Brendan Gan's doggedness needed to drag Selangor back to greatness

Goal.com

Aussie-born Malaysia international Brendan Gan's decision to join Selangor for the 2020 season is the next chapter in the midfielder's career.

And what a career it has been, for a man who has had to fight tooth and nail to overcome setbacks on more than one occassion.

Having been released by A-League's Sydney FC in 2011 for failing to earn a permanent spot, he took a step down to play in one of the country's state leagues, before beginning the first chapter of his adventure in Malaysia.

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Having garnered interest in his father's native Malaysia, Gan joined Sabah ahead of the 2012 season, then as a foreign player. His first foray did not produce anything memorable, mainly due to Sabah's waning Super League staying power. At the end of the season, the Rhinos would end up relegated (they would only return to the top tier for the current 2020 season), while Gan would return to Australia for another second-tier stint.

His next Malaysian foray would come ahead of the 2014 season, which would prove to be a more permanent stay, despite the oncoming obstacles that he would have to overcome.

He signed a three-year deal with Kelantan, arguably the most successful Malaysian team of the early 2010's, first as a foreign player. Just months later he would receive his Malaysian identity card, allowing him to be registered as a local player, as well as rendering him eligible for a Malaysia call-up. 

Kelantan's Brendan Gan (left) against Terengganu 2016
Kelantan's Brendan Gan (left) against Terengganu 2016

Brendan Gan playing for Kelantan. Photo from Terengganu FA

The next two years would be the darkest chapter of his career, which would in turn showcase his determination as a professional. In the space of 19 months, he would rupture his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) twice; first while playing for Kelantan in a league fixture in February 2015, the second while playing for Malaysia in a 3-0 friendly defeat to Indonesia in September 2016. 

The 2016 injury saw his contract with the Red Warriors expiring without being extended, and him needing to return to Australia for rehabilitation.

Anyone would have been forgiven for writing off Gan's chances of bouncing back from two debilitating injuries at the age 28, but he would go on to surprise many.

Perak's signing of him ahead of the 2018 season, thanks to the insistence of Australian head coach Mehmet Durakovic, raised many eyebrows, but he would prove the doubters wrong in what was literally the Bos Gaurus' last match of the season; their Malaysia Cup final clash against Terengganu FC. In the clash that would be made a dramatic one thanks to numerous dodgy refereeing decisions, he single-handedly carried his nervous team in the match with an assist and a stoppage-time equaliser that kept their chances alive, before winning the tie on penalties. To date, it remained his only silverware.

His feat did not go unnoticed by Malaysia head coach Tan Cheng Hoe, who returned him to the Harimau Malaya fold next year. He initially performed decently for his adopted nation, but just like in the previous year, it was towards the end of the year that he eventually shone. Against regional powerhouse Thailand in their World Cup Asian qualifying group match at home in November, his assist and goal helped the hosts produce a come-from-behind 2-1 win, to keep their qualification hopes alive.

That, and his performance for Perak in the 2019 Malaysia Cup, in which he scored two goals in their quarter-final defeat to Selangor, eventually made him a transfer target for the Red Giants who are in the midst of rebuilding, under president Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Sharafuddin.  

A club source had earlier revealed to Goal the importance of Gan's signing, that it was hoped that the Malaysia international would inspire the Red Giants squad not only on, but also off, the pitch with his professionalism.

Despite the new administration's earnest efforts to take the club into the 21st century and their new roster, Selangor are still weighed down by past baggage; mismanagement, complacency, undue player influence, inconsistent fan support, as well as a lack of confidence.

In the 2019 season, their first full season under Tengku Amir, the squad showed just how much potential they possessed, only to fall just short of greatness and winning over the fans. Head coach B. Satiananthan was unduly proud of their third-place finish, while his charges were knocked out early in the FA Cup and whipped 5-1 on aggregate by Malaysian giants JDT in the Malaysia Cup semi-finals.

Gan began brightly for Selangor, again through an assist and a goal, helping them record a 2-1 away win against Pahang in their first Super League match. But their three subsequent matches before competitions were suspended due to the Covid-19 outbreak ended in two draws and a defeat, with Gan struggling to emulate the starring performance he had produced in his Selangor debut.

No one in their right mind would blame him for his new team's mediocre results, but many are expecting a player of his stature to help turn their performance around, when (or if) the 2020 season resumes.

He will be 32 next month, but if anyone can remind the fallen giants of their past glory, it must surely be the player who has had to restart his career on multiple occassions after overcoming major setbacks.

Just like what he did for himself, this time around, Gan will need to heroically help Selangor return to the top.

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