WINDS OF CHANGE IN NATIONAL SQUAD
Set to play important role in promoting game in country
WITH the expected return of former captain Safiq Rahim and three others from retirement, the national team are expected to be serious contenders for qualification to the 2019 Asian Cup under the guidance of new coach Mario Gomez.
Safiq, along with S. Kunanlan, Amirulhadi Zainal and Aidil Zafuan Radzak, who all play for former AFC Cup winners Darul Ta’zim, retired from international football last July but the four are expected to be recalled if deemed still good enough to don national colours.
“I am not ruling out the possibility of coming out from retirement and representing the country again.
“But for now, I want to concentrate on leading Darul Ta’zim to glory this year,” said Safiq recently.
Malaysia are in Group B in the Asian Cup Qualifiers and will play North Korea on June 8 at an undecided venue.
The other teams are Hong Kong and Lebanon, and only the top two will qualify for the tournament proper.
Under newly elected FA of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, the national team will also play an important role in promoting the sport in the country.
FAM general-secretary Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin said the national team’s training sessions and matches will not only be centralised in the Klang Valley from now on.
“They will train and play matches in different states in a move to promote the game.
“Of course, venues outside the Klang Valley need to meet stadium regulations of the Asian Football Confederation for matches,” said Hamidin yesterday.
The national team normally train at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya and play their matches at Shah Alam Stadium or National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
But there have been rare occasions where matches were played outside the Klang Valley.
“Last year’s Asian Cup qualification playoff matches against Timor Leste were played at Larkin Stadium in Johor Baru while the friendly against Macau was held at Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca.
Hamidin said FAM will finalise members of committees by next week while the decision to remove Frank Bernhardt as the national Under-22 coach will be discussed after the German returns from the Dubai Cup on Thursday.
“Our first executive committee meeting will be in Sabah but we will only finalise the dates in two days time,” Hamidin added.
Bernhardt is said to be shellshocked over the decision to replace him with Ong Kim Swee as his contract runs until the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games in August.