Abdul Hadi Yahya
- Azraai Khor Abdullah
Perak have sent an early warning to other teams by moving to secure several well-known personnel who will form the nucleus of the coaching staff and the first team next year. Former Negeri Sembilan and Kedah coach, Azraai Khor Abdullah has been appointed head coach for 2013, while the services of six players, namely Negeri Sembilan goalkeeper, Farizal Marlias; Felda United flanker, Yong Kuong Yong; Kedah defender, V. Thirumurugan and Terengganu forward, Abdul Hadi Yahya are being acquired.
Having released 13 players from this year’s squad, including the likes of Nasril Nourdin and Akmal Rizal, Perak FA is under pressure to draft in big-name replacements. Most fans cited the club’s dismal performance in the Malaysia Cup as a major cause for concern and that a massive revamp was required. As a result, the Association acted quickly by replacing Jang Jung with Azraai Khor while signing the six names who are consistently in the national team frame.
Azraai Khor Abdullah is already well known throughout the nation for his tactically astute approach, with his stint with Kedah as head coach being the most prolific of his career so far. Azraai won the “double treble” with the Canaries, lifting the Malaysian Super League, FA Cup and Malaysia Cup successively in 2007 and 2008. He was then given the responsibility of handling the Malaysia U-23 team, but after a less glamorous stint with them, Azraai returned to club football with Negeri Sembilan in 2011. Throughout his two years with the Southern Malaysian team, he led them to Malaysia Cup glory in 2011, before winning the Charity Shield earlier this year.
In terms of players, the most heralded is none other than Farizal Marlias, who is widely recognised as the second best goalkeeper in Malaysia, behind Khairul Fahmi Che Mat. Nasril Nourdin’s erratic form in between the goalposts was a factor behind Perak’s tendency to concede soft goals this year.
Abdul Hadi Yahya is another name that will raise the spirits of the Seladang faithful. The 27 year-old forward is well known for his goal-scoring attributes, which saw him winning the Super League top scorer award in 2011. V. Thirumurugan and Yong Kuong Yong are also two other well-established names in the Malaysian soccer scene.
S. Chanturu and Khairil Kiman are two other names that will excite the Perak fans. Chanturu’s exploits in midfield for Kelantan was evident throughout this year while Khairil will reinforce the team’s defence.
However, Perak have to decide against renewing the contracts of Michal Kubala and Albert Bodjongo for next year, despite the former finishing 2012 as Perak’s top scorer. Team Manager Khairul Azwan confirmed the decision on his Twitter recently. The hunt for new foreign players will begin shortly.
The new arrivals signal Perak FA’s ambition for 2013. This year proves that the standard of Malaysian football has increased tremendously. The competitiveness of the league will rise further next year. Perak looks daunting on paper, but the onus is on the players to prove their worth on the pitch.