Coach Hassan Sazali was the go-to man when I was following and covering Harimau Muda A from 2012 to 2013. As the Assistant Coach to Datuk Ong Kim Swee at that time, he was a very important man in my opinion. He was Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s wing man. Players go to him when they have problems. He’s like a father to every player in the team for the entirety of the five years he was with Harimau Muda A.
This ex ATM player (1989-2000) was the Mike Phelan to Sir Alex Ferguson but now he is Sir Alex Ferguson for Harimau Muda C.
His team finished fourth in the FAM League this year which was relatively impressive. He is currently with Malaysia U21 team in Vietnam for a yearly tournament, the Newspaper Cup, which Harimau Muda A won in 2012. I was there and it was one of the best memories in my career.
How did you feel when you were offered the Head Coach position for Harimau Muda C? Were you ready?
HS: I was very honoured and touched by the trust and faith given by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to coach, manage and expose the young players in Harimau Muda C. I thought it was the perfect time for me to manage a team as a head coach after assisting Datuk Ong Kim Swee with Harimau Muda A for five years.
Q: I believe some things are now different in your job scope. What are the difference challenges you face as a head coach compared to an assistant coach before this?
HS: Obviously, it’s more challenging to be a head coach. My task now is to get this Malaysia U19 team to qualify for the AFC U19 next year. I am responsible for that. Whereas in my assistant coach role with Harimau Muda A, I was not the main man and the pressure was lower. I was more of the person who provided opinions and suggestions, not the one who made decisions for the team.
Q: You have been with Harimau Muda A for five years. What are the list of similar things that you’re applying in your role with Harimau Muda C now?
HS: Most of what I experienced with Harimau Muda A, I’m implementing them with Harimau Muda C now. Especially in terms of players’ discipline and also I give these young players exposure on the basic knowledge of sports science. I believe that’s very important.
Q: How important is it for you to implement what you’ve done with Harimau Muda A on Harimau Muda C?
HS: There’s not much difference between Harimau Muda A and C. It’s important because I’m training a group of boys who would eventually be with Harimau Muda A later on. They need to get used to the same practice and discipline so when they join Harimau Muda A, things would not be so strange for them and it would be easier for them to adapt into the system.
Q: Your team finished fourth in the FAM League in what was your debut year in the competition. Who were the outstanding players from your team in the campaign?
HS: I’m glad to say that since I was appointed as the Head Coach of Harimau Muda C, we have prepared and transferred six players to Harimau Muda A such Amirul Hisham, Jeffry Chew, Arif, Syazwan Andik, Raphi Mariappen and Mohammad. These are really young players who are already good enough for Harimau Muda A. It’s great for the players.
Q: What’s your plans in the future?
HS: For now I hope we qualify for the AFC U19 next year and then hopefully we make it to the final round in 2016 and of course the dream is the U20 World Cup in 2017. At the same time, I wish to keep producing new players and develop young players to aid the development of football, particularly for the national team.
*Malaysia U21 kick started their newspaper cup campaign with a 2-1 victory over Sydney FC U21. They play Vietnam U21 next on the 21st of October
Other posts by Aysha Ridzuan