• Coach Mehmet Durakovic celebrates in front of the Perak supporters (Twitter)Source: Twitter
Ange Postecoglou may have won the J1 League in style with Yokohama F. Marinos but Mehmet Durakovic’s exploits in Malaysia should not be underestimated.
John Duerden

18 Apr 2020 - 9:55 AM  UPDATED 18 Apr 2020 - 9:55 AM

The former Socceroo has survived, thrived and won silverware in one of the most cutthroat coaching scenes in the world.

After a tough spell as Melbourne Victory boss ended in 2012, Durakovic headed to Malaysia to become one of the leading coaches in Southeast Asia, taking Selangor to the Malaysia Cup in 2015 and repeating the feat with Perak three years later.

Being in lockdown far from home is a new challenge, however.

The Australian tactician was busy bringing the good times back to Perak before the Malaysia Super League was suspended in March.

Now he is stuck indoors in the city of Ipoh, about 3 hours drive north of Kuala Lumpur, and unable to go to the city’s famous restaurants.

“My wife and family was supposed to come out but were not able to,” Durakovic told The World Game.

“It is difficult to be alone and I am not used to being by myself. There is so much great food in Malaysia and fantastic restaurants so here you don’t think about cooking.

"Before I could do toasted cheese sandwiches and scrambled eggs but I am getting there.”

There is enough at least to keep the 54-year-old busy.

“Thank God for the internet. I ordered a treadmill to keep me fit. I have been watching videos of our games, analysing players, other teams and old games," he added.

He also keeps in touch with his Perak players.

“We have video conferences every week and they all have fitness programmes but it is not easy," he said.

"Some of them live in apartments and can’t go out so they have to train indoors.

"It is not easy to keep them motivated and enthusiastic. You do as much as you can and you keep your fingers crossed that everyone is happy and healthy.”

It remains to be seen when the season restarts but it could be that games will be played behind closed doors.

Perak’s final game this year, a 2-2 draw at Sabah, went ahead without fans. It left the club in second after four games of the season but it was a strange experience. 

“Playing in an empty stadium does have an effect on players and it feels like a practice game," Durakovic said.

It is likely that when the Malaysia Super League restarts however, it will be without supporters.

“I hope it doesn’t happen but it is better than no football. The main priority is the safety of players, staff and referees. When everything is safe then we can play," he added.

While there are no games, Malaysian clubs perhaps have fewer financial worries than most as they are backed by state governments. Durakovic knows that the situation back home is a little different.

“I’ve been reading about the A-League. If they don’t play the games, then there are money issues, it is difficult from the point of view of the clubs," he said.

Despite success in Malaysia with Selangor and Perak, there have not been many opportunities for Durakovic to return to the A-League. 

“There have not really been any approaches but I do watch the league on television. I am very happy the way things are going here and I have had some success," he said.

After two years with Selangor, he has already passed the three-year mark with Perak.

“As a foreign coach, to last in Southeast Asia and Malaysia is very difficult unless you have had a lot of success," he added.

"It is just the way it is. You have to deliver or the job will be given to someone else. I am happy here but one day, I would like to go home to Australia and coach.”