OKS is Malaysia’s pick for the coaching hot seat

Caretaker Malaysian coach Ong Kim Swee will guide Harimau Malaya on a permanent basis, ending a four-month long debate on who should be entrusted in reviving the ailing national team.

Former Harimau Muda coach Ong finally got his break on the International scene after the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) picked him ahead of Bojan Hodak and Robert Alberts, handing him a two-year contract.

Ong was the leading candidate of many when FAM decided against renewing K. Rajagobal’s contract at the end of 2013. The national body wanted to appoint Frenchman Philippe Troussier but could not agree on a salary package. FAM appointed Dollah Salleh instead in July 2014.

The position has been vacant since Dollah resigned last September following that 10-0 demolition by United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Abu Dhabi.

Profile

  • Name: Ong Kim Swee
  • Age: 45
  • Playing career: Malacca (1991-1992), Sarawak (1993-1994) & Sabah (1994-1998)
  • Coaching experience: Malacca (2005), Harimau Muda (2009-2014) & Malaysia under-23 (2011-2015)
  • Honours: 2009 Malaysia Premier League, 2011 SEA Games gold medal & 2013 Merdeka Tournament

Having twice served on an interim basis, Ong was given a two-year deal after a successful interview by the FAM’s selection taskforce. Hodak and Alberts were also interviewed on Monday.

The Malaysians have one remaining World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia, a qualifying playoff for the 2019 Asian Cup and the AFF Suzuki Cup lined-up this year.

READ ALSO: OKS has his eyes on the permanent Malaysian hot seat

“I am honoured to be chosen. I wanted this job and now that I have been appointed, I have a lot more up ahead. I have both a short-term and long-term plan,” said Ong.

“We have the qualifiers and playoffs to look ahead. The Asian Cup final qualifying round is a stage we must reach. There are no two ways about it. This is my immediate target and I don’t think there would be many changes as compared to the past three-to-four months.

“Of course the long-term plan is to introduce fresh faces into the team but at the same time, the younger players must be playing and performing. I can’t call the likes of Irfan Fazail, Thamil Arasu and such if they are not getting games.

“I know the Harimau Muda players well but me being head coach is no free ride for them into the team. It all depends on their performance with their respective teams.”

READ ALSO: Ong Kim Swee’s unfinished business.

Photo: FAM
Photo: FAM

Under Ong in 2015, Malaysia ended a nine-month long winless streak with wins over Laos and Timur Leste in October but were at the receiving end of a 6-0 hiding in the World Cup qualifier against Palestine in Jordan in November.

Yet Ong was credited for Malaysia’s disciplined performances when Saudi Arabia and UAE visited in the World Cup qualifiers. The Malaysians entered the match against Saudi, just days after Dollah’s resignation, and another hiding was feared.

The Malaysians contained the Saudis for the most part and were trailing 2-1 when the game was abandoned following unruly behaviour by the home fans. Malaysia lost 3-0 by default because of the incident. Malaysia then lost 2-1 to UAE in a respectable result in the reverse fixture.

Malaysia drew two matches with Philippines and defeated Yemen during Ong’s first stint as caretaker coach.

His previous international exposure, coupled with his service with the Malaysian under-23 side, proved a decisive factor for the selectors.

FAM deputy president Datuk Abdul Mokhtar Ahmad said: “We picked Kim Swee because he has more experience than the others in terms of handling teams in international matches.”