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Wednesday October 23, 2013 MYT 4:16:00 PM
Wednesday October 23, 2013 MYT 4:27:57 PM
by eric samuel
Skipper Hairuddin Omar or Hai O cuts a dejected figure after his Armed Forces team lost to Kelantan in the Malaysia Cup final last season in this filepic. Both teams meet in the semi-final second leg on Friday in Kota Baru with the soldiers trailing by one goal.
PETALING JAYA: Armed Forces skipper Hairuddin Omar has dubbed tomorrow’s mouthwatering clash against Kelantan as the “grand finale”.
The 33-year-old former international said Kota Baru will have a Cup final atmosphere.
“Winner takes all. Both teams have character and the quality to emerge champions. It is too bad that both have to cross paths in the semi-finals. Armed Forces are the underdogs but don’t write us off. We also have match winners on our side to win it,” warned Hairuddin.
The Gladiators face an uphill task after losing the first-leg of the semi-finals 2-1 in Selayang on Friday. They need to win by a clear 2-0 margin to clinch their ticket to the final.
The Armed Forces coach will be counting on his seasoned strikers Marlon James and Hairuddin to get the goals with the support from attacking midfielders Bruno Martelotto, Christie Jayaseelan, Venice Elphi and Mohd Fitri Omar.
Hairuddin has won the Malaysia Cup winner’s medal four times with three different teams - Terengganu (2001), Negri Sembilan (2009 and 2011) and Kelantan (2010). He is now hoping to qualify for his sixth Malaysia Cup final.
Hairuddin, better known as “Hai O”, has made heads turn over the years by scoring spectacular goals and winning numerous honours in the M-League.
His biggest achievement was guiding Terengganu (2001) and Kelantan (2010) to historic maiden wins in the Malaysia Cup. He also skippered Pahang to the inaugural Super League title in 2004 and won the Malaysia Cup twice with Negri Sembilan, including scoring a spectacular scissor-kick goal against Terengganu in the 2011 final.
Last season Hairuddin worked his magic with Armed Forces when they made history by winning the Premier League title for the first time. The soldiers also defied the odds to enter the Malaysia Cup final only to go down to Kelantan 2-1 in extra-time.
For the record, Forces have never won the Malaysia Cup. They finished second twice to Selangor in the HMS Malaya Cup in 1949 (losing 3-2) and in 1966 (losing 1-0). Their only other significant result came in the FAM Cup – the third-tier of the M-League – in 1997.
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