Poor start: Lessons must be quickly learned from the TMJ-Gomez saga

Barely two weeks after announcing Mario Gomez as Malaysia’s new head coach, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) are in the market once again. It has been a far from ideal start to Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim’s tenure...

The Crown Prince of Johor was seen as a saviour when he took charge of the national body on March 25, swiftly promising a new era after three decades of disappointment.

For all intents and purposes, Tunku Ismail appeared the only candidate capable of providing some badly overdue change, but the professionalism the Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) owner preaches hasn’t quite materialised yet.

Since you people put me here, I think everyone has to respect my decision and what I am going to do

- TMJ

The man known as TMJ was always going to do things his way and the manner of Gomez’s announcement broke the FAM’s usual processes. Tunku Ismail announced Gomez as Ong’s replacement at his first press conference as FAM president, without even getting the executive committee’s endorsement.

Ong Kim Swee was announced as the new Malaysia under-22 coach, with incumbent Frank Bernhardt only finding out he was getting the chop through the press, while he was with his team competing in an invitational tournament in Dubai no less.

Tunku Ismail displayed how things were going to be run when he said: “They (the executive committee) will agree will me … since you people put me here, I think everyone has to respect my decision and what I am going to do.”

After years of poor results, with the only shine coming during brief AFF Suzuki Cup and SEA Games successes at the start of this decade, FAM may well need a dictator in the house.

Gomez and the Crown Prince in happier times. Photo: JDT

Yet Malaysia immediately attracted negative press after it was later revealed Gomez may not be the new Tigers coach after all.

All of this took place while FAM’s Facebook account quoted Gomez saying retired JDT quartet Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, S. Kunanlan and Amirul Hadi Zainal would be back in the Malaysia fold.

I have set a policy where every foreign coach must be assisted by a local coach. I’m trying to find the best partnership for the national team

Tunku Ismail accused Gomez of demanding more money than he had earned at JDT, but the 2015 and 2016 Malaysia Super League-winning coach denied that was the case.

He even told local press he had received a higher offer 50 days prior than what is currently on the table and that he did not pick Tan Cheng Hoe as his desired assistant, a move Tunku Ismail announced during a session with the country’s sports editors and football writers in Johor Bahru on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Tunku Ismail reiterated Gomez wanted US$40,000 (RM177,000) per month, instead of the US$25,000 that had been offered, stating “we will look for another individual who really wants to be the Malaysia coach” before going on the offensive regarding Tan.

“I have set a policy where every foreign coach must be assisted by a local coach,” he said in a statement. “Isn’t Tan currently a good local coach? I’m trying to find the best partnership for the national team but somes fans are saying ‘don’t take him, pick someone else’.

Uncertainty surrounds Tan's possible move to the national set-up

“We started the project and asked for a shortlist of names. Tan was listed and seen as the best coach at the moment. Isn’t picking the best to lead the national team our priority? Do you all really love the national team? And do you all really want changes? What do you all actually want?”

It would be good for Malaysian football is the former national team assistant is roped into the set-up again. His supporters need only point to his success at transforming Kedah into the in-form MSL side of 2017 as evidence why he may even deserve the head coach role.

Yet Tan becoming part of the Malaysian set-up hasn’t yet been confirmed. He will still be in the dugout for the Red Eagles against PKNS on Saturday.

The coaching episode, especially the Gomez-TMJ spat, may have served the new FAM administration a valuable lesson – don’t  count your eggs before they hatch.

Or in this case, perhaps refrain from making statements until matters are finalised.

Photos: Asiana.my unless stated