Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Malaysia should compete with Asian teams next

Malaysia’s success in winning back-to-back SEA Games football gold is a positive sign of the development work carried out by the FA of Malaysia (FAM).

The Harimau Muda (Young Tigers) team’s extensive exposure in Slovakia plus their playing stints in the Premier (Under-19) and Super Leagues (Under-21) have shown positive results. But this is not the ideal preparation if they are to become world beaters.

The SEA Games are just the stepping stone as there is a vast disparity in standards when it comes to playing against top teams in Asia. That is what FAM should be looking at.

Let the good times roll: Coach Ong Kim Swee (centre in blue) hugging his players after the final against Indonesia on Monday.

The SEA Games success, while laudable, must be taken in context: Malaysia are, at the moment, big fish in a very small pond.

A good example is the reminder Japan gave coach Ong Kim Swee’s Under-22 boys in beating them 2-0, in their opening match of the Asian Zone final round qualifier for the London Olympics, in Fukuoka a couple of months ago. Malaysia were let off the hook despite Japan having 26 shots at goal to Malaysia’s meagre two.

The pragmatic Kim Swee is well aware that his boys have a long way to go.

“We are on the right track, but there is much work to be done,” said Kim Swee, who feels that the players would benefit more by having stints with top clubs in Europe on a regular basis.
He said, for example, the three players on loan to FC Vion in Slovakia’s Corgon Liga could only improve from the experience.

Indonesia’s Octo Maniani walking away with the best player award

Centreback Mohd Fadhli Shas and midfielders Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor and Mohd Irfan Fazail have been on loan for three months prior to the SEA Games in Jakarta.

The Bukit Jalil Sports Schools (BJSS), which has been the nursery for young football talent, also needs recognition and more aid for the fantastic job done by coach Aminuddin Hussein.

Most of the boys in the Harimau Muda squad are graduates of BJSS, including national goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat and 17-year-old Mohd Nazmi Faiz, who played a sterling role in Malaysia’s Jakarta triumph.

Kim Swee said Mohd Nazmi has a great future and had fitted in well in the national Under-23 squad, blending easily with the seniors.

“Mohd Nazmi can play in the next four SEA Games. He has the talent to go far,” said Kim Swee, who made heads turn in Jakarta by fielding mostly players below 20 years of age.

Those eligible for the next Games in Myanmar are Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Mohd Fadhli Shas, Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim, Mohd Fandi Othman, A. Thamil Arasu, Mohd Ameer Saidin, Mohd Irfan Fazail and Wan Zaharul­nizam Wan Zakaria.

Malaysia should attempt to raise the bar by flexing their muscles against Asian giants next. The chances of getting past the final round of the Olympic qualifiers are slim as, other than Japan, they also have Syria and Bahrain for company.

Kim Swee’s next target should the Incheon Asian Games in 2014 – and then take it from there.

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