Aidil relishes challenge of reviving Kedah's fortunes
Aidil leaves Home to take on the challenge of reviving Kedah FA's fortunes
Leaving the comforts of home is never an easy decision, but Home United coach Aidil Sharin is relishing the challenge of leading a foreign club's quest for honours.
The 41-year-old will depart next week to assume his new role as head coach of Malaysian side Kedah FA, having taken up the appointment last month following an outstanding season with the Protectors.
Aidil led Home to the Asean zone title of the AFC Cup, raising eyebrows as his side defeated the likes of Persija Jakarta and Ceres Negros along the way, despite having only a largely all-local side to work with.
It was not the first time Kedah had made an offer, though, said Aidil. Last season, the Alor Setar side had also reached out to him to talk terms, but nothing was cast in stone as Aidil had no intention of going abroad yet.
However, following Home's achievements this season, which included a second-placed finish in the Singapore Premier League - their highest since 2013 - he felt it was only "natural" to take up the challenge.
"After the 2017 season, I felt it wasn't the right time because my two-year plan with Home United was still ongoing and I knew we could achieve more, so I wanted to stay," Aidil told The New Paper.
"Looking back now, it's definitely time to challenge myself at a higher level and expose myself outside of Singapore."
Aidil recalled how some foreign clubs started reaching out to him after the Protectors had beaten Persija in the AFC Cup Asean zone semi-finals (3-2 at home, 3-1 away) in May.
"In the beginning, it was supposed to be Persija, because after we beat them, they were very serious about me being the next coach there.
"But after that, more calls started streaming in. There was an offer from another Indonesian club and two Malaysian clubs came in as well."
Aidil eventually agreed terms with Kedah, whom he felt shared similar beliefs.
Explaining that the 2016 Malaysia Cup champions were looking to build a team with their new management, after their disappointing sixth-placed finish in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) this year, Aidil said: "We discussed that in just one year, we can't win anything.
"Kedah are very serious about building a team with new foreigners and new local players from outside the state. So just as we've shown at Home United, overnight successes are not something I can make happen unless we have all the luck in the world.
"We're looking at gradual improvements so that hopefully, we can emerge (MSL) champions in the next two years."
To that end, the Canaries have wasted no time in boosting their squad.
They have signed former Sevilla striker Fernando Rodriguez, whom Aidil is familiar with as the 31-year-old had turned out for Ceres before joining Indonesian club Mitra Kukar, where he scored 15 goals in 28 matches this year.
The Canaries' midfield engine room will be run by Iraqi playmaker Anmar Almubaraki, who came up through the Dutch youth system with FC Twente academy.
One of Aidil's trusted lieutenants at Home, defender Shakir Hamzah, will also be joining him at Kedah, having played a key role in the Singapore national team's recent AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.
Said Aidil: "Of course, I suggested to bring Shakir with me, because he's been one of my best players.
"His work rate is outstanding this season, and everyone agrees that he makes a lot of difference to the team, and I think it's time for him to play overseas."
Amid all the bustle, Aidil is thrilled to take on his new role and rise to the challenge of a different football scene.
Reminiscing his 2018 season, which was his longest to date, Aidil admits that it has been bittersweet for him.
"We did well in the AFC Cup, and you can't take the credit away from the boys; but at the end of the day, we still lost to Albirex Niigata (in the SPL) although we always tried to give them a hard time," he said.
"On my part, I'm quite disappointed for the second year in a row, I didn't get the Coach of the Year award."
Aidil was up against two foreign coaches - Brunei DPMM's Rene Weber and Albirex Niigata's Kazuaki Yoshinaga, who eventually won the award for a second year running.
But Aidil believes that as he moves north, perhaps his fortunes would follow in the same direction too.
"The hard work doesn't end here, it's just the beginning… who knows I might have better luck across the Causeway?"