PETALING JAYA: No one cornered Tan Cheng Hoe to quit his job as the national football coach as it was his own decision.
The 53-year-old was expected to continue guiding the Harimau Malaya despite their poor outing in the recent AFF Suzuki Cup but he wanted to own up to his shortcomings and felt that it was the right time to leave.
Cheng Hoe admitted that he did not fulfil the key performance indicator (KPI) set by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) for the Suzuki Cup, which was to reach the final.
In the tournament last month, Malaysia finished third in Group B following 3-0 and 4-1 defeats to Vietnam and Indonesia respectively. In the first two games, they recorded 3-1 and 4-0 wins over Cambodia and Laos
“I made this decision on my own. The reason is simple, I did not achieve the target. After Christmas Day, I made my decision to leave the position,” said Cheng Hoe.
“I believe the national team need fresh air. You can see that things have not been going too well. I take full responsibility for whatever has happened.
“I believe a new person can chart a better future for the nation. Maybe there is someone who can truly lead this team to many successes. I wish him the best.”
Cheng Hoe had served as assistant coach of the Under-20, Under-23 and Harimau Muda A teams before, forming a potent partnership with Datuk K. Rajagopal that saw them winning the 2009 SEA Games gold medal and the 2010 Suzuki Cup.
Cheng Hoe was later hired as Kedah’s coach from 2014-2017, where he helped the Red Eagles win the 2015 Premier League, Malaysia Cup in 2016, a nd the FA Cup and Charity Shield in 2017.
He then returned to the FAM in 2017 as the assistant coach to Nelo Vingada of Portugal before being promoted to coach in December the same year.
Since taking charge of the Harimau Malaya, he had led them to a runners-up spot in the 2018 Suzuki Cup and placed the team in the best position in the second round of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifiers in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the competition schedule.
Cheng Hoe, who is based in Penang, said it was an honour leading the national team for four years.
“Not every one gets such an opportunity. I’m grateful for the support from the management and players. Not to forget, the Crown Prince of Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, who was crucial in bringing me to the team.
“He gave me a lot of support and motivation to take on this big task.”
When asked about his future plans, he said, “I want to rest and be with my loved ones. I just want to spend time with them.
“But I can’t be resting for long too. Can’t be sitting at home all the time, I would need a job. I will surely come back to the game.”
Cheng Hoe also had some advice for the current and future players.
“Expectations are higher now. For those who dream of making it the national team... take this team to the next level.
Keep working hard every day, and always remember that when you are part of the team, do something different, do something to make the nation proud.
“Prove that we can be one of the strong teams in Asia. Have that in mind all the time.”