In the hot seat

Ong takes part in the training with the Harimau Muda team at FAM field in Kelana Jaya on Aug 15, 2013. Starpix by ART CHEN

FOOTBALL Manager is one of the best football management simulation games I've played since I was  14. 

This game teaches you how to strategise and get to know the basics of football management, in theory only of course.

The real thing is murderously difficult with high expectations as your results are for all to see plus juggling the demands of unrealistic fans, ambitious owners, superstar players and a whole range of armchair experts like myself.

The football season has started and even though some leagues are just two games in, the managerial merry-go-round has already started.

Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart has just sacked their head coach Bruno Labbadia after a poor start. He has since been replaced with former player Thomas Schneider.

AC Milan's current manager Massimiliano Allegri is also under pressure. And the team has only played one game! 

Arsenal's Arsene Wenger also got pilloried by the press and fans after their first game of the season!

In Malaysia, Datuk K.Rajagopal was lauded as being the best manager after winning the 2009 SEA Games gold medal and 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup. 

But then the national side was booted out of the World Cup qualifiers by Singapore and lost in many friendlies. Suddenly every one started pointing their fingers at him!

A couple of days ago I met Harimau Muda A coach Ong Kim Swee, who is currently preparing his side for the Merdeka Tournament in Kuantan, at Wisma FAM.

 The Malacca-born coach is under similar pressure as his team bids to win the SEA Games gold for the third time in a row.

His contract ends in December and in order to prolong his stint with Harimau Muda, he has to fulfil FAM's KPI.

"I know my KPI is winning the SEA Games and I'm taking it as a challenge.

"If I don't fulfil the KPI, I can take whatever decision given by FAM. As long as you're committed to your work, you will be able to move on," he said.

He also joked by saying, "If I meet the KPI, don't tell me you want to sack me la!"

Ong's main objective has always been to maintain the development of the players in Harimau Muda.

"For me, nobody is bigger than the team.  No matter how good I am with Harimau Muda - one day, I'm going to leave.

"Before I leave, I must lead the team in the right direction and also tell myself - I did it the right way!" he said.

Ong said that coaches can't use history as an example to remain with one side.

"Now, the fans are behind me all the time but if I don't achieve anything in the near future, I will face the heat."

"Rajagopal is a good person and coach and did a great job in winning the two tournaments but now that success means the demand has increased and fans only expect the best from the side," he said.

"Of course, I want to win the Merdeka tournament. This is the chance for Harimau Muda players to blend with the M-League youngsters before the SEA Games," he said

Ong and his young charges will be hoping to continue their success in the Asean region but with the likes of Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, it will be not be easy for them.

"Kiatisuk Senamuang is currently coaching the Thai U-23 side and he is known for his aggressive approach.

"Thailand will be a tough team to beat on their day and Singapore will have most of the Lions XII players in their team," he said

Nonetheless, Ong is confident that with the right support, his young team has the passion and talent to win the Merdeka Tournament ... and more
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