Identity comes from choice - By Mr Fritz Schmid, FAM Technical Director


“New vision, please!”

The headlines in Malaysia’s newspapers after the Asian Games  strongly indicate that targets have not been met and Malaysian sports have yet to progress. Critics are calling for a change.

This seems to apply to an everlasting debate in football: How long do Malaysians have to wear jerseys belonging to other countries each time the World Cup comes around?

Football has yet to progress.

Here again, critics call for changes.

Focus on development, please!

Take a look at successful football nations. They follow their own philosophy, established through standardised methods of development and coaching, successfully mastered and re-mastered over a long period of time.

Take the World Champions. Unlike others, who have taken their teams to a final, Jogi Löw  is a multiple tournament leader implementing a long-term vision. Redesigning the German style and blending in youth has required continuing commitment. Eight years into the job, Löw’s legacy is not likely to be determined by one match only.

Now look at those who did not perform in the World Cup. After every failure, they hire new coaches. English, Dutch, Spanish (for the sake of Tiki-Taka) and certainly Germans from now...

New saviours hired to implement a foreign style at their “adopted” home countries, and should they fail, the cycle would then continue: more imported coaches, new imported cultures. Different games,same endings.

What is the root of such evil? For some, bad coaching might be an explanation, however, more often than not the root cause is asking the wrong questions: “How much does it cost?“ and “Who’s going to pay?”

What applies to life, applies to football: you can buy fashion, but you can't buy style.

Style must emerge from a distinct national culture. As described by Michel Platini: “A football team represents a way of being, a culture."

It is the most basic of all concepts in high performance sport - and art and other areas of human endeavour. You do things as an extension of your environment.

Paul Rand, famous American graphic designer, best known for his corporate logo designs said: “Style is the consequence of recurrent habits.”

That is why Brazilians play like Brazilians and Germans play like Germans. A footballing philosophy originating in a country succeeds when the philosophy has a relationship to that country’s way of life.


A simplistic notion, however it is worthy of exploration, and certainly not any sillier than the idea of photocopying a foreign model.

Each culture produces a unique playing style that reflects its people, the place and their ways of thinking. That’s what makes them different from others. Unique and yet identifiable. That’s what makes their identity.

Identity reflects the story that tells us in a very distinctive and plausible way where we are coming from. Identity is being part of something. Belonging somewhere.

Identity reflects desire and ambition for achievement. That is why the questions to ask must be: “Where do we come from?” and “Where do we want to go?” We aspire to be better than we are.

What is the ultimate goal for Malaysia before drawing conclusions? Is it in winning a World Cup? Many World Cups? Establishing a strong domestic league? Or simply showcasing and retaining our best talents?

We choose to construct an identity that signals our unique choices. We have to choose what we are going to advocate and defend. The “What” and the “Why”. 

Our identity will then help us to define borders and boundaries. The “Where” and the “When”. If we don’t enforce the integrity of our identity, we will lose it.

This is  where values come into play – as a conception of what we would like to represent, what we stand for and what is important to us, beyond results.

We are not born with values. Values are developed through experience and learning. They are formed and reformed through time, in a long process that affects all areas of life.

Values development should be our development goal. Development occurs with correctly and consistently implemented fundamentals.

Identity comes from choice; choice comes from identity. On a daily basis, the actions we take, the people we spend time with, and the principles we choose to defend, will define our identity. 

New Vision. Malaysia will take a long-term approach. Let us focus on development!


by Fritz Schmid,Technical Director of FAM, October 2014

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