LIM’S DISMISSAL MAY HAVE BEEN DONE IN HASTE
IFEEL compelled to write this given the controversy over the sacking of Lim Teong Kim as football coach for the national Under-16 team. The sacking came within hours of the team failing to qualify for next year’s Under-17 World Cup in Peru.
Malaysia lost 2-0 to Japan last month and was eliminated in the group stages of the AFC U-16 Championship.
As Malaysia’s ambassador to Germany (1999-2003), I got to know Lim quite well.
He was living in the Munich area when I first met him in 1999, soon after arriving in Germany.
He was closely associated with the Munich-Malaysian Society. He was introduced to me as the coach of the Bayern Munich Youth Team. Imagine my surprise that a Malaysian could become the coach of the Youth Team of the leading German professional football club!
Berlin, where the Malaysian embassy is based, is in the north and Munich is in the south of Germany, and Lim and his colleagues served as the “doorway” to other Malaysians for me. Suffice to say, my friends in the MunichMalaysian Society were invaluable to my work.
I had, of course, known of Lim’s exploits in Malaysian football. I had witnessed him as a player on our national side.
To me, Lim was a hero of Malaysian football, in the mould of Ghani Minhat, Soh Chin Aun, Mokhtar Dahari, Santokh Singh, and other greats of Malaysian football.
I was delighted when I read that Lim became a successful professional footballer in Germany, playing for Hertha Berlin, now in Division One of Germany’s Bundesliga. I believe he is the only Malaysian to have a successful professional career in Germany.
After I retired from the Foreign Service, I often returned to Germany and met Lim. He, too, came home to Malaysia often and never failed to visit me.
Several years ago, Lim told me he was asked to consider coming home to Malaysia to coach.
He told me that he would only consider coaching our youth, for he felt that youth development held the key to Malaysia’s revival as a footballing nation.
He felt that we needed to rebuild our football at the youth level if we wanted to reach the kind of heights that our national team once reached.
I was most encouraged that a coach of one of the most successful clubs in the world was willing to put his future in our youth.
I felt Lim could do much by transforming our young to be world-beaters.
Lim had successfully trained players like Thomas Muller and Emre Can, and a host of others for the club and country; to have him train our young would be ideal.
Here was a man whose professional career had taken him to Germany, first as a player, then as a coach for 12 years for one of Europe’s top sides.
I know for a fact that Lim is, first and foremost, a Malaysian patriot; that is why he decided to forgo a lucrative career in Germany.
I have known him to be driven by a passion for his country and by his love for football. It is my hope that Lim would get a fair hearing from our new Minister of Youth and Sports, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
It is also my belief that the FA of Malaysia’s decision to dismiss Lim may have been made in haste.
I cannot imagine that it is money which drew Lim home.
It is a grave injustice to the man if the Malaysian public is left with the impression that Lim is “only here for the money”.