Tuesday, May 11, 1999

Below par! (The Malay Mail)

NO disrespect to coach Mike Pejic but K. Rajagopal (right), the assistant
to the Englishman, could have done a better job with Selangor.
Rajagopal was the interim coach of the Red Giants, who at present are
not looking good in Premier Two, before Pejic arrived in January to take
Pejic, reported to have quit his job with the English FA to join
Selangor, is way off his target of taking them to the Premier Two title.
Under the 49-year-old former Aston Villa player, the 28-time Malaysia
Cup champions have managed only eight draws and three wins with the season
past the half-way mark.
The Selangor FA's move in signing a foreign coach was not well received
by some of their members as they were cash-strapped and the economy was
then going through a downturn.
Despite starting the season as the heavyweights of Premier Two, the Red
Giants have not been able to crush their perceived lesser rivals that
include club outfits.
As the rumbles of discontent at Shah Alam grow, some quarters feel that
Rajagopal could not have done worse.
Rajagopal, in all probability, would have taken the Red Giants on a
better run as after all, he is familiar with the Selangor team and
continuity, a proven recipe for success, is ensured.
Rajagopal, who won five Malaysia Cup medals with Selangor in the late
70s as a dazzling winger, is more than competent after working as an
assistant coach for many years.
Above all, many of the players in the present squad were his proteges
from his President's Cup days.
On coaching qualification, Rajagopal is also impressive. He got his A
Licence as early as 1992 and, last year, he earned an A Licence from the
German FA.
In fact, local coaches have proven to be a hit this season.
A study of the M-League teams shows that local coaches, who have been
acting as understudies or assistants in the past few seasons, are going
great guns.
Heading the charge is Pahang's Fuzzemi Ibrahim who was thrusted to the
forefront when Australian Alan Davidson quit abruptly days before League
kicked off.
Fuzzemi, assistant to Dane Jorgen Larsen the past two season, has turned
the Elephants around, from a struggling defensive team in the pre-season
to second on the Premier One table.
Kedah''s Azman Eusoff, who was promoted to chief coach this season after
several years as an assistant, is flying high too with the Canaries in
third place.
And Kuala Lumpur, the cross-town rivals of Selangor, were more pragmatic
and practical in putting their faith in Mat Zan Mat Aris.
Despite their limited resources and to the envy of Selangor, Mat Zan has
taken a relatively young and inexperienced team to fifth place in the
first division.
Sarawak's Abdul Jalil Ramli, also an assistant to Alan Vest before
taking over the Crocs this season, is also doing credibly well. So is G.
Torairaju for Malacca in Premier Two.
No surprise that Azman, Mat Zan, Jalil and Torairaju, like Rajagopal,
are also former State stars who continue to flourish in the game after
their playing days.
With so many former assistant coaches shining for their own State teams,
it all points to Rajagopal doing well for Selangor if he had been in
charge at Shah Alam.
In all fairness to Pejic, Selangor have not done badly as the statistics
show that they have not lost a match this season. But what upset their
fans is that they are not winning enough.
It is not too late for Selangor to win the Premier Two title. It is not
too late to give Rajagopal a chance.

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