NATIONAL Coach K.Rajagopal celebrates his 53rd Birthday today, and the year is full with challenges for these former Selangor player.
He had to face many challenges in his career as a footballer and coach since he started being involved in football as a student.
His biggest challenge came when he was unceremoniously dropped as the Selangor coach after the 2000 season.
It was more painful as the former international had steered the Red Giants to the Premier I league title in the M-League. Under Rajagopal, Selangor also qualified for the semi-finals of the Malaysia Cup and were quarter-finalists in the FA Cup competition.
And to pursue his coaching career, Rajagopal quit his job as a technician in PKNS and signed up with Kelantan.
“It was a tough and also a risky decision as I had been with PKNS for about 22 years. I have to thank PKNS general manager Datuk Harun Salim for his guidance during that time. Datuk Harun has played a big part in my football career,’’ said Rajagopal.
Being a disciplined and hardworking person, Rajagopal made his presence felt in Kota Baru and won over the Kelantan players as well as the local crowd.
Kelantan finished an impressive third in the Premier League and also qualified for the Malaysia Cup semi-finals.
In 2004, Rajagopal led the National Under-21 team to the quarter-finals in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) championship. The effort was commendable as Malaysia made it to the quarter-finals after 30 long years. He was also the caretaker coach for the national squad for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Rajagopal has come a long way since he took up football as a schoolboy. As a student of Setapak High School, Rajagopal had represented his school in various age group competitions.
His first club was Cholan Youth, which was involved in the Selangor Football League in 1975. After three seasons, he was employed by PKNS and played for them until 1995.
While with PKNS, it was a another challenge as he had calibre players like the legendary Mokhtar Dahari, R. Arumugam, Santokh Singh and Soh Chin Aun as his team-mates.
“I will always cherish the times I had with them. I was just a rookie and they made me feel at home and encouraged me. I had the opportunity to play along side Mokhtar as a striker for PKNS as well as Selangor,’’ said Rajagopal.
His football career flourished when he was with PKNS. Soon he was picked for Selangor and eventually Malaysia
What was his most memorable moments as a player and coach?
“The 1980 Malaysia Cup final. We were up against Singapore. They had a star-studded side and we beat them 4-0. No one, at that time, could have dreamed of the result. It was a great match and we enjoyed ourselves.
“As a coach, I would remember the award by the AFC. In 2000, I was named as the AFC Coach for the month of August. It was a recognition to the challenges I had gone through in my football career,’’ said Rajagopal.
I have known Rajagopal for the last 12 years, and through the years I have also had the opportunity to meet and spent time with his wonderful family.
His beloved wife, whom I call "AKKA" (Sister) is his number 1 fan, She is always in prayer and fasting, hoping the husband will do well in his duties, she keeps away from all publicity and is most humble human I have known after my wonderful mother,in the deepest moment of life she is there and will always be there for the man whom she stands for.
His elders son K.Ganeson graduates next month with BSc Degree in Forensic Science (University Malaya) while the second son Dheepan is doing his first year in Mass Communication with SEGI College.
As coach, when your doing well the entire community will praise you, but the moment you lose, it's crucifying all the way. Only the Family stands by the You. JAIHO wishes many more blessings, success and good health for K.Rajagopal.
Name: K. RajagopalDate of Birth: July 10, 1956
Marital Status: Married to M. Chanthra
Children: R. Kanason (23 years) and R.Deepan (20)
Player:1975-1977 : Cholan Youth in the Selangor League
1978-1995 : PKNS in the Selangor League
1987-1984 : Selangor in the Malaysia Cup (won the Malaysia Cup six times)
1981-1982 : National Team
1987-1989 : Kulitkraf1990
PKNS, Selangor Sukma and President Cup squads
1997 :Selangor Gold Cup and Bardhan Cup (Selangor were champions in both competitions)
1998-1999 : Selangor interim coach (Steered Selangor to finish second in Premier II and earn promotion)
2000 : Head coach of Selangor (won the Premier I title, Malaysia Cup semi-finals and FA Cup quarter-finals).
2001- 2002 : Head coach of Kelantan (third in league and Malaysia Cup semifinals in 2001)2003-2005 : Head coach of the national Under-21 team.
2004 : Caretaker coach national team for the World Cup qualifiers2005:
Head coach of national Under-20 team (qualified for the AFC Under-20 final round in India)
1989: Football Association of Malaysia preliminary coaching certificate
1990: Football Association of Malaysia advanced coaching certificate
1992: Football Association of MalaysiaA coaching licence
1998: Football Association on German A coaching licence
2003: Asian Football Confederation professional diploma coaching certificate.