NATIONAL assistant coach K. Rajagopal was celebrating in his own right
amidst his players' jubilation following their 3-1 win over South Korea in
the 34th Merdeka tournament last night.
The former national winger, who had been capped 15 times for the
country, had always dreamt of playing in the Merdeka tournament but never
got a chance to fulfil it.
But Rajagopal finally realised that dream last night, though in a
"As a national player I yearned to play in the Merdeka tournament, but
was not so lucky," said Rajagopal, who featured for Selangor from 1979 to
1984 and the national team from 1980 to 1982.
"I came close to realising the dream in 1981 when I was part of the
national B team as we were initially supposed to be one of the
participating teams. But at the last minute, our place was taken by
another foreign team and that blew my chance.
"When I stopped playing for the country, I thought my dream to play in
the Merdeka tournament was buried.
"Little did I know that I will still get a chance to be part of the
Merdeka tournament - but in a different capacity.
"Although I did not play in the Merdeka tournament, it is still a great
honour to be with the national team, and especially with the
Rajagopal, 36, said he was grateful to Ken Worden for giving him the
opportunity to help out with the national team.
He was assisting Worden when the latter was in charge of Selangor in
1991. When Worden was appointed national coach early last year, he decided
to invite Rajagopal to help him out at the national level too.
Many may envy Rajagopal because it is not easy to be associated with the
national team, especially since he had little coaching experience.
But Worden saw that Rajagopal had potential and decided to use him.
Said Worden of Rajagopal: "He is a young, up-and-coming coach and I am
glad that he is my assistant.
"We have had a great working relationship and he is certainly part of
our success tonight."
Worden was also happy for Rajagopal in his appointment as assistant
coach of Selangor for the new season.