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After all the dust has settled, and all the smoke has cleared, Goal takes a look back on the epic battle between Malaysia XI and FC Barcelona at the Shah Alam Stadium


To lose 3-1 to Barcelona is no shame, especially when you take into account that Gerardo Martino started with his best XI that was only shorn of Lionel Messi. Datuk K. Rajagopal showed his more pragmatic side in this match by pulling Amri Yahyah deeper to increase Malaysia’s soilidity in midfield. That worked. We were never outnumbered and we never left any Barcelona player unmarked. That was collective defending at its best. Playing against other Asian teams may not require us to defend so deep but it is good knowing that when the tactics call for it, we are more than capable to defend well as a unit.


Khairul Fahmi has served the country well in recent years, up to the extent that his reputation soared throughout Asia. However, his recent performances have been just short of shambolic. On Saturday, he allowed a weak Cesc Fabregas header to squirm past his palms. Add that to the two handling howlers he committed against Tokyo Verdy and his less than perfect season for Kelantan, Rajagopal must finally make the tough decision to drop the keeper that has served him well over the years. The same could be said of Safiq Rahim. Against Barcelona, his passing was astray and looked like a player whose confidence has been completely ripped away from him. The fact that Safiq still starts might also partly have to do with the lack of suitable replacement candidates. Until Safiq rediscovers his form and confidence (that’s a big if), someone else deserves a go at it.


Barcelona are undeniably one of the best teams in the world, if not the best. They have in their starting XI, many players of high quality that most teams only have a solitary player of that ilk. There’s also much to admire about the way they prefer to play football, the passing and the movement. While they are at one end of the scale in terms of talents, at the other end of the scale is their class, or rather the lack of it. In the training session and the match day, Barcelona players snubbed the fans. Other than Alex Song (which he probably was taught at Arsenal), no other player went round to applaud/thank the fans for attending. Some of the fans would have paid a king’s ransom or flown in from other countries, just to see their heroes. It was informed that they were rushing for the airport immediately after the match but that’s just a lame excuse. Walking round the track might only cause them the additional 10 minutes. With police escort, they would still have no problem making it to the airport.


That was what the world’s best player was wearing while he sat the entire match day on the bench. Strangely though, his name was on the substitute list and he was dressed like the other substitutes except of the shoe choice. Barcelona published an announcement on their official website at 8:46pm, that Messi will not be playing against Malaysia XI. For those who don’t know, the match started at 8:45pm. If Messi had suffered a problem with his muscle during the training on Friday, while deferred the announcement until after the match starts? It looks like a ploy to generate more tickets sales but the fans will rightly feel a little cheated by it. The boos at the final whistle was the crowd’s way of voicing out their displeasure over it.


Where to start with this one? Guess we’ll start with the treatment towards the local press. Perhaps the organisers wanted to remind us how the colonial times were like, because that’s how the local press felt. Segregation during the press conference where the foreign press got “good seats” while the local press were shunned to the side and the back. The foreign press where also chauffeured around to the next item on the itinerary while the local press were not even informed about it. Basically put, if you’re foreign, you get all the access and interviews. If you’re local, there’s no need for you to attend, just read the interviews from our websites. Next is the choice of venue. Quite strange how the organisers didn’t know that the Bukit Jalil pitch was bad and has already been earmarked to undergo repair works, is beyond me. The last minute change of venue was always going to be a logistical nightmare. There weren’t enough seats for particular ticket prices. Fans who paid up to RM688 were forced to sit with those who paid half or even quarter of that value. Making the event on the third day of Hari Raya holidays is just poor planning. Swapping around this fixture and the one in Bangkok would have made better sense. Comparatively to the other tours involving English teams, Barcelona’s tour was the first one that charges separately for the “open training session”. Go figure.


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