‘Visionary Jozef Venglos made us better footballers’

Subadron Abdul Aziz was about to speak about the night Kuala Lumpur lost 2-0 to Johor in the 1985 Malaysia Cup final, when he choked and ended the conversation abruptly by saying: “Sorry, it’s just too painful.”

Half an hour later, and slightly calmer, Subadron was ready to speak again.

He continued from where he left off, sharing how he broke down right after the final whistle.

It was Dr Jozef Venglos, the Kuala Lumpur coach then, who comforted him.

“He treated me like a son. Venglos was tough but he had a heart. He made us better footballers,” said an emotional Subadron.

A footballer from Slovakia, Venglos enjoyed an illustrious career as manager – having led many teams, including Celtic, Aston Villa, Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian national team, Czechoslovakia, Slovakia and Oman. He died yesterday at the age of 84.

“Venglos joined Kuala Lumpur in 1985. Within two seasons, he made a huge impact. He taught me how to be a better footballer, to be a professional, to be more disciplined,” said Subadron.

Subadron said Venglos’ tactics helped make the city side one of Malaysia’s best teams in the late 1980s.

Kuala Lumpur won the domestic league in 1986 and 1988 and clinched the Malaysia Cup for three consecutive years (1987, 1988 and 1989).

“He coached the national team for a year and just before he left, I remember heading to Central Market to buy him two miniature keris placed in a glass box. It was my parting gift to him.

“My success is thanks to Venglos. If not for him, I wouldn’t have gone far in football.”

Another former national and Kuala Lumpur player, Serbegth Singh, was equally saddened, paying tribute to a man who was “years ahead in terms of football philosophy”.

“In short, he was a visionary,” said Serbegeth, who is now a television pundit.

“I’m blessed to have worked with him. He took me to a different level as a footballer and even being on television.

“He used to say football is not about today or tomorrow but how it evolves.”

Serbegeth remembers two incidents involving Venglos.

“It was during his early days with Kuala Lumpur and we were up 2-0 against Sabah. We walked into the dressing room at halftime smiling, feeling pretty upbeat only to see a red-faced Venglos. He was so angry that he exploded.

“Despite being 2-0 up he was unhappy because we didn’t stick to the strategy we had planned. It was a good wake-up call for the players … to always stick to the plan.

“The other incident was the 1985 Malaysia Cup semifinal. We played Terengganu away and won on penalties.

“Venglos let loose and started somersaulting on the field, much to the amusement of the players and other officials.”

Serbegth said that if there was one regret, it would be failing to keep Venglos longer in Malaysia.

“When he started coaching the team, we saw improvements in Kuala Lumpur and the national teams. On a personal level, I often wondered why we let him go. Why didn’t Kuala Lumpur FA and even the FA of Malaysia keep him?

“I’m not privy to the boardroom decisions but Venglos was just too good and we let him go easily,” Serbegeth added.

Main image: Venglos (left) and Subadron in a picture taken in the 80s. Picture courtesy of Subadron Abdul Aziz.