Euro 2008 shall begin on Saturday, 7th June, and the finals being slotted on 29th June. Austria and Switzerland have been jointly given the honour of hosting the tournament. There is no doubt that all the high valued and exorbitant paid European players shall be there barring those from England, the nation that failed to qualify. This shall also be the place not only to discover new talents but also to put values on them.
My interest goes beyond players. It is about a special breed of people who turn ordinary teams into overnight superstars. In 2002 World Cup we had Korea, Euro 2004 it was Greece and 2006 World Cup it was Australia. It is about a Dutchman and a German, who gave the Koreans, Greeks and Australians, the insight of how to compete at the World stage among the best and still walk away with their heads high up. Korea was a beaten semi-finalist, Greece for the first time became European Champions while Australia were beaten by Italy on a controversial goal in the quarter-finals.
Korea and Australia had Guus Hiddink while Greece had Otto Rehhagel. For Euro 2008, Hiddink is with Russia and Rehhagel is still with Greece. What do these 2 people have that is able to transform teams into creating glorious performances? Is it the art of motivation - to get the best in players or using the appropriate tactics or just the way they handle the players - picking the right players to do the job. Of course ! that must be the magic.
No ! it is not as simple as that. Both these Coaches will tell you that there is another side to the equation. The players themselves. After all, they are the ones out in the field and they are going to determine the result, not the Coaches. They believe that players come with talents or they can acquire it, similar with fitness but what is fundamental is the passion of wanting success. It is harnessing this passion is critical in a team event without having to destroy their individuality - the "killer instinct" in the game. Unless these ingredients are there, whatever "seasoning" the Coach adds it would not turn into World class.
Rather than rumbling on , my intention really is to turn the scene to Malaysian context.Would the the likes of Hiddinks and Rehhagels be able to achieve such results with Malaysian football, hockey, rugby or cricket? Think carefully ! Do not forget we had Claude Roy, who seem to have failed in Malaysia and yet see what he did with Cameroon.
The key question is whether Malaysia has a sufficient base of players with skill, fitness and the passion to succeed at World stage. It can be done and should be done starting with our Development programme. Then the likes of Hiddinks and Rehhagels would not hesitate to come to Malaysia because they believe that the right materials exist to turn them into CHAMPIONS.
Therefore, would the Sports Administrators in Malaysia themselves have the passion to undertake this?