New Zealand's Shane Smeltz wants to stay with Malaysia Cup champs
New Zealand international striker Shane Smeltz says that he's "leaning towards" extending his short-term contract at Malaysia Super League (MSL) club, Kedah, after savouring the euphoria of domestic Cup success.
Kedah were feted by tens of thousands of fans in the streets of Alor Setar on Tuesday afternoon after returning home as 2016 Malaysia Cup champions. They defeated holders, Selangor, 6-5 on penalties at Shah Alam Stadium on Sunday night, following a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
For 35-year-old Smeltz, it was his first Cup triumph, having lost two A-League Grand Finals, with Perth Glory (2012) and Sydney FC (2015).
"We got the right result, and we're all over the moon," Smeltz told ESPN FC. "It's by far the biggest Cup final I've played in, and at the back end of my career, so it's a nice thing.
"Until you come here, you don't realise how big the Malaysia Cup is, and how serious they take it. There's a massive history with this Cup, so it's a great achievement, that we're very proud of, and that the Kedah fans will always remember."
For Smeltz, it was the perfect end to a five-month contract that saw him leave Sydney FC at the completion of their AFC Champions League campaign in May. Signing at the same time as Brazilian forward Thiago Augusto, he scored 11 goals in all competitions, and helped Kedah finish third in the MSL.
"It's gone as well as I could have hoped," Smeltz said. "I feel great, haven't missed a training session, haven't missed a game, and we've just won the Malaysia Cup. Thiago and I scored 20 goals between us.
"I am in no rush, but will be speaking to Kedah. I haven't really looked at potential options. To be honest, I am leaning towards staying in Malaysia because I've really enjoyed it here."
Smeltz did not have his best game on Sunday night -- he missed Kedah's opening penalty in the shootout -- but the final turned out a lot better than his two previous experiences.
In 2012, he suffered ghastly facial injuries, needing 50 stitches, while playing for Perth Glory against Brisbane Roar. When he was substituted in the 79th minute, Perth led 1-0 but ended up losing 2-1 after a late Besart Berisha brace.
Three years later, he could do little to stop Sydney FC falling to a 3-0 defeat to a rampant Melbourne Victory, as he came off the bench in the 52nd minute.
"I was just happy to come out a winner this time," he smiled.
"My memory of finals were a little bit painful, certainly not the greatest, I just wanted to win, and have that feeling of being on the winning side.
"I can't remember too many penalties I've missed before. It wasn't the best penalty, but, thankfully, it will be forgotten a little bit because my teammates pulled me out of it."
Smeltz and the Kedah squad spent Monday night having dinner at the King's palace, near Kuala Lumpur. The monarch is Abdul Halim of Kedah who was born at Istana Anak Bukit, near Smeltz's Malaysian base of Alor Setar.
The man who scored for New Zealand at the 2010 World Cup will fly back to Sydney to be reunited with his family later this week.
One of his priorities? To catch Saturday's "Big Blue" between his former club, Sydney FC, and arch rivals Melbourne Victory at Allianz Stadium.
"The plan is to hang out with my family in Sydney, and let things play out," he said.
"But I will definitely be dropping in to see the boys at Sydney FC, and watch the Big Blue. They've made a fantastic start to season [with four wins from four], without even conceding a goal."
Jason Dasey is ESPN FC Senior Editor in Singapore. Formerly Asian editor of FourFourTwo, he was also a CNN and BBC broadcaster. Twitter: @JasonDasey.