KUALA LUMPUR: The FA of Malaysia (FAM) have shown total disrespect to national coach Datuk K. Rajagopal by planning to interview shortlisted candidates for the hot seat – right smack in the midst of the ongoing Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
And this is despite Malaysia still having a fighting chance of qualifying for the 2015 Finals in Australia on merit.
It is totally unprofessional of the national body to even think of a new coach when there is neither a real urgency nor any major international assignments in the near future.
Next year, there’s only the Asian Games in Incheon, which is an Under-23 event. The only other notable competition for the senior team is the regional AFF Suzuki Cup.
So, why the rush?
FAM deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah announced on Wednesday that they have received 42 applications for the coaching job and another nine for the technical director’s post.
“We have shortlisted the candidates and will interview them soon ... there are some big names,” Tengku Abdullah told a press conference at the Shahzan House here.
He, however, tried to soften the blow by saying that “I do not want to make a drastic decision yet” and that he would let Rajagopal complete his duties first.
(Malaysia’s last match in the Asian Cup qualifiers is in March next year while Rajagopal’s contract ends on Dec 31.)
“Let’s cross the bridge when the time comes ... the decision to find a new coach is subject to his (Rajagopal’s) KPI, our (FAM) financial status and whether the new candidate would improve the national team,” said Tengku Abdullah.
If that is the case, why interview the candidates now? Why not wait till his contract is over or until the Asian Cup qualifiers end?
Let’s give Rajagopal credit for bringing back-to-back success for Malaysia – winning the 2009 Laos SEA Games gold medal and the AFF Suzuki Cup crown in 2010.
He also did well to take Malaysia into the second round of the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and reaching the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup last year.
In the Asian Cup qualifying campaign, Malaysia have collected four points from three matches and are third in Group D.
Bahrain lead the group with seven points and Qatar are second with six. Winless Yemen are bottom.
The competition has reached the halfway mark and Rajagopal’s men have three more matches to play – two away games against Bahrain (Nov 15) and Yemen (March 5, 2014) and a home game against Qatar (Nov 19).
Only the top two teams from the five groups and one best third-placed team will make the Finals.
On the technical director’s post, Tengku Abdullah said that the person would be in charge of all coaches in the FAM, including Harimau Muda A (Under-23), B (Under-21) and C (Under-19).
He said that the youth department, futsal and beach soccer teams will also come under the supervision of the technical director.