Tan Cheng Hoe: Malaysia didn’t have strength to go to AFF Cup final

Tan Cheng Hoe has stepped down as national football coach after the Malaysian football team was given the boot in the early stages of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup last month.

Malaysia ended its campaign in Singapore prematurely, failing to advance beyond the group stage.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) announced Tan’s resignation earlier today, with many already predicting that the former international would be the “scapegoat” following a series of questionable moves by the decision-makers that included the use of naturalised footballers.

Tan, who headed to Penang right after returning from Singapore from the regional competition, shares his thoughts with Twentytwo13.

What was your biggest woe?

Tan: You need your core players around, then you can build your teamwork, your team understanding, the combination and all that. That’s all. I’m not blaming anyone … (it could be) due to the Covid-19 situation.

Do you wish you had more time with your core players?

Tan: Definitely. Any coach would want to have his core players around to build a strong team. That is most important.

FAM said your team would go to the AFF Cup final. Were you even consulted?

Tan: I wanted to give opportunities to the players. They weren’t given a chance at the international level. So it was a good test to see if they are suited (to play) at the international level. Unfortunately, we need the core players around, and only then we can build a strong national team.

Going back to my question, were you informed about FAM’s projection to reach the final? Or was the target set without evaluating the true capabilities of the team?

Tan: When FAM announced the target, I took it as a challenge. I didn’t say no, I didn’t say yes.

So you were not consulted about the bullish target?

Tan: No … not really. We (the team) know we don’t have the strength to go to the final. That is from my point of view.

The tactics adopted by the neighbouring countries in this AFF Cup have progressed. Your thoughts?

Tan: Yes, definitely, especially the teams (Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and eventual winner Thailand) that made it to the semifinals. Indonesia came prepared, despite the Covid-19 (pandemic). Thailand and Vietnam also had good preparation despite Covid-19.

What’s next?

Tan: I’ll be taking a break. I’ve not decided anything yet.

No offers yet?

Tan: So far, no. At the moment, I’ll take a break until Chinese New Year.

Are you looking at opportunities abroad?

Tan: If I had the opportunity, definitely. As a coach, it’s my dream to work abroad. I feel we (coaches) from Malaysia or Southeast Asian nations don’t get the respect (and opportunity) of coaching other countries … so surely I would love to coach (elsewhere).

Any regrets?

Tan: No. It’s been a great honour to be the national head coach. I feel I have achieved something for the national team, although we didn’t qualify for the (third round in the) World Cup qualifiers … I’ve done something for the country, and I feel proud of myself. It’s not easy to be the head coach of the national team.