Croatian striker Mamut goes from tortured to terrific Turtle


A priceless brace: Terengganu’s Ivan Mamut is congratulated by teammate Liridon Krasniqi after scoring a brace against Kuala Lumpur to send them into the Malaysia Cup final.

PETALING JAYA: Once vilified, now a hero, Croatian striker Ivan Mamut has turned out to be a blessing for Terengganu after he helped them get into the Malaysia Cup final.

The 26-year-old was in sensational form as he single-handedly led the Turtles to victory by scoring two goals in the 2-1 win over Kuala Lumpur at the Sultan Mizan Stadium in Gong Badak on Friday. And Terengganu made it to the final on a 4-2 aggregate. They had beaten the City Boys 2-1 in the first leg in Kuala Lumpur.

Mamut is just glad that his patience has been rewarded.

He was once ridiculed on social media, and even in public, as fans made fun of him due to his slow start to life in Terengganu.

Right: Mamut acknowledging the crowd’s cheers. — Terengganu FCRight: Mamut acknowledging the crowd’s cheers. — Terengganu FC

When he was at a shopping mall in Kuala Terengganu in March, a staff from the mall mocked him in Malay, calling him natang (animal in Terengganu dialect).

Mamut is now having the last laugh, having scored 20 goals in all competitions and eight in the Malaysia Cup alone.

“It was difficult in the beginning because I was coming into a new culture.

‘‘Even though I played for some top clubs in Europe, I knew it was not easy to transition to Asia,” said Mamut, who played for Croatian top-flight clubs Hajduk Split and Inter Zapresic in the past.

“Plus, I was away from my family, the weather was hot, and the football culture was different here.

“I needed some time to adapt to the pace. I know I can be better than the form I am in now, but we are in a final, and things are working out my way. It is amazing.”

Mamut’s first goal came in the 42nd minute when he finished off a Norhakim Hassan pass by taking a swiveling left-footed shot to beat Kuala Lumpur goalkeeper Kevin Ray Mendoza.

The second goal was even better when he received a pass from midfielder Liridon Krasniqi and unleashed a powerful shot from outside the box in the 66th minute.

KL’s goal was scored by Colombian midfielder Romel Morales in the 51st minute.

Mamut said it was amazing to put up such a performance in front of their fervent fans, but most importantly, his family members were in the stands to watch his fine outing.

“I was lost for words after the final whistle. The atmosphere was great. It was a proud moment for me as my family members were there. They were the motivating factor for me to do well.

“In the FA Cup, we didn’t qualify because we lost in a penalty shootou, but this time, we knew we had what it takes to get to that stage,” he said.

“Our team deserve to be in the final.

Mamut also hailed coach Tomislav Steinbruckner for believing in him despite his insipid start.

“I joined Terengganu because of Tomi. Even when I could not score goals, he told me to help the team win games. The start wasn’t great, but he always found solutions for the team and I.

“Thanks to him, I am scoring goals and helping Terengganu to end the season well.”

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