Former Victory coach the toast of Selangor

There are surely not many Australians who have been responsible for a public holiday in one of the most populous states in Malaysia but Mehmet Durakovic is one of them.

On Saturday, in front of over 70,000 fans at the Shah Alam Stadium, the former Socceroo and Melbourne Victory head coach led Selangor to victory in the final of the Malaysia Cup.

Former Socceroo's Malaysian Cup win

The 2-0 win over Kedah came with goals in the third minute of each half, fittingly so, as the club had become obsessed with Misi 33 – the quest to win the trophy for the 33rd time. 

Trophy number 32 had come back in 2005 and the wait for the next had become painful.

“The curse had been broken,” said Durakovic, the man who became the first foreigner to win the competition as a player – back in 1995,1996 and 1997 with the same team - and a coach. “ I am proud of that unique record. It's an honour.”

Tickets had been sold out days before with prices rising higher than Selangor defender Robbie Cornthwaite at the back post. The excitement in the state, just outside Kuala Lumpur, was palpable. 

“I witnessed it as a player when we won three years in a row but when you are playing, you don't really notice as you are too busy playing. As a coach to get the feeling, it is a dream come true. 

"For the state of Selangor to declare a public holiday, it is unheard of, it has never happened," said Durakovic.

Even more impressive is the fact that Durakovic has achieved success despite coaching under a constant cloud of speculation over his future. 

There has been report after report in the Malaysia media that the Australian would be out on his ear at the end of this season despite having a year left on his contract with the five-time league champion.

Finishing second in the league, behind big-spending Johor Darul Tazkim and now the cup should make a difference but in the frenzied world of Southeast Asia, you can never be sure.

“As far as I know, I will be the coach next year. I have a contract,” said Durakovic who understands the expectations surrounding the Red Giants. 

“It's one of the biggest clubs in Southeast Asia and always wants success. We ended in second last year and did a fantastic job. 

"We are all chasing Johor as they have the biggest budget. We have the second smallest budget and have a problem with players leaving. 

"We won the Malaysia Cup and achieved everything the club wanted if not more. People thought we would be mid-table at best and what we did was a miracle. 

"Five of my best players left last year and I played with a young team, we worked hard and got what we deserved.”

Despite leaving Melbourne in 2012, he still keeps in touch with goings on in the Hyundai A-League and his old club Melbourne Victory. 

“I watch the league every week via satellite. Melbourne Victory is one of the biggest clubs in Australia. The supporters are fantastic, the board are wonderful and want the best for the club. 

"Kevin Muscat has done a fantastic job.”

Mehmet Durakovic and Kevin Muscat

With games like last week, he is not quite ready to return just yet. “I love Australia. It is a fantastic what the Hyundai A-League has done but Asian football is totally different. 

"To see 80,000 people at the games is incredible and I hope that one day, we can see that in the A-League on a regular basis.”

Next season though the coach and his team, including the popular Cornthwaite, have the AFC Cup - the continent's competition for developing nations (Johor won the 2015 version) to look forward to.

“I will sit down with the management, see where we are going. To compete in the AFC Cup and this league, then we are going to need a bigger budget. 

"We are going to need more internationals and a bigger budget. We need to compete financially. 

"If I can get some more money for next year then we can really look forward to the challenges ahead.”