I’m sure you know what it feels like to watch a movie trilogy that continues to propel and operate on a monotonous trajectory. And it gets even more frustrating when you know the director or script-writer is capable of far more sophisticated content; akin to Michael Bay and his Transformers. Okay, cut me the slack, that’s just my take on the franchise.
But if you’ve been following Perak FA for the past few years, this concept will probably make impeccable amount of sense as we speak. The Seladangs are the only team to have never been relegated from the Malaysia Super League; though at the same time, it’s almost 8 years since they last clinched a trophy. In fact if we go deeper, it’s approximately 11 years since they last lifted the Super League title; when they narrowly edged over Perlis to triumph in 2003.
No doubt, Perak have had their fair bit of positive spells since then, particularly during Steve Darby’s tenure between 2005 and 2008. They made the Malaysia Cup finals in 2007, qualified into the quarter finals of the AFC Cup in the same year, while also finishing second in the Super League. That was probably the closest they came to adding more silverware into their cabinet because right after that, things took a pretty wild turn.
Steve Darby’s departure also coincided with a mass exodus of stars, including star striker Keita Mandjou. Dato’ M. Karathu was drafted in to carry the mantle, but he was only afforded a mediocre squad – mostly made up of juniors – at his disposal. As a result, they finished a disappointing 10th in the Super League table, made the quarter finals of the FA Cup while also being eliminated at the group stages of the Malaysia Cup. A year later, fans were left to cringe again with an 11th place finish in the league, being knocked out of the FA Cup in the second round and a consecutive exit from the Malaysia Cup at the group stages.
Predictably enough, Coach Karathu was shown the exit door. Over the next few years, Perak continued to float around; almost as if they had the perfect buoyancy to not drown and barely survive in the top tiers of the local football scene. Since finishing as runners up of the FA Cup in 2005, the furthest they have ever gone is quarter finals, in 2006, 2009, and 2011. Similarly, they have also been stuck with the quarter finals hoodoo in the Malaysia Cup since 2007, where they finished runners up.
But prior to every season, optimism always seems to be in abundance. Empowering speeches are delivered at launching ceremonies, promises of success are made towards fans every January. And it’s usually accompanied by claims of squad depth, excellence in coaching set-up and financial backing by sponsors. Having said that, I’m pretty sure Perak fans would be far more compelled to trust politicians these days, rather than pandering to the empty promises of the Perak FA management. Oh wait, there appears to be a similarity there.
I clearly remember being at the launching ceremony when Perak FA unveiled their squad members for the upcoming season, including two new foreigners in Serbian midfielder Michal Kubala and Bosnian forward, Lazar Popovic. The former became an instant hit with the fans and the entire league alike, earning a reputation for being a set-piece specialist along the way. The latter however, struggled to impose himself into the team’s style of play. But it wasn’t just that. He looked like he was struggling for fitness and that the Malaysian pace of the game was evading him in every single game. What’s worse was that he was snapped up to spearhead their attack.
So when the April transfer window came, it was obvious that he was going to be shipped off. In came Albert Bodjongo from Cameroon, who immediately got into his strides and never looked back. 11 goals in 16 appearances was what he produced, but then came the shenanigan. Right after the season concluded, Perak announced their decision to not renew the contract of Kubala and Bodjongo, both of whom scored a combined total of 25 goals in 2012. Fans were left baffled, but many trusted their decision. Perhaps, players of a higher standard will be arriving the following year.
But a pattern that was established that year, continued to be replicated every other year. In 2013, Karim Rouani was signed from BEC Tero Sasana, but he predictably flopped. So in April, they proceeded to loan Paulo Rangel from Muangthong United, who became an instant hit with his goalscoring capabilities; so much so that his parent club were keen on recalling him at one point. But as the script dictated, his contract was not renewed, and off his went to Selangor; creating history as we speak.
Nonetheless, the Perak FA management reassured fans, claiming that a solid signing would be made in 2014. We eventually saw the new signings. Zelimir Terkes depicted confidence issues in front of goal. Kyaw Zayar Win was the epitome of inconsistency. Eliel Guardiano and pace would never make it in one sentence. Martin Kafando was the only one who showcased shades of brilliance in defence, but even his contract was terminated early due to injury concerns. So the customary shopping spree took place in April, and the Seladangs brought in Marco Tulio, Abdulafees Abdulsalam, and Milan Purovic. Their arrival sparked a minor revival in fortunes for Perak, as they rallied on to survive relegation from the Malaysia Super League, and only narrowly got knocked out of the Malaysia Cup during the group stages.
Two weeks ago, the reset button was slammed again. Perak announced their decision to release Purovic and Abdulafees; a move that left most fans baffled and dumbfounded. We’re talking about two forwards that collectively showcased their brilliance, despite having very little time to integrate into the squad. But according to Perak FA, they aren’t cut out for the upcoming campaign.
Of course, I understand that contract renewals aren’t just based on performance reviews. Salary demands, length of contract, agent fees and a plethora of other factors could come into place. But considering that they now have a track record of messing up when it comes to foreign signings, shouldn’t they go the extra mile in keeping hold of players who have proven their credentials in the Super League? What are the odds of them signing another Lazar Popovic, Zelimir Terkes, Karim Rouani or Eliel Guardiano next January? To me, it’s pretty damn high.
The fans will agree with me. It’s about time these guys cut the horseplay and get back to business. As showcased by fans in Kelantan, Pahang and even Sarawak, they will start voicing their opinions sooner or later. And by the look of it, the trunk is getting filled with aplenty of them.
Preparations for the 2015 season is already underway and a new head coach in the form of Vjeran Simunic has been hired to spearhead their challenge. But having a gaffer with a proven track record will not do the job; he needs to be afforded the trust and support from management. But more importantly, he needs support from a credible and accountable management team. A team, that hopefully for once, will be responsible enough to push for the elevation of football within the state.
It’s getting nonsensical and a paradigm shift is definitely necessary.