PETALING JAYA: New coach Datuk K. Rajagopal wants the Crocs to get their bite back.
Sarawak, nicknamed The Crocs, last won silverware in 2013 when they were Premier League champions with an unbeaten record. But they struggled in the top-flight Super League, finishing seventh in 2014 and a dismal 10th last season. Sarawak were also winners of the FA Cup in 1992.
The 59-year-old Rajagopal was best remembered for ending Malaysia’s 20-year wait for the SEA Games gold in Indonesia in 2009. He also helped Malaysia win the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time in 2010.
It was these credentials that landed him a contract with Sarawak last December.
“I want the other teams to respect Sarawak. I want to build a competitive team. The team management have not given me any target but I believe we can finish in the top five,” he said on Sunday.
To prepare for the new season on Feb 13, the Crocs are now on a playing tour in Peninsula Malaysia. On Saturday, they edged Premier League outfit PKNS 2-1 at the PKNS Sports Complex.
Brazilian striker Gilmar Filho gave Sarawak the lead in the ninth minute. Triallist Robert Alviz doubled the score in the 48th minute only to see Gabriel Guerra reduce the deficit for PKNS in the 52nd minute.
Rajagopal was pleased with the work-out.
“I wanted to see if the players can adapt to my approach and tactics. I’m happy with the first-half performance as they players were aggressive and made some good passes,” said Rajagopal.
Sarawak’s next friendly is against Malaysia Cup champions Selangor at the Selayang Stadium on Tuesday.
After that, Rajagopal will take the team on a playing tour of Vietnam where they will play against Becamex Binh Duong (Jan 23), Ho Chi Minh City FC (Jan 26) and Long An FC (Jan 28).
To date, Sarawak have three foreigners – Gilmar, Australian striker Ndumba Makeche and Italian defender Davide Grassi – on board. They are now looking at signing a foreign midfielder – either Spaniard Joseba Garmendia or Croatian Alviz.