OKS – The Journey

It’s ironic how the past comes back to haunt you.

Almost two years ago Dato Ong Kim Swee applied for the position of coach of the national U23 squad.

Howver he was not the chosen one as an internal source reveals it was the NSC that vetoed the appointment of OKS , opting for Frank Bernhardt instead, as did a senior official of FAM

KIim Swee then went on to apply and succeeded to be appointed as the national coach, only to be relegated to the U23 squad on March 25 this year.

In the midst of all this, he lost his Father , Ong Chwee Guan, in March when Kim Swee was on the tail end of his attachment stint with QPR.

He was on the flight home after being informed his Dad was critical but did not make it in time to see his Dad breathe his last.

Despite having a make shift side, Kim Swee managed to take his motley crew through to the AFC qualifiers in Bangkok in July.

It was extremely difficult for any coach to prepare a team that had players trickling in and leaving in midst of training to serve their clubs and states.

Any lesser of a coach would have thrown in the towel or went into a rage, yet Kim Swee who took a drastic pay cut when he was relegated to handle the U23 side, plodded on, always keeping a stern look, but never once did he lose his cool, despite many self glorifying individuals trying to meddle into the affairs of his team.

The team hardly had exposure as they went on one playing tour to China in June, hardly the type of preparation one would have thought of for a team preparing for an important regional meet.

But the lack of exposure, training and even players served as a motivating factor for the father of two doting daughters, Dasha and Dashie.

Ironic as it may sound, but I saw with my own eyes when fans walked up to Kim Swee for a picture or selfie and his daughters, as if knowing the drill, will step aside gracefully to let their Dad please the fans, never once frowning but with a constant smile of their faces, this is what the family sacrifice is all about.

The team did better then expected in Bangkok and made the AFC Cup finals in China next January on merit,

They were aptly rewarded by HRH TMJ for their heroics.

But Kim Swee then faced another hurdle – getting sufficient time to train his side for the SEA Games,

Refusal to change dates of the M-League matches meant that the players could only report on August 9, just 5 days before the opener against Brunei!

Somehow he took his team to the final, something no one but he and Dato Hamidin were confident of from the date of the draw.

He had the blessings of his father who looked down upon him from the heavens, the calming presence of his mother Lee Wee Neo who sat in the stands for every match, and the love as well as support of his wife Alodie Donna and two of his strongest supporters – Dasha and Dashie.

Kim Swee, always the gentlemen , never claimed self glory, attributing the good results to his players and back room staff.

We conversed daily, since I got to know him personally a few years ago.

He was my motivator and I provided him guidance and support in any which way I could due to my limited ability and time, no thanks to my medical condition.

Now this Malacca born is at the cross roads – to stay on till the AFC Cup finals in January next year or to pack his bags, as his term effectively ends this December,

The FAM needs to start talking to him now and not wait till October, 3 months before the end of his contract to start negotiations for a new contract if any,

Actually it’s a no brainer really – just offer him a deal he cannot refuse, provide him with the best preparations and exposure before the January final round and move on.

Or just tell him that he is free to go, no need for melodramatics, after all they already made one bad decision by not appointing him in the first place, so no one will be shocked if the same stunt is pulled twice,

There has been much speculation of late that OKS has been offered or negotiating with clubs overseas but he denied having done so but will not rule out a move abroad as an option.

He is highly unlikely to stay in the country and coach a state or club side and it will be a big loss should he decide to go abroad, but at the same time it would help broaden his horizons.

As anyone of us, OKS needs an assurance and not have a sword hanging over his head, he needs to be given a short and long terms goal, doing well in the AFC Cup in China in January and preparing a team towards making it to 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But will he get the nod? Your guess is as good as mine.

Until then let those in the seats of power ponder their next move, unaware that each day delayed is a day wasted.