PETALING JAYA: This one’s for you ... boss!
Pahang are hoping to bring home the Malaysia Cup after 21 years and dedicate it to the bubbly Tengku Muda of Pahang, Tengku Abdul Rahman Sultan Ahmad Shah – their much-loved state FA president.
Former international Zainal Abidin Hassan said the Elephants’ passage to the final is an achievement by itself.
“The fans can take pride, thanks to the perseverance of Tengku Muda and his efforts to whip up a formidable state team. This comes with commitment and patience over the years. What we experience now are the fruits of his labour since he first planted the seed with the formation of the Shahzan Muda Football Club 13 years ago.
“This project is the brainchild of Tengku Muda ... to provide a platform for potential footballers in the state. Many doubted his ideas and philosophy of the game. But what a revelation Pahang have turned out to be! The bulk of the present state team is made up of Shahzan Muda boys,” said Zainal, who has enjoyed a close relationship with Tengku Muda for more than three decades now.
Six of Pahang’s first team players are from the Kuantan-based Shahzan Muda. They are national striker Mohd Azamuddin Akil; flankers R. Gopinathan and R. Surendren; goalkeeper Mohd Khairul Azhan Khalid; defender Mohd Shahrizan Salleh; and midfielder Mohd Hafiz Kamal.
Substitute Mohd Fauzi Roslan, who scored the equaliser in Pahang’s 1-1 draw against Sarawak in the crucial return-leg of the semi-finals, is also a product of Shahzan Muda.
“I’m sure the critics will be silent now. It’s not an easy process for Pahang to reach this level after a long time. Plenty of time and money had been spent to make this project a success. Shahzan Muda FC are basically a back-up squad under coach Tajuddin (Noor). We have talent scouts and we try to nurture these boys to graduate to the state team.
“Now, we are seeing the results. In the past, the stadium used to be empty. But now Tengku Muda’s formula has woken up all the sleeping fans at home. They are turning up at the stadium like never before. What a transformation! I salute the Tengku Muda for what the transformation in Pahang football’s fortunes. He is a unique leader and has captured the hearts of the fans, players and officials.
“He welcomes with joy the ardent supporters in home matches at the Darul Makmur Stadium. He makes it a point to go around the track to greet them and say thank you. By the time he reaches the changing room to meet the players ... he is drenched in sweat. It’s as if he too had just played 90 minutes of football,” said Zainal.
Coach Dollah Salleh said he too was touched by the Tengku Muda’s passion towards the game.
“We spend hours talking about nothing but football. He can go on and on for hours. We have constructive discussions and always arrive at a conclusion,” said Dollah.
Football fans in Pahang have waited long enough – they last won the Malaysia Cup in 1992.
The stage is set for Pahang to make the dream a reality when they play defending champions Kelantan at the Shah Alam Stadium on Sunday.