Aussies in Asia special: Jon McKain

​There are some fantastic experiences to be had for Australian players all over Asia on and off the pitch. But even when things don’t go as well as they could, the memories can be as invaluable as the lessons, says Asian football expert John Duerden.

Jonathan McKain is just about to finish a two-year contract with Kelantan, one of the biggest clubs in Malaysia.

“I was never wanting to stay any longer but I will finish my contract and move on,” said McKain.

“I will return to Brisbane for a while to see my family and look for the next step. I am open to many possibilities.”

First, the former Adelaide United and Wellington Pheonix man needs a rest.

“It has been pretty draining here with the issues we have had. The management of the club is not very good.

McKain primed for Victory clash

“My two years here have been disappointing in that regard as there is so much potential here.”

Kelantan, Malaysia Super League champion in 2011 and again in 2012, have had well-documented financial problems.

Players and coaches past and present are still waiting for outstanding monies.

“It has been impossible to do my job with so many distractions,” said the former Caltex Socceroo.

“I am owed quite a lot of money and it doesn’t look like I will be paid so I will have to go down the FIFA route. I don’t want to but I have no choice. I am in that process at the moment.”

Just before the start of the 2016 season, there was some good news. A new sponsor was ready to invest around $5.5 million.

The company was Vida Beauty, a popular cosmetic company. The owner, known to millions as Seri Vida, was a flamboyant figure and happy to make headlines.

She made plenty. Kelantan, the Red Warriors, started playing in pink and parts of the club’s home stadium in Kota Bharu, in north-eastern Malaysia, were painted the same colour.

Seri Vida was found on the bench during games smiling into the camera.

McKain found it interesting as the Red Warriors became pinker.

McKain  Berisha.

“I hadn’t been here long enough to let it bother me. I don’t think fans were bothered either. We had plenty of change strips.

“At the start there was massive hype. She is well-known and has money and big plans but what they promised basically never happened.

“The club puts a lot of its problems down to promises not being honoured.”

Even with the issues, Kelantan finished fourth this season. The potential is huge.

“The fans are great. They have passion and love for football and the team. There is one team in the town and the fans love it. So it is sad to see how let down the fans have been.

“We have had a good team but changing coaches, sacking foreign players and the ongoing financial issues make it hard. It is hard to focus when you are not getting paid.”

There are happy memories, not least the 2015 FA Cup final against the Singapore Lions in Kuala Lumpur. The game may have ended in defeat but the occasion was stunning.

“There were 95,000 fans there and 90,000 were ours. There were 65,000 there six hours before kick-off.

“ The colour and the noises was something else. It was disappointing to lose but it was a fantastic experience.”

So there are fantastic times to he had to the players who make their choice wisely. McKain advises his compatriots to take time before making the move.

“Any players have to do their homework. There have been quite a few Aussies in Malaysia that have done quite well and they are worth talking to. There is a risk but it is also an experience.”