BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
In a sweeping move after barely taking over office as the new Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) made the announcement that Mario Gomez will be install as the new national team head coach of Malaysia while Datuk Ong Kim Swee will take charge of the national U-23 side.
Speaking at the press conference immediately after the 53rd FAM Congress, TMJ confirmed the worst kept secret in Malaysia as he puts his former employee in charge of the national team. Gomez had served Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) with distinction during his time there and has even helped JDT to be the first South-East Asian club to lift the coveted AFC Cup trophy in 2015.
Gomez is expected to take over the team beginning of next week and his immediate work would be to whip the team up into shape for the upcoming 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers in June beginning with the match against North Korea. Perhaps Gomez's involvement could see the return of several former internationals back to the fold.
As for Ong, he is now expected to move back into his former role as the head coach of the U-23 side. Whatever one's view of Ong's ability as a coach, he was dealt a tough hand in his time as the head coach of the senior team.
Commendable results were mixed with criticisms following big defeats to Indonesia and the failure in the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup. Yet, it is hard to argue with Ong's record at under-age levels where he has achieved success with the previous incarnation, most of whom have graduated to the senior team whether at clubs or national team levels.
This move will leave the existing U-22 side who are currently in participating in the 2017 Dubai Cup in somewhat of a lurch. With two more matches to go in that mini tournament, Frank Bernhardt knows that he's in his last assignment with the team.
Having worked with Bernhardt, the players will now have to adjust to Ong's methods as Malaysia seeks to win the all-important gold medal in the upcoming Kuala Lumpur South-East Asian Games in August, later this year.