I feel compelled to write given the controversy over the recent sacking of Lim Teong Kim as coach of the Malaysian under-16 team. The sacking came within hours of the inability of Malaysia’s under-16 team to qualify for the next round of a recent tournament, with Japan winning 2-0.
I will not comment on the tournament itself, although I think the young Malaysians acquitted themselves very well given the circumstances, almost going to the next round.
As Malaysia’s ambassador to Germany (1999-2003), I got to know Teong Kim well. He was living in the Munich area when I first met him, in 1999, soon after arriving in Germany. Teong Kim was closely associated with the Munich-Malaysian Society when I first met him. He was introduced to me as the coach of the Bayern Munich Youth Team. Imagine my surprise that a Malaysian could become the coach of the youth team of the leading German professional football club!
In my years in Germany, I got to know Teong Kim and his Malaysian colleagues very well, as they were helping me in my work a lot.
Berlin, where the embassy was based, was in the north, and Munich is in the south of Germany. They served as the “doorway” to other Malaysians for me. Suffice to say, my friends in the Munich-Malaysian Society were invaluable in my work.
I had of course known of Teong Kim’s exploits in Malaysian football. I had the pleasure of witnessing Teong Kim as a player in our national side. To me, he was a hero of Malaysian football, in the mould of Ghani Minhat, Soh Chin Aun, Mokhtar Dahari, Santokh Singh and other Malaysian football greats. I was delighted when I read that he had become a successful professional footballer in Germany, playing for Hertha Berlin, now in division one of Germany’s Bundesliga.
If I am not mistaken, he was the only Malaysian to have a successful professional career in Germany.
I was delighted and felt a sense of pride when I discovered that Teong Kim had become a successful coach for the youth team of the biggest professional football club in Germany.
In fact, I remember introducing Teong Kim to our then-prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad (now again our prime minister), during his official visit to Germany in 2002.
Mahathir was also taken aback that a Malaysian could become the coach of the Bayern Munich Youth Team.
I also mentioned this to then-German chancellor, Helmut Schroeder. I met the chancellor at a dinner in Berlin and, for some reason, we talked football. I learned that Schroeder was a big football fan and he supported the Wolfsburg football club. I told the chancellor about Teong Kim and of course, the chancellor could not believe that a Malaysian could be the coach of the youth team of Bayern Munich. (He later checked and found out that what I said was true and asked one of his aides to congratulate me.)
Abdul Kadir Mohd Deen is the former Malaysian ambassador to Germany and a G25 founding member.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.