IN Terengganu's moment of joy in reaching the Malaysia Cup final, they
should not forget two people who played a role in where they are today -
Datuk Abu Bakar Daud, a former Terengganu FA deputy president, and
Yugoslav coach Marco Bilic.
Bakar Daud, who is now the Malaysian ambassador to Egypt, set the cogs
of soccer development in Malaysia moving when he hired Bilic to become
Terengganu's director of development in 1992.
Bakar Daud had the vision and gumption to hire Bilic when the coach was
fired by Malacca FA after only three months at his job.
Bilic, 61, whose five-year stay in Malaysia had been anything but
smooth, was to set Terengganu soccer on the upward curve.
Before his short stint with Malacca, Bilic had coached Johor and Perak.
He did reasonably well with Johor who qualified for the Malaysia Cup
semifinals in 1990 with Perak making the FA Cup final in 1991. But on both
occasions, he had to quit as his contract was not renewed.
Looking back, probably Bilic's two years in Terengganu were the best in
Malaysia where he was happy working at youth development. He was actively
involved in this aspect with Sarajevo, a Yugoslav Div 1 club before
becoming their coach.
It is the work of Bilic that has produced many of the talented players
for the Turtles. Among them who trained under him then as 12 years old
were Hairuddin Omar, Marzuki Yusof, Mohd Syamsuri Md Mustaffa, Subri
Sulong, Faziallah Mamat and Alfian Aziz.
Bilic visited the eight districts in Terengganu not only to scout for
young talent but also impart his coaching syllabus to other coaches. He
had said there was an abundance of talent in Terengganu and it rivalled
some of the European countries', if not better.
Bilic, a former goalkeeper, had also said that if the coaching programme
was carried out well, he saw no reason for Terengganu's dependence on
foreign players (at that time).
Indeed, the Terengganu players have matured to become household names as
they powered the Turtles to second placing in Premier One, and now they
are just a step away from Malaysia Cup glory.
And in doing so, Terengganu proved that development is the key to
success. The foresight of Bakar Daud in getting Bilic to do development
work led to them having an abundance of talent.
The present management, in signing a few quality players from other
States (strikers Wan Rohaimi Ismail, Sapian Abdul Wahid and Mohd Nafuzi
Mohd Zain) to further strengthen their team, enabled Terengganu to have a
good pool of players to choose from.
Coach Mat Zan Mat Aris said Terengganu's success had much to do with the
talented pool of players readily available.
"The presence of well-trained and quality players certainly made my work
easier. It is for this reason I pay tribute to the players because without
them, I will not have been able to taste success," said Mat Zan.
Mat Zan may not know Bilic but he certainly has the Yugoslav to thank
for coming into possession of a talent-laden Turtles side.