FARIZAL GETS HIS BREAK
Keeper earns national team call-up from Kim Swee
REPORTS BY DEVINDER SINGH
FELDA United goalkeeper Farizal Harun is one of two uncapped players called up by national coach Ong Kim Swee for international matches against Philippines and North Korea later this month.
Featuring five changes from the side which crashed out early in the AFF Cup last November, Kim Swee only named two players from Darul Ta’zim as the cool relations with the Super League champions appear no closer to thawing.
Darul Ta’zim have continued to maintain a cap on the number of players allowed to be called up by the national team with only striker Ahmad Hazwan Bakri and defender Fadhli Shas making the squad.
However, three players who left Darul Ta’zim during the close season have been retained with Amri Yahyah, Safee Sali and Zaquan Adha Radzak all regular fixtures at Malacca, PKNS and Perak respectively.
The uncapped Farizal, 31, is back with the national team for the first time since January 2008, when he was called up by thennational coach B. Sathianathan for training without ever making a senior international appearance.
Malaysia play Philippines in a friendly in Manila on March 22 before taking on North Korea, at a venue to be determined by the Asian Football Confederation today, in an Asian Cup qualifier on March 28.
“He has become more matured,” said Sathianathan, who also made Farizal his No 1 when both were with Armed Forces in 2012 and 2013.
“I am happy for him and he should have no problems handling international football. He is a safe pair of hands.”
Together with fellow uncapped goalkeeper Hafizul Hakim Khairul Nizam Jothy of Perak, Farizal will be looking to dislodge Pahang’s Khairul Azhan Khalid as Kim Swee’s first-choice custodian.
Farizal’s call up came at the expense of Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, who has been benched by Kelantan coach Zahasmi Ismail since a 2-0 defeat to Selangor on Feb 25.
Nor did striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha make the cut after his performance tailed off since scoring in Felda’s first two matches of the season.
Besides Farizal, four others who were not part of the AFF Cup squad called up this time are Pahang defender Afif Amiruddin, Malacca full-back Khair Jones and midfielders Nasir Basharudin and Akram Mahinan from Perak and Kedah respectively.
Akram’s call up is his first since his only cap in a 6-0 friendly defeat to Oman in 2015 under Dollah Salleh while Afif has not played for Malaysia since the humiliating 10-0 defeat to the United Arab Emirates in September 2015, when he came off after 37 minutes at 7-0 down in the World Cup qualifier.
SQUAD — Goalkeepers : Farizal Harun (Felda), Khairul Azhan Khalid (Pahang), Hafizul Hakim Khairul Nizam Jothy (Perak); Defenders: Fadhli Shas (D Ta’ziM), Khairul Helmi Johari, Rizal Ghazali (both Kedah), Khair Jones (Malacca), Afif Amiruddin, Matthew Davies (both Pahang), Nazirul Naim Che Hashim, Shahrom Kalam (both Perak), Ronny Harun (Sarawak); Midfielders:
Hadin Azman (Felda), Akram Mahinan, Baddrol Bakhtiar, Syazwan Zainon (all Kedah), Nasir Basharudin, Shahrul Saad, Zaquan Adha Radzak (all Perak), S. Veenod (Selangor); Forwards: Ahmad Hazwan Bakri (D Ta’zim), Amri Yahyah (Malacca), Safee Sali (PKNS).