Malaysian national football coach K. Rajagobal (left) and Laguna under-23 coach Ake Pastoral.
MANILA - The man who brought Malaysia to the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup throne in dramatic come-from-behind fashion was in Manila last weekend to inspire Filipino coaches in their quest for championship success.
Krishnasamy Rajagobal, 55, spoke to about 60 coaches on how Malaysia captured the Suzuki Cup crown against all odds during the first Philippine Football Federation (PFF) conference at the Abbot Lopez Hall in San Beda College, Mendiola, last Sunday.
The two-day conference, organized by PFF technical committee chairman Charlie Cojuangco, also featured Japan’s goalkeeping coach Yoshio Kato and Japanese Football Association grassroots development director Masao Nakayama as speakers. Filipino coaches who shared their insights on stage were PFF technical director Aris Caslib, under-13 national coach Oliver Colina, under-17 girls national coach Leo Granatin and education coach Marlon Maro.
In the Suzuki Cup group stage, Malaysia got off on the wrong foot and lost 5-1 to Indonesia but tied Thailand, 0-0, and downed Laos, 5-1, to advance to the semifinals against Vietnam. Malaysia blanked Vietnam, 2-0, and tied, 0-0, in the home-and-away series to face Indonesia in the finals. Indonesia beat the Philippines, 1-0 twice, in the other semifinals. Malaysia went on to stun Indonesia, 3-0, in the opener then lost 2-1 in the rematch to snatch the crown on an aggregate count of 4-2.
“My job is to inspire coaches to succeed,” said Rajagobal. “God has given me the opportunity to share my knowledge with others. I thought the response of the Filipino coaches in the conference was extremely positive. They showed an eagerness to learn and improve. I wish to thank my Japanese colleagues for inspiring the coaches. I’m very grateful for the PFF’s warm reception.”
Rajagobal was a back-up striker with the Malaysian national team for two years in the 1980s and became the Malaysian under-20 youth coach in 2002. Two years ago, he was elevated as national seniors coach.
“At the conference, I shared my philosophy of coaching,” said Rajagobal. “The key is to get kids playing at a very young age. In my case, our players grew with me since I coached the youth team for seven years then brought them up to the seniors level. In the Suzuki Cup, we came back from losing to Indonesia (in the group stage). We never lost our focus. We stayed committed to our goal. We had a good result against Thailand and built on that. We showed trust and belief in each other. It was important that we were united, that we were together – the coaches, staff, players and everyone involved with the team.”
Rajagobal said there are no half-Malaysians from overseas in the national squad.
“Football is our No. 1 sport even if Malaysia has world champions in badminton and squash,” he continued. “In most of Southeast Asia, football is the No. 1 sport. I know how basketball is very popular in the Philippines. But there are positive signs of football gaining popularity.
In the US, the popular sports are American football, baseball and basketball. Slowly, soccer is beginning to become popular with high-profile stars in the Major Soccer League. I think soccer is starting to catch up. The world’s No. 1 sport is soccer and it’s evident in the popularity of the World Cup. It’s encouraging that the Philippines made it to the semifinals of the Suzuki Cup. That was an important development for the whole nation. It is driving the PFF to go forward and I foresee a positive change in the attitude of Filipino fans towards football.”
Rajagobal said a national team should be composed of at least 80 percent, local or home-based players. “There are good and bad points in recruiting Fil-foreigners from overseas,” he said. “It’s difficult for Fil-foreigners to commit 100 percent to the country because of other obligations. For them to come and go just to play a few games is hard. But if they add character to the team, bring patriotism and show absolute commitment to the country, why not? We must also consider how they will affect the morale of the local players. If you examine the lineups of national teams from Argentina or Brazil, you’ll notice the players are all from the homeland.”
Aside from Cojuangco, the PFF officials who played a big role in organizing the conference were secretary-general Chito Manuel, Caslib, Ake Pastoral, Isabella Fernando and Natasha Saldua.
In the conference, Caslib made a video presentation of the best 11 goals of the World Cup last year, analyzing the different situations that led to scoring five particular goals. He also discussed three trends in World Cup coaching with emphasis on deep defending, regaining possession and intelligent defending.
“We were lucky to attend the conference because we learned so many new things in coaching a team, especially from Mr. Rajagobal who shared how he handled Malaysia in the Suzuki Cup finals,” said Don Bosco coach Alex Elner. “I hope the PFF continues to go all out in promoting football in the country.” – The Philippine Star