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Leicester, Brexit, Trump: Why Annuar Musa’s FAM campaign shouldn’t be underestimated

If there was a lesson to be picked up from 2016, it’s the fact that outcomes and end-results are not necessarily about polls, betting odds, popular opinion or even social media narratives. Nobody in the right state of mind would have ever imagined a world with Leicester City as Premier League Champions. Folks in the United Kingdom never expected to see the dawn of Brexit. Media polls in America had Hillary Clinton as the heavy favourite in the presidential election until Donald ‘Trumped’ his way into the White House.

We have approximately one month to go before the path of Malaysian football for the next few years is decided – the next FAM president will be elected on the 25th of March. To most fans out there, the outcome of this election seems pretty straightforward. But as Mike Posner said: “It’s not that simple.”


Four candidates were initially nominated for the FAM presidency – Johor DT owner Tunku Ismail ibni Sultan Ibrahim, Youth and Sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin, Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat as well as former Kelantan FA president, Tan Sri Annuar Musa.

Photo Credit: The Star

But only two of them opted to accept their nomination. Annuar Musa was the first to step up to the challenge, despite being embroiled in an on-going probe regarding alleged misappropriation of MARA funds. And TMJ jumped into the fight in dramatic fashion after FAM affiliates held an audience with the Sultan of Johor, who then ordered his son to save Malaysian football.

In fact, TMJ even referenced this during an open dialogue session with fans that was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel yesterday. “To be frank, I didn’t want this responsibility. But I’m doing it because the people want me to. At the same time, my father – who is also my King – ordered me to do so. And I will respect his order,” TMJ exclaimed.


If you’ve spent the last two weeks on social media, you can be forgiven for thinking it’s in the best interest of Annuar Musa to withdraw himself from the race. TMJ is clearly the favourite amongst fans and it boils down to several factors. Firstly, he’s brought tangible changes to Johor football over the last four years; it’s there for every single fan to see, feel, experience and even measure. From winning the Malaysia Super League for three consecutive seasons to becoming the first Southeast Asian side to win the AFC Cup – it wouldn’t be an overstatement to suggest that TMJ was the fulcrum behind every single achievement they’ve accomplished.

Photo Credit: ESPN FC

But beyond that, his plainspoken approach in dealing with people and the entire sport has captivated the attention of the masses. As far as the long-suffering fans of Malaysian football are concerned, measured and carefully calculated approaches are no longer the order of the day – you need strong figureheads to impose change within an industry that’s filled with intertwined webs of corruption and cronyism. His open dialogue sessions have altered the way in which a common citizen views the royal family. Previously, it was exclusive and elitist. Today, it’s inclusive and open.

While it’s indubitable that TMJ possesses cult-like support from fans across the country, very little of that notion matters in the context of the FAM presidential election. Unlike regular election, this one will be decided by affiliates within FAM – all of whom operate on a different trajectory when compared to regular fans, given the variety vested interests they have across the board. In simple terms, it doesn’t really matter what fans think, because they don’t have a say in the final outcome of the election. TMJ could have the support of 30 million Malaysians, but if FAM affiliates opt to vote for Annuar Musa, the ex-KAFA president will be the next FAM president.


It’s difficult to view Annuar Musa in a positive light for reasons that don’t need elaboration, but he does have a decent track record, if we’re willing to rewind time by a few years. He played a huge role in reviving Kelantan FA back in 2007. Besides spearheading Kelantan to a historic treble in 2012, Annuar Musa was one the first few local football leaders to stress on the importance of branding and sponsorships. While he has certainly lost some fans through recent shenanigans, there’s no doubt Annuar Musa continues to retain a certain degree of support.

Photo Credit: Goal

But even if we were to evaluate him based on current happenings, there is still a strong reason as to why affiliates could potentially be in favour of Annuar Musa. TMJ’s radical approach could be seen as a threat to those who have benefited from decades of mismanagement within FAM. TMJ has actively hit out at these individuals over the years, accusing them of corruption, misappropriation, favouritism, and even cronyism.

We’re talking about politicians who’ve essentially sat in a comfort zone, getting things to work the way they want it, all these years. If the first thing TMJ did upon taking over Johor football was push and flush the previous leadership structure out of the equation, you wouldn’t bet against him attempting to do something similar, if he takes over FAM. His arrival will undoubtedly change the game. And traditional powerhouses within the organisation aren’t too fond of changes, are they?

On the other hand, Annuar Musa is a politician who understands the game and is capable of making compromises when it matters. To some affiliates, he could be the perfect candidate for them to continue sitting in their comfort zones. Or at least avoid being subjected to radical changes and potentially being made a scapegoat for the negative aspects of local football.


Photo Credit: RojakDaily

Both candidates have started campaigning for themselves, albeit in different ways. TMJ hosted an open dialogue session with fans on Wednesday, while Tan Sri Annuar Musa took to Facebook yesterday to provide a brief outline of the changes he intends to bring, should he clinch the election. A brief look at Annuar Musa’s proposed manifesto suggests he’s looking at things from a holistic point of view. But a deeper look would reveal that some of them can only be taken at face value, unless the Ketereh MP steps up to explain the ways in which these policies can and will be implemented.

It will be interesting to see if both candidates publish a comprehensive document that breaks down every aspect of their proposed plans for Malaysian football. It’s the only way we’ll be able to understand and objectively decide on which candidate to vote for. It’s also the only way we’ll ever be able to hold the winner of this race accountable, when they step into the hot seat. Idealism has destroyed Malaysian football for decades – we need meticulousness and objective evaluation at this juncture.

TMJ can be referred to as the unstoppable force – one that has helped JDT obliterate every single obstacle they’ve faced in their quest for invincibility over the last four years. At the same time, one could refer to Annuar Musa as the immovable object for the ways in which he’s been able to stand his ground and retain staunch support within Kelantan, despite the series of allegations that have been thrown at him.

Photo Credit: Berita Harian

In a world that’s simple and straightforward, you’d expect popular opinion to reign supreme. But in a world like ours, where social media narratives exist in different bubbles and FAM presidents are decided by individuals that have vested interests to protect, it wouldn’t and shouldn’t be a surprise to see Annuar Musa fisting the air come March 25.

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