PENANG: Newly-crowned FAM Cup champions Penang have already started planning for the 2014 Premier League campaign.
But they may have to leave their talismanic Moroccan coach Merzagua Abderrazzak out of their plans.
Penang confirmed top spot in the 11-team FAM Cup standings on Sunday night following a 1-0 victory over Kuantan Port in Temerloh.
Their 15th victory in 16 games allowed the Panthers to be crowned champions of the third-tier league with four matches to spare.
It is no secret that Merzagua, in his first season in charge of the Panthers, has been instrumental in reviving the team’s fortunes.
The Moroccan, however, has now asked to return home immediately after fulfilling his double targets of securing Premier League promotion and winning the FAM Cup title.
“Merzagua wants to return to Morocco to visit his daughter, who is not well. He also needs to obtain an A-level coaching licence in his home country to be able to continue coaching Penang in the Premier League,” said team manager and FAP vice-president Mohd Azizuddin Shariff yesterday.
“We (the team management) have made it clear that, subject to the FA of Penang council’s approval, we want to retain Merzagua’s services for 2014.
“However, he needs to sort out his coaching qualification as soon as possible as we want to start pre-season preparations early.”
Merzagua, who holds a B-level coaching licence, was given a special one-year dispensation by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FA of Malaysia (FAM) to coach Penang this year.
Azizuddin added that the show would go on for Penang with or without the Moroccan, who enjoys celebrity status among the success-starved Penang supporters.
“The quality of the 2014 Penang squad will depend on the size of our budget and sponsorship that we can attract,” he said.
“I have sat down with Merzagua to draw up a list of our potential targets to recruit for next season. I hope he will be able to continue leading the Penang team.”
Penang, whose last major silverware was winning the FA Cup in 2002, will receive their FAM Cup trophy during their next home league match at the City Stadium on June 16.
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