Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan’s opting to take the path out of the norm, paid dividends.
Though he agreed that he uses the most of his experience as a former International, Zainal also does things his own way.
Pahang retained the Malaysia Cup after a 5-3 win in the penalty shootout after 120 minutes of play saw them level at 2-2 with Super League winners Johor Darul Takzim.
Surprisingly their penalty takers were not any of the forwards or goal getters in the team.
The first four penalty takers- Razman Roslan, Damion Stewart, Shahrizan Salleh, and Zesh Rehman – were all defenders while central midfielder Hafiz Kamal had scored the winning kick after JDT’s Norshahrul Idlan Talaha saw his effort saved.
“When I was a player, the coaches always pick the strikers to take the penalties. I didn’t want to adopt that strictly,” said Zainal, who started off his career as defender before playing up front.
“For me, whoever has a more cool head and confidence to convert is given the nod. I observed in training that the defenders were more comfortable.”
While the players get the credit for delivering only their second Malaysia Cup in 22 years, Zainal’s 11-year service to the state must not go unnoticed. During which, he played various roles.
“I love football and although I stopped playing, my soul is still very much debted to the game. So I want give back to football what I have learnt.
“It’s been 11 years here and I have been grateful to given the chance to part of the Pahang FA. I am satisfied I have won it all in Malaysia as a coach but I’m still hungry for more.”
Zainal’s credentials as a coach reads – one Super League (2004), two FA Cups (2006 & 2014) and a Malaysia Cup (2014). He was the assistant team manager when Dollah Salleh guided the Elephants to the Malaysia Cup last year.