Blogger Layouts


Get your own Digital Clock

Friday, 4 May 2012

::Kelantan's kampung spirit::

Malaysian Super League

Kelantan vs LionsXII

Sultan Mohammad IV Stadium, 8.45pm

KOTA BHARU - Kelantan may be the defending Malaysian Super League (MSL) champions with a horde of fanatical fans behind them, and their players' faces splashed on advertising boards all over the state. 

But there is little glitz and more kampung spirit surrounding the side with an FA Cup final date on May 19 and still in the hunt for the 2012 MSL title. 

In what is probably his biggest assignment since his appointment as Kelantan coach in March, and perhaps the title decider of the MSL season, Bojan Hodak deferred to his players and the spirit of the red horde. 

"Coaches can make a difference by reading the game and making good changes, but almost always, it's the players who decide it. And our fans are our 12th player," said the Croat, who will face former Jurong FC team-mate and current LionsXII head coach V Sundramoorthy. 

"The best thing about Kelantan is the fans: Even if you go out into the rice fields in the kampungs, or drive down the roads, you will see kids in a Kelantan jersey. There are not too many teams in the world that have support like this." 

Located within the facilities of the state's agricultural research and development institute, Kelantan's training pitch - lined by coconut trees on one side, a simple shed providing shelter for officials on the other - epitomised the kampung spirit. 

Fans watching their team - some kids decked in Kelantan's red kit - had their faces plastered to the fence surrounding the venue. 

Hodak's Kelantan are second to the table-topping LionsXII, five points behind but with three games in hand, and the 40-year-old vowed to close that gap, even if it means throwing friendship out the window for 90 minutes. 

"Sundram and I are very close friends. I call him every now and then, we even met in Kuala Lumpur before I took the Kelantan job. But when the match starts, I don't care if it's my brother or son on the other bench, I want to win," he said. 

Although Kelantan will be without the services of the suspended trio of Lebanese international Mohammed Ghaddar, Daudsu Jamaluddin and Zairol Fitri, and the injured duo of Azizi Matt Rose and Abdul Aziz Ismail, Hodak insisted it won't make a difference.

"There are no secrets, nothing new that we can come up with. We (Kelantan and the LionsXII) know each other, but we have the advantage in our home crowd - they are fanatical," he said.

The Red Warriors are unbeaten at their Sultan Mohammad IV Stadium fortress this season. But under Sundram's watch, the LionsXII have added the art of the smash-and-grab to their arsenal, ending previously unblemished home records of Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak, and the former Singapore star believes Kelantan are under pressure to preserve that record.

However, Hodak said: "There is always pressure in football and if you can't deal with it then football isn't for you. 

"I am confident and like we do in every game, home or away, we will go for three points."

                 By Shamir Osman

No comments:

Post a Comment