: Malaysian football lost one of its greatest names in the local football arena yesterday when news of former National coach Karl-Heinz Weigang's passing filtered through, our shores from Germany, his birthplace.
Weigang's name will always remain etched in the anal of Malaysian football, as the man responsible for guiding the National team to qualify for the 1980 Moscow Olympics in Russia, a feat that has remained a distant dream for 37 years now.
The German died of a heart attack back in his own country at the age of 82.
The stone-faced Weigang who entertains no nonsense on the field took up the post of National coach in 1979 and within a year had put Malaysia on the world map by beating the likes of Japan and South Korea to clinch a spot in the Moscow Olympics, never mind the fact that Malaysia later joined the US-led boycott of the games.
Weigang and the team did not make it to the Games as the Malaysian government had decided to boycott the Olympics as a sign of protest against Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
"He (Weigang) is a strict coach but none of the players would dare oppose his directive because everyone believed in his ability. We as players realised that what he was doing was for our own good.
"His directives were loud and clear and he knows what he wants from the players. The commitment and dedication of the players was at the optimum level under his tutelage. He moulded a team that was united," said former international Khalid Ali.
Khalid described Weigang as the best coach he had played with.
"I had high regards for him and respected him. Personally I feel he was the best coach the country ever had. His passing will be a great loss to football in the country and the region," he said.
After having served in Malaysia from 1979 to 1982, Weigang took up a coaching offer in South Africa and remained in Africa for 12 years before heading to Vietnam for a three-year stint.
In 1997, Weigang returned to Malaysia to take up an offer to coach Perak who were struggling to find their footing in the league but the man with the midas touch transformed the silver state into title contenders.
In 1998, Weigang and his Perak squad were on the podium of the Malaysia Cup and two years later helped Perak to win the Malaysia Cup yet again.
For his vast contributions to football throughout the world, he received the FIFA Order of Merit in 1998.
Meanwhile, another player who was in the squad that qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Bakri Ibni said though Weigang was firm and serious, he was always a responsible person on and off the field.
"News of his death was a sad moment for Malaysian football and me personally. He was a vastly experienced coach who was at ease with the players. Players too had so much respect for him," he said.
Weigang had returned to Perak as the head coach and Technical Director last year but ended his contract prematurely in February, following Perak's results in the Super League and was replaced by Aussie Mehmet Durakovic who was the former Selangor coach.