Rock star welcome for coach

Merzagua signing his contrat as Sugai Ara Football Club head coach for 2015 season at the airport.

Merzagua signing his contrat as Sugai Ara Football Club head coach for 2015 season at the airport.

SUNGAI Ara Football Club coach Merzagua Abderrazzak’s first message to his new employers after arriving in Penang is a promise to repeat his magic in the 2015 FAM Cup competition.

The Moroccan had previously guided the Penang state team to the FAM Cup title in 2013 during his sole season as the head coach of the Panthers.

He was accorded a rock star welcome when he arrived at the Penang International Airport with his family on Saturday.

There were about 150 Sungai Ara supporters accompanied by the team players and officials, and a music band at the airport’s arrival hall to greet the former Penang player fondly known as the ‘Great Merz’.

After posing for pictures with the supporters, Merzagua was promptly whisked away to a conference room at the airport to sign his one-year contract with the FAM Cup club side, and also to hold his first press conference as Sungai Ara coach.

“I am very happy to be given another chance to return to Penang, which is my second home. I am grateful to the support and trust given by the Sungai Ara officials, and I hope I can give back to the club by guiding the team to success.

“This is a totally different challenge to my time as the Penang state coach. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel happier and God willing, I can help Sungai Ara become the best team in the FAM Cup competition,” he said.

Merzagua, who was a hit with the Penang fans during his playing days with the Panthers in the late 90s, had to cut short his stint as the Penang state coach in 2013 because he did not possess the qualifications required to coach in the M-League.

It is no secret that the Moroccan was interested to return as the Penang state coach for 2015. But the Football Association of Penang did not take up his offer as they were considering other options to take over from 2014 season coach K. Devan.

“During the one year I was away from Penang, I had obtained an A coaching licence issued by the CAF (Confederation of African Football). I also spent my time observing the latest coaching and playing techniques in Morocco. I intend to apply what I have learnt during this period when I coach the Sungai Ara players.”

Sungai Ara FC president and team manager Zainol Abidin Ahmad warned his players that there was no longer any excuse for not performing on the pitch next season.

“We have hired one of the best head coaches for the team. I want the players to work hard to put on good performances, and there will be no more excuses for poor form.

“Sungai Ara is lucky that no other team managed to sign Merzagua first,” he added.

“We had eight applicants, consisting of local and foreign candidates, for the head coach position but the decision to hire Merzagua was unanimously made by the entire committee,” he said.

In their debut in the third-tier FAM Cup this year, Sungai Ara finished 11th out of 12 teams, winning just three of their 22 matches.