Tunku Ismail Ibrahim failed to inspire Harimau Malaya when he was president of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM). Yet, he wants to be given another chance to run the national team.
The Crown Prince of Johor played an instrumental role in transforming JDT – an outfit once known as PKENJ FC that was founded in 1972 – into a premier club in Malaysia. Under his leadership, JDT has won everything there is to win in Malaysia. The southern team also claimed the 2015 AFC Cup.
Sadly, the results of the national team left much to be desired during his short-lived tenure as FAM president from March 2017 to July 2018. It was during his time in office that Malaysia plummeted to 178 in the world rankings – its worst in history.
When Tunku Ismail was FAM chief, Harimau Malaya only won two friendlies – 7-0 against Bhutan (April 1, 2018) and 1-0 versus Fiji (July 5, 2018) – both of which came after he announced his intention to quit on March 15, 2018.
The national team failed to win a competitive match when he was the boss – losing 2-1 to Lebanon on two occasions (June 13, 2017, and March 27, 2018), 2-0 to Hong Kong (Sept 5, 2017), and two 4-1 defeats to North Korea (Nov 10, 2017, and Nov 13, 2017).
It also drew 1-1 with Hong Kong (Sept 5, 2017). All those matches were in the third qualifying round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, which Malaysia failed to qualify for.
The national team also lost two friendlies – 2-1 to Syria (Aug 22, 2017), 1-0 to Myanmar (Aug 29, 2017) – and managed a 2-2 draw with Mongolia in another friendly.
To recap, that’s just two wins from 11 matches.
Tunku Ismail had, on his Instagram account two days ago, stated his willingness to take charge of the national team. He attributed JDT’s success to his leadership as he is able to take complete control of the access to the team, so that the footballers can concentrate on playing.
His comments came on the heels of Malaysia’s uninspiring run in the World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers in UAE. Malaysia lost 4-0 to the host nation and suffered a 2-1 defeat against Vietnam.
Although Tunku Ismail may have had the “best interests of the team at heart”, his posting came ahead of a tough match against Thailand that was played early this morning, Malaysian time.
Malaysia managed to redeem some pride after edging Thailand 1-0, thanks to a goal by Safawi Rasid. With the win, Malaysia has qualified for the third qualifying round of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
Whether the national team can go on to qualify for the premier Asian tournament remains to be seen.
The current national setup has done what was expected of it. Its fate is very much in its hands.
Would the Johor royal member make a difference as team manager or are we better off not allowing royals to interfere?
Should Tunku Ismail be allowed to redeem himself, or are we setting ourselves up to failure by allowing him to call the shots, either as the national team’s manager or coordinator?