Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim was seen as a saviour when he took charge of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) on March 25, swiftly promising a new era after three decades of disappointment.
For all intents and purposes, the Johor crown prince appeared the only candidate capable of providing some badly overdue change, but the professionalism the Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) owner preaches hasn’t quite materialised yet.
Tunku Ismail, who is more popularly known as TMJ, was always going to do things his way and the manner of Gomez’s announcement broke the FAM’s usual processes.
Tunku Ismail announced Gomez as Ong Kim Swee’s replacement at his first press conference as FAM president, without even getting the executive committee’s endorsement.
Ong was announced as the new Malaysia under-22 coach, with incumbent Frank Bernhardt only finding out he was getting the chop through the press, while he was with his team competing in an invitational tournament in Dubai no less.
Tunku Ismail displayed how things were going to be run when he said: “They (the executive committee) will agree will me… since you people put me here, I think everyone has to respect my decision and what I am going to do.”
After years of poor results, with the only shine coming during brief AFF Suzuki Cup and SEA Games successes at the start of this decade, FAM may well need a dictator in the house. Yet Malaysia immediately attracted negative press after it was later revealed Gomez may not be the new Harimau Malaya coach after all.
All of this took place while FAM’s Facebook account had already carried statements from Gomez, quoting him as saying that the retired JDT quartet – Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, S. Kunanlan and Amirul Hadi Zainal – would be back in the national team fold.
Tunku Ismail accused Gomez of demanding more money than he had earned at JDT, but the 2015 and 2016 Malaysia Super League-winning coach denied that was the case.
Gomez even told local press he had received a higher offer 50 days prior than what is currently on the table, and that he did not pick Tan Cheng Hoe as his desired assistant, a move Tunku Ismail announced during a session with the country’s sports editors and football writers in Johor Bahru on April 4.
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