IT turned out to be a fruitless trip to South Korea for Felda United head coach Irfan Bakti in his bid to get a new defender for the plantation giant’s campaign in the elite Super League in the new season after gaining promotion with a second place finish in the Premier League competition this year.
“It was a disappointing trip for me. I had flown all the way to Incheon and from there travelled another 400km (to Gang Wang Stadium) to watch this particular player. However, it turned out to be a disappointment. He did not impress me in the match, expectations also fell short although much had been said about him,” said Irfan, who has transformed Felda United into serious Malaysia Cup contenders.
The player concerned was Lee Hyun Seung, who currently plays for Chunnam Dragons in the K-League.
Irfan added that he has now identified a Croatian defender as a replacement for 25-year-old Liberian international Zah Rahan Krangar whose contract will not be renewed. Felda have already got get down to serious work for the new season in the Super League after spending a season in the second-tier Premier League.
Felda earned promotion to the Super League after finishing second behind champions Police in the 12-team Premier League. It was Irfan’s KPI and fulfilling his promise to his employers to gain promotion. The plantation giants also reached a historic FA Cup final but fell at the final hurdle, losing 2-1 to Pahang.
Irfan revealed that five or six players from the present squad will be replaced and new signings have been identified for Felda’s challenge in the Super League.
In the same breath, Irfan said three other foreigners in the team – Uzbekistan internation Yaroslav Krushelnitskiy (defender), Liberian international Edward Junior Wilson (striker) and Zambian-born Australian striker Ndumba Makeche, who scored a hattrick in the stunning win over Selangor in the first-leg quarter-final will be retained.
Felda virtually have a leg in the Malaysia Cup semi-finals after a crushing 4-0 win over former kingpins Selangor in a first-leg quarter-final match at the Shah Alam Stadium last Friday. The return-leg will be played at the Temerloh Stadium in Pahang this Friday and “The Fighters” as Felda are known now, have a healthy four away goals cushion.
Irfan, a former Selangor coach, however is worried that his players will be complacent after the big win over the Red Giants and has been drilling into his players to stay focused for the return-leg.
“No doubt we have a four (away) goal cushion for the return-leg but this is where you have to be wary. Football is a funny game and anything can happen if you take your foot off the gas. We will adopt the same attacking football and go for more goals to put the pressure on Selangor,” said Irfan.