Kuala Lumpur City Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the City Boys former head coach Ismail Zakaria, at the age of 60.
Ismail guided the Red & White for one season in 2016, finishing fifth in the Premier League to secure a Malaysia Cup qualification berth that year, but failed to progress beyond the group stage comprising of Super League sides Selangor, Kelantan & Pahang. In the FA Cup, the City Boys were shown the exit at the quarter-final stage, losing 0-2 on aggregate to top division Perak. Nevertheless, it was the first time the City Boys reached those stages of both competitions since 2011.
A move as the Head of Coaching Education Department at the Football Association of Malaysia followed in 2017, before he joined Kuantan FA as head coach for the 2018 Premier League, then in a similar role at UiTM FC in 2019, helping the latter achieve promotion to the big league.
Amongst his greatest achievements as a professional coach was during his tenure with Sime Darby FC from 2010 to 2015, leading them to their meteoric rise from the bottom of the Malaysian football pyramid in the Kuala Lumpur (state) league to the FA Cup final in 2012, where they lost to Kelantan, a historic first appearance of any club in the final of this competition. Winning the FAM Cup (then third level in the national pyramind) in 2010 in their debut season, paved the way for promotion to the Premier League the following year where the finished fifth out of 12 teams. They were runner-up in 2013, allowing them a chance in the Super League for 2014, finishing fifth but getting relegated in 2015, after which Ismail parted ways with the Giantkillers.
Prior to that, he was Selangor’s Coaching Director from 2008 to 2010 and also stepped in to take over as head coach from Stephen John Wicks in 1998. He was also involved in the national beach soccer team as head coach for a couple of stints as well as holding the post of head at the FAM Coaching Unit.
Irfan who came in from Harimau Muda and Zhafri from Selangor’s President Cup squad are two players in the current City Boys squad brought in by Ismail.
Picking up from his interview with the New Straits Times, Zhafri spoke of his former coach,
“It’s a big shock for me to hear about his demise. He was a kind coach who believed in young players. He was very involved in my career, signing me for KL in 2016. He gave me playing time with KL, at that time not a lot of coaches would give young players much play time but he did. He emphasised on players’ techniques in training, and it really helped me to reach the level I am at now. He always advised players and took care of our welfare. I will never forget his kindness when I was learning as a young footballer.”
Ismail suffered a heart attack yesterday afternoon while at a private hospital in Balakong, unfortunately succumbing to it.
The thoughts and prayers of everyone associated with the Club are with Ismail’s family in this difficult time and it would be appreciated if everyone would respect their need for privacy.