Industry News

[March 01, 2006]

Bakri bucks the trend

(Malay Mail Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)IN HIS PRIME, Bakri Ibni was generally seen as a natural leader of men and a model professional.

Perlis fans saw him as the skipper, schemer and coach all rolled into one.

Others saw him as a hot-tempered player who was brutally frank.

Yet there were occasions when football officials feared for Bakri's life, as Mailsport's RIZAL HASHIM discovers.

MAILSPORT: How are you, Bakri? BAKRI IBNI: By the grace of God, I'm fine.

MS: What are you up to these days? BI: I'm in the construction business.

MS: Tell us about your early days.

BI: My late father Ibni Abu Bakar was a well-known figure in Perlis.

Apart from being a State footballer, he was a teacher who was also active in politics, business and music.

I guess the seeds were sown very early because I used to enjoy playing in the padi fields.

My friends and I used to run from one plot to another for fun.

In between kicking a ball, we used to dive and play in the well to see who would hold his breath longest underwater.

MS: What did that do to boost your career? BI: It boosted my lung capacity.

People wondered where I got all the energy to cover the pitch and I told them I was used to it from my childhood.

In fact, my heart became a cause of concern for the FA of Malaysia (FAM).

Team doctor Prof Dr Thambyrajah discovered that I had an irregular heartbeat and a slow pulse.

During a medical check-up not long after Karl Weigang took charge of the team, Prof Thambyrajah wanted me to undergo further tests at the University Hospital.

I was subjected to further fitness tests whereby I was asked to jog on the treadmill and cycle.

They were worried my heart would fail me on the pitch.

I told them I never suffered chest pains whatsoever.

MS: Your leadership qualities shone at an early age, I understand.

BI: I was exposed to coaching from the age of 10, I'm not too sure if it was by design or otherwise.

What I knew was our former coach Syed Yazid Abdan had his hands full in handling Perlis' secondary and primary school teams for the Malaysian Schools competition or MSSM.

So for three years I was basically his assistant.

Each time Syed Yazid, fondly known as Pak Tuan, went to the senior team around 4.30pm, I was left to take charge of the Under-12 side.

I was also made skipper of the Malaysian Schools' Under-15 side that competed in the first Asean Schools competition in 1969.

It was a proud moment for me.

MS: Your siblings also added colour to the local scene.

BI: Bakri, Azahar, Azali and Azaham were the footballing brothers that put Perlis on the local map.

MS: When did you first taste international football? BI: It was the Vietnam Independence Day in Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City) in 1972.

I have fond memories of the tournament because there were two others who made their debut along with me, the late Mokhtar Dahari and R.

Arumugam.

Santokh Singh was dropped while keeper Lim Fung Kee left for Hong Kong during centralised training.

MS: The pre-Olympics in 1980 must have been one of the highlights of your chequered career? BI: Naturally.

But at that time I was at my peak and was optimistic that Malaysia would qualify based on the quality that we had.

The squad were made up of technically equipped players who, above all, possessed strong characters.

Shukor Salleh, Khalid Ali and I formed the midfi eld triumvirate, while James Wong carried the role as the target man, with Abdullah Ali and Hassan Sani on the fl anks.

When I scored the opening goal against Korea in the final, it was like a dream come true for me.

MS: Unfortunately, the squad never realised their potential due to the boycott and were left instead with a world tour.

BI: It was not to be.

The world tour was also an eye-opener.

We played a few games in Brazil, Switzerland and Germany.

It was in Germany that I truly appreciated the sheer genius that Soh Chin Aun was.

Weigang was betting with his compatriots that Malaysia would score 11 goals against an amateur side.

We led 9-0 and Weigang decided to withdraw senior players like Chin Aun, myself and give the likes of Ramli Junit and Wan Jamak Hassan a chance to play.

But the score remained unchanged until 10 minutes to go and Weigang was not about to lose his wager.

He sent Chin Aun back into the game and true enough, he responded with two goals.

To me, that was a moment of magic.

MS: Did you take to coaching like fish to water? BI: I coached Perlis, Bank Rakyat, JKR Perlis and became an assistant to Rahim Abdullah in the national team in 1991.

Having been exposed to coaching at a young age, I guess it was a natural progression.

MS: You went under the surgeon's knife on two occasions.

Did it hamper your career? BI: For sure it did.

My knees were almost shattered but I remember working hard and undergoing rehabilitation to recover after two months and 16 days.

The reward - an opportunity to share the pitch with the celebrities from New York Cosmos, namely Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Neeskens and Ciro Chinaglia.

PROFILE BAKRI IBNI DATE OF BIRTH: Aug 25, 1954 FAMILY: Seventh of 12 siblings.

Wife Tengku Farah Tengku Yusof, daughter Puteri Nadhira and son Wan Muhammad Shahrom HONOURS: Represented Malaysia from 1972 to 1983, helped Malaysia qualify for the Moscow Olympics in 1980, a member of the Asian Cup squad in Kuwait 1980, helped Malaysia to the SEA Games gold medal in 1977 and 1979


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