Malaysian Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee made heads turn at the SEAG ames. His boys survived the ‘Group of Death’ and the 100,000 vociferous fans to nail the gold.
Question : If not for football, what would you be doing today?
Ong Kim Swee : A cook maybe. I would probably be involved in the family business in Malacca. We have a Nyonya (Banya) restaurant, which my parents set up almost a decade ago. My brother is running the place now. I do go there from time to time. I am happy with things as they are now. My parents and wife have been supportive of my football career.
Question : What is the most memorable moment of your playing career?
Ong Kim Swee : The winning goal that I scored against Thailand in the 1991 pre-Olympics at the Merdeka Stadium. I won the ball from the middle and dribbled past the Thai defence before scoring the goal. We won the match 1-0. It is my sweetest memory even though we did not qualify for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Question : How was the experience with the national Under-23 boys at the SEA Games in Jakarta?
Ong Kim Swee : It was one hell of an experience. But I am glad it all worked out well. First, we were drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ and the first thing that came to my mind was my future with the FA of Malaysia (FAM). Yes, the boys made it happen and we cannot take anything away from them as they beat the host nation twice before being crowned champions.
We overcame every challenge that came our way till the end. The hostile fans, the Barracuda rides, food poisoning, the distractions and being unable to go for training in peace, problems with the organisers, my sacking from the bench, not being given a walkie-talkie and, worst still, not being allowed to go into the field after the final whistle in the semi-finals. They did try every possible trick to get us worked up but we prevailed.
Question : In the final against Indonesia, we spotted you seated alone on the bench during the nail-biting penalty shoot-out. Any reason?
Ong Kim Swee : Honestly, I have had many bad experiences during shoot-outs and the worst was when we (Sabah) lost to Selangor in the 1996 Malaysia Cup final.
That was my last chance to win a first champion’s medal in the Malaysia Cup but we blew it in the sudden-death shootout. It was a painful exit. I still don’t believe in penalty shootouts.
Question : What is next after the back-to-back football success in the SEA Games?
Ong Kim Swee : I guess the ideal plan for us is to prepare for the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon. At least 12 of the players from the Jakarta SEA Games squad are eligible to play in the Asian Games, which is also an Under-23 tournament with three over-aged players. We should also have depth in our squad for the next SEA Games in Myanmar (2013).
Question : In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle we have to overcome in order for Malaysia to achieve bigger goals?
Ong Kim Swee : We lack a pool of quality players, especially strikers. Even in the age groups, we are unable to find prolific goal-scorers. Imagine we have an 18-year-old (Syahrul Azawri Ibrahim) playing as the chief striker in the Under-23 squad at the Jakarta SEA Games.
Then, we have a 17-year-old (Mohd Nazmi Faiz) in the playmaker role. Where are the 23-year-old players?
Name: Ong Kim Swee
Date of birth: Dec 11, 1970
Place of birth: Malacca
Marital status: Married to Alodie Donna Darick (kids Dasha, 3 and Dashie, 8 months)
Hobby: Playing with gadgets
Favourite club: Arsenal
Favourite manager: Arsene Wenger
Favourite food: Nyonya style
Best memory: Scored the winner against Thailand in 1991 pre-Olympics at the Merdeka Stadium.
Worst memory: Sabah’s loss to Selangor in the 1996 Malaysia Cup final on penalty shootouts.
Playing career: 1989 (Malacca), 1990-92 (pre-Olympic squad), 93-94 (Sarawak), 95-96 (Sabah), 98 (Malacca)
2001 (Malacca youth),
2002-03 (Malacca M-League),
2004 (MPSJ – FAM Cup winners),
2005-2011 (FAM age group teams – Under-16, Under-19 (Harimau Muda B), Under-21 (Harimau Muda A), Pre-Olympic (Under-22), Jakarta SEA Games champions (Under-23).