Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Tough-tackling Mahali ready to stop Indonesia in SEA Games

You either love him or hate him as there is no in between where Mahalli Jasuli is concerned. 

Mahalli, the rightback in both the national and Sea Games Under-23 teams, is a polarising figure with the country's football fans.

A strong and tough-tackling defender, he can be the best and worst player on the pitch, all in the space of 90 minutes.

He is often derided for losing possession when attempting to dribble out of defence and, needlessly, picking up yellow cards but is also one of the best at reading the play in front of him.

Coach Ong Kim Swee hauled Mahalli off at half-time of Sunday's 4-1 Group A win over Cambodia to prevent the defender, who has one caution from an earlier match, from picking up another booking which would rule him out of tomorrow's clash against Indonesia.

Described by Kim Swee as a "ticking time-bomb", Mahalli takes all the criticism in his stride and has little regard with what is being said of him.

"I know I have a bit of reputation when it comes to yellow cards. But sometimes it just can't be helped, you have to take one for the team. I'm trying to control my emotions and the timing of my tackling and keep my concentration throughout the match," said Mahalli, 22, before yesterday's training session in Senayan.

Mahalli is a well known figure in Indonesia after his exploits in Malaysia's AFF Cup win here last year and also because of his Indonesian heritage.

Asked if he expected to be cheered or jeered by the expectant full-house crowd tomorrow, he said: "I'm just going to play my game and not let anything distract me. It is important we are not emotionally influenced by the crowd."

Mahalli will renew acquaintances with Indonesia winger Oktovianus Maniani tomorrow following their engaging battles in the AFF Cup finals.

"If he plays on the left then I'll be up against him. He's a tricky player who can score as well so we'll have to watch him closely.

"This Indonesian team are different from the one last year as there are just three or four players here. But they are all talented and we'll have to be at our best to hold them off," added Mahalli.

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