KUALA LUMPUR • Former Malaysian defender Ong Kim Swee was named as his national side's coach yesterday, as the country's football association looks to arrest a dramatic fall in the international rankings.
The 45-year-old was picked over two other shortlisted candidates - Croatian Bojan Hodak and Dutchman Robert Alberts - and will look to bolster a national side who suffered a shocking 10-0 defeat by the United Arab Emirates in a World Cup qualifier in September.
"I thank the FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) management for giving me the trust. I know it is a hot seat. I will try to make the team win matches and improve our ranking," a delighted Ong said.
"I have confidence in the players. They have demonstrated passion, hard work and determination."
Ong received a two-year deal and will take on the position full time after being named the national side's interim coach following the resignation of his predecessor Dollah Salleh after the UAE defeat.
Fuming over the record drubbing, Malaysian fans subsequently lit flares in the stands during a 2018 World Cup qualifying match against Saudi Arabia.
Ong's immediate task will be to prepare the national team for a World Cup qualifier in Saudi Arabia on March 24, and to lead Malaysia in the 2019 Asian Cup qualifying matches in the middle of the year.
He faces a tough job, however, as Malaysia's football-mad fans expect a return to form quickly, a fact he acknowledged by saying: "I hope the fans will support the team and not turn to violence."
The Tigers have plunged to 171 in the Fifa world football rankings - their worst-ever ranking, down from ranking 79th in the world in 1993.
Critics blame the country's football association, saying it has failed to invest in youth development programmes or to protect playing fields from developers.
Match-fixing, meanwhile, has also repeatedly hit the headlines in the country's domestic league.