Dollah plays it cool
Despite poor results and vitriol, he believes Tigers are moving in the right direction
MALAYSIA v MYANMAR
(Today, 5pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 114 & StarHub TV Ch 208)
Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh is as cool as they come.
He may be under fire after losing four of his first five international matches since he took over the reins of the Tigers in June.
But the 51-year-old former international striker is not panicking as the 2010 AFF (Asean Football Federation) Suzuki Cup champions prepare to open their campaign against Myanmar at Jalan Besar Stadium today.
After yesterday's pre-tournament press conference, he was seen shooting the breeze with Malaysian journalists outside the M Hotel, where all the Group B teams doing battle here are based.
Later, he shared an elevator with The New Paper, and when we commented on his calmness, he smiled: "Must relax, lah. Why be so stressed?"
Earlier, he was equally unflappable at the press conference.
When asked about his team's poor run-up to the tournament - in addition to bad results, two of Dollah's first 11 players were ruled out through injury - he said: "Yes, we lost four of our five friendlies, but I believe in our players.
"And, in our last game against Vietnam (a 3-1 defeat), I think our performance showed we are getting there.
"The players look more effective compared to the first week they were with me.
"Anyway, we have to put aside our results in friendlies now."
Dollah has support from two more experienced rivals in Group B.
Singapore coach Bernd Stange, who has led Hertha Berlin, Oman, Iraq and Belarus, said people should realise Malaysia's friendly results "do not matter"
He believes the Tigers will perform differently when in competition mode.
And Myanmar coach Raddy Avramovic - who guided Kuwait and Singapore previously, and will cross swords with Dollah tonight - urged Malaysians to give their coach more time.
Putting his arm on Dollah's back, Avramovic quipped: "I hope he's as good a coach as he was a player.
"It's difficult for every new coach, especially in his case because he lost a few games and everybody judges him on that.
"But like all coaches, he needs some time to do something. He's in a position now to build a good team. He has a good base, a lot of experienced players. But he needs time."
While in charge of Singapore, Avramovic lost just twice in 13 Causeway derbies against Malaysia, and did not lose in five encounters on Singapore soil.
He hopes that personal record will continue tonight, but brushes aside any suggestion he holds the secret to beating the Tigers.
"That's in the past, it's already gone," said Avramovic, when asked about his successes against Malaysia as Singapore coach, including a 3-0 win in Kuala Lumpur two years ago during the Suzuki Cup group stage.
"It's different now. All those Malaysian players, they are two years older now, and a lot more experienced.
"We will try to compete. But it's very difficult to say, 'Oh, we know how to play against Malaysia.'"
He added: "Now is a question about where we are compared to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia. For many years, they kept (dominance in the region) that way.
"Now it's a challenge for us to see if we can reach them. Can we reach that level? We will see."