Malaysia’s best African imports: Part I

Malaysian teams have welcomed players from every continent but there has been a tendency to employ big African players as target men or centre-backs, with plenty going on to be key players. FourFourTwo features seven players in the first part of this series...

EMILE MBOUH MBOUH

He may not have won trophies during his time in Malaysia, but the Cameroonian’s class was telling as he awed Malaysian football.

He was 29 when he arrived at Perlis and came with an impressive reputation, leading many to believe the club had pulled off a major coup.

Mbouh was part of the Cameroon squad at the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cup and had over 100 international appearances. He also won the 1988 African Cup of Nations – the continent's premier international tournament – with the Indomitable Lions and was named in the team of the tournament.

Mbouh (bottom right) use to play for Cameroon. Photo: RDFC.com

He won the respect of the fans at Perlis with his discipline and commitment, which saw him do his own reps in training before or after team training.

Mbouh, who now runs the Emile Mbouh Soccer Academy in Maryland, left Perlis for Singapore's Tiong Bahru United (later known as Tanjong Pagar United) in 1997 before spells with Kuala Lumpur and Sabah before retiring.

MERZAGUA ABDERRAZAK

Penang fans will never forget this Moroccan.

Such was his impact, even as coach for a season, that his name is often among those mentioned every time the Panthers’ coaching position became available since Penang's turbulent return to the MSL in 2016.

Once international teammates with Moroccan legend Mustapha Hadji, Merzagua was key in Penang’s first division title win in 1998. He was also named Best Import in Malaysia in 1996.

Merzagua returned to Penang as coach after the club were relegated to the third tier FAM League in 2012.

Merzagua had a close relationship with his clubs. Photo: Sungai Ara

He guided them back to the second tier by winning the third division in 2013 but he was later replaced by K. Devan because the former did not have the required coaching licence to coach in the top two leagues in the country.

He completed his badges in 2015 and returned for a year at Sg. Ara FC, a small-time club in Penang.

JEAN-EMMANUEL EFFA OWONA

Another Cameroonian featured in this part of the series, there was no stopping Owona in his first season at Negeri Sembilan in 2012.

Owona fired in two goals on his competitive debut to help the Deers defeat Kelantan to lift the Sultan Ahmad Shah Cup curtain raiser.

He went on to score 15 goals in the league to share the Malaysia Super League (MSL) top scorer award with Liberian Francis Forkey Doe.

Singapore defender Bai came up against Effa before

His goals, however, wasn’t enough for the club as Negeri only managed a sixth-place finish, a first-round exit in the FA Cup. They did reach the Malaysia Cup last eight though.

Owona moved to Terengganu the following year and managed 14 goals in all competitions, but it was largely a poor campaign as he battled injuries and a dip in form.

He returned to Negeri under V. Sundramoorthy in 2014 but just when he started scoring again, he got injured and was shipped off in the mid-season transfer window.

Owona is currently at Turkish side Oguzhanspor and at 33, is unlikely to get a Malaysian return.