One is chasing the elusive silverware in his coaching career while another wants to end his team’s 18-year wait to win it and it is the Malaysia Cup we are talking about when Terengganu and Perak clash in the final at the Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.
Terengganu head coach, the much-traveled Irfan Bakti has won every other title in Malaysian football but not the much sought-after silverware – the Malaysia Cup in the country’s oldest football competition.
On the other hand, Perak still laments the painful 2-1 defeat in final in 2001 – which incidentally sets the tone for Saturday’s final because it was Terengganu who won the silverware that year.
Perak last won the Malaysia Cup in 2000 – the year when they beat Negri Sembilan 2-0 in the final.
Perak’s Australian coach Mehmet Durakovic has been a four-time Malaysia Cup winner during his illustrious career with Selangor – three times as a player and once as a coach.
Both teams go into the final on equal footing – winning twice each – in their four meetings so far, in the Malaysian Super League and the Malaysia Cup (group stage).
Terengganu, however, go into the battle in Shah Alam with extra motivation after dumping defending champions Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) 3-2 on aggregate in the two-leg semi-finals. JDT, the five-time Super League champions were the favorites and even led 2-0 at one stage in the return-leg but the Turtles fought back for a 2-2 draw – with their ace Ivory Coast hitman Kipre Tchetche hitting a brace.
“I have won every other title in Malaysian football…but not the Malaysia Cup. It has remained elusive so far but I believe it could be over this time around,” said the former international, who has extended his contract with Terengganu FA for another year although he had several offers for the new season.
Irfan has an extra spring in his steps these days. Not many are aware that he had already signed a new deal even before the second-leg semi-final against JDT although it was officially only two days ago.
This means Irfan is not worried about his coaching future for the new season. He also gets to keep his coaching team. This adds to the extra spring in his steps and the smiles on the faces of his team.
Players to watch for Terengganu are skipper Chetche, Lee Tuck, Thierry Chanta Bin and Ashaari Samsuddin, dubbed the “silent killer” plus their evergreen goalkeeper, 40-year-old Suffian Rahman.
For Perak, there are Gilmar Filho, Wander Luiz, Leandro Dos Santos, and Brendan Gan plus skipper Shahrul Saad. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH
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