Johor Darul Ta’zim’s long-serving head coach Benjamin Mora shockingly announced this week that he’s stepping down from his position. The news came as the Southern Tigers prepared themselves for their maiden foray into the AFC Champions League knockouts as well as continuing their quest in defending the Liga Super Malaysia title for the ninth consecutive time.
Citing family matters back in his native Mexico that needed his urgent attention as the reason behind his departure, Mora was absent from the JDT bench in their last two competitive matches, against bottom-of-the-table Penang FC in the Liga Super on July 20th and during JDT’s 2-1 win away at Melaka United in the Malaysia FA Cup on July 23rd, before the announcement regarding his departure was made this midweek.
During the two matches, first team matters were handled by assistant coach Mohd Hamzani Omar, who did alright with his mammoth of a task with two wins out of two.
Since joining the JDT setup back in 2015, Mora had established himself as the Southern Tigers’ most successful head coach, winning four Liga Super titles, four Piala Sumbangsih titles, a Malaysia Cup, and leading JDT into the AFC Champions League knockouts for the first time ever this season – which was also the first time a Malaysian club has went so far in Asia’s premier club competition.
The JDT higher-ups acted swiftly in response to Mora’s abrupt departure, bringing in former Newell’s Old Boys manager Hector Bidoglio to succeed the Mexican. The Venezuelan was a relative unknown outside of South America, however he did study underneath the tutelage of former Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa during their time together at the Chile national team back in 2009.
Bidoglio will have the difficult task of continuing what Mora had left to him in the remainder of the season. JDT are currently top of this season’s Liga Super standings, four points above surprise title contenders Sabah FC with a game in hand. The Southern Tigers are also set to face J.League 1 side Urawa Red Diamonds at their Saitama Stadium 2002 in three weeks’ time, as well as taking on Penang in the Malaysia FA Cup semifinal on August 5th.