Azman: It’s an honour to be compared to Dollah Salleh
How’s your team’s preparation for the new season so far?
So far, so good, but we still have a lot needed to be done, especially in terms of building match fitness and team chemistry. We still have a few friendly matches to play before the season starts, so hopefully those matches will help us improve.
The 2015 season will be your first full season as PDRM head coach after taking over during last season’s Malaysia Cup. What are your expectations for the new season?
I hope to see my team able to challenge the big clubs and put up good fights throughout the season. I don’t want us to easily give up just because we’re a new team in the league.
Ali Ashfaq has been a revelation for PDRM. As one of the great strikers during your playing days, what’s your opinion on the Maldivian magician?
What can I say about Ashfaq that hasn’t already been said? His talent is undeniable and he is one of the best players in the whole of Asia, not just in South Asia or Southeast Asia. In training, he is very disciplined and professional. Most importantly of all, he is very friendly and gets along with his team-mates.
Some people might compare you to Dollah Salleh, whom you replaced at PDRM, and see how your performance match up against his, which was what happened during your playing days as well. Do you feel like you’re living in his shadow throughout your life?
For me, I don’t care about what others think or say because Dollah is my ‘sifu’ (mentor) and will always be. He has taught me a lot ever since our playing days with the national team, when I was still the youngest player in the squad, and I am still learning from him today.
Furthermore, it is because of him that I am a coach today. After my retirement, I had not been involved with football until Dollah asked me to help him with coaching. So, it is an honour to be compared to him, not something to be ashamed or annoyed with.
It has been more than 10 years since you retired as a footballer. What do you see are the major differences in the local football scene between then and now?
I think we have lesser players who are truly gifted today. For example, Dollah was a skilful player, but we do not have a player of his calibre nowadays. Also, I think every team is too dependent on their foreign players to win. If possible, I would want my local players to outperform their foreign team-mates this season.
Speaking of foreign players, what do you think of the recent change on the number of foreign players allowed to be on the field?
I think it is good because the local players can learn from them. I played with great foreign players such as Tony Cottee, Alistair Edwards and Dave Mitchell, and I learned a lot from them.
You have just released a biography entitled Azman Adnan: Ini Ceritaku. Can you tell us more about it?
It was actually an idea by Che Din [the author of the book], who wanted to pay a tribute to the Selangor team in the ‘90s by using me as the main focus. Naturally, I am very moved by his effort because footballers tend to fade away from history as time goes by, but with this book, some of the players from that era and their stories will live on. The book is currently available only in limited copies because we have not officially launched it yet. Depending on the situation, we might do the official launch in February.
Whose biography would you like to read the most… besides Mokhtar Dahari’s?
[Laughs] For me, it has to be Dollah’s. Even if we ignore all of his achievements as a footballer, he is one of the most successful head coaches in Malaysia, which is why I always call him the Special One. If Jose Mourinho is the Special One in Europe, Dollah is the Special One in Malaysia.