Kim Pangong demonstrates skillful people management and motivational skills as he leads the Malaysian national soccer team

Malaysian coach Kim Pangong during the international friendly match against Thailand. (Photo: Pakawich Damronkiatisak/Getty Images)

Shortly after landing on Malaysian shores, Kim Pangong was given his first test of managing the human resources at his disposal.

Two players from the club were called to the national coach’s office on the second floor of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) headquarters. The pair were among those called to the club’s first intensive training camp in March 2022, and were deemed to have breached hotel discipline.

The Koreans told the FAM secretariat to purchase one-way tickets to return home for the two players. Then he confronted them separately. The duo were given an ultimatum: either their names be permanently removed from future convocations, or they pledged their full commitment to the cause.

Both players chose option two, with one player remaining a fixture ever since and the other remaining in Kim’s interest and recently recalled to the team.

Malaysia, languishing at 154th in the FIFA world rankings, needed a boost on all fronts. And Kim’s presence raised the game of everyone, including FAM’s non-technical staff.

Within two years, Harimau Malaya was ranked 130th in the November 2023 rankings, thanks to the feat of defeating the top countries. The team recorded 18 wins, 4 draws, and 5 losses out of 27 games, a winning percentage of 66.77.

How did the 54-year-old Korean do it?

Work ethics requirements

His spirit was first discovered by a non-technical staff member. Kim demanded a lot in terms of work ethic, meeting deadlines, and new ideas.

He had experience in team management, as he was vice president of the Korean Football Association (KFA) and chairman of the national team committee, which held the hiring and firing license. By accepting FAM’s offer in January 2022, he relinquished his authority as KFA national team chief executive. This position is currently held by Michael Muller, who hired Jurgen Klinsmann to manage the Taegeuk Warriors.

two assistants, Mr. Pau Marti and Mr. E. Elavarasan, performance analyst Mr. Lim Jae-hoon, assistant field coach Mr. Park Bo-bae, fitness trainer Dr. Gokhan Kandemir (later replaced by Mr. Park Ji-hyun), Kim put together a set with goalkeeper coach Jo Jun-ho. He is trying to form the national team. They scoured the country and identified up to 80 players from the Super League and now-defunct Premier League who fit Mr Kim’s philosophy.

Kim, who is also a father of two, also introduced a new approach as he began to create a high-performance environment for the national team.

FAM was asked to decorate the team’s hotel with Harimau Malaya branding and motivational quotes in marketing materials. The coach, known in the office as KPG, instilled in his players a sense of belonging, faith and a great deal of patriotism at every opportunity.

“He wanted the team to be treated as a representative of the country – Malaysia’s best team that deserves to be treated with respect,” the source said.

Malaysian national soccer coach Kim Pangong (center) gives instructions to Quentin Cheng (left) and Lee Tak during the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup semi-final match against Thailand held at Bukit Jalil National Stadium. Malaysian national soccer coach Kim Pangong (center) gives instructions to Quentin Cheng (left) and Lee Tak during the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup semi-final match against Thailand held at Bukit Jalil National Stadium.

Malaysian national soccer coach Kim Pangong (center) gives instructions to Quentin Cheng (left) and Lee Tak during the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup semi-final match against Thailand held at Bukit Jalil National Stadium. (Photo: Yong Taek Lim/Getty Images)

Discovering local talent with naturalized athletes

Mr Kim was virtually unknown when he arrived in Malaysia, but has since become beloved by the people.

The few people who know Mr. Kim are former national team coach Datuk K. Rajagoval, Aminuddin Hussein, and the late B. Satyananthan, who attended the AFC Professional Diploma conducted by Howard Wilkinson in Kuala Lumpur in 2003.・They were course participants. They completed courses in Germany and South Korea. Kim, 34 years old at the time, was also the youngest participant.

Members of the media also remember Kim during his stay with the Hong Kong team that drew 1-1 in Malacca in the 2017 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, during which he was defeated by Portuguese coach Eduardo “Nero” Bingada was destined to lose out as Malaysia’s champion.

The Korean players have a talented team of homegrown players such as flankers Akhyar Rashid, Faisal Abdul Halim and Arif Ayman Hanapi, and goalkeeper Ahmad Shihan Hazmi, as well as naturalized Malaysian players such as Corbin Ong. succeeded in connecting the. Matt Davies, Dion Cools, Stuart Wilkin and Darren Lock are starting to mature as a team.

Two hard-won victories in the 2026 World Cup/2027 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers – a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Kyrgyzstan, which is 40 places higher than Malaysia in the FIFA rankings, and another 1-0 away win against Chinese Taipei. Victory – In contrast to the toothless Guilherme de Paula in previous coach Tan Cheng-ho’s line-up, he was fortunate to be able to bring in the likes of naturalized foreigners Paulo Josue and Endric dos Santos. It bodes well for gold.

Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin, who appointed Kim as FAM chairman, also appointed businessman Datuk Wira Kamarul Arifin Mohd Chahal as the team’s manager. Former Malaysia Under-19 national team coach Kamarul’s job was to deal with the quirks and eccentricities of his players and maintain team harmony in any way possible.

Thanks to the team’s strength, Malaysia’s dream of competing in the 2026 World Cup, to be held in the United States, Mexico and Canada, remains alive.

So far, Kim has shown a willingness to address external factors, including pressure from forces outside FAM that are seen as interference and the negative aspects of social media. Years of dealing with egos in the Hong Kong soccer industry have made him adept at political punishment.

Combining Korean discipline, Hong Kong openness and Malaysian compromise, Mr. Kim has seen off challenges as a storm in a teacup. Will this situation continue until the AFC Asian Cup final in Doha in January and beyond?

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