THE chants of Kejor yob kejor and Ipoh mali talak sombong resonate with me whenever I watch Perak play at Ipoh Stadium. I’ve supported my state team since the age of seven.
I moved to Petaling Jaya in 2012 and since then, I’ve only been able to watch Perak games on television. Last Tuesday, I went to Selayang Stadium to watch my beloved team play ATM. It was my first time watching them play in the Klang Valley.
Perak have lost many of their key players this season and as well as coach Azraai Khor Abdullah, who decided to step down after a disappointing spell with the Seladangs.
Azraai’s position was assumed by Abu Bakar Fadzim, who did wonders with Perak’s President’s Cup team. Even the management changed as Datuk Azhar Ahmad replaced Khairul Azwan Harun as team manager.
In terms of players, only Hisyamudin Sha’ari, Noor Hazrul Mustafa, Syazwan Roslan, Mohd Nasir Basharuddin and Mohd Nazri Mohd Kamal stayed with the side. Abu Bakar roped in a few of his President Cup players into the team and after three league matches, the youngsters have impressed.
To be honest, I thought Perak were doomed with the squad they had. Losing key players like Farizal Marlias, Shahrom Abdul Kalam, Paulo Rangel and Shahrulnizam Mustapa made me think that Perak would certainly not win any trophies and might even find themselves a relegation battle as the season progressed.
Thankfully, all negative thoughts have banished now that the team have impressed in their first games of the season.
Against JDT, many expected annihilation. However, it turned out to be a tough victory for the Southern Tigers.
Against Terengganu, the young boys impressed and won thanks to a solitary goal from Perak’s new Brazilian import Eliel da Cruz Guardiano. In the FA Cup, they managed to hold reigning Malaysia Cup champions 2-2, only to be booted out onpenalties.
Against ATM last week, the youngsters put on a gallant show and ATM were made to slog to win the game. ATM won 1-0 but they certainly had a scare playing against this young Perak side.
The foreign import strikers were disappointing but newbies like Raffi Nagoorgani, Ridzuan Azly, Ahmad Sukri Hamid, Kyaw Zayar Win and Tuah Iskandar were impressive.
Zelimir Terkes and Elliel meanwhile have been disappointing. Eliel looks slow and lazy, even though he is, at present, the only Perak player to score in the league.
Terkes has been touted as “The Next Lazslo Repasi” but has been a disappointment so far. Of course, Burkina Faso defender Martin Kafando is rock solid in defence but was absent against ATM due to injury.
Now, let’s talk about Raffi, Sukri, Ridzuan and Zayar Win. I’m sure these players are bound to be stronger if they get more games.
Raffi who got sent off in his first game against JDT played well with Hisyamudin Sha’ari in defence against ATM. If Juan Manuel Arostegui had an off day, it was because of Raffi. His runs, assured passes, headers and clearances are pretty good for a 20-year-old defender.
Sukri was the defensive midfielder in that game and held his own against the likes of Rezal Zambery Yahya and Bruno Martelotto. His game play is similar to Nasir. He is able to distribute the ball well and tackle with confidence.
Ridzuan has been dubbed “Messi Perak” by fans and when asked why he was given such a moniker, he said, “Maybe I look small on the pitch which is why they call me Messi,”
The 22-year-old winger has caught the attention of many pundits with his pinpoint passes and pace. Against ATM, he could have scored the equalising goal but his shot went inches wide.
Even ATM’s defender Amiridzwan Taj Tajudin said that Ridzuan has the potential to go far.
“Ridzuan is pretty good. He just needs to be a little smarter when using his speed and skills,” said the tall defender.
Ridzuan was at the receiving end of crunching tackles and ATM players knew that was the only way to stop him. He is nippy and very agile and I’m sure teams will watch him closely.
The young man started playing football at the age of 15 and has said that it’s a great feeling to play against professional players and is cherishing every moment of his career.
Myanmmar U-23 captain Kyaw Zayar Win is a player I really, really like. Classy, able to make the right passes and plays with confidence, he reminds me of the great Aung Naing who used to play for Perak in the ’90s.
In those days, Myanmar was a force in Asean and they exported many players to many different leagues. Perak lucky to have secured to Aung Naing, who is a household name in Myanmar. He was such an asset for Perak that fans used to chant his name at every game.
I was yearning to see a player of his calibre and it has come in the form of Zayar Win. He will be a key player for Perak this season and all he needs now is a poacher to finish off his passes.
These young players present cause for optimism and I for one, am looking forward to a strong finish from this young Perak side. The only thing the management needs to do now is to get a top-class foreign forward during the April transfer window.
The black and yellow of Perak will forever be etched on my chest. High or low, I will continue supporting my team. This season will be a tough one but after watching these performances, my advice to other teams is: Do not take Perak lightly, they will summon the seladang in them!
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.