PETALING JAYA: “I’m not that special lah.”
Those were the words of modest Malaysia football coach Tan Cheng Hoe – despite his fast-paced, possession-based attacking game being dubbed “Cheng Hoe-ball” by some fans.
“I’ve heard about it – but I’m not that special lah,” said Cheng Hoe.
“It’s just the way modern football is played. If you want to succeed in the international arena, you have to play this kind of football.”
“Cheng Hoe-ball” is derived from the famed “Sarri-ball” – a playing style started by Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri, which emphasises quick short passesand a box-to-box midfielder dictating the tempo of the game and building play from the defence.
Cheng Hoe said his playing style was first criticised by the fans but they have now warmed up to it.
“We can’t be playing long and high balls anymore. To be a better international team, you need to keep things ticking on the ground,” he said.
“The game now has evolved so much that teams are beginning to embrace short passes, triangle movements and good control of the ball.
“I’m happy that the players have adapted to the style.
“What’s more important is the players are bringing that concept of play to their respective clubs.”
Ever smiling and jovial, the former Kedah head coach said it was good to see Malaysia in the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup but reminded the players that the journey has only begun.
Malaysia will play the first leg of the final against Vietnam on Dec 11 in Bukit Jalil, followed by the return leg in Hanoi on Dec 15.
Cheng Hoe, who celebrated his one-year anniversary as the national coach on Dec 7, wants his charges to keep up their winning momentum even after the tournament ends.
“As a coach, I’m proud and happy with what we have achieved (reaching the final),” said Cheng Hoe, who was appointed by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) last year to replace Portuguese Nelo Vingada.
“In my one year as national coach, we’ve shown progress but I must stress here that this is just the beginning.
“There are many tournaments and we’ve to be good in all of them.
“The players must be focused on the task ahead.”
Cheng Hoe was part of the national coaching set-up when Malaysia won the first AFF Suzuki Cup in 2010. When asked about the difference between 2010 and 2018, he said the style of plays were different.
“Coach Raja (Datuk K. Rajagopal) had his own philosophy back then. In 2018, I wanted to make sure that our players adapt to modern football,” he said.
“Only Apek (Khairul Fahmi Che Mat) and Mat Yo (Norshahrul Idlan Talaha) are from the 2010 team in this squad. The twins (Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak and Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak) are the only ones who came from the 2009 SEA Games winning team.
“The rest of the players in this team are youngsters, who have good potential to be top professional footballers in the future,” added Cheng Hoe.