The stint in the Singapore League (S-League), scheduled to start on Feb 9, will kick-start the national Under-23 football squad’s reboot.
The Harimau Muda A team have lost several players to M-League sides following the SEA Games success while others are now overage. This has opened up vacancies and national Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee has enlisted five 17-year-olds for the S-League campaign.
The five teenagers – Mohammad Syazwan Tajuddin, Muhammad Akmal Ishak, Mohd Azizan Nordin, Nur Areef Kamaruddin and Mohd Firdaus Muhammad – from Bukit Jalil Sports School will form the core of the youngsters in the squad.
Kim Swee, however, warned against comparing them to wonder-kid Muhamad Nazmi Faiz Mansor.
Nazmi, who is also 17, has already won rave reviews for his maturity and eye for a goal.
“Don’t expect these boys to be as good as Nazmi. They are talented but need more time to develop,” said Kim Swee.
“I intend to give them extended playtime in the S-League to see how they progress. We are in a rebuilding process and these five will be the nucleus of the team for the future.”
Kim Swee, who initially planned to have a squad of 30 players for the S-League, said he might make do with 28 instead.
“I had shortlisted two more players but they are with their own teams in the M-League,” said Kim Swee.
“It doesn’t matter if the players cannot join us in Singapore. I’ll be happy if they play regularly in the domestic league.”
The Under-23 squad are on a two-week break and will resume training at Wisma FAM on Jan 3. They are scheduled to play a friendly against the Saudi Arabian Under-23 side on Jan 31 before meeting Bahrain in the Asian Zone Olympic final round qualifier on Feb 5.