Kedah coach Aidil Sharin hopeful about club's wage issue
After months of arrears, Malaysian side Kedah's coaches and players were paid July's salary last week
After a gloomy recent few months, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for Kedah's Singaporean coach Aidil Sharin.
Morale had been low at the Malaysian Super League (MSL) outfit as players, coaches and staff were owed over three months' salary while the club experienced a management change.
To compound matters, the club had to deal with the financial fallout, including the loss of gate receipts, as the Covid-19 pandemic caused football to be suspended.
But, last week, Kedah's players and staff were paid their July salary in full. Discussions are ongoing over their remaining unpaid wages.
"The situation is OK now. The players and coaches were paid only 40 per cent of our salary in March and, from April to June, we were not paid," Aidil told The New Paper in a phone interview.
"But just last week, we were paid our full salary for July and were promised full payments for the remaining months."
The situation was a stark contrast to just a year ago when the northern state gave out lavish bonuses after Aidil led them to the Malaysian FA Cup in his debut season. Now they are reportedly riddled with debt to the tune of RM10.6 million (S$3.5m).
Newly elected Kedah FA president Muhammad Sanusi, who took over last month, told Bernama that the previous management had overestimated their financial capabilities.
The situation of unpaid wages is not uncommon in Malaysia.
Fellow MSL sides PDRM and Melaka as well as second-tier Kelantan have been docked points for failing to settle their players' wage arrears.
The dire situation prompted Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) secretary-general Stuart Ramalingam to issue a warning last week.
He told The Star: "If teams cannot settle their debts this season, it would be difficult for them to get a licence to play in the M-League next year."
Ramalingam had told UK-owned SportBusiness in January that the Malaysian league had 262 cases of unpaid salaries last year, the highest in Asia. Last August, the total figure in arrears was RM6.4m.
This explained why some of Aidil's players were unfazed.
"For some of them, this is not the first time," said the 43-year-old. "They know when management changes or is going to change, there would be such delays, so it does not come as a surprise.
"For the younger ones, it may be their first time, so they had difficulties. But, with the support of teammates and coaches, everyone was OK."
As Kedah, who are on four points after four games, prepare for the MSL's resumption against PDRM next Saturday, Aidil and his coaching team have pulled out all the stops to try and steady the ship.
BEYOND THE PITCH
They have gone beyond the pitch to coax the best out of their troops, with sessions at badminton courts and bowling alleys key in fostering team spirit.
The former Home United coach, who led the Protectors to the AFC Cup Asean zonal title in 2018, even forked out money from his own pocket to help players cope with their expenses and ensure they are taken care of.
On a personal level, though, it has been tough for the father of a 10-year-old son and a daughter aged nine.
Aidil, who returned to Singapore after the Covid-19 pandemic brought football to a standstill in March, had his application to return to Kedah rejected twice by the Malaysian immigration authorities.
He finally got back to Alor Setar on June 30, a week after pre-season training started, and has missed his family since.
"Before Covid-19, I used to go back to Singapore once every two weeks. Now, it has been nearly two months since I've been with them," he said.
"It's tough, but my wife has been very supportive... we just have to deal with it."
For now, Aidil is eyeing a top-three finish in the MSL and a good run in the Malaysia Cup. They finished fourth in the 12-team MSL last year and reached the Malaysia Cup final.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the MSL has been reduced to a single round (11 matches) and the Malaysia Cup will be played as single-leg ties, beginning from the Round of 16.
The Malaysian FA Cup has been scrapped altogether.
With the Malaysian league moving towards privatisation, rumours of new management have been circulating.
When it was put to him that with new owners, there could be a threat to his job security, Aidil remained undaunted.
"Everyone has to go down that route (being privatised) now, so we just have to do our job and not be concerned by things not within our control," said Aidil, who added that he has offers from four clubs for next season.
"I just want to finish the season as well as I can and then I will think about my future."