BY OOI KIN FAI Follow on Twitter
Amidst the fanfare of his appointment as the new Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president and his first press conference in the role, one particular remark from Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim flew a bit under the radar. Also known as TMJ, his mention of Josep Gombau during the press conference hardly lifted any eyebrow then but a link that tells a much longer story.
Former Kelantan centre back who was also a former player under Gombau, was effusive in his praise for the former Barcelona employee as well as TMJ for having the keen eye for talent. Given the time Jonathan McKain spent in Malaysian football, his opinion should not be taken lightly.
One has to look at the context in which TMJ named Gombau. It was unprovoked and when asked in reference to his longer term plans for the national team. Which could very well mean that while Mario Gomez has been roped in to take care of the current national team, Gombau is someone that is earmarked for the future.
As someone who has previously worked for six years in the famed Barcelona youth academy, Gombau is definitely someone with the right knowledge and background to come in and revamp Malaysian football. Someone who could put in place the blueprint that defines Malaysian football for years to come.
In another way, the mention of Gombau does put the pressure on Gomez. Despite a trophy-laden adventure with Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT), his time with the club ended after three seasons. Apart from Mallorca at the very start of his coaching career, Gomez hasn't been one to stay for the longer term.
That is just the way it is for some coaches. Even the elites in the football world today have short term tenures where they can be successful and then be moved on. Examples can be seen in Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, where both gets dizzy at the idea of a fourth year managing/coaching at a football club.
With the expected return of JDT players to the national team fold, Gomez will have familiar players he can use and have them be his messenger to the rest of the squad. His immediate task would be to ensure that at the least, Malaysia puts up a fight in the Asian Cup qualifiers. While hopeful, qualification to the final tournament in 2019 is not expected.
While Gombau awaits the call from TMJ, Gomez is ready to assume and embrace his stop-gap role as the next Malaysia national team head coach.