KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 4 — “I salute Tan Cheng Hoe.”
That was the reaction of former national coach B. Sathianathan following the shocking and bold decision taken by Cheng Hoe when he resigned as the Harimau Malaya head coach four years after being appointed to the post.
The president of the Football Coaches Association of Malaysia (PJBM) said the move by Cheng Hoe would add value to his image as a coach after proving his capabilities in handling the national football team.
According to Sathianathan, Cheng Hoe managed to restore the national team’s dignity as they became one of the most feared sides in Southeast Asia since being appointed to replace Portuguese Nelo Vingada in December 2017.
“I respect him for having the courage to take such a decision because not many would have done it. He is the coach who restored our (national team’s) image because under Vingada, we kept losing. We could also see a sudden improvement in the team’s performance,” he said when contacted by Bernama.
“What the national team served up under his guidance, especially in the early rounds of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers, to me they were the most fun moments to watch the national team in action.
“But their failure in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup 2020 may have influenced his decision and I must admit (it was a failure) but if we take a closer look at the national team, it wasn’t the best squad named by Cheng Hoe,” he said while describing Cheng Hoe as a dedicated coach.
Cheng Hoe even managed to improve the national team’s world ranking from their lowest-ever 178th spot to 153rd since taking over as head coach.
The national team’s best achievement under Cheng Hoe came in the 2019 season when they recorded nine wins from 13 outings, including defeating four higher-ranked teams in Tier 1 international friendlies.
Yesterday, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) issued a statement announcing that Cheng Hoe, who had a contract with the national team until the end of 2022, had decided to step down following the Harimau Malaya’s failure to advance to the semi-finals of the AFF Cup 2020 last month.
In the AFF Cup 2020, Malaysia, who were runners-up in 2018, failed to qualify for the knockout stages after finishing third in Group B behind Indonesia and defending champions Vietnam with just two wins from four outings.
Elaborating, Sathianathan feels that Cheng Hoe’s action was, among others, to pacify local fans who were angry with the Harimau Malaya’s failure in the AFF Cup 2020.
“After reading all the comments by fans and netizens, which sometimes do not make sense, perhaps Cheng Hoe stepped down to calm the situation… so, this is a bold move,” he said.
Meanwhile, another former national head coach, Datuk K. Rajagobal tweeted today that Cheng Hoe always gave his best and was fully focused on his job.
“You did your level best TCH. I know the sincere and honest work you always put in. The best colleague I could dream of and I am blessed to have you in my coaching career. Without TCH by my side, none of my accolades as head coach would be possible. More good things to come your way,” he said.