Football/Soccer

Globe-trotting Belfast coach Paul Munster lands new job in top Indonesian league

Belfast man Paul Munster takes Bhayangkara training ahead of his first game in charge, against Bali United today
Neil Loughran

GLOBE-TROTTING coach Paul Munster is on the move again after taking charge of Indonesian outfit Bhayangkara FC.

During his playing days, the west Belfast man plied his trade in Canada and the Czech Republic before coming home to star in David Jeffrey’s successful Linfield side of the late Noughties.

After relocating to Germany and then Sweden, a managerial career that began in Scandinavia has thus far led Munster to India before being appointed manager of the Vanuatu national team back in February.

The 37-year-old had big ambitions to bring the 166th-ranked Pacific islanders and, even in his short spell at the helm, oversaw significant progress that included a 0-0 draw with New Zealand.

However, when the opportunity of a move to the Indonesian Liga came up, it proved too good to turn down for a man who is never afraid of a challenge.

“Vanuatu played against the national team a few months back so my name kept popping up, and when their coach was sacked I was recommended,” said Munster.

“I just felt it was a good chance to go to a higher level, and I missed the day to day management of club football. This is a higher level with higher exposure, so the timing was perfect to go.”

Jakarta-based Bhayangkara currently compete in Liga 1, and were champions two years ago.

However, at the split in the Indonesian season they currently sit 12th in the 18-team league, and Munster’s first game in charge took place yesterday - a 0-0 draw with runaway league leaders Bali United.

The aim from here on is to ensure they don’t drop into the relegation zone, though Munster prefers to look up rather than down.

“Obviously we want to stay in the league and move a bit higher, then next season go for the league title,” he said.

“They want to get back to the top five and push for the title, but for now my focus is just on progressing.”

Munster insists he enjoyed his brief stint in Vanuatu and hasn’t ruled out a future role with an international team.

“I would, but it would need to be a very good project and an ambitious nation.

“I feel I did well there, drawing with New Zealand was a big result, and in the last six games we didn’t concede a goal in open play and scored the highest number of goals in the tournament.

“So small changes were made off the field and they now have a playing philosophy. It has given them something to build on.”

Before Vanuatu Munster had spent a chaotic year criss-crossing India as head coach of I-League outfit Minerva Punjab, winning two trophies in the process.

And in a previous interview with The Irish News, Munster outlined his long-term plan to land a job a little closer to home, saying: “I put pressure on myself.

“I want to be winning things, in contention for league titles. It’s not just about being happy or comfortable, I want to go higher.

“Of course, eventually I want to get into an elite league, but you also have to have a look and see what’s out there. There’s a lots of competition with so many coaches out of work.

“One day I’d love to end up working in the UK, that’s the dream.”

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