Coach Kim Pan-gon of Malaysia’s ‘success myth’ still faces his home country. “Korean soccer is sad…”I want to fight in the K-League someday”

Kim Pan-gon, 55, is always aiming for Korea, although his body is in Malaysia.

Since taking the helm of the Malaysian national team in January 2022, Kim has been writing a success story for more than two years. Under Kim, Malaysia advanced to the Asian Cup finals through performance for the first time and caused a stir by winning a draw with South Korea in the group stage. The FIFA ranking was also raised from 155th to 135th when he was appointed. Unfortunately, he was eliminated from the second qualifying round of the World Cup, but he showed his competitiveness to fight fiercely with Oman and Kyrgyzstan. Without a doubt, he has changed since Kim took office.

During his recent visit to Korea, Kim rested for about two weeks and spent some time recharging himself. “Over two years have passed by fast,” Kim said at an interview with Sports Seoul in Seoul’s Yongsan district on Tuesday. “No one here recognized me when I assumed the coach post, but now I am recognized by so many people when I travel on the streets. There are some big changes I am satisfied with, but there are still many regrets. In important competitions and schedules, the recruitment of players was not carried out smoothly, and key players were injured. It is all the more regrettable that I have confidence that I can do better.”

Malaysia lacks human resources as its country is smaller than Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, it has maintained its position as the semifinalist in Southeast Asia and is making strides. Kim upgraded Malaysia based on his know-how he gained while serving as the coach of the K-League and the Hong Kong national team and as the chairman of the national team’s technical committee.
“I’m also in Southeast Asia, but I’m really different from the past. I’m competitive in my own way,” Kim said. “Although I’m relatively weak in power, I don’t think I’m as good as other countries in terms of my coaching system and soccer philosophy. The team is making progress with a clear direction. That’s where I feel the most rewarded,” he said.

Unfortunately, Malaysia cannot play in the third qualifying round for the World Cup, but it has an important schedule ahead. The ASEAN Championship (Mitsubishi Cup), the World Cup in Southeast Asia, will be held in November this year, and the Asian Cup qualifying round will also be held next year.

“Basically, we have to go to the semifinals of the Mitsubishi Cup,” coach Kim said. “We have a tough team, but our goal is to produce results in our own way. Malaysia is also very passionate about soccer. When we tied with South Korea at the Asian Cup, Malaysia was said to be really crazy. I want to heat up once again in the last tournament of this year. We also need to make a history of advancing to the finals of the 밤알바 Asian Cup for the second time in a row.”

Korea is also closely monitoring the situation in its home country. After failing to appoint a new coach for more than five months, Korea has appointed its domestic leader Hong Myung-bo. While the team was adrift amid hasty administration, it has only begun a new voyage. The situation has completely changed from the days when Kim took the lead while sitting at an important post at the association. It is hard to avoid criticism that the association itself has collapsed and lost competitiveness.

“It is not appropriate for me to say this or that about the situation of the association,” Kim said cautiously, but added, “What is certain is that an unfortunate situation has occurred at a time when Korean soccer can move forward. It is most regrettable that the direction or system I suggested in the past will collapse.” He also left a message, saying, “I am always rooting for Korean soccer. It will go well and it should go well.”

He constantly observes K-League games and defines them as stages that he will return to someday. “The K-League has definitely become more strategic and interesting,” he said. “I am especially interested in the Gwangju games these days. Manager Lee Jung-hyo is a truly capable leader. Despite crises this year, I believe he is displaying the closest game model to modern soccer in the K-League. He is also playing soccer, which I am pursuing. There are many talks about interviews, but I also like that. I can do this because I have confidence in everything.”

“I also want to return to the K-League one day to compete with young and capable leaders and fight. I do my best in Malaysia now, but if I have a chance, I want to show my ability at a Korean club,” he said.

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