KUALA LUMPUR: Many doubted coach Ong Kim Swee’s ability as a coach, but the former international has proved his critics wrong by guiding Malaysia to the Sea Games final for a second time in his career after the success at the 2011 Indonesia edition.
It has been challenging for Kim Swee in 2017, first his father, Ong Chwee Guan died and then he was demoted from being a national to youth coach, both in March.
It was difficult times but Kim Swee overcame all difficulties and now he could make history in the Sea Games final at Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday.
In late-2015, the youthful looking 47-year-old was overlooked by the FA of Malaysia (FAM) when they picked German Frank Bernhardt to coach the 2017 Sea Games team.
Then, Kim Swee was the caretaker national team coach before his role was made permanent in January, 2016. However, he was re-designated to handle the Sea Games team when Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim was elected as FAM president in March.
The move by FAM can be regarded as a masterstroke decision as Kim Swee is now enjoying his best years as a coach with the youth team.
Last month, the Melaka-born guided Malaysia to next year’s AFC Under-23 Championships by topping the qualifiers in Bangkok.
And Tuesday, Kim Swee will be eyeing for a second Sea Games title as a coach when his team play 15-time champions Thailand.
Malaysia have been growing in strength since their first game against Brunei and Kim Swee has urged his boys not to be afraid of Thailand.
For the record, Malaysia have met Thailand in four Sea Games finals, with the former only winning once when Kuala Lumpur hosted the biennial games in 1977.
In the most recent final, Malaysia were edged 1-0 in the 2001 KL edition.
Thailand will start as favourites having beaten Kim Swee’s side 3-0 in the AFC Under-23 qualifiers last month.
But Kim Swee said past results do not matter and is confident it will be different this time.
Throughout the tournament so far, Malaysia have conceded four goals compared to Thailand’s one.
Kim Swee was unhappy in the group stage as his team conceded goals from their own mistakes.
But on Saturday, they showed their defensive stoutness in the 1-0 semi-final win over rivals Indonesia.
“We must prepare for all possibilities against Thailand. I reminded my players to play without fear in the final. They must not be afraid of Thailand.
“We will be fully prepared this time. We will definitely not play the way we did in the 3-0 defeat to our rivals in Bangkok...it will be totally different in the final,” said Kim Swee.
Kim Swee said motivation is high, but his players cannot be overconfident going into the final.
“The team have grown in strength and defensively we have improved. I am happy that every player has so far showed good intensity and momentum whenever I played them.
“Thailand are a good team, and we have to be very focus in the final. They have not been conceding many goals here and so, we need to make full use of our opportunities,” Kim Swee added.