Durakovic Mehmet: Gone and back again

Mehmet Durakovic was shockingly asked to leave Selangor at the end of 2015, but he is now back in the Malaysia Super League (MSL). The current Perak head coach shared with FourFourTwo his thoughts on his dismissal, the current climate of Malaysia football and more...

It is a testament to Malaysia as a country and a football scene that Mehmet Durakovic is delighted to be back despite what happened.

All fans know the story. The Australian led Selangor to a super league runners-up spot in 2014 and repeated the feat in 2015, adding a Malaysia Cup too. Despite that success he was replaced by Zainal Abidin Hassan at the end of 2015.

All fans know the story. The Australian led Selangor to a super league runners-up spot in 2014 and repeated the feat in 2015, adding a Malaysia Cup too. Despite that success he was replaced by Zainal Abidin Hassan at the end of 2015.

Most in the country agree that he was treated unfairly. And while the man himself still talks of the club with affection, there must have been a slight smile at the irony of his first game back being away at Selangor, when he was appointed as Perak’s coach.

Perak won the game 1-0, with a second-half penalty the only goal of the game.

“It was an emotional return,” he told FourFourTwo. “It really was. I was there for eight years as a player and coach. In Malaysia, I have only known Selangor. And it was different to go there after less than a week in a new job. I had mixed feelings. It was nice when we scored but I didn’t celebrate."

"At the end, I applauded the fans, both Perak and Selangor, and they gave me a good reception. It was nice.”

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Perak defeated Selangor in Durakovic's return

Most would have enjoyed the feeling of vindication that must come from going to your former workplace from which you were harshly dismissed to take three points but the coach insists otherwise.

The former Melbourne Victory boss seems philosophical about it all instead.

You have to accept it and move on, it happens to every coach. Everyone knows what happened at Selangor and the club will always be in my heart

“It is the nature of the beast,” he said, a statement that just-dismissed Karl-Heinz Weigang, who was told to pack — and carry — his bags days after a 2-1 win over champions Johor Darul Ta’zim in February, would surely agree with.

“That is the job we are in. You have to accept it and move on, it happens to every coach. Everyone knows what happened at Selangor and the club will always be in my heart.”

With time spent back home in Australia with family and also visiting France for the 2016 European championships, Durakovic had time to rest, watch some football and take stock of everything that happened in the Klang Valley.

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Welcome back to the MSL, Durakovic

“It gives you a wider perspective to go away and think about what you want and you reassess what happened,” he said. “That is football. It makes you a stronger person and you reflect on what you did right and what you did wrong and how you can improve.

“I think I did a good job winning the cup and doing well in the league especially given the financial situation we had too.”

Others agree. Durakovic was linked to a number of jobs in Malaysia and around Southeast Asia all through 2016.

But he was particularly picky about his next stint, and who can blame the perfectionist?

As a coach, you don’t want to accept any job that comes along. You want to pick a job you can do something with. It is not easy to come in after the squad has been filled but you do your best and hopefully it works

“ I just wanted to look at the offers and pick the right team and I think Perak is the right club and team for me after talking to a lot of people at the club and people who had left,” Dukarkovic said.

"As a coach, you don’t want to accept any job that comes along. You want to pick a job you can do something with. It is not easy to come in after the squad has been filled but you do your best and hopefully it works."

It did in the first game but it is still early to talk of the players he has been impressed with.

But in the 15 months or so since he left Selangor, Malaysian football is still familiar.

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Not much has changed in Malaysia, according to the gaffer

“It has not really changed,” the Perak coach shared. “You still have JDT who are absolutely professional on and off the pitch, and are far beyond everyone else.

“Then you have other teams like Kedah who have had three or four years together with the same players and are one of the favourites.

“We want to be like JDT of course but Kedah are a good role model. They are one of the powerhouse states of Malaysian football and were right up there with Selangor not long ago.

We want to be like JDT of course but Kedah are a good role model. They are one of the powerhouse states of Malaysian football and were right up there with Selangor not long ago

“Then there is Pahang with Dollah Salleh who have come back and they are right up there. After those three, everyone is equal and they can all beat each other on their day.”

At the moment, Perak are the best of the rest, sitting in fourth place. But tell Durakovic that they are doing well and he will urge caution instead.

“Perak have not yet had the success. Speaking to the management, they want to go places and hopefully we can build a good future,” he stressed.

“You can’t win and do it overnight. What Kedah and JDT are doing is brilliant but it takes time."

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Perak have had a good start but nothing more, Durakovic said

Time though, Durakovic knows --as does Weigang — is in short supply in Malaysian football.

Countless coaches have been rested, and countless more are likely to follow suit in the unrelenting Malaysia Super League.

“Here, everyone targets a trophy. There are only three and everyone wants one. As a coach, you want to focus on the long-term but in professional football, it is all about the next game and results,” Durakovic reflected on the MSL.

Here, everyone targets a trophy. There are only three and everyone wants one. As a coach, you want to focus on the long-term but in professional football, it is all about the next game and results

“If given a chance from the management point of view that is the best thing as you can have a long-term vision and then plan for the future of Perak. There are some really good players here and we have a good mix of youth and experience."

Despite the talk every team wanting a piece of silverware, it is hard not to ask whether the Bos Gaurus  can become champions.

Just four points behind the leaders Kedah with two winnable games coming up against T-Team and Sarawak, the Ipoh side could be in the mix.

“We will give it our best shot and I am a big believer in my players. As a coach, you want to win as much as you can and if you win, you are up there with the best. That is where I want Perak to be too.”

Photos: Asiana.my