Malaysia’s new women’s coach can spark revolution, says national football coaches association vice-president

A former Malaysian goalkeeper believes Jordan’s Soleen Al-Zou’bi can bring about changes for women’s football in Malaysia.

Datuk Richard Scully, who once served as the goalkeeper for the national team, said Soleen’s appointment was “perfectly timed” as the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) is introducing three junior women’s leagues – Under-12, Under-15 and Under-17 – next year.

“With this in the pipeline, I believe this Jordanian coach can help our women’s football. Realistically, we should be trying to enter the final of the Cambodia SEA Games,” said Scully, who is vice-president of the Football Coaches Association of Malaysia.

Soleen, a Jordanian, started work on Dec 1. Not only will she be the head coach of the Malayan Tigress (national women’s team), Soleen will also lead the Football Association of Malaysia’s (FAM) Women’s Football Unit.

She was previously the head of the women’s football unit and assistant technical director at the Jordan Football Association.

A former Jordanian international, Soleen is also a member of the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Football Committee. She recently stated that her objectives in Malaysia are to develop a comprehensive player pipeline that will include the participation of coaches, referees, and administrative personnel from the grassroots, to the elite level.

Among the major competitions that the women’s football team will be taking part in, are the 2023 Cambodia SEA Games, and the 2024 Olympic Qualifier.

The 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia is from May 5-17, 2023.

The national women’s team finished last in Group A in the 2019 edition of the regional Games held in the Philippines. The team did not participate in the Vietnam SEA Games, which was held last year.

Scully believes there are many talented women footballers in Malaysia.

“We need a national league for the women to get stronger. Last year, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor had much-publicised leagues. Sabah, too, had a league, and they played all year round,” said Scully.

He added that FAM must be bold enough to start a league for senior players, or an age group league, at the very least. Scully said the Tun Sharifah Rodziah Trophy is, at present, the biggest competition for women’s football in Malaysia, but it is played on a carnival basis.

Scully says Malaysia needs a women’s league so that footballers can play year-round.

“Money should not be used as an excuse, as FAM can try to find sponsors, or even ask the world body,” said Scully.

“FIFA wants to promote women’s football. I am sure they can lend a hand if FAM wants to start a women’s league.”