For everything that has happened over the last 48 hours, you can’t blame them for a lack of effort.
Selangor FA did try to justify their decision to let Rob Cornthwaite go, albeit in an unofficial manner. Rosman Ibrahim, the General Secretary of Selangor Football Association (FAS) released a statement on his Facebook account, claiming that they are merely looking for better players, and their decision did not reflect how they valued Rob’s contribution to the team.
In fact, his exact words were: “What’s easy in Malaysian football? The easiest thing to do is to get better foreign players than we currently have. It’s not like we refused to extend the contract of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo – these two are the best in the world.”
There are several problems with that statement, so let’s get going. Firstly, it’s unfair and even borderline offensive to draw comparisons with Ronaldo and Messi because that only works under the premise that Selangor are on par with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
But secondly, it’s never easy to secure quality foreign players. As much as you’d love to make it seem oversimplified, the general track record of Malaysian teams when it comes to foreign acquisition is questionable. In fact, even Selangor have struggled with it, in past.
Over the last few years, the Red Giants have released numerous foreign flops. Bosko Balaban barely made an impact, Peter Chrappan struggled, Adam Griffiths never really looked rock solid and Steve Pantelidis is arguably poor as well. And the problem was visible everywhere else, to be fair. Even JDT struggled, despite bagging considerably bigger names like Pablo Aimar, Dani Guiza and Simone Del Nero. All of them struggled to make a long-term impact, and were eventually released. Also, remember Alhaji Kamara? He was supposedly on JDT’s tabs for a significant period of time, but never really looked comfortable with them.
Understanding that it’s difficult to get foreign players that fit into your squad almost instantly, wouldn’t it be more sensible to retain the ones that actually do? Especially after they’ve turned themselves into a complete fan favourite. Pahang, despite meddling with several foreign players three years ago, have retained four foreigners over the last two years. In Matias Conti’s case, it’s three years now. JDT also retained Luciano Figueroa, despite having access to a pool of other players, and it worked in their favour.
Thirdly, they released a player whose value to them is absolutely indubitable. Rob was never an ordinary player – he adapted into Mehmet Durakovic’s system instantly and looked comfortable at the heart of Selangor’s defence. More importantly though, he formed a strong partnership with club captain Shahrom Kalam. Their performance against Pahang in the semi-final of the Malaysia Cup, particularly in that second leg tie, was incredible. The Elephants launched waves after waves of attack, only to be stopped by the spirited partnership of Rob and Shahrom.
There has to be a reason why Rob adapted instantly. He’s not a creative footballer – you wouldn’t find plenty of tricks in his bag. He’s your classic hardworking defender, with fierce determination to play for the badge on his shirt. Selangor fans would remember that thriller against Felda United, where Rob was seen parading around the stadium, lifting the Selangor flag proudly. He was not born and bred in Shah Alam, though that night, it certainly felt that way.
He was a player that knew the value of fans as well. He spent time interacting with them through social media. His intagram account is usually updated every week, and it’s more often than not a Selangor related post. I’m not trying to set standards here, but while Paulo Rangel’s posts – during his time in Selangor – were focused on himself and his scoring record, Rob’s posts are always focused on the entire squad. It’s a minor difference, but the value of this difference must not be trivialized. It shows the difference in a player’s character.
These are the benefits they desperately need next year, with AFC Cup participation in the horizon. Schedule will inevitably be an issue, and you’ll need every ounce of determination from every player within the squad to get the job done. Unfortunately for Selangor, they’ve sacrificed someone who guaranteed that in every single game.
So yes, Selangor may go on to find a better player next season. Or as trend analysis proves, they may struggle. But assuming they do find a better player, who adapts into the system, forms a strong partnership with Shahrom Kalam and ends up a fan favourite, would they dump him at the end of the year? Would they justify it by drawing comparisons to Ronaldo and Messi?
If the vicious cycle continues, it’s not about being a fan-favourite anymore. Perhaps, it’s about being an ‘FAS-favourite’.