Featured, Football

Palestin duel could be Ong Kim Swee’s bargaining chip

At the end of the day, it all boils down to leverage and bargaining chips.

The Malaysian national team post is still up for grabs, and to be fair, the list of people running for the coveted job, is absolutely sensational. And at this point in time, every single one of the team, have pinned their hopes on their colourful resumes, including former Manchester United assistant coach Rene Meulensteen.

Details on their respective resumes, are the only thing creating a gap between one individual and the other – bear in mind that FAM has received over 60 applications for the job. One man though, has a unique chance of establishing leverage and staking a strong claim for the role.

Current interim head coach Ong Kim Swee has already made an impact to a certain extent. As much as it’s difficult to change things completely within a short space of time, what Kim Swee has done with the national team, is admirable. He picked up a squad that was completely battered by the UAE and his job scope required him to not only prepare them for the crucial tie against Saudi Arabia, but to also improve the general confidence level within the team.

Photo Credit: sports247.my
Photo Credit: sports247.my

While that’s a difficult task, there was a general sense of optimism, with Kim Swee in charge. Most Malaysian fans would fondly remember the speech he delivered to the Harimau Muda lads, before they went out to win the SEA Games Gold Medal at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta. “They don’t respect you, they don’t respect our flag, they don’t respect our King and they don’t respect your parents. You must teach them what being Malaysian is all about,” he told the boys, just before they walked out. 90 minutes later, they were SEA Games champions.

Similarly, the national team produced a disciplined performance to hold Saudi Arabia for most parts of the game, and even seized the lead through Safiq Rahim in the second half, before the Saudis netted two quick goals to seize the lead. The game was eventually abandoned after flares were lit on the stands, but even the most cynical Malaysian fan saw the immediate turnover effect of being under the tutelage of Kim Swee.

That’s precisely what he brings. While it’s completely fair to argue that Malaysia needs someone with tangible international football experience, it’s equally fair to argue that perhaps, Kim Swee could be given a shot. It’s a risk, indeed. And at this point, a risk is certainly something Malaysia can’t afford to take, judging by our colossal slump in recent years. But if Kim Swee is able to convince FAM of his mettle, it wouldn’t be surprising or even unfair to see him being handed the job on a permanent level.

Photo Credit: jauhar.my
Photo Credit: jauhar.my

The ball is in his court. Having guided Malaysia to two back-to-back victories last month – which happened to be their only two victories in 2015 – Kim Swee now has the tricky task of dealing with Palestine. Problem is, this was a side that outclassed the Malayan Tigers earlier this year, winning 6-0 at the Shah Alam Stadium. But on the positive side, it’s the perfect opportunity for the interim boss to showcase his credibility on a bigger spectrum of football.

Laos and Timor Leste are strong – make no mistakes. But while beating them strengthened Kim Swee’s claim for the national role, doing well against Palestin would undoubtedly be a major bargaining chip for him. It won’t be easy and there is probably a national consensus on that as well. We’re up against a side that’s miles ahead of us in terms of class, coupled with the fact that it’s an away game.

The one difference him and a big chunk of the other individuals who’ve applied for the national team role is sheer experience. Kim Swee has only made it big within ASEAN, while the likes of Rene Meulensteen and Ray Wilkins have worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. Forget it, it will take Kim Swee ages to match their resume. That being said, he knows Malaysian football more than anyone and if he guides the team to a solid performance against Palestine this week, Rene and Ray may have to remain in Europe for the foreseeable future.

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