It wasn’t the start anyone in Terengganu wanted – a 1-3 home defeat at the hands of Perak in their brand new Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium. The fans, however, have descended on one player for the failure – captain Lee Tuck.
Coach Nafuzi Zain is having none of that. For him, the team have to collectively take the blame.
The former Malaysian international said the claims by the fans are not helping the team, as they are still reeling from the demoralising defeat.
“None of us can forget that night, but to put the blame on Tuck is not fair. After Perak scored the penalty, the whole team looked down and frustrated, ” said Nafuzi.
“The players forgot what they needed to do. Before Perak scored, we did well. The first 20 minutes favoured us, and we made things difficult for them and took the lead early. When they equalised, we lost our shape.
“The third goal dented our motivation. The first game will always be tough, especially when you are playing in a new home venue. The fans wanted the win so bad, so I guess the pressure got to the players.”
Nafuzi said the fans should not forget what Tuck has done over the last two years, especially his role in helping the team qualify for the 2018 Malaysia Cup final.
“The defeat is not his fault. Before this, he played as usual. It is unfair to judge him based on one game. When we win, no one questions it, but when there is a defeat, someone gets the blame.
“Football is a team sport. We win and lose together. I have no problems with Tuck, and my problem is having him being judged unfairly. To me, he is a good player with a great work rate and commitment.”
Even the brother of Terengganu midfielder Sanjaar Shaakhmedov, Sarvar, posted on social media that the team should do away with intricate movements and play simple football.
Nafuzi was aware of the situation and said it was a misunderstanding.
“People thought it was Sanjaar, but he does not have a Facebook or Instagram account.
“He is one player who is entirely focused on football.
“I think he would have spoken to Sarvar about the game, and there was a misunderstanding. Sanjaar knows how we want to play, and he likes the way we play.
“He wants to be part of it, and as a coach, I know he has the quality to enhance our game.”
It’s early days yet for Terengganu and Nafuzi hopes his charges will bounce back when they play Kedah at the Darulaman Stadium in Alor Setar on Sunday.
He admitted that he was constantly talking to his players as their confidence had taken a battering, but hopes that getting points off Kedah would help lift the mood.
“The defeat, in a way, was a good lesson. Kedah will be a tough team to beat because they too started the season with a loss, (losing 0-1 to Johor Darul Ta’zim).
“Both teams are desperate for points, so we have to be prepared for an intense fight in Alor Setar. That is why I am constantly speaking to my players after training sessions.
“For me, I want to keep their confidence high and believing in our playing philosophy.”