KUALA LUMPUR: Kim Pan Gon versus Bojan Hodak, who will win this war?
If they put on boxing gloves, the big and burly Hodak will definitely knock out the tall and slender South Korean inside one minute in the ring.
However, when Fifa and FAM come into the picture, national coaches like Pan Gon become protected species in regard to the release of players during any Fifa window.
It is a no-win situation for club coaches as Fifa can sanction players or their clubs for declining national call-ups.
Hodak is angry and upset with how his players, Zhafri Yahya and Declan Lambert, hardly figured in Pan Gon's plans at the recent King's Cup in Chiang Mai.
While Zhafri only warmed the substitute bench, Lambert only played 11 minutes (against Thailand) of football throughout the tournament.
"Zhafri and Lambert were on holiday with the national team," a sarcastic Hodak told reporters recently.
Pan Gon had enough players in Chiang Mai to field different teams against Thailand and the young Tajikistan side, yet he chose not to use his entire squad in the King's Cup, a friendly tournament that offers few ranking points.
In fact, Thailand, who drew with Malaysia and beat Trinidad & Tobago, have earned more ranking points compared to Malaysia who recorded two draws (over 90 minutes).
Thailand lost 5-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in regulation time against Harimau Malaya but beat Trinidad & Tobago 2-1 for third place.
What was Pan Gon's priority at the King's Cup? To win the tournament and earn maximum ranking points or to test players ahead of the big one, the Asian Cup next year?
What was Pan Gon's objective?
Forget about posing these questions to the guarded Korean who mumbles during press conferences, which makes it difficult for reporters to understand his answers.
Hodak had wanted both Zhafri and Lambert to be excused from national duty due to club commitments.
Forward Zhafri and defender Lambert are KL's core players, and he wanted them to feature against Penang (Sept 24), a match organised during the Fifa window, as they prepare for their trip to Uzbekistan on Oct 5 to face FC Sogdiana Jizzakh in the AFC Cup inter-zonal final. And true enough, KL lost 1-0 to bottom-placed Penang.
The Malaysian Football League (MFL) organised a top-tier match during the Fifa window, which does not happen in most countries, after consulting both teams.
However, being a professional setup, MFL should have avoided this and come up with options.
Very unprofessional on their part.
When asked about his spat with Pan Gon, Hodak reponded in a cryptic manner. "It is about respect. If he does not respect me, why should I respect him?" said Hodak after KL's 5-0 thrashing of Sarawak United on Sept 28.
Hodak told the scribe that clubs cannot win against national teams during Fifa dates, but Pan Gon did not use even half of his squad in the King's Cup.
Hodak's comments also irritated FAM president Datuk Hamidin Amin, who warned him to stop making negative statements.
Overall, the national team look impressive under Pan Gon, all thanks to his pressing game.
But no team can play at a high-intensity for 90 minutes. And it always shows in the second half of games.
Yes, Malaysia's quality shows they are better than their current world No 148 ranking. However, Malaysia will still lose by four or five goals to top Asian teams like Iran, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
How KL players were treated in Chiang Mai will definitely affect the national team during the AFF Cup on Dec 20- Jan 16.
The tournament is not part of the Fifa window. Clubs have the power not release thier players, and this could reflect badly on FAM and Pan Gon who needs the tournament to tune up for the Asian Cup.
December is a crucial month as it is when players report back to their clubs to prepare for the new season.
Power can move mountains but respect will earn you more friends and help.
National coaches should work with all clubs and coaches, not just praise a selected few during press conferences.
Ajitpal Singh is the NST Sports Editor and a Red Devil