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Malaysian Behind Football Revival In Laos

Saturday, December 26, 2009 , Posted by samakomlao at 6:24 AM

KUALA LUMPUR: Perhaps not many people realise it, but fitness coach Raja Mohd Firhad Raja Azidin was one of those instrumental for Laos' football team's recent success in reaching the semi-finals for the first time at the SEA Games football competition.
Raja Mohd Firhad, 34, was the fitness coach for the Laotian squad for five months from July until the end of the 25th edition of the SEA Games held in Vientiane.

Relating his experience to Bernama, he said it all started when the hosts requested the Asean Football Federation (AFF) to look for a fitness coach for their national squad.

"The AFF then contacted the Faculty of Sports Science and Recreation of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) who chose me for the job in Vientiane. I was then lecturing at the faculty."

Raja Mohd Firhad, who arrived in Laos in July, said he was shocked to see the spartan facilities at the headquarters of the Laos Football Federation (LFF), which is located in a village area, about 10km from Vientiane.

He said the players' two-storey hostel, the groundfloor built from concrete and the top floor from timber, was in a mess and had only one air-conditioner.

"I then wrote to the LFF to improve the situation, to make it conducive for the players, and it was immediately attended to," he recalled.

He said the players' fitness level was low at the time and definitely not for international-level competition.

"They did not apply sports science at all in their training and their diet was not one for athletes."

He said everything then slowly changed and improved, including their diet, while they also accepted his sports science application in their training programme.

Raja Mohd Firhad said that during his five-month stint there, both the players and football federation took his advice well.

The players' fitness level markedly improved with the sports science application that he introduced in their training.

He noted that although they lagged behind in many aspects, the players had a very strong spirit to serve and make their nation proud.

"Their spirit is like that of Malaysia's football legend, the late Mokhtar Dahari who chased glory for the country and not money," he said.

With the team, Raja Mohd Firhad also managed to gain the experience of training for three months with the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Club, a top football club in Vietnam.

He is now resting at his home in Hulu Langat, near here, while waiting for his contract with the LFF to be extended as Laos is preparing for the Asian Cup 2010 qualifying round and the next SEA Games in Indonesia in 2011.

The Laos football squad which reached the semi-finals at the 25th SEA Games recently, however, lost to Malaysia 1-3.


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