Competing against the legacy set by Keita Mandjou and Carlos Caceres must have been a delicate prospect. But every Perak fan rejoiced when Lazar Popovic’s signing was officially announced by the Perak Football Association in January of this year. With Kubala, glimpses of the Krescka-Repasi combination so dominant during the 90s were expected from the Seladangs this year.
Perhaps the expectation was too much for Popovic. Yet nobody predicted that early on, with the Serbian proving his goal-scoring credentials during pre-season friendly matches. While Kubala took time to adjust, Popovic showcased his languid style effectively, suggesting that he was going to be a hit in the Malaysian Super League.
Perak’s luck with strikers was never dismal. When Frank Seator departed the team in 2004, the fear was that we would not be able to get a capable replacement. In came Keita Mandjou and the rest is history. Similarly, when Keita left, Chilean Carlos Caceres took on the mettle and continued with the legacy.
However, it hasn’t been the case with Popovic. Despite his towering presence upfront, the “Serbian Berbatov” failed to impose himself and often had to struggle to overcome the opposition’s defence. Michal Kubala was already proving to be a hit with his near-perfect set-pieces but the same could not be said of Popovic.
“We all know that Popovic is a good striker. He just needs time to prove himself,” Kubala enthused when asked about Popo’s hard luck. Perhaps time was just a variable in his situation. Or maybe, Popovic himself was a variable for Perak? Either way, a solitary goal in 15 Super League matches made him a liability for the Seladangs.
The April transfer came and the Serbian was shown the door. After weeks of rumours about the possible re-engaging of Keita Mandjou, who currently plays in the Indian League, Popovic’s contract was ended and another unknown forward was snapped up in the form of Albert Bodjongo.
Bodjongo’s arrival was kept under wraps, with not much information on him being leaked. However, it is believed that the 23 year-old former Doula Athletic Club striker has an eye for goals, something that Perak side is lacking thus far.
So it’s a beginning of a new dawn for the Seladangs. The FA Cup is no longer part of the agenda while Norizan Bakar’s men are too inconsistent in the league. The stage has been set for Albert Bodjongo to shine impeccably and inspire a revival in fortunes. Even though the Super League title is beyond reach, a creditable finish would create some good vibes ahead of the Malaysia Cup campaign in August.