunion with Barcelona.

The 30-year-old was with the reigning Spanish and European champions from 2002 to 2005, and like Messi made his first-team debut in November 2003 against Porto. But Exposito's progress was hampered by injury and he played for a number of other Spanish clubs before finding himself at Auckland, the rank outsiders at the seven-side intercontinental showpiece that starts tomorrow in Japan.

Auckland take on J.League winners Kashiwa Reysol to kick the tournament off and they would need to pull off the highly unlikely - make the final - if they are to stand any chance of facing the mighty Barça. However Expositio is happy to have much smaller goals in relation to his former side. "I hope I can see Barcelona in this tournament, that would mean everything in the world."

Barcelona native Guerao is another dreaming of a date with his former side. The midfielder, 28, made his first-team Barcelona debut in a friendly in 2004 against Marseille but was later released.