Having watched the 2016 Malaysian season from a distance, Azraai Khor is every ready to return to the dugout. The 63-year-old tells Vijhay Vick what he is looking for in his next club and shares his observations from a recent “study-tour” in Brazil.
Once dubbed the man with the Midas touch for his work at Kedah and Negri Sembilan, Azraai Khor is eager to return to the dugout, be it the Malaysia Super League (MSL) or second-tier Malaysia Premier League (MPL).
His success story at Kedah — winning the domestic treble in 2007 and 2008, and the Malaysia Cup with Negri Sembilan in 2011 — is distant memory these days, thanks largely to unsuccessful stints at Perak, T-Team, Kelantan and to a much lesser extent, Sabah.
Two clubs have verbally asked me about next season so I’ll wait till there’s something concrete
Azraai seems to have learnt a lesson from his previous teams, telling FourFourTwo he will vet potential suitors before jumping on board.
“I just came back from Brazil and I’m keen on working with a team again. Two clubs have verbally asked me about next season so I’ll wait till there’s something concrete,” said Azraai to FourFourTwo.
“I have to come back. I still feel that I have something to offer.
“It’s doesn’t matter if it’s a MSL or MPL club … what is important is that the clubs are serious and have a vision in place. A club that is managed well and doesn’t have issues with salaries or players too.
His two most recent adventures ended on a sour note but Azraai maintains it was not by any doing of his.
He resigned at Kelantan just weeks after losing to LionsXII in the FA Cup final, alleging there were unseen hands at work.
Azraai was expected to guide Sabah this year, but he left the East Malaysians barely a month after starting work and alleged he had little control over the signing of players due to a third-party. Azraai later revealed there was no contract on the table despite him starting work.
What did Azraai do in Brazil?
While Azraai’s recent adventures have made him wiser in picking clubs, the former international felt his two-week stint visiting some of Brazil’s leading clubs has given him better insights into the game.
“It was great. It wasn’t for a course whatsoever ... I went on a study-tour so there were lots of observing their methods, talking to the coaches, learning their management ways and visiting their facilities,” he said.
“Language was a barrier but Valdir Sousa (agent) was there with me. He knew many of these people personally, so it was easy to get things done. I managed to visit Santos, Palmeiras, Corinthians and Sau Paulo.
“I actually went last year too but I had to come back half-way because Tan Sri Annuar Musa called me up to join Kelantan. I also visited Carazinho in 2005 during my time with Kedah,” Azraai told FourFourTwo.
Malaysia are miles away from Brazil
Brazil are ranked the fourth-best team by FIFA while the Malaysians are much further down at 158th. Understandably there is a gulf in class, and as Azraai found out, there needs to be a wholesale change for Malaysia to even come close – something that could take years.
Azraai quipped: “We don’t even have proper fields, what more the rest of the facilities?”
“Everything was complete. Believe it or not, Corinthians even had an MRI machine in their facility!
“Their technical group were doing a lot of analysis during training, using GPS and such. In Malaysia, not all teams even have heart rate monitors.
“The players’ attitude and culture were different too. Even the juniors there are taking things very seriously. The intensity level of trainings were just as high as their matches. In terms of fatigue, their schedule is as compact as in Malaysia but they manage the players’ condition well.
“Even television coverage was fantastic. I saw one channel dedicated to football, with lots of analysing and such,” said Azraai.