Mark Hartmann, Telling It Like It Is: Sarawak shouldn't be where they are

In part two of this year's series, where players pen their own thoughts, Philippines international Mark Hartmann says Sarawak will rebound from their poor start, while his pick for the best Malaysian team he has faced may surprise you...

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My goal in the Malaysia FA Cup back in February was one I really enjoyed (see clip below). I meant to do it and I’m certainly claiming it.

If I have a chance of being a contender for (the Puskas) award it would be great. I hope there will be more.

As a striker, you always know that if you shoot from long range there’s a good chance the goalkeeper will be off his line and that’s what happened.

It was a good goal and I’m happy that it was captured on camera and people could see it.

I saw the free-kick that won the Puskas award in Malaysia last year and there are always a few special goals and this was one of mine.

If I have a chance of being a contender for that award it would be great. I hope there will be more.

First-year targets in Malaysia

It will be hard to meet my target of 15 goals in the league that I set before the season started – so I’ve decided to change it!

I will still try to score as many as I can. If we look at all competitions then it will be easier as I am on seven now (three in the MSL, four in the Malaysia FA Cup). I think that with all the cup games then 20 or 25 goals will be possible.

I will still try to score as many as I can. If we look at all competitions then I think with all the cup games 20 or 25 will be possible

Obviously I spent some time with Geylang International in the S.League last season, but I’m not finding it any easier or harder to score goals in either country.

As a striker, it doesn’t matter where I am or who I’m playing against, I always want to score.

I think the Malaysia Super League (MSL) is a great standard and as I’ve said before, it’s a higher standard than Singapore.

It’s a difficult place to come and play. No games are easy and that’s the way I like it. Everywhere you go there is a real desire to win from all the teams. It pushes you as a player.

The fans are impressive too. It is amazing the support we get at Sarawak. We get 10,000 people to every game and it’s great to play in front of a crowd like that.

In Singapore and the Philippines, there aren’t many people watching and it makes a big difference, it really does.

Hartmann had a brief spell in Singapore last year

But Singapore was still a good experience as it tested me when I was coming back from injury.

There are other differences between the S.League and the MSL.

In Singapore, the game is very physical. Here it is less so but the game is quicker and the players are quicker. I think I have adapted quite well.

Defenders in Singapore are strong, whereas here they are quicker. I’m not sure which style I prefer but it’s going OK so far.

Everyone knows I’m not the quickest forward in the world.

Loving the Crocs' diehard fans

In Sarawak, the fans have incredible passion. This is my first team in Malaysia so I don’t know too much what it’s like in other places, but the people here in Sarawak are diehard.

They want you to try your best and, win or lose, they stick by the team. It’s amazing.

I don’t know if they will finish on top of the table, but Kedah are the best team I have faced so far

Of course, relegation is a major difference between here and Singapore and it’s something we are aware of. We always talk about results, but performances have been pretty good.

We are now in the bottom two and it’s not looking great at the moment, but we are close to the teams above. There’s not much in it (only five points separate seventh-placed T-Team from the Crocs in 11th)

Our results haven’t been that bad and we’re not getting smashed and losing games four or five-nil. We are competitive in every game.

We should be able to get the points and I think we can finish in sixth or seventh place.

JDT (Johor Darul Ta’zim) are good as everyone knows, but the best team for me is Kedah. Every time they get the ball, they try to score. JDT keep the ball for fun and when we played against them, we hardly touched it.

But Kedah are a threat from all over the pitch and have real quality.

I don’t know if they will finish on top of the table, but Kedah are the best team I have faced so far.

Feeling the relegation pinch

We are slowly getting there. The results are just not going our way, but they will come and will come soon. The international break has helped us and we are feeling good. We just need a win or two to kick-start the season.

Relegation makes games more important. In every game, teams want to win. I’m not saying we are panicking, but we need to get results as soon as possible and start moving. We shouldn’t be where we are.

There are some talented local players here in Sarawak, particularly Tommy Mawat Bada. He plays in left midfield and is a great player.

He has been called up by the under-23 team and has been one of our most consistent players and is really talented.

He is really young and has a great left foot. I am happy that he is on our team as he is a great prospect.

In terms of the MSL imports, they are all of a good standard and you don’t face a bad one. The imports are technically very good and quick. They help the locals.

As an import, we have to show ourselves. Sarawak have brought me here to do a job and try to score in every game. I need to score as many as I can. There is pressure to score and to win and this is what football is all about.

Referees are referees. No matter where you are, you get good referees and bad referees. I haven’t seen much time-wasting here.

There have been a few games where it was really tight and of course you get players going down and others kicking the ball out, but there is nothing too special.

Overall, while it would be great to get some better results, I have enjoyed my time in Malaysia so far.